Tag Archives: Obama Administration

Healthcare reform. Is Baucus Bill Bitter Pill?

Senator Max Baucus recently dropped his version of health care reform on the American people. Since then, progressives say it hasn’t gone far enough to make health care affordable to enough people, and conservatives say it costs too much money. With my feet planted firmly in the camp of the former, I have to say I’m not happy.

Any health care reform that doesn’t include a public option isn’t real reform as far as I’m concerned.

But that’s just me. Even without the option, which isn’t in Baucus’s bill, the question of whether it will make health insurance affordable to hard working, money strapped Americans remains. As we take a hard look at that, here are a few things to consider.

Max Baucus
Senator Max Baucus

The Baucus Bill would attempt to subsidize coverage for low and moderate income workers who aren’t covered by their employer. It would do this by creating exchanges, where workers could shop for rates that would vary by income. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2016 (not that far off), a family of four earning $78,000 a year would be paying $15,300 a year for insurance, including premiums and deductibles.

That works out to $1275 bucks a month, or 20% of a family’s income. That means if that same family was paying 25% of their income for housing, either by mortgage or rent, nearly half their income would go to insurance and housing. Sound affordable to you? And this is what is being proposed as a cost effective alternative to a public option.

Something’s wrong here.

Yet the question is whether this bill is better than no bill at all. No less an expert than Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times that it may be a decent starting point.

Krugman favors single payer just like I do, but his column summarizes the collective dilemma of progressives. How bad is too bad? Krugman points out three big flaws in the Baucus plan, one of which is the bait and switch “exchange” plan in place of a public option.

Paul Krugman argues the Baucus plan can be fixed, if congressional progressives and the White House have the guts to make it happen.

Quite frankly, the Obama Administration has been sending mixed signals about whether they’ll back a plan with no public option. It’s time for the President to get off the dime and spend a little political capital. Health care reform that costs more than a thousand dollars a month for working people isn’t reform at all.

But you tell me. From what you know about the Baucus bill, can it be fixed to make health care affordable to most Americans?

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Finally, Some Pushback on Nazi Healthcare Reform?

After a potentially devastating flip flop on the public option portion of healthcare reform, the Obama Administration and its allies seem to be ready to play hard ball. Granted, they’ll have to use a legislative maneuver to get a bill through the Senate. But so what? It’s about time those who hijacked the reform discussion in the first place (including conservative Democrats) have to face a little chin music (a baseball term).

As to those town hall protestors, many of whom compared healthcare reform and Barack Obama to Nazis, witness the response of Massachusetts Cong. Barney Frank to a question along that line.

Here are some real Nazi war criminals.

Aribert Helm
Aribert Helm
Germany Italy WWII Killings
Joseph Scheungraber

Finally, an elected official willing to call it as he sees it! Could this actually be a turning point in the debate over healthcare reform? There’s other evidence as well. Several faith organizations are getting involved, speaking out, and one of them will even have the president on a Webcast Wednesday. It’s heartening that the many people of faith who support reform are willing to act as a counterbalance to the agenda based opposition.

The heavy lifting, however, will have to come in Congress. Democrats (at least many of them) now seem ready to go it alone. They realize what a lot of folks have been saying for awhile now. Bipartisanship on an issue like this is overrated. The Republicans may scream and cry about tactics, but the simple fact is, they aren’t the majority. When they were, they used some of the same tactics to accomplish their legislative goals.

The White House agrees. “If we have to push it through this way, no one is going to remember how messy it was,” a top White House adviser told CNN. “At the end of the day, they’ll remember we got health care reform done. A win is a win.” That would be a win including a public option.

And remember this. The public option isn’t the best the administration could do. That would be (and I’ll keep saying it), single payer, universal care. I guess in this case, half a loaf is better than none, but just this past weekend we got signals the Obama people were ready to bail on the public option.

Here’s the real deal. The White House is no longer sure Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee who are trying to negotiate a bipartisan deal are serious. Those talks center around health insurance cooperatives, not the public option. It now looks like Obama and congressional Democrats are ready to end the card game and turn the table over.

One can argue that Republicans never wanted any healthcare reform at all, that the whole negotiating thing was a scam from the start. Same with the notion of bipartisanship on just about anything. That would be a cynical view, one which I came to just after this president’s inauguration. Now, maybe those walking the corridors of the White House realize what they’re up against, and how they have to fight to win.

What do you think? Can the Democrats in the Senate go it alone, and win?

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Cash for Clunkers…cars… A New Partisan Fight?

It sure looks that way. The Cash for Clunkers program, which gives buyers of new, fuel efficient cars rebates of up to $4500 for turning in old gas guzzlers, has become a political football.

That should be no surprise. What’s interesting is the fighting now is directly because of the program’s popularity. The $1 billion dollars budgeted for the program has quickly run out. Now, the House has passed an additional $2 billion dollars, but the Senate may not follow suit.

So what’s not to like? New car sales during Cash for Clunkers have gone up, dealer inventory has dropped, and in theory, gas guzzling relics are leaving American roads.

cash.for.clunkers

The problem, say Republican senators, is the cost and the fear on the part of people like John McCain that speculators are already abusing the program. In fact, he threatens to lead a filibuster against extending Cash for Clunkers any more money.

As usual, the McCains and Jim DeMints of the Congress are just saying no. Never mind that buyers exhausted all the money in the program in about a week. Never mind that Ford will post its first monthly sales increase since 2007. The point is to never give an inch, unless you absolutely have to. The government says it will continue the program until the Senate acts (or doesn’t), but like with health care, one has to ask why the GOP is so good at forging a united front, while Democrats seem to be hedging their bets.

To be sure, no one is saying Cash for Clunkers should go on forever, And yes, there have been some problems, like the government’s Website crashing, and too much paperwork. But still, it’s a popular program even has an environmental benefit (though no one’s talking about it).

Cash For Clunkers

Maybe this time Republicans are overreacting. It’s hard to argue with a program that offers a serious discount during times like these. Americans like Cash for Clunkers. Otherwise, the McCains and DeMints would be arguing it was a bad idea in the first place.

So give it the extra $2 billion, and let it run its course. More than that the Republicans might have a point. US car buyers know that nothing is forever, not zero percent financing, not employee pricing, and certainly not Cash for Clunkers. It’s a shot in the arm the economy could use, and, more importantly, you can’t treat every Obama Administration initiative like it’s health care.

But the Republicans should know that by now, shouldn’t they?

What do you think? More Cash for Clunkers, or no?

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