Wednesday, October 31, 2012
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Barack
Obama in storm-ravaged Atlantic City earlier today.
(photo by Doug Mills/New York Times)
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
Medicaid on the Ballot
By PAUL KRUGMAN
October 28, 2012
There’s a lot we don’t know about what Mitt Romney would do if he won. He refuses to say which tax loopholes he would close to make up for $5 trillion in tax cuts; his economic “plan” is an empty shell.
But one thing is clear: If he wins, Medicaid — which now covers more than 50 million Americans — will face savage cuts. Estimates suggest that a Romney victory would deny health insurance to about 45 million people, with two-thirds of that difference due to the assault on Medicaid.
So this election is, to an important degree, really about Medicaid. And this, in turn, means that you need to know something more about the program.
Medicaid has been more successful at controlling costs than any other major part of the nation’s health care system. And contrary to what you may have heard, the great majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are in working families.
There’s a widespread perception, gleefully fed by right-wing politicians and propagandists, that Medicaid has “runaway” costs. But the truth is just the opposite. While costs grew rapidly in 2009-10, as a depressed economy made more Americans eligible for the program, the longer-term reality is that Medicaid is significantly better at controlling costs than the rest of our health care system.
How much better? According to the best available estimates, the average cost of health care for adult Medicaid recipients is about 20 percent less than it would be if they had private insurance. The gap for children is even larger.
And the gap has been widening over time: Medicaid costs have consistently risen a bit less rapidly than Medicare costs, and much less rapidly than premiums on private insurance.
How does Medicaid achieve these lower costs? Partly by having much lower administrative costs than private insurers. It’s always worth remembering that when it comes to health care, it’s the private sector, not government programs, that suffers from stifling, costly bureaucracy.
Also, Medicaid is much more effective at bargaining with the medical-industrial complex.
Consider, for example, drug prices. Last year a government study compared the prices that Medicaid paid for brand-name drugs with those paid by Medicare Part D — also a government program, but one run through private insurance companies. The conclusion: Medicaid pays almost a third less on average. That’s a lot of money.
Is Medicaid perfect? Of course not. Most notably, the hard bargain it drives with health providers means that quite a few doctors are reluctant to see Medicaid patients. Yet given the problems facing American health care — sharply rising costs and declining private-sector coverage — Medicaid has to be regarded as a highly successful program. It provides good if not great coverage to tens of millions of people who would otherwise be left out in the cold, and as I said, it does much right to keep costs down.
By any reasonable standard, this is a program that should be expanded, not slashed — and a major expansion of Medicaid is part of the Affordable Care Act.
Why, then, are Republicans so determined to do the reverse, and kill this success story? You know the answers. Partly it’s their general hostility to anything that helps the 47 percent — those Americans whom they consider moochers who need to be taught self-reliance. Partly it’s the fact that Medicaid’s success is a reproach to their antigovernment ideology.
The question — and it’s a question the American people will answer very soon — is whether they’ll get to indulge these prejudices at the expense of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
(Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008.)
(Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008.)
Saturday, October 27, 2012
October 26, 2012
Imagine getting a letter from the boss, telling you how to vote.
Until 2010, federal law barred companies from using corporate money to endorse and campaign for political candidates — and that included urging employees to support specific politicians.
But the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has freed companies from those restrictions, and now several major companies, including Georgia-Pacific and Cintas, have sent letters or information packets to their employees suggesting — and sometimes explicitly recommending — how they should vote this fall.
In these letters, the executives complain about the costs of overregulation, the health care overhaul and possible tax increases.
David A. Siegel, 77, chief executive of Westgate Resorts wrote to his 7,000 employees, saying that if Mr. Obama won, the prospect of higher taxes could hurt the company’s future.
“The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job, however, is another four years of the same presidential administration. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current president plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company.”In an interview, Mr. Siegel said it would be no different from telling your children: ‘Eat your spinach. It’s good for you.’ ”
Dave Robertson, the president of Koch Industries, sent a letter this month to more than 30,000 employees of a subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific. “Many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills.” The Georgia-Pacific letter included a flier listing several candidates endorsed by the Koch brothers, beginning with Mitt Romney.
Other companies whose top executives have sent out anti-Obama letters include Rite-Hite, in Milwaukee, and ASG Software Solutions, based in Naples, Fla.
Mr. Romney has himself urged business owners to appeal to their employees. In a conference call in June organized by the National Federation of Independent Business, he said, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”
Friday, October 26, 2012
FOUR MORE YEARS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA
There is no way to know what Mr. Romney really believes. His unguarded expression of contempt for 47 percent of the population seems as sincere as anything else we’ve heard, but that’s only conjecture.
At times he has advocated a muscular foreign policy, but in the final presidential debate he positioned himself as a dove. Before he passionately supported a fetus’s right to life, he supported a woman’s right to abortion. His swings have been dramatic on gay rights, gun rights, health care, climate change and immigration. His ugly embrace of “self-deportation” bespeaks a willingness to say just about anything to win.
Every politician changes his mind sometimes; you’d worry if not. But rarely has a politician gotten so far with only one evident immutable belief: his conviction in his own fitness for higher office.
So voters are left with the centerpiece of Mr. Romney’s campaign: promised tax cuts that would blow a much bigger hole in the federal budget while worsening economic inequality. His claims that he could avoid those negative effects, which defy math and which he refuses to back up with actual proposals, are more insulting than reassuring.
By contrast, the president understands the urgency of the problems as well as anyone in the country and is committed to solving them in a balanced way. In a second term, working with an opposition that we hope would be chastened by the failure of its scorched-earth campaign against him, he is far more likely than his opponent to succeed. That makes Mr. Obama by far the superior choice.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Democratic National Convention: Miami Beach, Florida
July 14, 1972
"We must also make this a time of justice and jobs for all our people. For more than three and half years we have tolerated stagnation and a rising level of joblessness, with more than five million of our best workers unemployed at this very moment. Surely, this is the most false and wasteful economics of all.
Our deep need is not for idleness but for new housing and hospitals, for facilities to combat pollution and take us home from work, for better products able to compete on vigorous world markets.
The highest single domestic priority of the next administration will be to ensure that every American able to work has a job.
That job guarantee will and must depend on a reinvigorated private economy, freed at last from the uncertainties and burdens of war, but it is our firm commitment that whatever employment the private sector does not provide, the Federal government will either stimulate or provide itself.
Whatever it takes, this country is going back to work. America cannot exist with most of our people working and paying taxes to support too many others mired in a demeaning and hopeless welfare mess.
Therefore, we intend to begin by putting millions back to work and after that is done, we will assure to those unable to work an income fully adequate to a decent life.
Now beyond this, a program to put America back to work demands that work be properly rewarded. That means the end of a system of economic controls in which labor is depressed, but prices and corporate profit run sky-high.
It means a system of national health insurance so that a worker can afford decent health care for himself and his family...
And above all, above all, honest work must be rewarded by a fair and just tax system.
The tax system today does not reward hard work: it’s penalizes it. Inherited or invested wealth frequently multiplies itself while paying no taxes at all. But wages on the assembly line or in farming the land, these hard – earned dollars are taxed to the very last penny...
They tell us that we should not discuss tax reform and the election year. They would prefer to keep all discussion of the tax laws in closed rooms where the administration, its powerful friends, and their paid lobbyists, can turn every effort at reform into a new loophole for the rich and powerful.
But an election year is the people’s year to speak, and this year, the people are going to ensure that the tax system is changed so that work is rewarded and so that those who derive the highest benefits will pay their fair share rather than slipping through the loopholes at the expense of the rest of us.
So let us stand for justice and jobs and against special privilege."
(George McGovern lost the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon by a vote of 61% to 37%. McGovern carried only one state (Massachusetts) plus the District of Columbia for 17 electoral votes. Nixon received 520 electoral votes. George McGovern--decorated WWII fighter pilot, Ph.D professor of history, US Congressman, US Senator, & humanitarian--died today. He was 90 years old.)
Saturday, October 13, 2012
LEAD EDITORIAL: October 12, 2012
The ‘Moderate Mitt’ Myth
The way a presidential candidate campaigns for office matters to the country. A campaign should demonstrate seriousness of purpose and a set of core beliefs, and it should signal to voters whether a candidate shows trustworthiness and judgment. Those things don’t seem to matter to Mitt Romney.
From the beginning of his run for the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney has offered to transfigure himself into any shape desired by an audience in order to achieve power. In front of massed crowds or on television, he can sound sunny and inclusive, radiating a feel-good centrism. His “severely conservative” policies and disdain for much of the country are reserved for partisans, donors and the harsh ideologues who clutter his party’s base. This polarity is often described as “flip-flopping,” but the word is too mild to describe opposing positions that are simultaneously held.
The best way to judge candidates is not by the popular way they describe their plans near the end of a campaign; it is by the most divisive presentations of themselves earlier on. A candidate’s political calculations when fewer people are watching is likely to say far more about character than poll-tested pleasantries in the spotlight.
That’s what is disingenuous about the “Moderate Mitt” in recent speeches and the first presidential debate. He hasn’t abandoned or flip-flopped from the severe positions that won him the Republican nomination; they remain at the core of his campaign, on his Web site and in his position papers, and they occasionally slip out in unguarded moments. All he’s doing is slapping whitewash on his platform. The immoderation of his policies, used to win favor with a hard-right party, cannot be disguised.
This week, for example, in the swing state of Iowa, Mr. Romney tried to cover up his strident anti-abortion agenda. “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” he told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board. But that carefully worded statement was designed to mislead, because the threat to women’s rights doesn’t necessarily come from legislation. He would cut financing for Planned Parenthood, and he has said he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and would appoint justices who would do so.
And, though he has conveniently forgotten, he does support anti-abortion legislation — what he called in a 2011 essay the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to ban abortion when a fetus can feel pain. In 2007, he said he’d sign a bill prohibiting all abortions. He has also tried to paper over his positions on his $5 trillion tax cut, pretending it would be cost-free, and he now says he wants to cover pre-existing health conditions, though his plan does so only for those who have insurance coverage.
At last week’s debate, Mr. Romney presented himself as a bipartisan leader able to work with Democrats. But that’s not how Massachusetts Democrats remember his tenure as governor, as Michael Wines of The Times reported last week. He ignored or insulted Democrats and failed to achieve most of his big-ticket proposals, like reform of the Civil Service and pension systems. His decision to support a universal health care system in 2006, long advocated by Democrats, was seen at the time as a purely political calculation, at least until Republicans rejected the idea in 2009 when President Obama proposed it.
There isn’t really a Moderate Mitt; what is on display now is better described as Convenient Mitt. Anyone willing to advocate extremism to raise money and win primaries is likely to do the same to stay in office.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Obama’s Debate Strategy: Unilateral Disarmament?
By JOE KLEIN | October 3, 2012 |
Well, I’m with all the other talking heads: Mitt Romney won this debate. Barack Obama lost it. I mean, he got his butt kicked. It was, in fact, one of the most inept performances I’ve ever seen by a sitting President. Romney — giving credit where it’s due — was calm, clear, convincing (even when he was totally full of it) and nearly human. The real mystery was Obama. Where on earth was he? Why was his debate strategy unilateral disarmament? Why did he never speak in plain English?
“Mitt, you’re selling a fantasy. Bill Clinton proved it. He raised taxes on the wealthy and the economy boomed. George Bush lowered taxes drastically and the economy tanked. How’s your plan any different than Bush’s?”
Actually, the President did say something like that, but it was well past most of America’s bedtime, about an hour into the debate — and he didn’t do it clearly, concisely or directly.
It gets worse.
You may have noticed that the President never mentioned his most important achievement in the most crucial states: the auto bailout. He never said, “That $716 billion in Medicare savings you keep harping on? That was in Paul Ryan’s Republican budget — you know, Mitt, the one that passed the House because all the Republicans voted for it.” Romney was even able to imply that he may not have such a good accountant when it comes to taking advantage of sending companies overseas without the President saying, “I think you have a terrific accountant, Mitt! Great tax rate!”
You may also have noticed that when Romney deftly compared the $2.8 billion in oil subsidies to the President’s $90 billion in green energy, Obama didn’t have a response. This was truly remarkable. He didn’t talk about the world’s largest sun and wind farms. He didn’t talk about the failed energy investments that Romney had made.
Obama’s cool was ice cold. Romney managed to wax poetic about the pursuit of happiness, meaning that government should help everyone find the American Dream, without the President saying, “Even that 47% you said you don’t care about?” How could he go through an entire debate without mentioning or even hinting at that 47% remark?
Did the President send out his body double to this debate? Because if that were the actual Barack Obama out there, I’m not sure he could communicate well enough to be an effective President in a time of trouble, to say nothing of winning a second term.