Friday, October 25, 2013

Republicans Should Give Sec. Sibelius a Medal...

  MANY of us are left shaking our heads at the mis-management the Obama Administration has displayed with regard to the roll out of the Affordable Care Act's website site, We're learning of massive lack of vertical communication, an apparent state of denial within the White House after a test run of a mere one hundred subjects choked the system in the days before October 1st's national debut. It's unimaginable to me how the upper-most members of the Administration didn't know there were major issues with the website and there was big trouble ahead.

  This isn't the first crisis I've shaken my head at how the White House handled things. The "Beer Summit" fiasco, the President waiting too long to produce his birth certificate to put the loonies at rest and I'm one that thinks the Bhengazi affair could've been handled better.

  On the other hand, the ruckus the Republican Party is raising about the Affordable Care Act's website woes is a thing of beauty. The calls for heads to roll, the lamenting of no apologies being offered, etc. is just too much to take.

Ezra Klein in Thursday's Wonkblog covered the topic beautifully:

The classic definition of chutzpah is the child who kills his parents and then asks for leniency because he's an orphan. But in recent weeks, we've begun to see the Washington definition: A party that does everything possible to sabotage a law and then professes fury when the law's launch is rocky.
On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan became the latest Republicans to call for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down because of the Affordable Care Act's troubled launch. "I do believe people should be held accountable," he said.
Okay then.
How about House Republicans who refused to appropriate the money the Department of Health and Human Services said it needed to properly implement Obamacare?
How about Senate Republicans who tried to intimidate Sebelius out of using existing HHS funds to implement Obamacare? "Would you describe the authority under which you believe you have the ability to conduct such transfers?" Sen. Orrin Hatch demanded at one hearing. It's difficult to imagine the size of the disaster if Sebelius hadn't moved those funds.
How about congressional Republicans who refuse to permit the packages of technical fixes and tweaks that laws of this size routinely require?
How about Republican governors who told the Obama administration they absolutely had to be left to build their own health-care exchanges -- you'll remember that the House Democrats' health-care plan included a single, national exchange -- and then refused to build, leaving the construction of 34 insurance marketplaces up to HHS?
How about the coordinated Republican effort to get the law declared unconstitutional -- an effort that ultimately failed, but that stalled implementation as government and industry waited for the uncertainty to resolve?
How about the dozens of Republican governors who refused to take federal dollars to expand Medicaid, leaving about 5.5 million low-income people who'd be eligible for free, federally-funded government insurance to slip through the cracks?
The GOP's strategy hasn't just tried to win elections and repeal Obamacare. They've actively sought to sabotage the implementation of the law. They intimidated the people who were implementing the law. They made clear that problems would be exploited rather than fixed. A few weeks ago, they literally shut down the government because they refused to pass a funding bill that contiained money for Obamacare.
The Obama administration deserves all the criticism it's getting for the poor start of health law and more. Their job was to implement the law effectively -- even if Republicans were standing in their way. So far, it's clear that they weren't able to smoothly surmount both the complexities of the law and the political roadblocks thrown in their path. Who President Obama will ultimately hold accountable -- if anyone -- for the failed launch is an interesting question.
But the GOP's complaints that their plan to undermine the law worked too well and someone has to pay border on the comic. If Republicans believe Sebelius is truly to blame for the law's poor launch, they should be pinning a medal on her.
  There is plenty of blame to go around. On one side we have incompetence on the other, we have obstruction, ill-will, and an obsessive selfishness the scale of which I've never witnessed before.

 I have little patience for either side, but the whining from the Right is just too much...

They all seem like jerks today...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Congressman Grayson's Tasteless KKK Reference...

Congressman Alan Grayson's recent fundraising email to prospective contributors is a disgrace. In it, he posts a picture of a burning cross that represents the "T" in Tea Party. Grayson is also quoted to say" at this point, the tea party is no more popular than the KKK."

While I don't consider myself a fan of either group, to equate the tea party with a hate group is a bit of a stretch. I know of no example where there are duly elected congressman with full and wide spread endorsement from the KKK. On the other hand, there are dozens of elected congressman who can thank the tea party movement for their current positions.

(Click on the image below to enlarge it...)

Not that long ago I felt the Democratic Party had two bright, youthful faces that would surely play a prominent role in party politics on the national level. Both seemed energized, determined, smart and capable of providing some fresh leadership on an otherwise somewhat short bench. Certainly when compared to the GOP's bench of future leaders Rubio, Paul, Ryan, Christie, Cruz, etc. 

Their names were Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson and I was wrong.

Weiner has too hard of a time keeping his privates to himself, and wasted a second chance. He's done. Grayson seems to be one you can count on to throw gasoline on a fire, instead of devising ways to extinguish it. To my mind, a KKK reference is in the same ballpark as a Hitler reference is. Its stupid, its over the top and it diminishes the person saying or writing it.

The Republican Party will, I think, sort through its current issues eventually. The Democratic Party doesn't seem to have many folks ready to step up on the national stage and lead in the post-Obama era. While I think there's a good chance Hillary Clinton will run and receive the Party's nomination in 2016, I'm not so sure she will be the slam dunk many progressives feel she is. Mrs. Clinton has some explaining to do when it comes to Bhengazi and pounding the table and barking "what does it matter" (while taken out of context) is going to be front and center in opposition media ads. Count on it.

Mr. Grayson, had he played his cards more along the lines of Minnesota's Senator Al Franken, who has mostly quietly tended to his business and proven to be a serious member of the Senate, could have been a factor going forward in Democratic politics. He will not.

Instead, Mr. Grayson will be a sideshow.

For more of Mr. Grayson "thoughtful" remarks, I direct you to the follow video collection:


Monday, October 21, 2013

Who's Really To Blame for Rising Health Care Costs?

Josh Moon from the Montgomery Advertiser writes:

Let me break some bad news: You’re being played

 A small number of people with their own self interests in mind are running a con game on you concerning the health care reform. They’ve convinced you — and it wasn’t hard to convince some of you — that Obama’s goal is to limit your health care choices, redistribute your wealth and control your lives.

Moon lays out in clear and concise fashion where the blame is better placed for increasing health insurance premiums. Rather than understand (more importantly accepting) that insurance companies have been increasing our rates for over a decade while the "free market" did its magic, too many people are quick to point the finger at President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Which is ironic because for the first time in memory the insurance companies now have limits to how much they can increase the premiums on health care plans. They also have to justify their increases. They also have to spend a minimum of .85 of every premium dollar on actual health care (as opposed to marketing, advertising, executive compensation, etc) or refund people some of their money.

Two things strike me as headshakers in this ongoing debate. The irrational refusal to accept that the free market hasn't served us well enough and that the ACA isn't to blame for everything that is wrong in the world of health insurance today.

Moon makes his case in less than two pages, give it a read here...


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Worthwhile Read This Morning on Reducing the Deficit...

Economic journalist and financial strategist Barry Ritholz has a great article up on his Big Picture Blog this morning where he discusses how we can reduce our deficit and questions some of the loudest voices real intentions/motivations.

An excerpt:

If you are truly concerned about deficit, then what you must do is (eventually) raise taxes and cut spending — that is how you balance the budget.
Current deficit is now ~$550B, down from over $1T.
If the tax cuts from 2001, 2003 were repealed, half of that deficit goes away.
If the FICA cap is lifted from $113k and allowed to rise to $250k or $500k, SS is solvent for 75 years.
If the US no longer spent the equivalent of the next 20 countries COMBINED on Defense, a huge chunk of the deficit goes away.
The US now spends 2X what most developed nations spend on healthcare. If you are concerned about the long term debt, than you must develop a system that radically lowers US health care costs, bringing them into line with what other industrialized nations spend.
Makes sense to me. 
There's more, of course. Read the whole thing here...


Monday, October 14, 2013

For You History & Journalism Buffs, Check This Out!!!

Today's edition of the New York Times has a real treat for history buffs. As the global edition of the Times, previously known as The International Herald Tribune becomes the International New York Times, they've included a retrospective of various front pages dating back to the inaugural edition of the New York Herald back in 1887.

Their timeline includes various editions featuring many well-known stories of the day. Clicking on the various small circles along their timeline, you can see how the paper covered the Jack the Ripper case in London in 1889, the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the tragedy of the Titanic sinking in 1912, the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand which was integral to the start of the first world war in 1914, the abdication of the Czar of Russia in 1914 as well as King Edward in 1936, the Lindberg flight in 1927, the Hindenberg explosion in 1937, Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939, the first spaceflights from Yuri Gugerin and John Glenn in 1961 and 1962, the death of Martin Luther King in 1968, Nixon's resignation in 1974, the shootings of the Pope Paul and Indiri Ghandi and the freeing of Nelson Mandela.

That's just a sampling of the featured editions. Each can be clicked on to enlarge the print and explore the entire edition. The walk through history is highly entertaining, to say the least.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bruce Bartlett: When the Treasury Runs Out of Cash

Bruce Bartlett's latest article describes what happens if there is no agreement on the debt limit before the October 17th deadline. The ex-Reagan policy adviser and G. W. Bush Treasure official addresses, among other things, why default really is a big deal (despite statements to the contrary) and the problems with government prioritizing debts. A couple of excerpts:

"Should this [RC insert: government's ability to pay all outstanding debts] lead to bondholders not receiving their payments exactly on time, however, it creates huge financial problems, because the Treasury would now be in default, and defaulted securities cannot be traded, accepted by the Federal Reserve as collateral or held by money market funds. In a note published on Oct. 5, Goldman Sachs said money managers would be forced to dump Treasury securities before Oct. 17 to avoid being stuck with securities that could not be traded."


"What we know for certain is that we will be in uncharted waters. And given that United States Treasury securities are essentially the foundation upon which the entire world financial system rests, those are dangerous waters indeed. Only a fool would enter them if they could be avoided."

Read the entire article at:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Has Obamacare Caused An Increase in Part Time Jobs?

According to Barry Ritholz from the Biog Picture blog, the answer is no:

A reader emailed the following question about this weekend’s WaPo column (ObamaCare: Investing Advice for Senator Ted Cruz):
“How can you make investment decisions about future returns in light of Obamacare driving so many workers to part time status?”
Ahhh, a classic bit of misdirection — an assumption built into a question. The first step in answering that is to verify the reality of that assumption: Has Obamacare actually caused an increase in part-time employment?
As you can see in the black line below, the number of part time workers spiked because of the Great Recession. It peaked and began to slowly reverse before the ACA was even passed. No, there does not appear to be an increase caused by Obamacare.
 (Click to enlarge chart)

Read his full article here...


Friday, October 4, 2013

A Friday Night Rant...

(A rant for a Friday evening...)

I'd like to give a shout out to everyone who is actively posting on their timeline about the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, those who are taking delight in the technical difficulties they are obviously experiencing. Its one thing to differ on political issues, but really, when it comes to laughing about the health exchanges website being down, you're in a different place.

There are thousands, maybe more, of your fellow Americans trying desperately to obtain health insurance. In many cases, these folks haven't had affordable access to health care for some time. Some are trying to manage a chronic illness for themselves or a family member. Which is damn hard to do effectively without health insurance. Some have conditions they need treatment for, but can't afford it. Some are coping with OTC medications when something stronger is called for, but out of reach. Some just live with daily and chronic pain because they have no choice. Not good enough for the greatest country in the world, is it?

To take pleasure in, even indirectly, someone else's pain, is screwed up. You can giggle all you want, toss terms around like Communism and Socialism and Marxism, but mostly what that does is show the rest of us two things.

#1) You're not too educated
#2) You're a bit of an asshole

You've probably had the definitions explained to you a hundred times, yet you still persist in calling the ACA something that its not. Something that no serious person with a high school diploma would call it. No matter, you're a man on a mission, and no amount of facts or definitions is going to slow you down, right?

Words matter.

I get it, though. You belong to a club of sorts that takes turns entertaining each other with who can bash the President or the ACA the best. That doesn't take brains. It doesn't take understanding. It damn sure doesn't take compassion or empathy for your fellow Americans.

You have no ideas on how to make things better. You have lots of ideas on how to hold people down. Which may be the real issue, eh? These minorities, these gays, these people who preach to the wrong God, etc. are getting more and more powerful as we speak and that sends chills down your spine, doesn't it? The world doesn't look like it used to and that bothers you.

Just wait...

You LOVE to quote the Constitution and post pithy founding father quotes, yet when it comes to actually walking the Constitutional walk, you're crawling on all fours. (Equal protection under the law doesn't REALLY mean EQUAL protection, does it?)

You howl about keeping government out of our health care, yet when it comes to "certain" procedures, you have no problem introducing any number of highly invasive measures that too often literally insert "government" into places where it has no damn business being inserted. Quite the double standard.

You're a mean little bunch that takes cheap shots all day long and gets pleasure out of it. Something is terribly amiss in your world and you feel better spreading lies and falsehoods behind the anonymity of the internet. You've turned advanced education into something to be ridiculed. You mock the very hand that feeds you and yours. How long exactly before this style of thinking bites you and us in the ass?

How long do you really think you can frighten people into choosing the right path? Fear is not exactly liberating. Knowledge, on the other hand, is. Anti-Intellectualism has reared its ugly head in each of the last six centuries, causing a great drag on our advancement as a species. The good news is that every time an anti-intellectual movement takes root, a more powerful and promising period of enlightenment arises and moves forward.