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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


What Health Care Crisis?

Way, way down on the New York Times' online "Health" page is an article titled "Power Shift in Congress Revives Health Debate". It's sort of a good-news, bad-news thing. First the good news: They're, at least, talking about it. Now the bad news: The article's link was wa-a-a-a-a-y down the page in small text. Ahead of the "Health Debate" article were links like "When Bad Things Come From ‘Good’ Food" and the lead link to "A Surprising Secret to a Long Life: Stay in School". Talk about misplaced priorities.

The first thing on the new Democratic majority's health care agenda is the Medicare Drug Benefit Program. I guess this is the Dems way of taking baby steps. The Democrats want to begin the debate that will end with forcing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the millions of American citizens who use the plan called "Part D". They want the Medicare Drug Plan to have the right to use the power their large numbers of subscribers demands to say, "HEY! We won't pay retail!" The Veteran's Administration, with its millions of retired American veterans already had that ability.

Remember the former Republican majority made sure that, not only would it be illegal for Medicare to negotiate lower prices for all who subscribe to the drug plan, but there would be dozens of "plans" and "Cards" out there to choose from, each with their very own specialty. Of course, that brought out three problems. First, one company's drug "plan" might have a good price on one drug that an elderly person needs, but have a high price on another, thus negating the "benefit" part of the Medicare Drug "Benefit" program. Second, when there are numerous companies out there, with little regulation, there can be changes made on the fly that will affect their subscribers. The subscribers, once choosing a plan, are stuck with it for a whole year. And third, with so many small drug "benefit" cards, plans and companies out there, the ability they have to negotiate is much less than a huge, government backed Medicare system. In the name of "competition", the Bushies' plan actually weakened what could have been a very good, progressive prescription drug plan. The ones who really "benefit" out from the Medicare Drug Benefit Plan are the drug manufacturers themselves.

“I don’t believe I can do a better job than an efficient market,”
-Michael O. Leavitt, former Governor of Utah and the current Secretary of Health and Human Services

It should be noted that Utah, where Leavitt was the chief executive, had to scale back its own aggressive Medicaid plan due to less help from the Bush administration. I guess his rank didn't translate into his former Utah constituents' privileges.

A Democratic push to change the bad Medicare drug plan will also correct the "fuzzy math" used by the Bushies to convince the few Doubting Thomas' in the GOP that saw the plan's faults. The original price tag was less than $400 billion (or about what the war in Iraq has cost us, financially, already). The real price tag was closer to $700 billion. Richard Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has testified that he was forced to use the lesser estimate or lose his job.

"This whole episode which has now gone on for three weeks has been pretty nightmarish. I'm perhaps no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policy makers for political reasons."
-Foster, in an email obtained by the Knight-Ridder news agency

The threat came from Thomas Scully, then the director of the White House Medicare office.

Another problem is that money for children's health care programs is running out. And the new Democratic majority thinks something should be done about that. So do I.

“Our program will run out of federal money in March, and all 260,000 children in the program will lose their health care coverage if Congress fails to act.”
-Dr. Rhonda M. Medows, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health

Soon, I hope, the congress will take into account the 46 or so million Americans who have no health care coverage at all. By the way, that number doesn't include the scores more who are under-insured.

On wonders how the GOP minority (boy, I like saying "GOP minority", don't you?) will try to spin to their constituents that lowering health care costs and drug prices will be disadvantageous to them.

This is a big deal and it shouldn't be buried by the paper of record, The New York Times. It should be right up there, maybe even above the fold, as they say.

I hope that this debate is a quick one, with Democrats using their new muscle to push around members of the Republican party. It would be good if these changes were to pass with a veto-proof majority in both houses. What will the Bushies say then?

-Noah Greenberg

Underpaid Judges: John Roberts' Constitutional Crisis

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made judicial pay the sole topic of his second annual report, issued on Sunday, declaring that the failure by Congress to raise federal judges' salaries in recent years has become a "constitutional crisis" that puts the future of the federal courts in jeopardy.

He [Roberts] decided to make the subject his sole policy focus this time, he said, in the hope that "people will take notice" of a problem that "has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis that threatens to undermine the strength and independence of the federal judiciary."

Click here to read the article

(Or copy this link all on one line):


Mr. Roberts, you got to be kidding me. The salary for a federal judge ranges from 175,000 to 250,000 a year. Does Judge Roberts actually expect the public to believe it's a constitutional crisis if they don't get paid more money? What planet do these right wingers live on?

Now, let's consider some real crisis:

1) A President that believes he is totally outside of the law.
2) A President that has used over 700 signing statements to state that laws do not apply to him.
3) Spying on citizens.
4) Denying habeas corpus.

These are some of the real constitutional crisis. If Judge Roberts is not willing to address them because he's "underpaid", he can do us all a favor and resign right now.

-Robert Scardapane


A Thought

It's very hard to understand how the figure of Jesus can be so easily worshipped by Generals, and men such as George Bush.
If Jesus were still alive he must wonder if his agony on the cross was worth it, if the lessons he taught were so easily discarded.

-David McReynolds

In response to Military spokesman Lt. Col. Garver's comment, "It's (the 3,000th dead American soldier) an arbitrary number that doesn't mean anything to us," Rhian writes:

Parents, don't let your babies grow up to be dead in Iraq.

In response to the relationship between the US and Saddam Hussein, Rhian answers the questions: "What did the U.S. have to do with Saddam Hussein? Why did WE execute him?":

Because 'we' put him in office and funded him for ten years as an antidote to the Muslim monster of the last decade, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Not sure of the spelling.

Saddam is special because he threatened the life of the father of the current President Bush.
(ACK! Notice, I choke on those words, throwing up in my mouth a little. Scusi.)

His nation has also been a great training ground for Rummy's 'new improved military' complete with torture skills.

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-Noah Greenberg