THE NEWSLETTER

Weekend Madman

Friday-Sunday, April 8-10, 2005

 

A Continuation of the DOCTOR and MADMAN:

And The Good Doctor's Plan for Health Insurance Reform

Madman:
I am familiar with the GM dilemma. And I agree that Medicare and Medicaid are huge problems, much, much more so than Social Security. We have been speaking about it on madman for a long time. I am going to print your thoughts and I hope you contribute more.
I would love to have your ideas on how to fix it.


Doctor:
the fix for health care: (are you ready for this?)


Doctor:
if you have the inclination do it. the health care situation can summed up in a nutshell....if we don't fix it soon (along with the broader issue of entitlements) we will bury future generations in a mountain of insumounatble debt and our children and grandchildren will suffer the consequences. let's take an objective, non-partisan look at the numbers and agree to work together to build a sustainable system. what we have now is not sustainable and is bankrupting the country and compromising our economic future. from a quality standpoint we need to move forward with the recommendations in the IOM's "chasm" report published by the institute of medicine. we can't wait much longer. we have already waited too long. this is not a partisan issue. the numbers are right there for all to see. the economic reality is plainly evident. the quality chasm needs to be closed now. health care spending must be controlled or we will not survive this century with an intact economy. the great American experiment will be over.

 

-Noah Greenberg


A great c-span week.
FAT ALBERT GETS FATTER


What you ask is Fat Albert – a big fat transmission balloon that the U.S. has been using to send TV Marti signals to Cuba for 16 years. How much have we spent on Fat Albert? No idea? $189,000,000 over 16 years or about $10-$12 Million per year.

What’s so bad about that, you ask, if it means we are offering glimmers of democracy to an oppressed country (as republicans suggest)? If only that were true – but we are really paying for a fantasy. Sen. Dorgan (Dem – N. Dakota) and Sen. Wyden (Dem – Oregon) eloquently explained that for 16 years we have been sending TV Marti signals to Cuba every day and for 16 years Castro has been blocking the signals and the transmissions do not get through. Cubans do not see TV Marti, yet we keep sending signals. HUH?

But the fiasco gets better. There were some technical problems with the Fat Albert balloon that moved off its mooring and we started using a C130 Commando Soto plane out of Harrisburg,, Pennsylvania to fly south every night (isn’t there a closer one to Florida?) and send the TV Marti signal -- so it costs more to send a signal that is not received.

Dumbfounded yet about this waste?! The lunacy continues, Bush and the republicans are proposing a doubling of this expenditure so they can buy a brand new $8 million plane to send the signals that are never received. After a lot of chatter by republicans regarding the freedom we (pretend) to be sending (though never received), Sen. Dorgan asked don’t Americans deserve to have “Freedom from Waste, Fraud, & Abuse?” and pointed out the obvious that “Even waste has a constituency in Congress.” Sen. Wyden pointed out that monies spent “must be about a result” and that it would be more effective to set up Internet Marti which would be hard to block and much more likely to reach it’s destination, thereby accomplishing the goals.

In opposition, Sen. Martinez (Rep – Florida, raised in Cuba) pointed out “while imperfect it’s a work in progress” and it offers a “little glimmer of light”. To be accurate – it is an unseen and unreceived glimmer! Sen. Allen (Rep – Virginia) “encourages continued investment” and Sen. Lugar proposes it is “Vital to our Security.”

My question for them – How long do we pay for a failed work in progress, that is glimmer less, a total lost investment, and has nothing to do with our security???

By the way, Senators Dorgan, Nelson, and Wyden support Radio Marti because the signals do get through.

It makes one want to scream, stop making us pay for these fantasies when we have so many real issues in this country that need these wasted dollars and will produce tangible results! IS IT so hard to vote for results and stop falsely claiming security and patriotism and terror protection for every FAT and WASTE program? How about using the money to keep the JF Kennedy ship in use – which some republicans are proposing be abandoned. Seems more of a contribution to our security and democracy.

RESEARCH SHOWS – BE CAREFUL WHO YOU STAND NEXT TO

The BBC shared a research study on TV that focused on their approaching election. The participants in the study were asked to watch a variety of videos with different political candidates and express their opinions with a hand-held meter that could be dialed up or down based on their changing impressions.

One of the videos showed Tony Blair’s recent visit to the White House and him and Bush walking out to a press conference and Bush speaking. As Bush spoke the results for Blair started a steep decline into negativity. The moderator concluded and participants agreed that just standing next to Bush was detrimental to Blair’s image because it reminded them he was in close association with a warring president who’s image had greatly diminished in their eyes. Our mother’s had sayings that aptly expressed this, birds of a feather flock together or too close for comfort.

DEBATE IN THE SENATE – DIALOGUE NOT MONOLOGUE – MUST SEE TV

On April 5th four senators set up the closest thing possible to a debate in the Senate. They agreed on rules where there would be 2 debaters on each side (Dems – Sen. Stabenow & Sen. Durbin; Reps – Sen. Santorum & Sen. DeMint). Each participant spoke for 8 minutes and then they had one-minute questions with two-minute answers.

It was a very proud moment for Democrats! Senators Stabenow & Durbin were fabulously concrete, concise, convincing (not that anyone has to be convinced about the bad idea of private accounts), and clear. They presented fact after fact with visually potent graphs and charts that everyone watching could comprehend on first glance. An A+ on presentation resulting in comprehension.

What stood out most:

DEMOCRATS

-- keep the Security in SS

-- poverty of seniors before Social Security was 50%, after SS 10%

-- 75% of the American public doesn’t have disability insurance, which SS also provides

-- private accounts DOUBLE national deficit

-- who's buying our debt - Japan, China – and owning us

-- Do we propose to pay Japan and China debts first before the SS debt owed to Americans?

-- who's buying our debt - Japan, China – and owning us

-- Bush borrowed 800 billion for tax cuts from SS file cabinet otherwise it would be full of money

-- republican’s private accounts guarantee of "lower benefits" and possibility of "better results"

-- cost of SS vs. private accounts - .5% vs. 20%

-- private accounts turns guaranteed benefits to guaranteed gamble

-- 5 financial service lobbyists for every senator in Washington (over 500)

-- over 75 years SS costs 3.7 trillion vs. 11.6 for tax cuts

REPUBLICANS


-- DeMint said after an artful presentation of facts "just heard a lot of numbers and information" sort of tossing this off as if facts and numbers were unimportant or irrelevant

-- Reps shared long story of eroding foundation and said "President is showing us truth"

-- Sen. Santorum’s answers were particularly vague, complicated, confusing, convoluted, and downright impossible to follow and lacked logic and continuity (and this listen has an advance business degree). It would make anyone against private accounts cheer!

-- The biggest point they repeatedly made as their strongest point, and an effort to shift the negative focus to the democrat, was that the democrats have not put a proposal forward. Almost came off as whining because they are getting so beat up on SS and taking all the heat for their bad ideas.

-- they spoke of "welding" private accounts to SS

-- used the words "balanced approach" as if the “words” made an untruth true

-- MY FAVORITE – “might as well have tax cuts as we would just spend the money”

It was an incredibly strong showing for Democrats and the Republican points and assertions were weakened even more in the comparison. Go Democrats! I sent congratulations to both Senator Stabenow and Durbin and encourage everyone to do this on a regular basis (positive or negative) to provide insights into reactions. As a researcher I know more insights lead to better results!

Senator Durbin has created a calculator for those who want to simply see the difference with private accounts http://durbin.senate.gov/ssbc/index.html

- Casey Sweet


More C-Span


I had the displeasure of catching Rick Santorum on C-Span tonight (last week). He claims that privatization is very popular. Really! So, why has Bush burnt up 100 million taxpayer dollars to muster populist approval?

Oh Tricky Ricky, how we can tell when you are lying? Easy, just open your mouth.

-Robert Scardapane


In response to a Campaign Finance Reform Idea, SchwartzAPN writes:

I like your election points idea. It is appalling that in a so-called democracy you can't run for office unless you have, or can get, tons of money. And regards the Pope, I mean no disrespect, in suggesting that at the very least last week, they should have hooked him up to dialysis, a respirator, defibrillator, IV's and tube feeding. We do, after all, believe in a culture of life.


In regard to the exchange between DOCTOR and MADMAN, Robert Scardapane writes:

That set of email exchanges on 04/07/2005 sure covered considerable ground. Some comments:

-The Republicans are hypocrites on the Terri Schiavo case. Texas Governor George Bush 1999 signed a law that reduces life and death decisions to money and takes the decision out of the family's hands. A leaked RNC memo demonstrates that they are politicizing this tragedy for the anti-abortion agenda and as a distraction from Tom Delay's ethical issues.

-Social security is a relatively minor problem that can be fixed by raising the salary cap and instituting a lock box. Privatization won't solve anything and will instead make the budget deficit much worst.

-Medicare, Medicaid and health care in general are huge problems. There is no control over the escalating prices. It's not just a matter of expensive new technology even routine health care costs have risen. I am interested in any and all opinions on how to solve this problem. I suspect that the middle man, the insurance companies, are the real culprit. Therefore, I favor a Single Payer Universal Health Care (SPUHC) system similar to the Canadian model.

-Entitlements are not the reason for the current budget deficit. The Economic Policy Institute (www.epinet.org) has studied this issue. Their analysis clearly shows that the budget surplus inherited from Clinton was erased mainly (over 70%) by increases in defense spending, including homeland security, and tax cuts. Americans should be alarmed that the 2006 budget increases defense spending by 4.8%. That is simply unsustainable. This country has over 700 foreign bases and the cost of maintaining them is staggering. We have fought two wars over the past three years and are involved in expensive nation building exercises.

-Outsourcing can't be explained simply by health care costs alone. Even when employers don't pay for health care, they outsource jobs. The problem is a complex combination of international labor costs, health care costs, tax policy, trade policy, currency valuation, international safety and environmental regulations. Also, do not forget the innovation deficit. The 1980's and 1990's seen computers and cell phones. Inventions that transform society will create jobs. Yet sadly, the Republicans has under-funded fundamental research at the National Science Foundation and eliminated the NIST's Advanced Technology Partnership.

-The trade deficit is the real crisis. Until trade balance is restored, our economy will continue to hallow out. The decreasing tax base will balloon the budget deficit. Our ability to sustain defense and entitlement spending will be strained. I am baffled by the President's decision to lift the quotas on Chinese textiles. As soon as he did, the Chinese, in violation of WTO provisions, dumped on our market. They increased their imports 1000% in the first two months. Six hundred thousand good paying American manufacturing jobs are at stake. The President responded by bringing a WTO case. That will take at least 3-4 months before it's even considered! Thousands of jobs will be lost in the meantime.


"Today, though, I'd like to propose a new meaning for the term 'pro-life.' Even before the Terry Schiavo case, the term had become more politically charged than Tom Delay's cell phone. But the word 'life' is far too big, complex and wondrous a term to be reduced to political shorthand. Life on our lonely planet is truly a miracle, whose diversity and beauty is simply stunning to behold. Whether or not life exists elsewhere in the universe, all we know now is that here on Earth, life is both utterly amazing -- and utterly endangered. That is why I believe that nobody is really more pro-life than an environmentalist."
-T. A. Barron's first blog entry on
http://blog.nrdcactionfund.org on April 4th, thanks to Eddie Konczal


Trust

 

President Bush said of John Kerry, "Don't trust him when he says he's only going to raise taxes on the rich. When a politician promises to raise taxes, you can be darn sure he'll do it."

In light of that, when President Bush says he's going to privatize Social Security, but he's not going to touch all that money from the early baby-boomers, don't you believe him. When President Bush says there is no money in the lock box, just IOU's, you should believe him because his government, which borrowed over $600 million of that money has no intention of paying it back.

-Noah Greenberg


Bush Lies and IOU's

Bush's rhetoric about worthless IOU's is criminally irresponsible. For the President to assert that his nation will not pay back financial obligations is outrageous. This sort of reckless talk
will result in difficulty with future bind auctions. That could very easily lead to increased rates. Ultimately, changes in treasury rates lead to changes in mortgage, credit card rates. Mr. Bush needs to cease and desist on this dangerous course.

-Robert Scardapane


Young people and Social Security

"There are some possible outcomes that are so dramatic," said Hans Reimer, political director of Rock the Vote, which has joined forces with AARP to oppose the Bush administration's Social Security plan. "We're talking about a very substantial impact on the standard of living for young people." As Bush travels the country trying to sell voters on his proposal to allow younger workers to invest some of their Social Security payroll taxes in the stock market, Rock the Vote is trying to make its opposition heard by dispatching its representatives to events, launching an Internet campaign and advertising. The de facto political voice of the MTV generation tries to project a nonpartisan voice in its voter registration campaigns, though conservatives argue it doesn't. But Reimer, who formerly led the 2030 Center, which criticized Social Security privatization efforts, said Rock the Vote felt it had to take a stance on the administration plan. "To us, it's totally black and white," he said. "This is the first generation ever that would be asked to pay for their own retirement and Social Security at the same time. This is what private accounts do. They saddle young people with an unfair burden."

-Robert Scardapane


In response to Madman's view on Capital Punishment, SchwartzAPN writes:

I agree with your views on health care but I certainly take exception to your views on capital punishment. First, I don't agree with an eye for an eye. What about mercy, and people changing. But more chilling is the fact that numerous people on death row have later had evidence put forth that exonerated them. That's why the former Illinois governor did what he did in halting all death sentences at tat time. Further, the death penalty is used inequitably, and people are sentenced to death inequitably -- poor folks and people of color are much more likely to receive a death sentence. I don't know if you remember the Afro-American comedian, Godfrey Cambridge. He has a bit where people are visiting death row, and a black inmate yells, "I'm in here for armed robbery." The point of course being that black people are sentenced for crimes that shouldn't call for death penalty. Or at least that was the case in the 60's. In my 20's at the time, I didn't get the joke, until my black friends explained it to me. It was immediately clear to them.

I understand the argument against capital punishment, but I am still for it. Disagreeing about an-eye-for-an-eye is something we probably will never see eye-to-eye on. I believe in mercy, but I think that mercy should rest with the victim's next of kin. For a long time now I have felt that the fate of a killer, after his conviction and death sentence, should be held by the victim's next of kin. If the wife, husband, mother or father of a murder victim says "spare my loved one's killer," then do it. If not, then let an-eye-for-an-eye take place.

The fact that many people on death row might be innocent scares me as well. That's why, although I am in favor of the death penalty, I feel it should be sought infrequently. A sentence of death should only be applied on the basis of "beyond a shadow of doubt" not a "reasonable" one. I will always be against the death penalty being applied when the initial trial might be unfair. In the case of someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, a sentence of death wasn't applied and I think it should have been. We all know what happened to him in jail. In the case of Timothy McVeigh, I feel he had received his just desserts.

The questions I have for those of US who are against the death penalty are these:
If it were your loved one killed by a stranger, what would you want done to their killer?
If you were sure that the killer was the person who committed the crime, and mercy was yours to grant, would you?
If you were on the Jeffrey Dahmer jury, would you have voted for the death penalty?
If you were on the Timothy McVeigh jury, would you have voted for the death penalty?
If you were on Hitler's jury, would you have voted for the death penalty?
If you are on Osama bin-Laden's jury, will you vote for the death penalty?


Personally, I can't give you the answers that you probably want to hear.

-Noah Greenberg


Stupid Quotes

 

"(Eliminating) the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) is a huge tax increase built into current law, What the current law assumes is that over time we move to a tax that is much less progressive, that has atrocious marriage penalties and penalizes people with children who live in high-tax states."
-Leonard E. Burman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute


By eliminating the alternative minimum tax, and making the his tax break to the wealthiest one percent of Americans permanent, President Bush will increase the burden of his deficit on US, the middle class. If President Bush has his way, by 2006 an extra $34 billion will be taken from middle class homes in places like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois. That a lot of "Blue" places. By 2010, we'll be paying an extra $100 billion and by 2015, it'll cost us $200 billion.

The president and the US Treasury Department have called their plan "revenue neutral", but "neutrality" isn't supposed to hurt.

 

-Noah Greenberg


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-Noah Greenberg