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Archive for August 19th, 2009

‘Nothing Has Changed’ for Public Option

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:44 am by HL

‘Nothing Has Changed’ for Public Option
Press secretary Robert Gibbs called the media’s determination that the president had abandoned the public option “one of the more curious things I’ve ever seen in my life.” Is this a case of spin or spine? Read Gibbs’ entertaining back-and-forth with reporters (full text after the jump) and come to your own conclusion. Gibbs’ claim isn’t particularly comforting, even if you take him at his word. He’s saying the president has always preferred a public option—and has always been willing to cave, if necessary.  The press secretary made similar comments at a briefing—video here.  —PS The White House: PRESS GAGGLE BY PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS Aboard Air Force One En route Andrews Air Force Base 4:50 P.M. EDT MR. GIBBS:  Good morning. Q   Morning? MR. GIBBS:  I know, it’s not really morning. I’m pretty sure my schedule will be completely messed up by the time we get home. Q   Public option—is it dead or not? MR. GIBBS:  I got to tell you, this is one of the more curious things I’ve ever seen in my life. I was on a Sunday show, I said the same thing about a public option that I’ve said for I don’t know how many weeks. The Secretary reiterated what the President said the day before, and you’d think there was some new policy. Q   The language appeared to be— MR. GIBBS:  The language “appeared” to be? Q   Well, the language on Saturday—the President made—saying that the public option was only a sliver, and whether it’s in it or it isn’t in it seems to move the ball a little bit from where you guys were. No? MR. GIBBS: No. I think you can go back and find the President saying—look, the President has said that’s his preference, but the President has also said I don’t know how many times if the goals are choice and competition, right, the reason you have a public option is because you have an insurance market that doesn’t have choice or competition. If somebody is trying to seek private insurance on—private health insurance on a private market and only has—because this happens in some areas or in some states where there’s one insurance company that does business in that region, that that is—that doesn’t ensure the type of affordability and quality that you’d want to see in a health insurance system. So you have some competition that provides some choice, so that if a family of four might have different insurance needs than a single person or a couple that’s married with no children or what have you. The goals are choice and competition. His preference is a public option. If there are other ideas, he’s happy to look at them. Because I think his—I think this is true not only for the issue of health care, but for virtually every other issue that he’ll ever deal with in public life is he has goals about what he wants to accomplish and he’s not necessarily wedded to one—only one way of getting there.  I think he’s said that a hundred times. Q   Just to be completely clear, has anything changed on the public option? MR. GIBBS:  No. I challenge you guys all to go back and see what we’ve said about this over the course of many, many, many, many months, and you’ll find a boring consistency to our rhetoric. Q   The rhetoric, as you say, might be consistent, but the movement on the ground, so to speak, toward legislation hasn’t been.  Is there any recognition now that a public option is looking less likely to be part of a final deal? MR. GIBBS:  Let me make sure I understand your question, because I want to know if it’s—is this predicated on legislative developments since Congress has been out of session, or are we trying to match the stampede of a series of stories to if not the consistent language that we’ve all been saying to some now legislative vote? Q   It’s just looking more and more likely that a public option is not going to be part of the final bill.  I’m wondering if the White House is— MR. GIBBS:  I do think—can I just—I want to point out the—how do I phrase this—massive irony that I don’t know that I saw any of your stories denote the fact that this might be—that you’re surmising now this was a political reality rather than— Q   That’s what we’re asking. MR. GIBBS:  I understand, but did you think from the phrasing of Julianna’s question that we might be coming to justify a series of stampeding stories in one direction based on something different than what we’ve always said? Q   But you guys have—you haven’t exactly come out publicly since Sebelius’ statement yesterday, come in front of the cameras to speak to us, to downplay— MR. GIBBS:  Because nothing has changed. Q   But you haven’t downplayed the remarks and the coverage either. MR. GIBBS:  No, no, I think many people talked to you all yesterday. I think people sent e-mails. David Axelrod called people. Q   (Inaudible.) MR. GIBBS:  I didn’t get an e-mail from you. Nothing has changed. I mean, we can go out and say nothing has changed, but that seems sort of silly since nothing has changed. Look, in terms of the political realities, obviously there’s a public plan—or public option in the House bill. There is a public option in the HELP bill.  I don’t know what the Senate Finance Committee will come out with. Q   When the President talks about the special interests and railing against the special interests on health care, who is he referring to—criticized special interests, lobbyists, and— MR. GIBBS:  Well— Q   Specifically, those you’re referring to.  What constituencies? MR. GIBBS: Interest groups that are aligned to keep the status quo either because it benefits them or they have a vested interest in—or because they have a vested interest in it not changing. Q   So he would include drug makers in that, or not? MR. GIBBS:  Drug makers, if you’re a member of PhRMA, you’ve come to an agreement about health care reform happening this year. Q   So he’s referring to special interests who are not on board with reform? MR. GIBBS:  Well, I mean, to be critical of somebody who’s not for reform, you typically would have to be opposed to the President’s plan. Q   Right, but it seems that there are actually a lot of special interests that are in favor of reform. So— MR. GIBBS:  I guess I’m confused at where you’re heading here. Q   Well, I’m—he gets up there, he rails against special interests, but yet there are special interests who are allies of the White House, as well. MR. GIBBS:  But let’s be clear. You can rail against special interests that are for—it’d be sort of odd to go to a town hall meeting and rail against interest groups that are supporting reform—right—who have acknowledged that it’s time for health care reform; acknowledged that the system as we currently have it either isn’t working for patients or doctors or nurses or seniors or young people or budgets or the government. Q   Well, then, specifically, who?  Can you give me a couple examples of— MR. GIBBS:  I think the President mentioned the other day that there are insurance companies that are for the status quo. Q   Like? MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think we’ve produced a list. I’ll try to find that for you. There’s groups that have run commercials, right? Dick Armey’s group has been out there. I’d point you to Dick Armey’s comments on Medicare today, as well. But Dick Armey’s group is out there actively getting people to go to town halls and yell at members of Congress. The Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the gentleman who has in his list of lifetime accomplishments, “receiving the largest Medicare fine in the history of the entire program,” who spent millions of dollars to go on TV and criticize health care reform.  I think that’s a list of people that are special interests who oppose a change and reform in health care. Q   Switching topics— Q   Wait, can I ask one more health care question? Q   Sure. Q   What was the President’s message to Chairman Baucus regarding the public option during their meetings on Friday? MR. GIBBS:  I don’t know the degree which that particularly came up.  I think they were talking more about the global process, about trying to get consensus in the Finance Committee. Q   Would that have to involve public option of some sort? MR. GIBBS:  Well, I mean, obviously they’ll make a decision about it. He didn’t talk to me about whether or not that specifically came up. Q   Swapping topics a little bit to tomorrow. What does the President hope to achieve with his meeting with Mubarak? MR. GIBBS:  Look, again, I think this is continuing our outreach in the Middle East. Again, I don’t want to get ahead of what the President will tell Mubarak.  But I think obviously each country in the region on either side of this issue has certain responsibilities to uphold as we make progress toward a lasting peace in the Middle East. And without a recognition of those responsibilities it’s going to be hard to move forward. So I think the President will take some time to talk through that. Q   Anything else specifically that he wants to discuss? MR. GIBBS:  Well, let me—let me just leave at that, then we’ll have—you guys will have a chance to talk to them tomorrow afternoon. Q   More broadly, sort of six months from sort of starting his Middle East peace push, how does the President feel things are sort of developing?  It seems we’ve gone to a situation now where the Arabs are telling the Israelis, you’ve got to go first, and the Israelis are telling the Arabs, you’ve got to go first. Is there any way you can sort of unblock that situation? MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think—I think most Middle East observers will tell you that progress on this issue is not going to be made unless or until there’s sustained involvement by the United States; that if we look back at progress that has been made, it’s generally been with the involvement of the United States, because we all understand it’s in our national interest. I think the President talked throughout—has talked throughout his time in public life as saying that most of all, what we have to have is have that sustained engagement that allows the two parties to work with each other and make progress. And without it, what happens, we tend to see—we tend to see the absence of that progress. And I think instead of—instead of waiting until the end of a certain term or a certain time to have that engagement, the President’s plan is to—was to do that from the very beginning, and I think you saw that in the phone calls that he made the very first full day—his very first full day in office.  We’ll continue to do that. Q   Has he spoken to Mubarak since the June meeting? MR. GIBBS:  I don’t believe he has but I will double-check. I don’t believe he has since then. They haven’t—I mean, they haven’t spoken on the phone, I should say. Q   How else— MR. GIBBS:  Well, they could communicate. Q   He’s got the e-mail address. Q   Yes. MR. GIBBS:  You could write a letter. Q   Does he have the BlackBerry— Q   Does he have the e-mail address? MR. GIBBS:  Not that I’m aware of, no. Just by letter. Q   So you’ll let us know if any communication has— MR. GIBBS:  Yes, well, I’ll double check with those guys. Q   Is there a change in the schedule for the rest of the week? MR. GIBBS:  Not that I’m aware of, though I have to admit, having been out West, I’m a bit out of the—I’m happily out of the scheduling loop for a couple days. But we’ll try to update you tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon in the briefing if any events have been added. I’m sure there have, just as they have been fleshed out. Q   And the reason that we moved the schedule up earlier today—was there any special reason? MR. GIBBS:  No, just he was—he was up a little earlier, and the VFW could take us a little earlier, and I think he’s probably anxious to get back over—to get back out East, much to our chagrin. Q   What’s the format for tomorrow, is it—with Mubarak?  Is it the usual one-on-one, expanded delegations, lunch, that kind of thing? MR. GIBBS:  I believe so. I don’t—I have not seen the full itinerary, but I don’t know why that would be different. And then I don’t know where we’re doing the spray with the questions, but we’ll have all that information out for you guys either in tonight’s guidance or first thing tomorrow morning. Q   With the budget mid-session review coming out in the next few weeks, are you guys expecting good news or bad news? MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think obviously the biggest driver in a budget right now is the state of the economy.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the economy over the course of the first six months, particularly that first three months that the President was in office, we’ve talked about numerous times deteriorated at a rapid pace unlike anything anybody imagined.  So I think in many ways it has only sharpened our budget challenges. I’ve not seen the final documents or things like that, but I don’t think there’s any doubt the challenges remain to get our fiscal house in order. I think you’ve heard the President at town hall meetings talk about the importance of making sure that health care reform is paid for. I think he, at the end of—particularly at the end of the Colorado town hall meeting, you know, he talked about, you know, Congress—and the President added an expensive drug benefit through Medicare that we didn’t pay for.  We went to war in Iraq that we didn’t pay for. We made a lot of cognitive decisions that we knew would be expensive, and we made them knowing we weren’t going to pay for them. The President has a different idea about that—that reform has to be something that we pay for because we have to get our fiscal house in order, we have to change the cost curve for Medicare and Medicaid.  Families can’t afford health care to continue to skyrocket at this rate. Neither, quite frankly, can the government. All right, enjoy your flight home. Thanks, guys. Q   Thanks, Robert. END             5:05 P.M. EDT [Link] READ THE WHOLE ITEM

Press secretary Robert Gibbs called the media’s determination that the president had abandoned the public option “one of the more curious things I’ve ever seen in my life.” Is this a case of spin or spine? Read Gibbs’ entertaining back-and-forth with reporters (full text after the jump) and come to your own conclusion.

Gibbs’ claim isn’t particularly comforting, even if you take him at his word. He’s saying the president has always preferred a public option—and has always been willing to cave, if necessary.?

The press secretary made similar comments at a briefing—video here.? —PS

The White House:

PRESS GAGGLE
BY
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS

Aboard Air Force One
En route Andrews Air Force Base

4:50 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS:? Good morning.

Q ? Morning?

MR. GIBBS:? I know, it’s not really morning. I’m pretty sure my schedule will be completely messed up by the time we get home.

Q ? Public option—is it dead or not?

MR. GIBBS:? I got to tell you, this is one of the more curious things I’ve ever seen in my life. I was on a Sunday show, I said the same thing about a public option that I’ve said for I don’t know how many weeks. The Secretary reiterated what the President said the day before, and you’d think there was some new policy.

Q ? The language appeared to be—

MR. GIBBS:? The language “appeared” to be?

Q ? Well, the language on Saturday—the President made—saying that the public option was only a sliver, and whether it’s in it or it isn’t in it seems to move the ball a little bit from where you guys were. No?

MR. GIBBS: No. I think you can go back and find the President saying—look, the President has said that’s his preference, but the President has also said I don’t know how many times if the goals are choice and competition, right, the reason you have a public option is because you have an insurance market that doesn’t have choice or competition. If somebody is trying to seek private insurance on—private health insurance on a private market and only has—because this happens in some areas or in some states where there’s one insurance company that does business in that region, that that is—that doesn’t ensure the type of affordability and quality that you’d want to see in a health insurance system.

So you have some competition that provides some choice, so that if a family of four might have different insurance needs than a single person or a couple that’s married with no children or what have you. The goals are choice and competition. His preference is a public option. If there are other ideas, he’s happy to look at them. Because I think his—I think this is true not only for the issue of health care, but for virtually every other issue that he’ll ever deal with in public life is he has goals about what he wants to accomplish and he’s not necessarily wedded to one—only one way of getting there.? I think he’s said that a hundred times.

Q ? Just to be completely clear, has anything changed on the public option?

MR. GIBBS:? No. I challenge you guys all to go back and see what we’ve said about this over the course of many, many, many, many months, and you’ll find a boring consistency to our rhetoric.

Q ? The rhetoric, as you say, might be consistent, but the movement on the ground, so to speak, toward legislation hasn’t been.? Is there any recognition now that a public option is looking less likely to be part of a final deal?

MR. GIBBS:? Let me make sure I understand your question, because I want to know if it’s—is this predicated on legislative developments since Congress has been out of session, or are we trying to match the stampede of a series of stories to if not the consistent language that we’ve all been saying to some now legislative vote?

Q ? It’s just looking more and more likely that a public option is not going to be part of the final bill.? I’m wondering if the White House is—

MR. GIBBS:? I do think—can I just—I want to point out the—how do I phrase this—massive irony that I don’t know that I saw any of your stories denote the fact that this might be—that you’re surmising now this was a political reality rather than—

Q ? That’s what we’re asking.

MR. GIBBS:? I understand, but did you think from the phrasing of Julianna’s question that we might be coming to justify a series of stampeding stories in one direction based on something different than what we’ve always said?

Q ? But you guys have—you haven’t exactly come out publicly since Sebelius’ statement yesterday, come in front of the cameras to speak to us, to downplay—

MR. GIBBS:? Because nothing has changed.

Q ? But you haven’t downplayed the remarks and the coverage either.

MR. GIBBS:? No, no, I think many people talked to you all yesterday. I think people sent e-mails. David Axelrod called people.

Q ? (Inaudible.)

MR. GIBBS:? I didn’t get an e-mail from you. Nothing has changed. I mean, we can go out and say nothing has changed, but that seems sort of silly since nothing has changed.

Look, in terms of the political realities, obviously there’s a public plan—or public option in the House bill. There is a public option in the HELP bill.? I don’t know what the Senate Finance Committee will come out with.

Q ? When the President talks about the special interests and railing against the special interests on health care, who is he referring to—criticized special interests, lobbyists, and—

MR. GIBBS:? Well—

Q ? Specifically, those you’re referring to.? What constituencies?

MR. GIBBS: Interest groups that are aligned to keep the status quo either because it benefits them or they have a vested interest in—or because they have a vested interest in it not changing.

Q ? So he would include drug makers in that, or not?

MR. GIBBS:? Drug makers, if you’re a member of PhRMA, you’ve come to an agreement about health care reform happening this year.

Q ? So he’s referring to special interests who are not on board with reform?

MR. GIBBS:? Well, I mean, to be critical of somebody who’s not for reform, you typically would have to be opposed to the President’s plan.

Q ? Right, but it seems that there are actually a lot of special interests that are in favor of reform. So—

MR. GIBBS:? I guess I’m confused at where you’re heading here.

Q ? Well, I’m—he gets up there, he rails against special interests, but yet there are special interests who are allies of the White House, as well.

MR. GIBBS:? But let’s be clear. You can rail against special interests that are for—it’d be sort of odd to go to a town hall meeting and rail against interest groups that are supporting reform—right—who have acknowledged that it’s time for health care reform; acknowledged that the system as we currently have it either isn’t working for patients or doctors or nurses or seniors or young people or budgets or the government.

Q ? Well, then, specifically, who?? Can you give me a couple examples of—

MR. GIBBS:? I think the President mentioned the other day that there are insurance companies that are for the status quo.

Q ? Like?

MR. GIBBS:? Well, I think we’ve produced a list. I’ll try to find that for you. There’s groups that have run commercials, right? Dick Armey’s group has been out there. I’d point you to Dick Armey’s comments on Medicare today, as well. But Dick Armey’s group is out there actively getting people to go to town halls and yell at members of Congress. The Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the gentleman who has in his list of lifetime accomplishments, “receiving the largest Medicare fine in the history of the entire program,” who spent millions of dollars to go on TV and criticize health care reform.? I think that’s a list of people that are special interests who oppose a change and reform in health care.

Q ? Switching topics—

Q ? Wait, can I ask one more health care question?

Q ? Sure.

Q ? What was the President’s message to Chairman Baucus regarding the public option during their meetings on Friday?

MR. GIBBS:? I don’t know the degree which that particularly came up.? I think they were talking more about the global process, about trying to get consensus in the Finance Committee.

Q ? Would that have to involve public option of some sort?

MR. GIBBS:? Well, I mean, obviously they’ll make a decision about it. He didn’t talk to me about whether or not that specifically came up.

Q ? Swapping topics a little bit to tomorrow. What does the President hope to achieve with his meeting with Mubarak?

MR. GIBBS:? Look, again, I think this is continuing our outreach in the Middle East. Again, I don’t want to get ahead of what the President will tell Mubarak.? But I think obviously each country in the region on either side of this issue has certain responsibilities to uphold as we make progress toward a lasting peace in the Middle East. And without a recognition of those responsibilities it’s going to be hard to move forward. So I think the President will take some time to talk through that.

Q ? Anything else specifically that he wants to discuss?

MR. GIBBS:? Well, let me—let me just leave at that, then we’ll have—you guys will have a chance to talk to them tomorrow afternoon.

Q ? More broadly, sort of six months from sort of starting his Middle East peace push, how does the President feel things are sort of developing?? It seems we’ve gone to a situation now where the Arabs are telling the Israelis, you’ve got to go first, and the Israelis are telling the Arabs, you’ve got to go first. Is there any way you can sort of unblock that situation?

MR. GIBBS:? Well, look, I think—I think most Middle East observers will tell you that progress on this issue is not going to be made unless or until there’s sustained involvement by the United States; that if we look back at progress that has been made, it’s generally been with the involvement of the United States, because we all understand it’s in our national interest.

I think the President talked throughout—has talked throughout his time in public life as saying that most of all, what we have to have is have that sustained engagement that allows the two parties to work with each other and make progress. And without it, what happens, we tend to see—we tend to see the absence of that progress.

And I think instead of—instead of waiting until the end of a certain term or a certain time to have that engagement, the President’s plan is to—was to do that from the very beginning, and I think you saw that in the phone calls that he made the very first full day—his very first full day in office.? We’ll continue to do that.

Q ? Has he spoken to Mubarak since the June meeting?

MR. GIBBS:? I don’t believe he has but I will double-check. I don’t believe he has since then. They haven’t—I mean, they haven’t spoken on the phone, I should say.

Q ? How else—

MR. GIBBS:? Well, they could communicate.

Q ? He’s got the e-mail address.

Q ? Yes.

MR. GIBBS:? You could write a letter.

Q ? Does he have the BlackBerry—

Q ? Does he have the e-mail address?

MR. GIBBS:? Not that I’m aware of, no. Just by letter.

Q ? So you’ll let us know if any communication has—

MR. GIBBS:? Yes, well, I’ll double check with those guys.

Q ? Is there a change in the schedule for the rest of the week?

MR. GIBBS:? Not that I’m aware of, though I have to admit, having been out West, I’m a bit out of the—I’m happily out of the scheduling loop for a couple days. But we’ll try to update you tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon in the briefing if any events have been added. I’m sure there have, just as they have been fleshed out.

Q ? And the reason that we moved the schedule up earlier today—was there any special reason?

MR. GIBBS:? No, just he was—he was up a little earlier, and the VFW could take us a little earlier, and I think he’s probably anxious to get back over—to get back out East, much to our chagrin.

Q ? What’s the format for tomorrow, is it—with Mubarak?? Is it the usual one-on-one, expanded delegations, lunch, that kind of thing?

MR. GIBBS:? I believe so. I don’t—I have not seen the full itinerary, but I don’t know why that would be different. And then I don’t know where we’re doing the spray with the questions, but we’ll have all that information out for you guys either in tonight’s guidance or first thing tomorrow morning.

Q ? With the budget mid-session review coming out in the next few weeks, are you guys expecting good news or bad news?

MR. GIBBS:? Well, look, I think obviously the biggest driver in a budget right now is the state of the economy.? I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the economy over the course of the first six months, particularly that first three months that the President was in office, we’ve talked about numerous times deteriorated at a rapid pace unlike anything anybody imagined.? So I think in many ways it has only sharpened our budget challenges. I’ve not seen the final documents or things like that, but I don’t think there’s any doubt the challenges remain to get our fiscal house in order.

I think you’ve heard the President at town hall meetings talk about the importance of making sure that health care reform is paid for. I think he, at the end of—particularly at the end of the Colorado town hall meeting, you know, he talked about, you know, Congress—and the President added an expensive drug benefit through Medicare that we didn’t pay for.? We went to war in Iraq that we didn’t pay for. We made a lot of cognitive decisions that we knew would be expensive, and we made them knowing we weren’t going to pay for them.

The President has a different idea about that—that reform has to be something that we pay for because we have to get our fiscal house in order, we have to change the cost curve for Medicare and Medicaid.? Families can’t afford health care to continue to skyrocket at this rate. Neither, quite frankly, can the government.

All right, enjoy your flight home. Thanks, guys.

Q ? Thanks, Robert.

END ? ? ? ? ? ? 5:05 P.M. EDT

[Link]

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The Right’s Trouble With Violence
With angry white men bringing their guns too close to the president, Josh Marshall writes: “Let’s be honest with ourselves: the American right has a deep-seated problem with political violence. It’s deep-seated; it’s recurrent and it’s real.” For all the hatred of President Bush, Marshall explains, the last administration saw nothing like the Oklahoma City bombing or attempt on President Clinton’s life in terms of domestic political violence. Josh Marshall / Talking Points Memo via Daily Kos: It’s true that there are some regional divergences at work here.  Weapons just don’t get carried around in public in say New Jersey or Connecticut the way they do in the South or especially the west. But let’s be honest about what this is about.  The right—the modern American right—has a very troubled history with political violence.  The ideological pattern is clear going back at least thirty years and arguably far longer.  A simple review of the 1990s, particularly 1993, 1994, culminating in many respects in the tragic 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building in April 1995 tells the tale.  Mix in the militias, the thankfully inept attempt on President Clinton’s life a few months before Oklahoma City (see Francisco Duran) and it’s all really not a pretty picture. Read more READ THE WHOLE ITEM

With angry white men bringing their guns too close to the president, Josh Marshall writes: “Let’s be honest with ourselves: the American right has a deep-seated problem with political violence. It’s deep-seated; it’s recurrent and it’s real.”

For all the hatred of President Bush, Marshall explains, the last administration saw nothing like the Oklahoma City bombing or attempt on President Clinton’s life in terms of domestic political violence.

Josh Marshall / Talking Points Memo via Daily Kos:

It’s true that there are some regional divergences at work here.? Weapons just don’t get carried around in public in say New Jersey or Connecticut the way they do in the South or especially the west.

But let’s be honest about what this is about.? The right—the modern American right—has a very troubled history with political violence.? The ideological pattern is clear going back at least thirty years and arguably far longer.? A simple review of the 1990s, particularly 1993, 1994, culminating in many respects in the tragic 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building in April 1995 tells the tale.? Mix in the militias, the thankfully inept attempt on President Clinton’s life a few months before Oklahoma City (see Francisco Duran) and it’s all really not a pretty picture.

Read more

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AP uncritically quoted McConnell’s claims that health reform means “massive cuts to Medicare,” “taxes on small business”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

AP uncritically quoted McConnell’s claims that health reform means “massive cuts to Medicare,” “taxes on small business”

In an August 18 Associated Press article, David Espo quoted Sen. Mitch McConnell’s claim that health reform proposals will be paid for “through massive cuts to Medicare,” without pointing out, as FactCheck.org did, that “[t]he claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors’ Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false.” Additionally, Espo quoted McConnell’s assertion that health reform will be funded through “taxes on small business,” without noting that according to House Democrats, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that only 4.1 percent of small businesses would be affected by the surtax in the House Democrats’ health reform bill or that the Senate HELP bill provides credits to help small businesses comply with the mandated coverage provisions.

From Espo’s August 18 AP article:

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, issued a statement that emphasized other complaints about Obama’s proposals.

“While both political parties believe we need to reform our health care system, particularly in the areas of cost and access, Americans are rightly skeptical about the administration’s approach to overhauling everyone’s health care and about the more than $1 trillion price tag. Moreover, Americans are concerned about funding new government programs through massive cuts to Medicare and taxes on small business,” he said.

FactCheck.org, AARP have rebutted notion that health reform will reduce Medicare benefits

FactCheck.org: “The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors’ Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false.”

From FactCheck.org’s August 14 article, “Seven Falsehoods About Health Care”:

False: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed

The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors’ Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn’t keep it from being repeated ad infinitum.

The truth is that the pending House bill extracts $500 billion from projected Medicare spending over 10 years, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, by doing such things as trimming projected increases in the program’s payments for medical services, not including physicians. Increases in other areas, such as payments to doctors, bring the net savings down to less than half that amount. But none of the predicted savings — or cuts, depending on one’s perspective — come from reducing current or future benefits for seniors.

The president has promised repeatedly that benefit levels won’t be reduced, reiterating the point recently in Portsmouth, N.H.:

Obama, Aug. 11: Another myth that we’ve been hearing about is this notion that somehow we’re going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not.

Is he wrong? Not according to AARP, by far the nation’s largest organization representing the over-50 population. In a “Myths vs. Facts” rundown, AARP says:

AARP: Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.

To be sure, Obama hasn’t always thought that Medicare “savings” could be accomplished without actual cuts in benefits. Last fall, his campaign ran two television ads accusing Sen. John McCain of wanting “a 22 percent cut in [Medicare] benefits.” The basis for the ads was a newspaper article in which a McCain aide said the Arizona Republican would cut Medicare costs. But the aide said nothing about cutting benefits, in fact quite the contrary. We called the claim “false” when Obama made it against McCain, and it’s still false now when Obama’s critics are making the same accusation against him. [FactCheck.org, 8/14/09]

FactCheck.org: “Congress isn’t proposing to cut [Medicare] benefit levels.” According to an August 18 FactCheck.org article, “None of the ‘savings’ or ‘cuts’ (whichever you prefer)” to Medicare in the House bill “come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors.” From the article:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House bill would result in “savings” of $219 billion after all increases and decreases are netted out. The House bill would trim projected increases in payments for hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and others, including home health care providers and suppliers of motor-driven wheelchairs. But it also proposes what CBO estimates is a $245 billion increase in spending for doctors, by canceling a scheduled 21 percent cut in physician payments. None of the “savings” or “cuts” (whichever you prefer) come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors. [FactCheck.org, 8/18/09]

AARP says idea that “Health care reform will hurt Medicare” is a “Myth.” From the AARP’s “Myths vs. Facts” on health care reform:

Myth: Health care reform will hurt Medicare.

Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.

Fact: Health care reform will lower prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole” so they can get better afford the drugs they need.

Fact: Health care reform will protect seniors’ access to their doctors and reduce the cost of preventive services so patients stay healthier.

Fact: Health care reform will reduce costly, preventable hospital readmissions, saving patients and Medicare money.

Fact: Rather than weaken Medicare, health care reform will strengthen the financial status of the Medicare program.

Bottom Line: For people in Medicare, health care reform is about lowering prescription drug costs for people in the “doughnut hole”, keeping the doctor of your choice, improving the quality of care, and eliminating billions in waste that is causing poor care and medical errors. [AARP, accessed 8/18/09]

House bill’s proposed tax would reportedly only affect 4.1 percent of small businesses

Tax in House bill applies only to income exceeding $350,000 per year for joint filers, with the 5.4 rate applied to income exceeding $1 million. As Media Matters for America has noted, the House tri-committee legislation would establish a 1 percent tax on joint income exceeding $350,000 but not greater than $500,000 per year; a 1.5 percent tax on joint income exceeding $500,000 but not greater than $1 million per year; and a 5.4 percent tax on joint income exceeding $1 million per year. Single filers would be subject to the surtax starting at income exceeding $280,000 per year.

Ways and Means Committee stated that according to nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, only 4.1 percent of small business owners would be affected. The committee stated in a summary document: “Using the broadest definition of a small business owner (i.e., any individual with as little as $1 of small business income), the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that only 4.1% of all small business owners would be affected by the health care surcharge.”

Senate HELP bill would provide subsidies to help small businesses pay for coverage of employees

Senate HELP bill outlines credits to small businesses. Sec. 3112 of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions committee bill outlines credits allocated “in the case of an employer that is a qualified small employer” under its “SMALL BUSINESS HEALTH OPTIONS PROGRAM.”

CBO, JCT: Senate HELP bill provides subsidies to small employers to help comply with the mandated coverage provisions. According to the July 2 preliminary analysis of the Senate HELP bill by the Congressional Budget Office and JCT, “[f]irms with more than 25 workers would be subject to a ‘play-or-pay’ requirement.” It further noted that “[t]he government would provide subsidies to small employers whose workers have low average wages, who offer health benefits to those workers, and who contribute at least 60 percent of the premium”:

Firms with more than 25 workers would be subject to a “play-or-pay” requirement. If a firm did not offer qualified health insurance and contribute at least 60 percent toward the premium, it would have to pay an annual penalty (labeled an “equity assessment”) that is initially equal to $750 per full-time worker and $375 per part-time worker. Those dollar amounts would be indexed to medical price inflation after 2013.

[…]

The government would provide subsidies to small employers whose workers have low average wages, who offer health benefits to those workers, and who contribute at least 60 percent of the premium. The amount of the subsidy would vary with the size of the firm (up to a limit of 50 workers), and firms that contribute larger amounts toward their workers’ insurance would receive larger subsidies (up to a limit of $1,800 per worker for single coverage at firms with fewer than 10 employees who do not require any worker contribution toward health insurance premiums). The credit would be available indefinitely, but firms would be allowed to take the credit in only three out of every four years.


E-Mails: On Election Eve, Miers Tried To Intervene With DOJ About Sensitive Renzi Case

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

E-Mails: On Election Eve, Miers Tried To Intervene With DOJ About Sensitive Renzi Case
It’s just days before the mid-term elections, and you’re sitting in the White House watching a close Congressional race when it bubbles up that the the Republican incumbent, long dogged by corruption rumors, is under federal investigation. That’s the situation…





Activist Who Staged Gun Interview At Obama Event Was Prominent Defender Of ’90s Militia
digg_url =’http://digg.com/politics/Man_Behind_Guns_At_Obama_Event_Tied_To_Violent_90s_Militia’; Ernest Hancock, the online radio host who staged an interview with an assault rifle-wielding associate at the Obama event in Arizona yesterday — and was himself armed with a 9 millimeter pistol — was a vocal supporter…

In Testimony, Rove Hedged On Role In Siegelman Prosecution
Hat tip to Roger Shuler at the Legal Schnauzer blog for this one… It didn’t get much attention, but the testimony from Karl Rove that was released this week concerned not just the U.S. attorney firings, but also another alleged…


First-century Birthers

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:37 am by HL

First-century Birthers


Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What it Says About the Economic Crisis

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What it Says About the Economic Crisis
When Chicago’s Republic Windows & Doors suddenly closed, workers occupied the factory and fought for their labor rights.

House ‘Under Water’? Do Like the Banks Do and Just Walk Away
Banks aren’t taking possession of houses after foreclosure, creating a "shadow inventory" that may derail the recovery.

Former Agent: Gun-Toters Creating ‘Atmosphere of Danger’ for Obama
12 people armed with guns showing up at a recent Obama townhall is something that the Secret Service hasn’t typically encountered — until now.

Is There Any Point in Fighting to Stave off Industrial Apocalypse?
The collapse of civilization will bring us a saner world, argues Paul Kingsnorth. No, writes George Monbiot — we can’t let billions perish.

Former Agent: Gun-Toters Creating ‘Atmosphere of Danger’ for Obama
12 people armed with guns showing up at a recent Obama townhall is something that the Secret Service hasn’t typically encountered — until now.


Is Max Baucus the New Phil Gramm?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

Is Max Baucus the New Phil Gramm?
Is Max Baucus about to do to America’s health care system what Phil Gramm already did to the nation’s banking system? Let’s hope someone stops Baucus before it’s too late….






Sponsored Topics: Max BaucusUnited StatesSenate Finance CommitteeMedicareHealth care

Modelling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – Part VI
This is the money post. I put Parts I, II, III, IV and V together to come to the surprising conclusion that both Fannie and Freddie survive. This conclusion is highly-non-consensus and has substantial political and investment implications.  Also I…


Sponsored Topics: Freddie MacFannie MaeBusinessInvestingUS Government


Rep. Ted Poe to hold health care town hall at funeral home.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

Rep. Ted Poe to hold health care town hall at funeral home.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) has announced that he “will hold a health care town hall at Brookside Funeral Home on Saturday, Aug. 22 at 10 a.m.” The awkward venue selection would seem to suggest that Poe may be interested in furthering the right-wing’s false “death panels” talking point. Late last month, before Congress recessed for […]

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) has announced that he “will hold a health care town hall at Brookside Funeral Home on Saturday, Aug. 22 at 10 a.m.” The awkward venue selection would seem to suggest that Poe may be interested in furthering the right-wing’s falsedeath panels” talking point. Late last month, before Congress recessed for August, Poe delivered a speech on the House floor arguing that “when government runs health care, senior citizens are sometimes refused treatment because of their age.” He continued his fear-mongering:

Government-run health care lets bureaucrats decide who receives rationed care and who doesn’t, who lives and who just dies.

Watch it:

Robert Novak passes away.
Human Events is reporting that long-time influential conservative columnist Robert Novak has passed away after battling a brain tumor. In a 2004 interview, Novak explained how he would like to be remembered: I’m seventy-three years old and would like to leave some legacy. Nobody will remember my newspaper columns or television appearances. They won’t […]

novak-robert Human Events is reporting that long-time influential conservative columnist Robert Novak has passed away after battling a brain tumor. In a 2004 interview, Novak explained how he would like to be remembered:

I’m seventy-three years old and would like to leave some legacy. Nobody will remember my newspaper columns or television appearances. They won’t remember me for my writing. … I have a Novak scholarship fund in perpetuity, and I am the founder and chair for writing at the University of Illinois. That is how I want to be remembered.

Novak will be remembered for outing the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson in 2005, as part of the Bush administration’s battle to spin the American public on the Iraq war (even though Novak himself was a skeptic of the Iraq war). Last year, Novak said that while he had been thinking “about my life and what I’ve done right and not done right,” he wouldn’t have done anything differently. In 2007, he explained what he envisions heaven to look like: “I’m going to a place where there are no blogs.”


White House Is Seeking to Repair Intraparty Rift About Public Option

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

White House Is Seeking to Repair Intraparty Rift About Public Option
President Obama’s advisers acknowledged Tuesday that they were unprepared for the intraparty rift that occurred over the fate of a proposed public health insurance program, a firestorm that has left the White House searching for a way to reclaim the initiative on the president’s top legislative…

Congress Discovers Another Forged Advocacy Letter
A Congressional committee’s inquiry has turned up a 13th forged letter criticizing a climate-change bill, this time in the name of a Charlottesville senior center, and sent to a lawmaker by a Washington lobbying firm.





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Justice Dept. Hires Gay Activist as Senior Counselor
The Justice Department’s civil rights division has hired a veteran Senate staffer and gay-rights activist as a senior counselor and liaison to the gay and lesbian community. The hire comes amid efforts by the Obama administration to mollify growing impatience and displeasure among gays and lesbia…


Finding No Buyers For The Snake Oil

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 19th, 2009 4:30 am by HL

Finding No Buyers For The Snake Oil
Wesley Pruden, Washington Times

Whose Medical Decisions?
Thomas Sowell, RealClearPolitics

Tort Reform Would Be a Winner For Dems
Bob Beckel, RealClearPolitics

We Need More Specifics About Afghanistan
Juan Cole, Salon