Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us | TIME.com – 1. Routine Care, Unforgettable Bills
When Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old from Lancaster, Ohio, was told last March that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his wife Stephanie knew she had to get him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Stephanie’s father had been treated there 10 years earlier, and she and her family credited the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson with extending his life by at least eight years.Because Stephanie and her husband had recently started their own small technology business, they were unable to buy comprehensive health insurance. For $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, they had been able to get only a policy that covered just $2,000 per day of any hospital costs. “We don’t take that kind of discount insurance,” said the woman at MD Anderson when Stephanie called to make an appointment for Sean.
GOP Has Trouble Settling on Candidates Who Can Win – One of the interesting things about recent elections is that Republicans have tended to do better the farther you go down the ballot.They’ve lost the presidency twice in a row, and in four of the last six contests. They’ve failed to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, something they accomplished in five election cycles between 1994 and 2006.But they have won control of the House of Representatives in the last two elections, and in eight of the last 10 cycles.And they’ve been doing better in elections to state legislatures than at any time since the 1920s.
One reason for this is that, as I have written, Democratic voters are clustered in large metropolitan areas, which helps them in the Electoral College but hurts in legislatures with equal-population districts.
But there’s another reason, which has been particularly glaring in races for the U.S. Senate: candidate quality.
The future of free-market healthcare – Over nearly a century, progressives have pressed for a national, single-payer healthcare system. When it comes to health reform, what have conservatives stood for?For far too long, conservatives have failed to coalesce around a long-term vision of what a free-market healthcare system should look like. Republican attention to healthcare, in turn, has only arisen sporadically, in response to Democratic initiatives.Obamacare is the logical byproduct of this conservative policy neglect. President Barack Obama’s re-election was a strategic victory for his signature healthcare law. Once the bulk of the program begins to be implemented in 2014 — especially its trillions of dollars in new health-insurance subsidies — it will become politically impossible to repeal. And as the baby boomers retire and Obamacare is fully operational, government health spending will reach unsustainable levels.The great irony of Obama’s triumph, however, is that it can pave the way for Republicans to adopt a comprehensive, market-oriented healthcare agenda. The market-oriented prescription drug program in Medicare has controlled the growth of government health spending. Similarly, conservatives can use Obamacare’s important concession to the private sector — its establishment of subsidized insurance marketplaces — as a vehicle for broader entitlement reforms.
The Pro-Growth Sequester – The Obama administration is whipping up hysteria over the sequester budget cuts and their impact on the economy, the military, first providers, and so forth and so on. Armageddon. But if you climb into the Congressional Budget Office numbers for 2013, you see a much lighter and easier picture than all the worst-case scenarios being conjured up by the administration.For example, the $85 billion so-called spending cut is actually budget authority, not budget outlays. According to the CBO, budget outlays will come down by $44 billion, or one quarter of 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP is $15.8 trillion). What’s more, that $44 billion outlay reduction is only 1.25 percent of the $3.6 trillion government budget.
Ted Cruz knocks Obama on immigration – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says President Barack Obama wants to “scuttle” immigration reform by injecting a path to citizenship into the debate so Democrats can keep the issue alive for political gain.“The president has been focusing on amnesty — a path to citizenship that skips ahead of the line,” the freshman tea party senator said Wednesday at a speech in Dallas, according to The Dallas Morning News. “That, he knows, is a position not supported by a great many Americans and not a position that will achieve bipartisan cooperation. It’s designed to scuttle the bill.”
Foreign Buyers Hop on Rental Trend – US Masters, a real-estate investment trust that has raised $276 million, primarily from Australian retirees, is one of a handful of foreign firms that are betting on the U.S. housing recovery by buying houses at discount prices.The business of buying-and-renting houses, long dominated by local mom-and-pop investors, has morphed over the past two years into one of the hottest investments on Wall Street. Dozens of pension investors and private-equity firms, such as Blackstone Group LP BX -2.19% and Colony Capital LLC, are clamoring to buy homes in beaten-up markets, sometimes using money from foreign co-investors.
Majority of U.S. citizens say illegal immigrants should be deported – More than half of U.S. citizens believe that most or all of the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday that highlights the difficulties facing lawmakers trying to reform the U.S. immigration system.The online survey shows resistance to easing immigration laws despite the biggest push for reform in Congress since 2007.
Missile Defense Tests Successful, but Future of Program in Doubt – The unanswered question is whether the Missile Defense Agency will be permitted to advance this space-based missile defense capability—whether through the STSS program or the PTSS program—to a deployed constellation at all. There should be little doubt that arms control advocates, both inside the Administration and out, are livid that this test took place at all, let alone that it was successful. This is because a space-based missile defense capability is incompatible with the Administration’s arms control agenda.
Gov. Scott agrees to expand Florida Medicaid program – Gov. Rick Scott announced plans Wednesday to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 900,000 more people under the federal health overhaul, a surprise decision from the vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s plan.Scott said he will ask the Legislature to expand the program under a bill that would expire in three years, after which it would require renewed legislative support. He’s the seventh Republican governor so far to propose expanding the taxpayer-funded health insurance program.
How former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Spent His Campaign Funds – Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) pleaded guilty today “to a conspiracy to siphon about $750,000 in federal campaign funds for their personal use,” the Chicago Tribune reports.”About 3,100 personal purchases were made on campaign credit cards, totaling $582,772.58… Prosecutors said $60,000 was spent on restaurants, nightclubs and lounges; $31,700 on personal airfare; $16,000 on sports clubs and lounges; $17,000 on tobacco shops; $5,800 on alcohol; $14,500 on dry cleaning; $8,000 on grocery stores and $6,000 at drug stores.””In one of the more exotic purchases, Jackson used campaign funds in the spring of 2011 to pay a taxidermist in Montana $7,058 for two mounted elk heads to be shipped to his office in Washington. This was the beginning of an FBI sting, according to court documents.”
The sequester blame game – Much depends on the timing of any economic turndown. If it occurs this year, but is followed by improvement in 2014, the political consequences are not likely to be significant. If the economy is in trouble in mid-2014, then all bets are off. For this reason, among others, Republicans should reject out of hand the president’s efforts to postpone the sequester for a year. In any event, the sequester would make the Republicans a full partner with Obama when it comes to the state of the economy.In the end, though, Republicans are committed, as they should be, to cutting government spending. This is never a politically risk-free proposition. But it’s better to get a head start now, when blame might well be shared, than to save all the work for when (if) Republicans gain control of the government and will absorb all of the blame.JOHN adds: My own view is that Republicans should happily take credit for the spending cuts represented by the sequester. They aren’t anywhere near enough, but they are the most substantial spending cuts, I believe, in my lifetime. I think 75% of the population will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Congress is actually capable of cutting spending.
The GOP’s astonishingly bad message on sequester cuts – None of which addresses the Republican problem on the sequester. If the problem is one of substance — that is, if GOP leaders truly believe the cuts threaten national security but are nevertheless supporting them — then Republicans have put themselves into an untenable situation. If, as is more likely, the problem is one of message — that is, if Republicans believe the cuts are not only manageable without threatening national security but are also desirable as a first step toward controlling spending — then the Boehner article is sending all the wrong signals.
These are my links for January 4th through January 7th:
Democrats look for up to $1 trillion in new tax revenues this year – Democrats say they want to raise as much as $1 trillion in new revenues through tax reform later this year to balance Republican demands to slash mandatory spending.Democratic leaders have had little time to craft a new position for their party since passing a tax deal Tuesday that will raise $620 billion in revenue over the next ten years.The emerging consensus, however, is that the next installment of deficit reduction should reach $2 trillion and about half of it should come from higher taxes.
Despite New Health Law, Some See Sharp Rise in Premiums – Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.
Red state Senate Dems face tough early votes – “I think you need to put everything on the table,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D, told ABC News ‘ George Stephanopoulos this past Sunday, “but what I hear from the administration – and if the Washington Post is to be believed – that’s way, way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about. And it’s not going to pass.”The Washington Post article Heitkamp was referring to, reported that President Obama would soon seek to pass legislation “that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.” And Obama wants all of this “by the end of January” according to The Boston Herald.While this ambition agenda and timing may be music to blue state Democrat ears, it can only be a headache for red state Democrats like Heitkamp … and she isn’t even up for reelection this cycle. A total of seven Democratic Senators from states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 are up for election in 2014. And six of those Senators (Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Jay Rockefeler, D-W.V.) hail from states that Romney carried by double-digits. Only North Carolina’s Kay Hagan will face an electorate that Obama even came close to winning in 2012 (Romney +2) … and the only other Democrat on the ballot statewide in North Carolina in 2012 lost by 11.
Hagel’s Mideast blunder–not on Israel – Does Kaplan really think there is any case that the situation after Petraeus’ surge isn’t much better than the situation that would have existed if there had been no surge? I doubt it. And remember, Hagel didn’t just oppose the surge. He declared that it was “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam”– the sort of emotionalized MSM-pleasing misjudgment that seems to have endeared him to so many GOP colleagues (who, as Marc Ambinder notes, ”think he’s a showboat and turncoat”).Can’t Obama find a “anti-Israel” … Likud-skeptical figure who didn’t flamboyantly and self-righteously get wrong the most important military decision since the original 2003 Iraq invasion (which Hagel, by the way, voted to authorize)? Sure, Hillary and Kerry opposed the surge too. But not everyone did–not even everyone who opposed the war. Gen. Anthony Zinni, for example, isn’t someone likely to please Bill Kristol and AIPAC–but after opposing Bush’s invasion he had the balls to say that a surge was worth trying.
Six Reasons Obama Chose Chuck Hagel – Back at the 2004 Republican convention, when then-Sen. Chuck Hagel was weighing whether to run for president, he paid a call on the Iowa delegation. His obligatory joke about his devotion to ethanol went over well. But then, to the puzzlement of some in the room, he started talking to his conservative breakfast audience about the United Nations and the need for multilateralism in tackling world problems.Needless to say, that wasn’t quite what we were hearing from the convention stage, or for that matter from anyone else in the GOP. Hagel didn’t run for president. But as it turns out, his remarks ended up laying groundwork for a different kind of future – as a potential defense secretary in the Obama administration.There are well known controversies associated with Hagel’s expected nomination, involving everything from climate change and gay rights to Israel, Iraq and Iran. But unlike the case of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, who withdrew as a potential secretary of state nominee amid criticism from Republicans, President Obama is pressing forward with Hagel.
LA Times – Critics slam Chuck Hagel’s likely nomination as Defense secretary #tcot
Critics slam Chuck Hagel’s likely nomination as Defense secretary – With former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense secretary imminent, conservatives denounced his views on Israel and Iran as out of step with mainstream foreign policy, underscoring the difficulty he is likely to face winning Senate confirmation.An administration official said Sunday that Hagel — a decorated Vietnam veteran, a Republican and a former two-term senator from Nebraska — would be nominated Monday to succeed Leon E. Panetta. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House planning.
Obama Expected to Pick Chuck Hagel for Defense Post – When President Obama nominates Chuck Hagel, the maverick Republican and former senator from Nebraska, to be his next secretary of defense, he will be turning to a trusted ally whose willingness to defy party loyalty and conventional wisdom won his admiration both in the Senate and on a 2008 tour of war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
JOHN BRENNAN TAPPED TO LEAD CIA – President Barack Obama will announce Monday that he’s nominating the White House’s point person on counterterrorism, John Brennan, to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, White House officials told POLITICO.Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, currently holds the title of Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. He’s expected to appear with Obama later Monday at a White House event where the president will also announce his nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to be the next defense secretary.
Boehner Coup Attempt Larger Than First Thought – A concerted effort to unseat Speaker John A. Boehner was under way the day of his re-election to the position, but participants called it off 30 minutes before the House floor vote, CQ Roll Call has learned.A group of disaffected conservatives had agreed to vote against the Ohio lawmaker if they could get at least 25 members to join the effort. But one member, whose identity could not be verified, rescinded his or her participation the morning of the vote, leaving the group one person short of its self-imposed 25-member threshold. Only 17 votes against Boehner were required to force a second ballot, but the group wanted to have insurance.
Mexican drug gangs dig into mining industry – On October 7, Mexican marines swooped in on one of the most powerful men in organised crime. But as the navy triumphantly announced the death of Heriberto Lazcano, leader of the Zetas gang, there was puzzlement over where he had been found. Far from the Zeta’s strongholds and practically unprotected, he had been watching a baseball game in the small mining village of Progreso.Theories abounded as to what exactly Lazcano had been doing in Progreso, a one horse town in the wide open spaces of the sorthern state of Coahuila. Humberto Moreira, ex-governor of Coahuila says that he has the answer: “Heriberto Lazcano changed from being a killer, kidnapper and drug dealer to something still more lucrative: mining coal. That’s why he lived in the coal region, in a little village called Progreso.”Speaking to Al Jazeera, Moreira says that the Zetas gang is fast discovering that illegal mining is an even more lucrative venture than drug running.
Sen. Ted Cruz: “I’m A Conservative Because Conservative Policies Work” – SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TEXAS): The reason why I’m a conservative is because conservative policies work and they improve opportunities. They are the avenue for climbing the economic dream. And what I have been talking about for many years is opportunity conservatism, that every policy should focus like a laser on easing the means of ascent up the economic ladder. That we should be championing the 47%, to take that now infamous comment.Look, the great thing about Americans — Americans don’t want to be dependent upon government. Dependency saps the spirit, it doesn’t work. Americans want to stand on their own two feet and the best way to do that is to have policies that allow entrepreneurs and small business to thrive and to create jobs and advance the American dream.
Social Security – It’s Worse Than You Think – CONGRESS and President Obama have pushed through a relatively modest stopgap measure to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” but over the coming years, the United States will confront another huge cliff: Social Security.In the first presidential debate, Mr. Obama described Social Security as “structurally sound,” and Mitt Romney said that “neither the president nor I are proposing any changes” to the program. It was a rare issue on which both men agreed — and both were utterly wrong. For the first time in more than a quarter-century, Social Security ran a deficit in 2010: It spent $49 billion dollars more in benefits than it received in revenues, and drew from its trust funds to cover the shortfall.Those funds — a $2.7 trillion buffer built in anticipation of retiring baby boomers — will be exhausted by 2033, the government currently projects. Those facts are widely known.
What’s not is that the Social Security Administration underestimates how long Americans will live and how much the trust funds will need to pay out — to the tune of $800 billion by 2031, more than the current annual defense budget — and that the trust funds will run out, if nothing is done, two years earlier than the government has predicted.
Feud over Obama health care reforms to intensify in coming months – The spotlight on President Obama’s health care overhaul will intensify in coming months as states and businesses gear up for sweeping changes that could determine whether the public embraces the president’s signature legislative achievement or decries it as government overreach.After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new health care law, the politics evolved from arguments over the reforms’ constitutionality to a debate over whether the massive system can be implemented effectively.The president has long assured critics that once the reforms are fully enacted, the public will embrace them. Yet, while voters gave Obama a second term in November, polls show they are wary of the looming changes. A Rasmussen poll last month showed that nearly half of the respondents expect the health care system “to get worse over the next couple of years.”
The Education of John Boehner – GOP willingness to let the spending sequester take effect – What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ “I am talking to Mr. Boehner in his office on the second floor of the Capitol, 72 hours after the historic House vote to take America off the so-called fiscal cliff by making permanent the Bush tax cuts on most Americans, but also to raise taxes on high earners. In the interim, Mr. Boehner had been elected to serve his second term as speaker of the House. Throughout our hourlong conversation, as is his custom, he takes long drags on one cigarette after another.Mr. Boehner looks battle weary from five weeks of grappling with the White House. He’s frustrated that the final deal failed to make progress toward his primary goal of “making a down payment on solving the debt crisis and setting a path to get real entitlement reform.” At one point he grimly says: “I need this job like I need a hole in the head.”
Video: Pelosi: More tax revenues must be part of next deficit deal – Pushing back against the Republicans’ deficit-reduction strategy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this weekend that more tax revenues – not just spending cuts – must be a part of Congress’s effort to rein in deficits.Pelosi said the tax hikes in the recent “fiscal-cliff” deal are a start, but don’t go far enough to generate the revenues the government needs to run the country effectively.
Genetically modified food labeling measure to qualify for Washington state ballot – A measure to require special labeling of genetically modified foods appeared virtually certain to qualify for the ballot in Washington state on Friday, two months after voters in California rejected a similar initiative.Sponsors of the measure turned in petitions signed by an estimated 350,000 registered voters – at least 100,000 more signatures than required – on Thursday, a day ahead of deadline, said David Ammons, a spokesman for the Washington secretary of state.The submission all but assures that the GMO-labeling initiative would be certified by the secretary and sent on to the state legislature, which could adopt the measure or leave it to a popular vote on the November 2013 election ballot, Ammons said.
These are my links for November 19th through November 20th:
California, Home of the Destitute– Today, California is the most spectacular failure of our time. Its government is broke. Productive citizens have been fleeing for some years now, selling their homes at inflated prices (until recently) and moving to Colorado, Arizona, Texas and even Minnesota, like one of my neighbors. The results of California’s improvident liberalism have been tragically easy to predict: absurd public sector wage and benefit packages, a declining tax base, surging welfare enrollment, falling economic production, ever-increasing deficits. Soon, California politicians will be looking to less glamorous states for bailout money. Things have now devolved to the point where California leads the nation in poverty:The Golden State’s poverty rate is a whopping 23.5 percent – higher than the District of Columbia, at 23.2 percent, and even Florida, and 19.5 percent.This is based on the federal government’s new poverty measure, and California suffered a bit because of its high cost of living, but that is a minor point–by any measure, California is number one in destitution. The cause is obvious: liberal Democrats have held unimpeded sway in California, just as they have in Detroit, Illinois, Miami, the District, and so on. Everywhere, the results have been similar. Where liberal policies are implemented, productive citizens fade away and poverty follows.
Cows Flee California Seeking a Better Economic Climate– It’s not just millionaires and billionaires who are fleeing the economic madness in California. Even cows are starting to depart for greener pastures. That’s right, 400 bovine refugees shuffled off to Kansas just this month, with more expected to follow as over 100 dairy farms in California close their doors.Why are cows voting with their hooves?
Opinion: President Obama won, but Obamacare didn’t – Carrie Lukas – POLITICO.com– During the campaign, President Barack Obama minimized discussion of his first term’s most consequential new law: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or what’s commonly referred to as Obamacare.That was no accident. Undoubtedly, the campaign knew that Obamacare is, as it always has been, deeply unpopular with the American people. In fact, Obamacare epitomizes the public’s greatest concerns about this administration: the massive expansion of government and failure to deliver a new era of post-partisanship to Washington, since the law was jammed through using a party line vote and every available legislative trick. Bringing up health care risked stirring the passions that fueled the tea party’s rise and the Democrats’ defeat in 2010.Yet, research conducted by the polling company, inc./WomanTrend for Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) shows that health care was an important concern for Americans on Election Day. The president was reelected in spite of voters’ lingering distaste for Obamacare, and the health care issue will remain a critical issue for voters moving forward.Just a quarter, or 26 percent of those surveyed by the polling company on Election Day supported implementing Obamacare completely. Even less than half (48 percent) of self-identified Democrats want full implementation, suggesting that the health care law remains a liability, even within the president’s party.Forty-three percent of voters surveyed want Congress to either “just repeal the law” (30 percent) or move toward repeal, while pursuing other measures – including defunding, amending, and blocking – to prevent its implementation (13 percent). Another quarter (23 percent) favor amending the law, rather than full repeal.
Report: Paula Broadwell’s threat to Jill Kelley – Paula Broadwell allegedly threatened to make Jill Kelley “go away,” the New York Daily News reported Tuesday, in the latest twist in a sex scandal that has ensnared top U.S. national security officials.
Broadwell, the ex-mistress of retired Gen. David Petraeus — who stepped down from his post as head of the CIA over his extramarital affair with her — allegedly sent threatening emails to Kelley, a Tampa socialite who is reportedly a friend of Petraeus’s.
Oklahoma is latest to reject state-based health exchange– Add Oklahoma to the list of Republican-led states that won’t implement the key feature of President Obama’s healthcare law.Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday that she won’t set up a state-based insurance exchange — a new portal where people who don’t get insurance through their employers can shop for coverage, often with help from a federal subsidy.”It does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government, that is opposed by a clear majority of Oklahomans, and that will further the implementation of a law that threatens to erode both the quality of American healthcare and the fiscal stability of the nation,” Fallin said in a statement.Republican governors are under pressure from conservatives not to set up their own exchanges. It’s seen as the best chance to stand in the way of the Affordable Care Act now that Obama’s reelection has protected the law from legislative repeal.
4 California men allegedly supported Taliban– Jihadist social media postings helped lead to the arrest and charging of four Los Angeles area men, who were allegedly on their way to Afghanistan to train with the Taliban and join al Qaeda, federal officials said.They were also plotting to kill American soldiers and bomb government installations, according to a joint statement Monday by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.One of the men, a U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, encouraged two of the others to embrace violent Islamic doctrine by introducing them online to radical teachings, including those of deceased U.S.-born al-Qaeda imam Anwar al-Awlaki.The three exposed their connection to each other and their radical leanings explicitly on Facebook for over a year. And one of them detailed his intentions to participate in jihad in an online chat with an FBI employee.Another man was recruited at a later point to join the other three in their training.
Tax loopholes alone can’t solve fiscal cliff– Raise revenues and reform the Tax Code? Easy — just eliminate all the tax loopholes, right?Good luck with that.“Eliminating loopholes” sounds a lot better than “raising rates”: The tax rate is what I pay, and a loophole is what the other guy gets.But the biggest loopholes in the U.S. Tax Code — generally referred to as tax expenditures — aren’t just the tricks of the trade for millionaires with offshore bank accounts. For the vast majority of Americans, they’re just how things work: You don’t pay taxes on your health insurance or Medicare benefits; you contribute tax-free to your 401(k); and your mortgage interest pushes down your tax bill each year.And even if you dump the biggest of the set, these tax perks don’t even come close to closing the deficit. At best, the top 10 would pull in an extra $834 billion a year, according to Joint Committee on Taxation figures. Considering the hole lawmakers are trying to fill is several trillion dollars large, it’s clear they wouldn’t even come close
Red-State Senate Democrats May Be Hard to Corral on Cliff– Senate Democrats, optimistic about prospects for a deficit-reduction deal, may have to contend with wariness from seven members who face 2014 re-election campaigns in states Mitt Romney won Nov. 6.Some of those seven Democrats, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Louisiana ’s Mary Landrieu, say they aren’t ready to commit to President Barack Obama’s proposals for boosting tax revenue. Instead, Hagan isn’t ruling out support for extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for top earners. Landrieu said she opposes eliminating tax breaks for oil companies.Possible Democratic defections heighten the need for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to woo Republican support for a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff — $607 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to begin taking effect in January. Lame-duck Republican Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Richard Lugar of Indiana are potential candidates.
Portman and Cruz plan to focus on fundraising, recruitment for NRSC– The new vice chairmen of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have unusually specific tasks heading into 2014: fundraising and recruitment.Both elements are crucial to a successful election cycle, and the early, precise focus by newly elected Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) demonstrates a shake-up in committee structure meant to avoid the losses that plagued Republicans in 2012.Moran has tasked Sen.-elect Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with grassroots and Hispanic outreach. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has been given the goal of energizing donors fatigued from an election in which they saw a disappointing return on their investments.The trio has met at least twice since the announcement of new NRSC leadership last Wednesday, and a senior Moran aide said the three will continue to meet and discuss plans for 2014 over the phone until they all return to the Senate in January.
Boehner tightens grip on GOP rank and file ahead of deficit talks– Speaker John Boehner is tightening his grip on the House Republican Conference weeks before an anticipated vote on a deficit deal.The Ohio Republican has smoothed over differences with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), expanded his powers on the panel that doles out plum committee assignments, shot down a challenge to his earmark moratorium and worked behind the scenes to ensure that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) would win her leadership contest.All of Boehner’s moves are aimed at shoring up his influence over the GOP conference, which in turn maximizes the Speaker’s leverage with President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Is Rush Limbaugh’s Country Gone?– William Bennett, conservative stalwart, television commentator and secretary of education under President Reagan, complained on the CNN Web site that Democrats have been successful in settingthe parameters and focus of the national and political dialogue as predominantly about gender, race, ethnicity and class. This is the paradigm, the template through which many Americans, probably a majority, more or less view the world, our country, and the election. It is a divisive strategy and Democrats have targeted and exploited those divides. How else can we explain that more young people now favor socialism to capitalism?In fact, the 2011 Pew Research Center poll Bennett cites demonstrates that in many respects conservatives are right to be worried:Not only does a plurality (49-43) of young people hold a favorable view of socialism — and, by a tiny margin (47-46), a negative view of capitalism — so do liberal Democrats, who view socialism positively by a solid 59-33; and African Americans, 55-36. Hispanics are modestly opposed, 49-44, to socialism, but they hold decisively negative attitudes toward capitalism, 55-32.
The GOP Consultant Class Blames Me– RUSH: Couple of sound bites. First, Mike Murphy. He is a Republican consultant. He was on Meet the Press yesterday, and among other things, he said this.MURPHY: The biggest problem that Romney had was the Republican primary. That’s what’s driving the Republican brand right now to a disaster, and we’ve got to get, kind of, a party view of America that’s not right out of Rush Limbaugh’s dream journal.RUSH: You gotta get a view of the Republican Party that is not right out of my dream journal. What, folks, did I or any of you have to do with the Republican primary? Did not Murphy get the candidate he wanted? All these consultants, do you realize they get rich no matter who wins or loses? Little-known secret. They get rich no matter who wins or loses. But the Republican primary, as far as he’s concerned there were too many conservatives in it saying too many stupid things.We need to get rid of conservatism, is what is he’s saying. We need to get rid of all these people shouting stupid conservative stuff, and that’s where it happened at the primary, and that’s where Romney lost the election because of all the conservatives branding the party. Romney was not able to recover from that. Steve Schmidt. He’s back. He can’t let go of me. This is University of Delaware panel discussion last Wednesday.
Hostess mediation: Judge delays hearing to allow Hostess, unions to work out issues– Hostess Brands Inc. agreed in court on Monday to enter private mediation with its lenders and leaders of a striking union to try to avert the liquidation of the maker of Twinkies snack cakes and Wonder Bread.Hostess, its lenders and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) agreed to mediation at the urging of Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain of the Southern District of New York, who advised against a more expensive, public hearing regarding the company’s liquidation.”My desire to do this is prompted primarily by the potential loss of over 18,000 jobs as well as my belief that there is a possibility to resolve this matter,” Drain said.The 82-year-old Hostess was seeking permission to liquidate its business, claiming that its operations have been crippled by a bakers strike and that winding down is the best way to preserve its dwindling cash.
California officials release results of first cap-and-trade auction– The California Air Resources Board today released the results of the state’s inaugural cap-and-trade auction.The auction took place on Wednesday.Cap-and-trade is a system designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. Under the system, businesses including refineries, power plants and large factories will be capped at 90 percent of current emissions. Those businesses must then buy credits at auction or on the open market in order to be allowed to continue to produce at current levels.Businesses could also meet their regulatory burdens by lowering emissions.Cap-and-trade goes into effect in 2013.The newly-released report on the auction shows businesses purchased all 23.1 million emissions credits that were up for bid.
The settlement price for accepted bids in the auction was $10.09.
CARB has estimated that a $10 price for emissions allowances could add 10 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline.
Another Victory for Challengers of HHS Mandate – The HHS contraceptive mandate suffered another loss last Friday—its third loss in the four decisions that have addressed the merits of the claim that the HHS mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In a thorough opinion in Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, Judge Reggie B. Walton of the federal district court for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction that bars the federal government from penalizing a publishing house for its religiously based refusal to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives that also operate as abortifacients.
Exercise Gains Momentum as Psychiatric Treatment– The benefits of exercise in nearly every aspect of physical health are well known, but evidence in recent years suggests a unique effect on some psychiatric disorders, prompting mental health clinicians to rethink treatment strategies and to consider the possibility of exercise not just in therapy but as therapy.”Above and beyond the standard benefits of exercise in healthy living and general well-being, there is strong evidence demonstrating the ability of exercise to in fact treat mental illness and have significant benefits on a neurotrophic, neurobiologic basis,” Douglas Noordsy, MD, told delegates attending Psych Congress 2012: US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress.Some of the strongest evidence is seen in depression, where psychiatric benefits from exercise have been shown in some cases to match those achieved with pharmacologic interventions and to persist to prevent remission in the long term.
Asian American voters go heavily for Obama in California– Latino voters are credited with helping swing the vote for Barack Obama, but the rapidly growing Asian American electorate supported the incumbent by an even broader margin. According to Edison Research’s exit polls, 73 percent of Asian Americans nationwide voted for Obama, while 71 percent of Latinos did so. In California, 79 percent of Asian Americans favored Obama.In 1992, 31 percent of Asian Americans preferred the Democratic nominee, but that number has grown in each subsequent election since. The Asian American population, meanwhile, has increased 32 percent over the past decade alone.While they represented just 3.4 percent of the national vote, Asian Americans accounted for 11 percent of the California vote, according to Edison Research. Voter registration tallies show Orange County Asian American voters running nearly 5 points greater than the statewide share, according to Political Data.By 2050, Asian Americans will account for 10 percent of the nation’s voters and at least 20 percent of the state’s voters, according to Taeku Lee, a UC Berkeley political scientist and co-author of the National Asian American Survey.
Orlando Health eliminates 400 jobs through layoffs and attrition– For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, Orlando Health is reducing its workforce by up to 400 positions starting immediately, hospital officials announced this morning.The elimination of 300 to 400 jobs will occur in two phases, and represents a 2- to 3-percent decrease in the system’s 16,000 employees, said Orlando Health spokeswoman Kena Lewis. The reductions affect all departments and all eight of its hospitals, including Orlando Regional Medical Center and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.The first wave of employees affected by the “labor expense reduction” portion of the initiative received their notices Friday, said Lewis. The next wave of downsizing will happen after the first of the year.
McClintock: Election will bring pain to CA– Abraham Lincoln said that if the voters get their backsides too close to the fire, they’ll just have to sit on the blisters for a while. After the Nov. 6 election, Californians have some very nasty blisters to sit on.However, after pain, enlightenment usually comes. If not, California pharmacies will be selling out of salve.
Austin company creates app that helped Obama campaign– Political experts say the just-completed presidential race involved more spending by both sides on information technology than ever before.Some of that spending was on applications for mobile devices as a way to reach out to both supporters and volunteers.That is why a small Austin digital design firm, Thirteen23, found itself working furiously from May through July to create the app the Obama campaign wanted.The Obama campaign had worked with Square Inc., a mobile payments company, on an app that could let supporters contribute to the campaign over their smartphones. When the campaign wanted a bigger, more elaborate app, Square referred them to Thirteen23, which it had previously done work with.The 11-person Austin firm hadn’t done political projects before, but executive director Doug Cook said it liked the challenge of creating a vital two-way online communication link between the campaign and its supporters and volunteers.While some campaigns had already used smartphone apps to push out information to supporters, this application was seen as something far more complex.
“We said, if we are going to build an app, lets make tools that make people effective. Lets give volunteers tools that they can use,” said Ryan Hovenweep, the firm’s creative director.
The app would provide localized information about campaign events to supporters. But it also gave volunteer workers the tools to canvass potential voters house to house and to report back their findings to the campaign’s computers.
“With a smartphone in hand, you can go talk to people and get information,” Hovenweep said. “With the app, they are immediately taking the information from the ground and putting it back into the campaign database.”
With a tight deadline and the order to create an useful, complex app for volunteers, the company threw itself into the project in May and delivered software to the Obama campaign in July. The Obama campaign released the first version of software, for iPhone users, at the end of July. The Android version was delivered a few weeks later.
These are my links for July 30th through August 1st:
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn asks NYU to evict Chick-fil-A– A powerful New York politician claims she was just speaking as a private citizen when she tried to run Chick-fil-A out of town, but she used her official letterhead and even invoked her position as City Council speaker to apply pressure on the embattled chicken chain.New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has mayoral aspirations, sent a letter to New York University president John Sexton on Saturday asking the school to immediately end their contract with the fast food restaurant. The Atlanta-based company’s sole New York City outlet is in the school’s food court.”I write as the Speaker of the NYC Council, and on behalf of my family. NYC is a place where we celebrate diversity. We do not believe in denigrating others. We revel in the diversity of all our citizens and their families,” the letter begins.
“Let me be clear ?? I do not want establishments in my city that hold such discriminatory views,” Quinn, an open lesbian who recently married her longtime partner, also wrote in the letter. “We are a city that believes our diversity is our greatest strength and we will fight anything and anyone that runs counter to that.”
“As such I urge you to sever your relationship with the Chick?fil?A establishment that exists on your campus,” the speaker added.
The letter has drawn the ire from others on the council.
Chick-Fil-A Supporters To Turn Out For ‘Appreciation Day’– The culture clash over Chick-Fil-A could come to a head on Wednesday, with supporters in Chicago and around the country turning out for an “appreciation day” first proposed by former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.Nationwide as of Wednesday morning, about 582,000 people planned to go to a Chick-Fil-A location and order something for Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.Meanwhile, Republicans in Chicago say they will also file a formal complaint at City Hall against Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st), who wants to block the restaurant from moving into his ward because of the company’s position on gay marriage and gay rights.
White House issues embarrassing apology to Charles Krauthammer over Churchill bust gaffe – The Obama presidency is fond of issuing apologies for America on the world stage, but very rarely makes them at home to Americans. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer has just issued one to Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, who last week wrote an op-ed berating the Obama administration for removing a bust of Sir Winston Churchill from the Oval Office when it came to power. Pfeiffer had issued a stinging attack on Krauthammer, alleging that his Churchill bust reference was “100 percent false.” Krauthammer was of course 100 percent correct, and the British Embassy in Washington even issued a statement contradicting Pfeifer’s remarks.
Where’s The Outrage From Young Americans About Obama’s Health Reforms?– President Obama’s 2010 health reform law has been heralded by its supporters as strongly beneficial for young Americans. After all, the ACA decrees that all health insurance plans that offer any dependent coverage must offer coverage to enrollees’ “adult children” (the terminology used in the law) until age 26, even if the adult child no longer lives with his or her parents, is not a dependent on a parent’s tax return, or is no longer a student … even if the adult child is married. And the uninsured rate for those between 19 and 26 has indeed decreased.So what’s not to like about the health law for young Americans? The under-appreciated truth is that the ACA has serious adverse impacts on young Americans, far more significant and longer lasting than temporary eligibility to remain on a parent’s insurance.Health insurance costs are now dramatically shifted onto the backs of younger, healthier adults. Proponents of the ACA claim that those shunning insurance are responsible for shifting massive costs to insured Americans, thereby raising insurance prices significantly without the ACA’s individual mandate. This is factually false. Generally, the population at whom the mandate is directed – those who voluntarily do not buy insurance and are not eligible for current government insurance – tend to be younger, healthier, and use far less medical care, on average about $850 and only $56 per year in emergency care. Based on both household survey and provider data, uninsured health care shifts only 0.8% to at most 1.7% of expenditures toward those already insured.
Tea Party-Backed Cruz Wins Texas GOP Senate Race– The Tea Party trumped the institution in Texas on Tuesday, propelling attorney Ted Cruz to an upset victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the nationally watched Republican primary for the Lone Star State’s open U.S. Senate seat.Cruz, a 41-year-old Cuban-American who is expected to win the general election in November (Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since 1994), has pledged to bring his unbending conservatism to the upper chamber. The Tea Party’s upset win is significant given the widespread rumors of its demise. But Cruz’s victory signals that the grassroots movement has not just endured but is now woven into the fabric of the Republican Party, some observers say
Elizabeth Warren: Obama’s Convention Gamble– For all the attention being paid lately to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s verbal miscues, President Obama made a pretty devastating blunder of his own in a speech in Roanoke, Va., last month when he ad-libbed a riff straight from Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign rhetoric.Obama made the case for an active government role in the economy, and criticized those individuals who thought their business success was entirely attributable to hard work and smarts. He’s gotten the most scrutiny over his “you didn’t build that” line, but reading the speech with full context, it’s clear that he’s making a case against an unfettered free market while downplaying the individual efforts of entrepreneurs.
Report cites killings blamed on non-deported illegals– The Obama administration released illegal immigrants who went on to commit more crimes, including charges of 19 murders, 3 attempted murders and 142 sex crimes, the House Judiciary Committee said in a report Tuesday.All told, 16 percent of the nearly 47,000 illegal immigrants the administration was notified of but declined to deport between 2008 and 2011 under its Secure Communities program have gone on to be charged with other crimes, the committee said.They were part of the nearly 160,000 immigrants — most of them here legally — who were flagged by Secure Communities during the three-year period and who were later charged in nearly 60,000 more crimes, according to the committee and the Congressional Research Service, which looked at data the committee subpoenaed from the Homeland Security Department.
Who’s tweeting? Lawmakers don’t say– Most lawmakers do not disclose whether they write their own tweets, according to a review of lawmaker Twitter bios by The Hill, which also finds that most members likely use a ghostwriter.While 84 percent of House lawmakers and 93 percent of senators are on Twitter, few follow President Obama’s example in personally signing or tagging their tweets, an indication that would highlight the tweet’s authenticity.Only 14 members of the House and 12 senators include a line in their bios that indicate whether a tweet is written by the lawmaker or a member of his or her staff. Those numbers include two accounts that put “press” in their Twitter account name and five that credit the account to “the office of” the lawmaker.
California: The Road Warrior Is Here– George Miller’s 1981 post-apocalyptic film The Road Warrior envisioned an impoverished world of the future. Tribal groups fought over what remained of a destroyed Western world of law, technology, and mass production. Survival went to the fittest — or at least those who could best scrounge together the artifacts of a long gone society somewhat resembling the present West.In the case of the Australian film, the culprit for the detribalization of the Outback was some sort of global war or perhaps nuclear holocaust that had destroyed the social fabric. Survivors were left with a memory of modern appetites but without the ability to reproduce the means to satisfy them: in short, a sort of Procopius’s description of Gothic Italy circa AD 540.Our Version
Sometimes, and in some places, in California I think we have nearly descended into Miller’s dark vision — especially the juxtaposition of occasional high technology with premodern notions of law and security. The state deficit is at $16 billion. Stockton went bankrupt; Fresno is rumored to be next. Unemployment stays over 10% and in the Central Valley is more like 15%. Seven out of the last eleven new Californians went on Medicaid, which is about broke. A third of the nation’s welfare recipients are in California. In many areas, 40% of Central Valley high school students do not graduate — and do not work, if the latest crisis in finding $10 an hour agricultural workers is any indication. And so on.
Now Reuters And Bloomberg Are Reporting Apple Will Announce The Next iPhone On September 12– Bloomberg and Reuters are the latest publications to confirm that Apple is planning to announce the next iPhone on September 12.Bloomberg cites two anonymous sources “with knowledge of the company’s plans” who say Apple will unveil a redesigned iPhone 5 on that date.Reuters cites a single source “familiar with the plan” who says Apple is planning to unveil a new product at an event that day, which it expects to be the next iPhone.
However, Reuters does note that its source says the date could “shift.”
Romney Spokesman to Reporters: ‘Shove It’– A traveling press secretary for the Romney campaign had some choice words for the press corps on Tuesday in Warsaw, Poland, at one point telling reporters to “kiss my ass” and “shove it.”As Mitt Romney was leaving a stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, approximately 100 yards away from the site itself, reporters shouted questions to the presumptive nominee, who ignored them.After several questions involving Romney’s missteps on the trip, including comments he made in Israel, Romney spokesman Rick Gorka shot back.
“Show some respect,” he said after being challenged for not taking questions, according to pool reports.
“We haven’t had another chance to ask a question,” a New York Times reporter said.
“Kiss my ass,” Gorka said back. “This is a Holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”
Just a few moments later, Gorka told a Politico reporter to “shove it.”