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To: Paul Smith who wrote (131628)2/26/2010 4:37:45 PM
From: JohnM
of 371888
Actually, your construct is wrong, Paul.

*It works if the Reps want to pursue a different form of making certain the uninsured are insured; they are not.

*Or if they were willing to tackle, in a serious manner, eliminating the pre-conditions racket; they are not.

*Or if they were willing to tackle the terribly high costs of private health insurance (not government, private); they are not.

So one party is trying to do something about the sorry state of healthcare coverage in this country and the other is trying to stop them. From doing anything about it. Same story since at least the passage of medicare in the middle 60s.

In this instance, the two parties are not playing on the same ethical field with simply different views as to how to arrive at the same goal. One is addressing the moral character of this issue; the other is not.

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To: Paul Kern who wrote (131631)2/26/2010 4:39:09 PM
From: JohnM
of 371888
I thought they were going to secede. Good riddance.

Ah, well I'm not of that view. Love my Texas roots, despite the cantankerous quality of its politics (would just love to have a Molly Ivins quote to pin right here.)

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From: Paul Smith2/26/2010 4:43:03 PM
of 371888
Why Pelosi can't just get rid of Rangel
The ethics committee is set to report that Rep. Charles Rangel broke House rules. What's a Speaker to do?
Steve Kornacki

Feb. 26, 2010 |

Suddenly, it looks like Nancy Pelosi will have to confront her Charlie Rangel problem after all.

For more than a year, the House Speaker has managed to buy herself time every time Republicans or the media (or both) have made noise about Rangel and his ethical issues. The House ethics committee is looking at it, she would say, and I won’t do or say anything until they report back.

But now there’s word that the slow-moving panel has found Rangel, the 79-year-old chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, guilty of breaking House rules by taking a corporate-funded Caribbean junket.

Already the calls for his ouster from Ways and Means have begun. Republicans have been shrieking for Rangel’s head for months, rubbing Nancy Pelosi’s “most ethical Congress in history” pledge in her face, and now even some Democrats – mindful of the election-year albatross that Rangel represents – are joining the chorus. “Time to strip Rangel of his W&M chairmanship,” the Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas tweeted tonight.

Let’s be clear: Pelosi would like to see Rangel go. Railing against him – a tax cheat running the tax-writing committee! – is a political goldmine for the GOP (which has already tried to embarrass House Democrats by forcing floor votes on Rangel’s gavel status). But prying him from Ways and Means is trickier than you’d think.

Her first option is to convince Rangel to give up his post voluntarily. Good luck with that. Rangel is a House lifer. He won his seat in 1970, part of a generation of African-American congressmen who decided they’d have better luck climbing the internal House ladder than trying to run for higher office in their home states. The seniority system ensured his slow, steady rise and when – after 12 long years of GOP rule – Democrats won back the House in 2006, Rangel, at 76 years old, found himself in one of Washington’s most powerful perches.

For Rangel, the Ways and Means chairmanship is both a reward and a ticket to relevance. The alternative – backbencher status – is flatly unacceptable. Don’t forget: he was so fed up with being out of power that he announced in the summer of 2006 that he’d retire after that year’s election if Democrats didn’t take back the House.

Not surprisingly, Rangel already began digging in his heels on Thursday night, insisting that the forthcoming report – to be released on Friday – actually exonerates him. Expect him to stick to this script for as long as he can.

So it’s likely that Pelosi will have to play hardball if she wants to oust Rangel. Which is where things get tricky, because within the Democratic caucus, big-picture political calculations – what will help us win in November? – are often secondary to factional politics.

In Rangel’s case, the particular issue has to do with the Congressional Black Caucus, of which he is a founding member. For understandable reasons, the CBC tends to be sensitive when it comes to gavels and committee assignments. Historically, many of its members – like Rangel – have relied on the seniority system for their political status and power. The idea of removing a CBC member from a choice assignment or bypassing a CBC member for a plum opening is not to be considered lightly.

Pelosi discovered this four years ago, after the feds raided then-rep. William Jefferson’s home and discovered in his freezer $90,000 in – literally – cold, hard cash. Jefferson was a member Ways and Means and, as with Rangel now, the Republican taints began almost instantly.

The 2006 election was months away and Republican corruption was a key plank in the Democratic platform. Pelosi wanted to be rid of Jefferson – fast. He wouldn’t resign from Ways and Means, so she sought his expulsion. And when she did, all hell broke loose. CBC members rushed to his defense, noting that he hadn’t been convicted of anything (or even) indicted. To punish him preemptively, they argued, would violate due process – and raise the specter of a double-standard, since white Democrats under similar clouds had not been forced to give up their committee seats.

After weeks of maneuvering, Pelosi finally arranged for a vote of the full Democratic caucus on Jefferson’s fate. The meeting was heated, with CBC members – and some unlikely allies—revolting. Despite the strong case for booting Jefferson, nearly 60 House Democrats voted not to remove him – not quite enough to save him, but plenty to teach Pelosi a lesson.

It’s worth noting, too, that Pelosi received some quiet help when she moved on Jefferson from Rangel and several of his CBC allies. Jefferson was something of an outcast in the group. Out of principle, most CBC members stood with him. But some of the group’s most important leaders – like Rangel – quietly assisted Pelosi (hoping, no doubt, to gain a chit from a future Speaker).

But when it comes to Rangel now, Pelosi won’t find similar help at the top of the CBC. The Harlem Democrat is a CBC lion, a founding member who inspires deep reverence from its members. If Rangel asks them to fight for him, they will.

This is why Pelosi has been dreading this day for so long. If she pushes, she could probably muster the votes to bounce Rangel, but the price would be steep: an ugly fight that would attract national press attention, hand Republicans cannon fodder, and divide her own coalition. Or she could look the other way, which would give the GOP even more ammunition and anger swing-district Democrats, who don’t want to have to explain to their constituents why they’re “protecting” Charlie Rangel.

Maybe Rangel will have a change of heart and fall on his sword. But to hear him on Thursday night, that hardly seems likely. So now it’s Pelosi’s move.

-- Steve Kornacki

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To: Paul Smith who wrote (131639)2/26/2010 4:44:38 PM
From: Dale Baker
of 371888
Rangel should have been tossed under a bus long ago. He is one of the poster children for term limits.

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To: Katelew who wrote (131632)2/26/2010 4:48:44 PM
From: Lane3
of 371888
The 'good ship lollipop' we're all on

Excellent choice of image. I wish I'd thought of it.

So this seems like a very generous subsidy to me.

You can look at it with sympathy from the perspective of the difficulty of coming up with 10+K for health insurance at that income level and feel like they need the help. But when you turn the problem around and look at what a thin platform we're standing on and it's unsettling. There is something inherently shaky about a system where fewer than half of us pay income taxes at all and fewer than a fifth of the population is paying enough in income taxes to cover what they get back in transfers, seems to me. Four fifths of the population can vote to raise taxes on the better off to pay for transfers to them without any real constraint. I find it unsettling. I'd like a stronger base than that. But then my glasses aren't tinted.

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To: Katelew who wrote (131632)2/26/2010 4:53:24 PM
From: Mary Cluney
of 371888
<<<Everyone comes out ahead with the government picking up the tab.>>>

There are costs and there are benefits. While we are waiting for CBO to score the latest proposal, Obama is still trying for consensus. Obama is not taking anything off the table. If you come up with anything, he will consider it.

In the meantime, here is in broad terms what I think Obama is looking at when budgeting and paying for health care:

"reform proposals could encompass preventive measures and efforts to encourage healthier lifestyles. Broadly speaking, three basic policy approaches could be adopted. First, more information about the consequences of unhealthy behavior or the factors contributing to it could be made available, in forms that could affect individual behavior or even social norms. (Nutritional information, for example, is readily available for packaged foods but more difficult to come by for
other sources, such as restaurant meals.) Second, financial incentives could be modified to encourage healthier living and to discourage unhealthy activities. For example, cigarette taxes could be increased, which would discourage smoking,
especially among teenagers. In addition, an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes of 50 cents per pack would raise about $5 billion per year, according to the Joint
Committee on Taxation. Third, regulatory steps could be taken to encourage healthy behavior and discourage poor health habits. For example, recent efforts have been aimed at improving the nutrition and reducing the calories of school
lunches and snacks available in schools. In addition, some research suggests that changing the presentation of food choices can encourage healthy eating. There could be great value in exploring these and other mechanisms that offer the potential of constraining health care spending without diminishing the quality of care that people receive."

But to really understand this stuff, you would have to go deep into the weeds. The problem is that there are not that many people that have the wherewithal to go in that deeply.

That not withstanding, we should all be able to see that our health care system is broken. Every one can see the rising cost of health care as percent of gdp is growing faster than the cost of living. If nothing is done the rise in health care costs is not sustainable. Doing nothing is not an option.

Most people are just making political statements or voicing opinion that has very little foundation. If you are really serious, you would have go deep into the weeds.

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To: Lane3 who wrote (131641)2/26/2010 5:01:42 PM
From: Dale Baker
of 371888
Has there ever been an older generation who didn't believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket, the younger generation is doomed and anyone who thinks otherwise is a giddy fool?

It's a familiar script, whatever specifics you want to cherrypick and plug in. At the end of the day, it's an attitude full of assumptions.

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To: Dale Baker who wrote (131643)2/26/2010 5:02:15 PM
From: Dale Baker
of 371888
Pearlstein s a business columnist and no fuzzy-headed liberal:

At summit, Republicans prove they aren't putting America's health first

By Steven Pearlstein
Friday, February 26, 2010; A17

I'm not sure what else was accomplished at Thursday's Blair House summit, but surely one result is that we learned what Republican "leaders" really think about health care and health insurance.

The most important thing Republicans think is that if there are Americans who can't afford the insurance policies that private insurers are willing to offer, then that's their problem -- there's nothing the government or the rest of us should do about it.

"We just can't afford this," said Eric Cantor, the fresh-faced House minority whip from Virginia, while John Boehner, the House Republican leader, called it "a new entitlement program that will bankrupt our country." What they were referring to, of course, was the $125 billion a year that Obama and his Democratic allies propose to spend in subsidies so tens of millions of low-income households can afford to buy health insurance and handle the co-payments. But if paying for those subsidies means raising taxes on high-income households with lots of investment profits, or capping a tax break for people with extravagant health insurance, or charging a modest fee on medical device makers that refuse to moderate future price increases, then Republicans are agin' it.

That was their clear message Thursday. It was their message during all those years when their party controlled Congress and the White House and they did nothing and said nothing about the plight of the uninsured. And it is clear that they would continue to do nothing if, by some miracle, Democrats were to drop their plan or embark on a more modest approach. For Republicans, the uninsured remain invisible Americans, out of sight and out of mind.

Judging from Thursday's discussion, Republicans have much more sympathy for those who can afford to buy health insurance but are denied because of a preexisting medical condition. They oppose Democratic efforts to end this industry practice directly through regulation, preferring instead to refer those customers to special high-risk insurance pools where they would be guaranteed to find coverage.

In some versions of the high-risk pool, the cost of a policy would be so high that households with average incomes would have to set aside a third or even half of their income to pay for it. It takes a Republican to view this as a solution -- the equivalent of giving a starving man a coupon for $2 off his next dinner at Le Bernardin.

Or perhaps Republicans imagine high-risk pools that are subsidized sufficiently enough that the insurance policies are actually affordable. Unfortunately, the only way to finance such subsidies is through some sort of tax or fee, mostly one imposed on every insurance policy sold outside the high-risk pool. It's a fine idea but one that turns out to be the actuarial equivalent of what Democrats proposed in requiring that insurers charge pretty much the same premiums for everyone, with only modest variations based on age and health condition.

Another of the Republican "big ideas" was to make it possible for small businesses to collectively negotiate with insurance companies for better deals on health plans. But that's what Democrats have in mind with insurance exchanges that will do exactly that, not only for small businesses but also for the self-employed and workers at companies that don't offer health coverage. Although they never quite came out and said it, what apparently bothers Republicans about these insurance exchanges is that they would be overseen by governments -- the same state and federal governments that for decades have negotiated a wide selection of competitively priced plans for tens of millions of satisfied government workers, including members of Congress.

Then there's the issue of what minimal level of benefits a basic health insurance package should offer. Republicans, of course, used Thursday's forum to denounce the idea that such decisions should be made by Washington bureaucrats and politicians. But as my Washington Post colleague Ezra Klein points out, Republicans apparently would have no problem if those standards were to be set by bureaucrats and politicians in Nebraska, or North Dakota or whatever Republican state decided to offer itself up as the regulatory haven from which insurers could sell their policies nationwide.

To give them their due, Republicans did manage to raise some serious issues and make a few constructive suggestions in between their carefully choreographed talking points.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, among others, complained that the minimum standards set in the House and Senate bill weren't very minimal at all, but in fact exceeded the actuarial value of the average policy now sold in the individual and small-group markets -- and are certainly more generous than the high-deductible policies that have shown some success in restraining the annual growth in premiums. Why not, he asked, start with a more modest benefits package?

Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan raised legitimate concerns about the way malpractice suits and excessive damage awards can cause physicians to practice defensive medicine, needlessly driving up the cost of health care.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma suggested using undercover agents to weed out the waste and fraud that he claimed were responsible for the fact that one of every three dollars in the Medicare and Medicaid programs is misspent.

And Sen. John McCain demanded that his former presidential rival renounce the special Medicaid funding formulas for Florida and Louisiana that were used to buy the support of those states' wavering senators.

What we didn't hear from Kyl, or Camp, or Coburn or McCain, however, was an offer to vote for a health reform plan if these problems were fixed and their ideas were incorporated. Without even the hint of such offers, there was little reason for a willing president and his unwilling allies to even consider serious compromise. Now the losers will be the American people, who could have surely benefited from such productive dealmaking.

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To: JohnM who wrote (131588)2/26/2010 5:08:38 PM
From: epicure
of 371888
Hey - I hope you are right. But I'm not sanguine.

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To: Paul Smith who wrote (131621)2/26/2010 5:34:19 PM
From: KonKilo
of 371888
I stick to my prediction that the "big bill" fails and a smaller bill ultimately passes.

The bills have already passed.

The issue going forward is amending them into one bill.

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