Friday, December 30, 2011

NCPSSM Stumping In New Hampshire, The Past and the Future

Hands Off - No Cuts

"The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) . . . will dispatch its mobile billboard to the 'Granite State' in time for the January 10th Presidential primary. The 'Hands Off-No Cuts' billboard, part of the National Committee's campaign which has successfully fought threatened cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of deficit reduction, has traveled across the nation reminding political candidates and incumbents that the majority of Americans reject proposals cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to balance the budget."


From Pearl Korn:  "Usually, at this time of year, we take personal stock of where we have been and what we hope to accomplish in the coming year.  ...  2011 has been a very tough year, coming on the heels of a very tough decade, but we Americans are a rugged people and we seem to have a knack for getting through rough times, so optimism -- even if it's a bit shaky these days -- should not be left totally out of our thoughts for the coming year."

"The GOP would like nothing better than to slash fees once and for all to such an extent that the program collapses, forcing doctors to refuse to serve Medicare patients. However, it was once again brought back from the brink as the proposed slashing of fees is shelved for another year."  "The GOP has been effective in their efforts to divert the debate from the real issues that need addressing to 'conservative' myths like Social Security and Medicare insolvency.  Confusion and fear are the hallmarks with the GOP attack machine, aided and abetted by unprecedented amounts of unidentified money thrown into campaigns as a result of the Citizens United decision...."

Our Difficult Future

"To an unappreciated extent, the legislative whipsawing in 2011 has set the country and the parties up for a major reckoning about the role and size of government at the end of next year.  And the outcome of the election will help determine which side of the argument wins.  On January 1, 2013, the country’s scheduled to undergo enormous policy shifts automatically.  At the stroke of midnight -- and in the absence of Congressional action -- all of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire; large, automatic cuts to the defense budget, Medicare providers, and other domestic programs are set to kick in; and (most likely) the payroll tax cut will end.  Around the same time, the country will once again run out of borrowing authority."

For Your Information

From NCPSSM: How Seniors are Benefiting from the Affordable Care Act.  "The Affordable Care Act signed into law on March 23, 2010, aims to provide greater access to health care coverage, improve the quality of services delivered, and lower overall health care costs.  Many seniors are benefiting from provisions of the law that are already in place such as receiving free preventive services and paying lower Medicare prescription drug costs.  [Here] are some key benefits in the Affordable Care Act that seniors need to know."


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Republicans Look Back (Really), Health Care Law Replacement

GOP Fallout From 2011

"When the House GOP’s enormous freshman class arrived on Capitol Hill in January, it wasn’t uncommon to hear them sound off on the mistakes their predecessors made in 1995.  Despite having shut down the government -- twice! -- House Republicans under Newt Gingrich had caved too easily, didn’t push hard enough, didn’t embody the true spirit of conservatism.  But the new House leadership wasn’t so sanguine.  Many had lived through the Gingrich revolution and its aftermath.  Others had been around long enough to hear tales of it."

"And so they mapped out a strategy specifically designed to avoid what they believe were the party’s ’90s-era mistakes.  In other words, the two factions -- the newly energized backbenchers and the veteran leadership -- were pulling each other in opposite directions.  The tug of war left the House GOP’s strategic center of gravity stuck in an unstable position."

It was obvious right from the start that Mr. Boehner was having problems with the freshmen.  And the few times that he seemed to have gained some control were short lived.  Never the less, it does go back to the essential Republican philosophy: When it comes to government services, do little, so government does little.  However, they do need to keep up appearances -- as if they were accomplishing "something."  Thus, Republicans reduce taxes for their wealthy friends.  Once upon a time, they were able to fool most people into thinking the "people" also were sharing in those tax cuts; now, that's a lot harder.  Clearly, the basic strategy of not negotiating and stonewalling is doing as little as possible.

Repeal and Replace

"More than a year after Republicans first pledged to 'repeal and replace' President Obama’s new health-care law, the GOP is still struggling to answer a basic question.  Replace it . . . with what?"  The repeal-and-replace argument has been a central line of attack in the GOP’s anti-Obama assault, both on the presidential campaign trail and on Capitol Hill."

"Obama’s health-care law stretches over hundreds of pages, making a sweeping attempt to solve two long-standing problems.  One was the millions of uninsured people.  The other was the fast-rising cost of medical care.  To address the first, the law simply mandated that every American buy health insurance.  If not, people could face a fine of $695 or more.  To address the second, the bill drives hospitals -- especially those treating Medicare patients -- toward more efficient treatments."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

[Couldn't help it.  I usually like to limit this feature to a single item.  Today, there was just too much to leave out.]


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Romney's Anti-Entitlement Position, Decision Delay, Retirement Security

Just Say "No" To Entitlements

"It's an old theme by now, going back to Reagan and his war on welfare, but this time it's Romney's war on entitlement.  His new campaign refrain is to blame the poor for feeling 'entitled,' for saying, 'They owe me, I'm entitled,' while they sit back with their big screen HDTVs, their delivery pizza, laughing at the poor suckers who are getting up at six and working for a living.  It's Reagan's campaign theme from 1980: 'Send the welfare bums back to work.'"

"As a Senior Citizen I have both Medicare and Social Security, one I pay something for and the other I earned by 40 plus years of teaching.  It's not a reward in any shape or form, and I resent the implication."

Obviously, we agree and have been calling Medicare and Social Security "pre-paid public benefits" for a very long time.  We pay for them in advance with "premiums" -- AKA payroll taxes.  And that's how some Republicans try to say "Oh, it's 'premium support'," when they try to trick us.  Almost everyone is on to the name changing game, so they will use it less when it comes to the better understood programs.  But beware; the spin still will happen on things we don't know as well.

Awaiting Part 2

"When Congress handily passed a bill to set payroll tax rates, jobless benefits and Medicare doctors’ fees for the next two months, it seemed to end an epic political struggle between President Obama and Republicans on Capitol Hill.  In fact, that was just the beginning.  Every issue in dispute remains unresolved, waiting to be addressed when Congress returns next month for an election-year session in which agreements could be even more elusive."

Where Do the Candidates Stand on Retirement Security?

"The Republican Party has staged a mind-numbing 18 presidential debates this year, and more questions and answers lie ahead as the primaries and general election get into high gear in the new year.  The future of Social Security and Medicare will be central issues in the 2012 election."

"The ongoing debate about income inequality also is tied to retirement policy, since the erosion in middle class wages affects 401(k) savings, pension benefits and the ability to retire at all."  "Yet these issues have yet to receive a serious airing in the debates, aside from accusations about Social Security Ponzi schemes and general threats to replace Medicare with vouchers."

These seven questions are pointed, and we need to hear the answers from the Republican Presidential hopefuls ... and from the President himself.  The Medicare question comes from Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center: "Over the past year, there have been many Medicare proposals that may be described using different terms, including privatization, vouchers, premium support and defined contribution, but they all would significantly change the Medicare program.  Would you support a proposal that would privatize or partially privatize the Medicare program or change Medicare into a voucher, premium support, or defined contribution plan?  Why or why not?"  This is a fair question that ought to be answered directly and without obfuscation.  We know all too well that "the devil is in the details," but don't say that.  Just say as clearly as you can whether privatization and/or some form of "voucher" would be a part of your administration's work program.  That shouldn't be too difficult to do.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Medicare Identity, Ryan-Wyden Bad Idea

It's Medicare, or Not

Opinion from Wendell Potter:  "Let's say you have a Ford and decide to replace everything under the hood with Hyundai parts, including the engine and transmission.  Could you still honestly market your car as a Ford?  That question gets at the heart of the controversy over who is being more forthright about GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to 'save' Medicare, Republicans or Democrats.  If you overhaul the Medicare system like you did your Ford and tell the public it's still Medicare, are you doing so honestly?"

More discussion about truths and lies.  Does the Ryan Plan really ruin Medicare via massive "restructuring"?  Of course it does, and of course it's supposed to.  Thanks, Mr. Potter, for another helpful perspective on a question on which we should not even be wasting time.  (My opinion: The extent of the change proposed would have, in effect, repealed Medicare.)  But Mr. Potter also is right about 401(k) plans!  Please do take a read.

Ryan-Wyden Dangerous for Americans

"Medicare provides health insurance to about 45 million seniors and disabled Americans.  This is an expensive population to cover and taxpayers pick up the vast majority of the cost.  Any proposal to rein in government spending results in heated, partisan debates.  Now a plan released by Sen Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is being celebrated by some as bipartisan success.  Actually, it is proof that even a Democrat and Republican working together can chart a dangerous course for future retirees."

"The centerpiece of the lawmakers’ approach is the creation of a 'premium support' system.  Seniors would be allocated a set amount of money to buy health insurance.  They could use it to pay for the traditional, government-run Medicare that has been around for decades.  Or they could spend it on approved private-sector insurance plans."

It's not only an unpopular idea, it just doesn't work.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Monday, December 26, 2011

End of the Year Misery, More About Political Lies

Aftermath: House Republicans Say "Uncle"

As if enough already hasn't been said:  "With tea party-backed first-termers calling the shots, House Republicans snatched political defeat from the jaws of victory in a year-end showdown over Social Security payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits.  This time, they pushed the country to the brink -- and wound up blinking.  'In the end House Republicans felt like they were re-enacting the Alamo, with no reinforcements and our friends shooting at us,' said veteran Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas."

Still, the political lessons remain for all of us.  Mostly, a small minority of ideologically Conservative and legislatively inexperienced Republicans have had their way for most of the year.  Maybe they were spoiled and shouldn't have tried to steal just one piece of candy.

Boehner's "Leadership"

"The House speaker’s handling of the payroll tax standoff . . . has been the embodiment of impotent leadership.  But then, that’s the story of his year-long tenure as speaker: When it comes to deciding what direction the GOP conference will take, Boehner is the one taking orders, not giving them.  This was painfully evident earlier this week, when the payroll tax impasse turned into a full-scale crisis after rank-and-file House Republicans decided they couldn’t live with the bipartisan compromise struck by the Senate. "

The evidence points to both the Hyper-Conservative freshmen and Eric Cantor.  So often, it's looked like Mr. Cantor has stabbed Mr. Boehner in the back -- and Boehner has done nothing to change the balance of power.  Leads us to think he's powerless.

Facts vs. Lies

Big lies numbers 9 and 10, from Paul Abrams, a Board member of the Washington Progress Alliance, the Women's Bioethics Project, the Apollo Alliance (Washington State) and the Economic Opportunity Institute:

"9.  All the big money behind right-wing politics -- big oil, the Kochs, big banks -- and their lackeys in Congress really care about jobs, social security, Medicare, and so forth, honest to goodness they do.  Their political ads will proclaim in pious platitudes their deep care and concern for these middle-class values.  PaulitiFact recalls Governor Schwarzeneggar's speech when they tried to overturn California's environmental regulations: 'Does anyone believe, in their dirty oil hearts, that they are spending all this money in the campaign because they want to preserve your jobs?'  His housekeeper was not the only thing Ahnold nailed."

"10.  PolitiFact's choice of Democrats' characterization of the Ryan budget as 'ending Medicare' as the lie of the year.  OK, OK, so PaulitiFact is taking a swipe at a competitor.  But, truly, calling the truth a lie provides grist for the liars to claim that it is a lie, perpetuating the scam.  PaulitiFact cannot grasp how a change from a defined and guaranteed benefit (aka 'Medicare') to a defined (and inadequate) contribution is not ending Medicare.  Moreover, 10 percent of the Medicare population consumes 67 percent of its costs -- how will seniors in that 10 percent even get coverage?  (Although it is of no benefit to us, PaulitiFact offers PolitiFact a little Christmasy advice: be more like Santa; don't just make up a list, make sure you check it twice.)"

Well done.  I especially like the simple statement, with which I agree:  "how a change from a defined and guaranteed benefit (aka 'Medicare') to a defined (and inadequate) contribution is not ending Medicare."

MORE:  "The claim that the Ryan plan would 'end Medicare' is at least defensible, and nobody denies that the plan would end Medicare as we know it (that's the idea) [emphasis added].  But the main thing here is that, whether they realize it or not, Politifact and the other fact-checking outfits rarely confine themselves to checking facts.  They're judging claims purportedly based on facts, or interpretations of facts.  Not the same."

This, actually, is a helpful distinction when studying politics and the practice of politics.  "Spin" often is king.  And spin comes from those twists and turns, those interpretations which "make sense" -- like creating reasonable doubt or plausible deniability.  It's subtle, but people's prior opinions (and too often inadequate education) cause them to have biases or tendencies which politicians easily use to their own ends.  We all need to double check ourselves -- whether we agree or disagree with a politician.  Check for which buttons are being pushed.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, December 23, 2011

GOP = Grand Old Politics, Medicare History: Recent and Past

Republicans Take Us To the Brink . . . Again

"Ending a dramatic, weeks-long political standoff, House Republican leaders agreed Thursday to pass a Senate-endorsed short-term extension of the payroll tax cut in return for House-Senate negotiations on a year-long package."  "The agreement ensures that a 2 percent tax break for about 160 million people will not expire on Jan. 1, and that Medicare payments will not be slashed for doctors.  Emergency unemployment benefits also will continue."

MORE:  "In a conference call with House Republicans early Thursday evening, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took no questions after making it clear to his members that the game was up and they would have to swallow the Democratic payroll tax extension."

Chaos from the same political party that brought the U.S. to the precipice of bankruptcy, gave America a lower, more expensive credit rating, and introduced oral sex into our living rooms.  The Republicans have become an extreme, out-of-control, and out-of-touch political party.  Of course, we never thought it was poker or a high stakes game.  Yes, as President Obama said, this is high stakes.  But poker is gambling, and the Republicans should not be gambling with the everyday life of millions of Americans.

Medicare: Who Said That?

From Kaiser Health News:  "In the past year, Medicare politics and policies have grabbed headlines, with politicians from both sides of the aisle talking about 'saving Medicare,' 'protecting beneficiaries,' 'improving quality of care,' and 'curbing fraud and abuse.'  But a longer look at the program’s history shows that many of these ideas have been a part of the Medicare discourse since its earliest days, beginning even before the program was signed into law."

 "To test your knowledge of who has said what about Medicare, Kaiser Health News gathered the following 15 quotations.  For each quote, you will have multiple-choice answers and, when you are done, you can check your work against a detailed answer key.  Good luck!"

TAKE THE TEST; it's a perfect example of politicians saying whatever it takes to be elected or whatever the public wants to hear.  These are marvelously nuanced statements, crafted by the crafty.  Please do pay attention.  It's both entertaining (on some level) and sobering.

More History: JFK

We've featured this link before, but here it is again.  At a Medical Care for the Aged rally at Madison Square Garden on May 20, 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke about the need for medical care for the aged:  "Now why are we here?  What is the issue which divides and arouses so much concern?  I will take a case which may be typical, a family which may be found in any part of the United States."


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wyden/Ryan Anti-Medicare Plan, Reaction to Combative House, The Lie Lives On, Ryan In Good Standing, Keystone XL


Repacked Vouchers

"Senator Wyden and Congressman Ryan's voucher plan offers a slight twist on the same failed approach to Medicare reform that was originally offered by the Ryan legislation and rejected by the majority of Americans -- coupon care for seniors.  The Ryan/Wyden voucher plan would shift a growing share of Medicare costs to beneficiaries without reducing overall costs in the program while undermining traditional Medicare."  From NCPSSM.

Most people are onto this particular trick.  Get someone from the other side to sign on and make it look bipartisan.  However, it's still partisan (plus one) and it's still a bad idea with a miniscule twist.  No reason to be deceived or to give it further consideration.

Possible New Opportunity

Also from NCPSSM:  "So, it’s been another wild week in Washington as passage of a stimulus plan that once seemed a foregone conclusion faced unexpected defeat in the House.  You don’t have to look far to see the hundreds of millions of reasons why this nation needs a stimulus package.  For the unemployed now scheduled to lose their unemployment insurance benefits to America’s seniors on Medicare this legislation also included critical provisions necessary for their survival."

What a sham!  Today, the Republicans in the House are perhaps the most vile and deceptive politicians in Washington.  To pretend that they want a year instead of two months when they clearly are opposed to the whole bill stretches credibility.  I hope the Senate sends back their bill exactly, except for changing two months to twelve months.  Dare the House to sign what it says it wants.

PolitiFact Fix

"Yesterday, I sent an email to Politifact editor Bill Adair, expressing my horror over his group's decision to designate 'Republicans voted to kill Medicare' as the 'lie of the year.'  ...  'Take it back quickly and explain the (probably self-inflicted) pressures you were under, and perhaps you can rehabilitate yourselves.  Perhaps,' I wrote in my email.  'This really makes me sick at heart.  You have taken a wonderful idea -- and a lot of good work -- and perverted it beyond belief.'  I haven't heard back."  -- Dan Froomkin, Senior Washington Correspondent, Huffington Post.

MORE:  Dems' 'Mediscare' a dubious winner.  And the Republicans already are on the offense: "Republican lawmakers rejoiced Tuesday after Democrats' line of attack against their Medicare overhaul was named the 2011 'Lie of the Year' by the fact-checking website PolitiFact."  Instead of rejoicing, they should have been addressing the payroll tax cut extension instead of procedurally setting it aside.

Ryan Still Liked By GOP

"House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan made his Republican colleagues vote on a risky Medicare overhaul plan this spring only to release a new, dialed-back plan with Sen. Ron Wyden last week.  But he doesn’t seem to have been hurt by his change of direction.  In fact, Ryan’s political standing among Republicans may be stronger now than it was before -- because he has demonstrated he can reach beyond the GOP base and broaden the appeal of a conservative, market-based approach to health care."

Another consequence of Sen. Ron Wyden's ill advised action.  Never underestimate the power of a shrewd political move -- or of a political slip.

For Your Information

The Keystone XL Pipeline Scam -- Remember my comments on October 12 about the Keystone XL Pipeline -- that it seemed very odd that a so-called senior advocacy group (6o Plus) would call for action on this issue, being as it is completely irrelevant to aging concerns?  Well, now perhaps we can see a little of the planning and machinations that must have gone into this piece of lobbying and deception.  How many other little levers must they have placed in preparation for this move?  And next?  How about Senior Citizens Applaud Strong Action Against Internet Piracy.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Threats to Medicare & Social Security, Doc Fix in Jeopardy, PolitiFact Gets It Wrong

Once again, we have heightened tensions in our Nation's capital as intransigence gets in the way of progress.  From our view, it is the Republicans who continue to push the envelope and refuse to engage in reasonable discussion.  Who can blame Democrats if they finally lose their patience and become just as hard-nosed as the Republicans have been?

2012 Elections

"With Social Security and Medicare facing harsh threats from various politicians, retirees must keep a close eye on the 2012 elections.  The recently-deadlocked super committee was the latest in a line of blue-ribbon panels -- preceded by Domenici-Rivlin and Simpson-Bowles -- that have debated, and in two instances recommended, drastic cuts in Social Security and Medicare, landmark programs that have helped generations of seniors stay healthy and out of poverty."

"These threats to retirement security will continue unless two pillars of our fiscal debates change:  1) the false but widely-held belief that Social Security increases our deficit, and 2) our fundamentally-flawed tax and spending policies that drain federal coffers to benefit corporations and those in the top one percent of incomes."

MUST READING:  Right on, Barbara J. Easterling! (President of the Alliance for Retired Americans)  We all need to educate our family and friends to the truths about Medicare and Social Security.  This Holiday season is one opportunity but it must not be the only opportunity we take.  Keep on talking and keep on writing to Congress.

Medicare Cuts for Physicians Ready to Go

"Raising the stakes for a gridlocked Congress, Medicare officials said Tuesday hundreds of thousands of doctors will get a steep cut in payments on Jan. 18 unless lawmakers issue a reprieve.  A provision waiving a scheduled 27.4 percent cut in physician reimbursement was included in the payroll tax legislation now ensnared in partisan political wrangling between the House and Senate."

In what was once an almost meaningless annual ritual, once again, the Republicans have found a way to create chaos.  They are pushing everyone to the brink.  It's actually virtually impossible to fathom a "real" reason for this -- until you remind yourself that this is politics, and that means that someone (a politician him/herself or his/her sponsor or friend) is gaining an advantage in return.  The trick is to understand who is gaining.  Then, you better understand politics.

Wrong, Again

"Here’s a long, sad story about how Democrats’ basically true claim that House Republicans voted to end Medicare ended up 'winning' PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year award -- a development that will help the right and the GOP create their own reality as the future of the social safety net becomes a defining issue of the 2012 campaign.  Back in April, House Republicans passed a budget that included a plan to phase out Medicare over several years and build in its place a subsidized, private insurance marketplace for seniors."

There goes PolitiFact's credibility.  Not that they care, but they're off my bookmarks list.  It's NOT a matter of opinion; it's a fact -- Medicare is gone under the Ryan plan.  PolitiFact should talk with experts and gain some knowledge and understanding of Medicare.  Unfortunately, I suspect that PolitiFact knows the truth; it's PolitiFact who becomes the liar.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Killing Medicare, Doc Fix, Bachman's Medicare Nightmare

Medicare May Receive Fatal Blow

"This last week we've seen how Washington's elites are able to suppress popular opinion, work against the public interest, and wrap it all up with a bow so that it looks like 'democracy in action.'  It's not.  What we're seeing isn't democracy, and it isn't a free press either.  It's merely another cynical ploy to rob Americans of government programs they both need and want.  The latest assault is on Medicare.  The 'Ryan/Widen [sic] plan' is a perfect case study in the cynical workings of an antidemocratic machine -- a machine whose cogs are lazy journalists, whose gears are selfish politicians, and whose levers are pulled by the wealthy and powerful."

"It turns out that the first 'blink' impression of Ryan/Wyden is the right one.  It's a Medicare-killing publicity stunt that undermines the financial security of the 99%.  And if you happen to be reading this in the Nation's Capital, please note: The 'lefty' position on Medicare is supported by most Republicans.  Let's not kid ourselves.  Unless we act quickly and aggressively, the Machine will succeed in killing Medicare."

By Richard (RJ) Eskow -- Consultant, writer and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future.  MUST READING:  This angry tirade is right on target, and all of us should be angry, too.  If you are interested in politics and Medicare, this piece sets forth today's most popular game plan pretty well.  Unfortunately, it works almost perfectly when there's a Democrat patsy.  The very large majority of Americans lose as the Republicans, once again, make Democrats look like the uncoordinated fools they so often are.  The author is perceptive as well as angry.  Do give it a read.

Doc Fix Needed

From NCPMSS: "'If Congress fails to reach an agreement on a "Doc Fix" by the end of the year, doctors who treat Medicare patients will see their pay cut by about 27 percent in 2012.  Each year , America's seniors and their doctors wait and watch while a flawed formula passed by Congress more than a decade ago threatens double-digit cuts to Medicare physicians.'"

Bachman's Medicare Dream

"On a conference call with Tea Party activists last night, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said she dreams of the day when Medicare will no longer be needed.  Bachmann told the Tea Party Patriots 'tele-forum,' which featured most of the Republican presidential candidates, that she wants to create a new health care system in which individuals buy their own insurance, instead of getting it through their employers or the government.  'People will own their own health plan and I imagine that people will continue to own them even after they turn 65, so they won’t need to go on Medicare.'  (Medicare is of course owned by workers because they pay into it.)"

Bachman's dream, our nightmare.  This, too, qualifies for the Republican Reality-Free Zone.

For Your Information


Monday, December 19, 2011

Romney Likes Ryan Plan to Weaken Medicare, GOP Would Smash Social Security, Medicare an Election Issue, Romney New to Medicaid, Gingrich Likes New Plan to Restrict Medicare

Romney is Ryan's Friend, But Not a Friend to Medicare

"While appearing on 'Fox News Sunday,' Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney praised Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system in a shot at fellow presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.  During the Sunday show, Romney criticized Gingrich, the former House Speaker, for making a statement in May that 'cut the legs out' from under the plan, part of a 2012 budget Ryan proposed back in April.  'Are we going to deal with entitlement reform or not?'  Romney asked.  'Republicans came together, Paul Ryan was the author of the plan.  But almost every single Republican voted for it, and the Speaker said this is 'right-wing social engineering.' '"

Mr. Romney has been more and more vocal about the Ryan plan to repeal Medicare, and more and more wrong about America's best, and essentially lowest cost, insurance program -- Medicare.  We understand that he is scratching for votes in a very Conservative base of voters.  However, reasonable voters should expect one thing of any candidate: that he say what he means (and thus we should be prepared to see it  implemented if he or she elected.  Of Mr. Romney, it appears that we can expect him to say whatever he thinks will help him get elected, regardless of time or place or consistency or actual intent.  The truth be damned when he's scratching for votes.

Among GOP Candidates, Not a Single Friend of Social Security

From Strengthen Social Security:  "Social Security Works unveiled a new guide which reveals that the top six Republican Presidential candidates agree: If they had their way, they would cut or do away with Social Security, America’s most successful insurance program."

Is Medicare A 2012 Election Issue?

"Even with just two congressional supporters, a new Medicare overhaul plan could have big implications for next year’s congressional election.  Indeed, it could neutralize a political problem that has been plaguing Republicans since April, argues Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health."  " Blendon says that supporting this new proposal will help congressional Republicans to distance themselves from Ryan's earlier, controversial plan."

Romney Health Biz: Clueless on Medicaid

"Mitt Romney took a turn for the folksy in Iowa on Friday, telling an audience that, like many people, he didn’t fully understand what Medicaid did until late in life.  'You know, I have to admit, I didn’t know the differences between all these things until I got into government,' Romney said.  'Then I got into it and I understood that Medicaid is the health care program for the poor, by and large.'  It’s a bit of an odd claim considering that Romney, while at Bain Capital, led a $311 million buyout of a huge hospital business that drew its income primarily from health care entitlements."

Ron Paul: Also Clueless

"Ron Paul told supporters at a campaign event on Tuesday that Medicare and Medicaid programs, through which the federal government provides health care to retired and poor Americans, are unconstitutional."  However, "The Supreme Court ruled in 1937 that Social Security was permissible under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which reads in part, 'The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.'  Supporters of Medicare and Medicaid, which were established decades later as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society legislation, hold that these programs are similarly permissible under the 'general welfare clause."

Really?  Ron Paul clueless?  No, I don't really think he's clueless, but it is difficult to understand his opinion that Medicare and Medicaid (and probably Social Security, by extension) are unconstitutional.  The US Supreme Court makes decisions on the Country's major issues, and people do disagree with the Court.  Of course, if there weren't at least two sides, then there would be no debate and no disagreement and no decision.  However, Medicare is the law of the land, AND it is accepted and desired by the American people.  Ultimately, the issue really becomes less what the Constitution says and more what "we the People" say.  And, right now, the people understand that Medicare is a good thing for them.

Gingrich Speaks

From Kaiser Health News:  Gingrich Defends Record, Praises Ryan-Wyden Medicare Plan  "Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney welcomed the Ryan-Wyden plan, announced yesterday.  Gingrich went on defense after Rep. Michele Bachmann actually [sic] him on his record on abortion legislation while he was in the House of Representatives."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, December 16, 2011

It's All About the Ryan-Wyden Plan to Weaken Medicare

MRC Says Beware

From the Medicare Rights Center:  "Make no mistake, the Ryan-Wyden proposal is a voucher program designed to make people with Medicare spend more for their health care so that the federal government spends less -- with some bells and whistles that sound attractive, especially when key details are left out."

We agree.  For the next few weeks, please give a gift to all of America's aged and disabled people by writing or emailing often -- not just once -- to your Federal officials and telling them to protect Medicare.  It only costs you a few minutes of your time, and if you don't it may cost beneficiaries much more.  Your small effort will help people when they are most vulnerable and most need help.  When you do, please "join this site" as a follower by clicking on the right.  Thank you.

White House Also Concerned

From the White House:  "The Obama administration expressed concern Thursday over the bipartisan Medicare reform proposal that has been hammered out between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), saying it believes the plan could weaken the program.  'We are concerned that Wyden-Ryan, like Congressman Ryan’s earlier proposal, would undermine, rather than strengthen, Medicare,' said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer."

"'The Wyden-Ryan scheme could, over time, cause the traditional Medicare program to 'wither on the vine' because it would raise premiums, forcing many seniors to leave traditional Medicare and join private plans.  And it would shift costs from the government to seniors.  At the end of the day, this plan would end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors. Wyden-Ryan is the wrong way to reform Medicare.'"

I guess the standards for a "bi-partisan" proposal are pretty slim.  I think this can rightly be referred to as a "so-called bi-partisan" proposal.  In fact, it's likely to be a mis-guided Democrat who has mis-stepped.  Maybe Sen. Wyden is sincere, but this proposal is no friend to the aged, the disabled, or anyone who cares about them, whether they are veterans, health care workers, families, or whoever else.  This plan is a bad idea and will hurt people.  The White House is right to be concerned, but this is a single Senator exercising his political right to introduce legislation.  There's no reason to make it bigger than the minor event it is.  There's no reason the Democrats have to feel that the idea of one Senator means the Democrat party is in shreds or able to be attacked for the act of one person.

More Criticism

From Robert Creamer:  "Today, Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will present his new 'bi-partisan compromise' plan to a meeting of an outfit known as the 'Bipartisan Policy Center.'  Ryan's latest proposal would allow individuals to choose between traditional Medicare or vouchers that provide 'premium support' for private insurance plans.  Here's what you need to know about Ryan's latest attempt to repackage his hugely unpopular proposal to eliminate Medicare and replace it with vouchers for private insurance:"  Mr. Creamer then discusses five key reasons why we must beware of this proposal.

Recommended reading.  Mr. Creamer makes many excellent points here, and he backs them up with reliable facts and rational thinking.  Clearly, Republicans want to control Medicare (and Medicaid) much more than they want to control costs.  Clearly, their agenda remains, and Medicare is a target of destruction.

Political Traps

"Anyone who thought that the 2012 election battle over health care would be a simple matter between President Barack Obama and a candidate who wants to privatize Medicare and 'repeal Obamacare' is waking up to new complications today, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are teaming up on a new Medicare reform plan that has both men pitching and yawing leftward and rightward from their previous positions."

"As Brian Beutler and Benjy Sarlin put it, this plan is going to 'turn the fight over Medicare on its head.'  It could also alter the competitive dynamics of the 2012 race in significant ways.  Will the plan improve the lives of ordinary Americans, though?  That's debatable."

Political Fallout -- And Maybe a Falling Out

"Sen. Ron Wyden wants to assure his colleagues he hasn’t undermined them politically.  In a head-turning move, Wyden announced Wednesday that he’s teamed up with House GOP budget chair Paul Ryan on a policy framework to partially privatize Medicare."  "What he’s alluding to here is the concern that, by teaming up with Ryan, he’ll give GOP candidates in 2012 -- and particularly the GOP presidential candidate in 2012, cover from charges that they support radical, conservative overhauls to Medicare.  This is an albatross the entire GOP has had to deal with since voting en masse for Ryan’s long-term budget, which included an even more dramatic plan to phase out traditional Medicare altogether.  Wyden says those fears are overblown."

We disagree with Sen. Wyden, no matter how well meaning (or naive) he might be.  We know full well how extreme and nasty the Conservative Republicans can be when attacking Democrats, and this just gives them an opening.  For example, anyone who disagrees with these Conservative Republicans -- no matter how moderate -- is branded as "left wing" or "Liberal" -- as if those were bad things.  This plan, at its heart, is no better than Mr. Ryan's first plan.  It's a major political mis-step for Sen. Wyden.  From a political perspective, Democrats should just let it go as the opinion of one Senator -- not any indication at all of the actual measure of bi-partisanship on this issue.

Sins of Omission

From Kaiser Health News:  "A new Medicare overhaul plan touted as a serious bipartisan approach was unveiled today, but it leaves out key details about how it would avoid raising seniors’ premiums."  "Wyden said that the new plan should appeal to progressives and conservatives.  But some Democrats disagreed.  Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., a liberal, said the proposal 'ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple.  If these two get their way, senior citizens’ health coverage will depend on what big insurance offers and what seniors -- most of them on modest, fixed incomes -- can afford.  That combination will jeopardize health and economic security for seniors.'"

Once again, Kaiser Health News offers straightforward reporting.  It's a helpful article for adding more detail to the above more politically oriented pieces.

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Thursday, December 15, 2011

GOP Still Seeking Medicare Cuts, GOP Balanced Budget Tricks, Doc Fix, Ryan Problems


Cuts For Current Retirees

"Senate Democrats are under pressure to adopt the payroll tax cut bill House Republicans passed last night -- or something very close to it.  President Obama has threatened to veto it, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has declared it dead on arrival in his chamber."

"Hamstrung by the GOP’s filibuster powers, Dems can’t pass an alternative version without GOP help, and so the heat is on them to cave.  Despite all that, here’s one reason Democrats might hold firm:  Adopting the GOP bill would result in higher out of pocket costs for middle class seniors on Medicare -- a GOP measure adopted in lieu of raising income taxes on millionaires.  That would both weaken the program, increase expenses for seniors, and muddle Dems’ election year message that they’re protecting entitlements from a conservative onslaught."

Time again to write your Senators and Congress person.  DON'T GIVE UP NOW.  Fighting to protect Medicare and Social Security is not a just-write-'em-once endeavor.  As long as the Conservative Republicans don't give up, neither will we.  Simply email your message to you representatives in the US Congress.  And, remind them that your vote for them depends on their vote for Medicare.

Balanced Budget Boondoggle

"Tellingly, all Republicans voted for the GOP’s BBA, crafted by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) -- it would’ve subjected tax increases to supermajority votes, and forced the government to shrink to historically small levels.  Implicitly, it would eradicate or devastate key support programs like Medicare, and flip the existing social compact on its head.  None of that’s spelled out -- which is why Republicans felt free to vote for it.  But it’s what many of them believe."

MORE:  The Senate’s Balanced Budget Amendment Would Require Extreme Budget Cuts  (December 5, 2011)  "The constitutional balanced budget amendment (BBA) that the Senate is expected to consider this month would, like any version of a BBA, risk serious harm to the economy by requiring that the budget be balanced even during an economic downturn.  But this BBA, in particular, would do far more damage because it also would prevent the federal government from meeting the nation’s basic needs even when the economy is healthy."

"That’s because the amendment would enshrine a severe cap on total federal spending in the Constitution, forcing Congress to cut all programs by an average of one-fourth by 2018.  If lawmakers were to cut all programs by the same percentage to fit within the cap, Social Security would be cut $266 billion in 2018 alone and almost $1.7 trillion through 2021; Medicare would be cut $169 billion in 2018 and almost $1.1 trillion through 2021."

Another sneaky approach for the Conservative Republicans.  As usual, say one thing -- slight of hand -- do something else or something more in addition.  Next, they will claim that Democrats are fiscally irresponsible (unlike Republicans who created a banking crisis and brought us two wars).  Apparently, we need to keep reminding them of the popularity AND success of Medicare and Social Security -- pre-paid benefits.

Medicare 'Doc Fix' Debate Shifts to Senate

From Kaiser Health News:  "Mary Agnes Carey talks with Politico Pro’s Matt DoBias about the latest developments on Capitol Hill concerning a pending Medicare physician payment cut set to take effect Jan. 1 without passage of a 'doc fix.'"  Also listen to the audio.

Ryan in Political Trouble

"A newly released poll commissioned by Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Democratic opponent, Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban, makes an astonishing claim: That he is in striking distance of Ryan, the House Republican star and architect of their proposals to privatize Medicare."  "'All of this background has weakened incumbent Paul Ryan, who used to enjoy electoral and image majorities well over 60%.  Ryan’s favorable rating has declined to 54% positive, his job rating is 55% and his reelect is 54% -- all this before the beginning of an active campaign against Ryan.'"

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

GOP Wants To Means-Test Medicare, Hospitals vs. Republicans, Berwick Perspective, Fact Checking in Trouble, Home Care for Medicare

Middle Income Retirees Targeted by GOP

From NCPSSM:  "Let’s be really clear about one thing … the GOP plan to hike Medicare premiums for 'upper income' retirees rather than raising taxes on millionaires may sound like a an effort to deal with our nation’s massive economic inequity … but it isn’t even close.  The truth is this means-testing plan will hit middle class beneficiaries.  So, once again the GOP has proposed middle class benefit cuts (these wrapped in flimsy 'upper income' wrapping) to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy."

Thanks, again, to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.  Once again, Conservative Republicans are trying to deceive the public -- and particularly the aged and disabled -- about their true intentions.

Hospitals and Republicans Fighting

"Hospitals have come out swinging against payment cuts to their industry included in the House Republican plan to stop a scheduled Medicare physician payment cut next January. And the House GOP is swinging right back.  As the House edges toward a vote Tuesday on legislation that would give physicians a two-year reprieve from a scheduled 27 percent payment cut next January, the House Republican Conference released several documents Monday detailing why they included hospital payment cuts as part of its plan to finance the 'doc fix.'"

Berwick: Don’t Blame Medicare, Medicaid. It’s The Delivery System

From Kaiser Health News:  "Dr. Donald Berwick, who oversaw Medicare and Medicaid until earlier this month, defended the programs Monday, but said they are trapped in a U.S. health system that promotes wasteful spending and inefficient care.  'Health care is broken,' Berwick said in an interview with Kaiser Health News.  '… We have set up a delivery system that is fragmented, unsafe, not patient-centered, full of waste and unreliable.  Despite the best efforts of the workforce, we built it wrong. It isn't built for modern times.'"  Don't miss the transcript or audio excerpts.

We agree thanks to decades of experience with both Medicare and Medicaid.  While we might not agree with every detail of Dr. Berwick's position, just about everyone knows full well that Medicare is only the means of paying for care.  The health care delivery system is much more complex than the payment systems alone.  However, reimbursement DOES DRIVE the system is many helpful and perverse ways.

Check The Facts

"PolitiFact, launched by the St. Petersburg Times four years ago with the aim of separating truth-telling from spin, is taking it from both sides these days.  Liberals are upset that the website has identified Democratic claims that Republicans want to abolish Medicare as one of its contenders for 'Lie of the Year.'  Igor Volsky, writing at the left-leaning site ThinkProgress, complains the supposed falsehood is actually '100 percent true!'  (Exclamation point most emphatically his.)"

"Later this month, PolitiFact will announce the winner of its 'Liar of the Year' award.  As Paul Waldman observes at the American Prospect, the 10 nominees are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.  After two years of singling out Republican statements, Waldman predicts that the Democrats' Medicare 'lie' will be this year's winner, 'despite the fact that it's actually not a lie at all.'  As Waldman notes, it would amount to an exercise in the sort of false balance that fact-checking was supposed to transcend."

We've already talked about this.  It's very unfortunate that their understanding of Medicare apparently is so shallow.  We have called Ryan's plan a repeal of Medicare, because the extent of changes to the essential foundation of the program is so extensive.  We believe that if the St. Petersburg Times better understood Medicare, it would agree.  The Ryan proposal would abolish or repeal Medicare and  replace it with a similarly named -- but fundamentally different -- program.

Chronic Home Care

OPINION FROM Senator Ron Wyden:  "When the Veterans Affairs Department implemented a program to provide home-based health care to veterans with multiple chronic conditions -- many of the system's most expensive patients to treat -- they received astounding results. ...  In total, the cost of providing healthcare to these chronically ill patients shrunk by nearly 25 percent."

"Given these results, Congressman Ed Markey and I thought it only made sense to create a version of the program for Medicare beneficiaries.  After all, Medicare recipients with multiple chronic illnesses are among the highest-cost segment of the entire Medicare population -- making up roughly 5-8 percent of beneficiaries but accounting for more than 50 percent of total Medicare costs.  If a home-based Medicare program realized even just a fraction of the other programs' success, Medicare could save a lot of money (potentially billions) while improving health outcomes for millions of seniors."

The Republican "OOPS" Zone


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Romney Errs on Medicare Cuts, Medicare Headache for Physicians

Romney continues to get it wrong with Medicare.  Congress takes tiny steps; they want to go home for the Holidays (and we can take a little break).

The Republican Reality-Free Zone - Part 1

From the Debate:  "False and misleading claims were flying again at the latest Republican presidential candidates' debate in Iowa.  Mitt Romney falsely claimed that no president before Obama had cut Medicare, and that Obama favored pre-1967 borders for Israel."

FACTS from the Associated Press:  "ROMNEY: 'Let's not forget, only one president has ever cut Medicare for seniors in this country and it's Barack Obama.  We're going to remind him of that time and time again.'

"THE FACTS: Obama is at least the third president to sign cuts in Medicare that were passed by Congress.  The 1990 budget law signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush raised premiums paid by Medicare beneficiaries and cut payments to hospitals, doctors and other providers.  The 1997 balanced budget law signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton scaled back Medicare payments to hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes and other providers, as well as raising monthly premiums paid by older people.  It reduced projected payment rates for doctors, putting in place automatic cuts that Congress routinely has waived ever since.  The law signed by Obama strengthens traditional Medicare by improving preventive care and increasing payments to primary care doctors and nurses serving as medical coordinators, but reduces subsidies to private insurance plans that have become a popular alternative to Medicare.  Obama is cutting about 6 percent of spending from Medicare over 10 years.  Clinton and a Republican Congress came up with cuts of 12 percent."

In any campaign, the candidates play fast and loose with the "facts."  Today, thankfully, we have better access to fact checking, although we do have to watch some of the truth checkers.  However, regardless of facts, some people (and they might include us) have core values that shape their truths, regardless of facts.  That's why, logic (and actual, true, confirmed facts) often does not always win out.  What feels "right" or "moral" counts more.  Maybe we're born that way.

Doc Fix

"If Congress can’t finish its homework before it goes on recess, it might be able to get an extension -- but only if it’s willing to trim its winter break.  At least, that’s the case with the 'doc fix' -- a temporary change to Medicare’s troubled provider payment formula that Congress must pass to prevent a deep cut to physicians.  They face a 27 percent payment cut that starts Jan. 1 unless Congress acts."

For Your Information

National Strategy Conference – January 28 and 29, 2012:  "You are invited to join Healthcare-NOW! activists from around the country to plan our strategy to win guaranteed single-payer national health insurance.  By learning and sharing with one another we can build on the tremendous successes of the last year and develop the plan to push Congress to implement single-payer national health insurance NOW.  When: January 28 and 29, 2012.  Where: Hilton Houston Hobby Airport, Houston, TX."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone - Part 2


Monday, December 12, 2011

MRC Speaks Out, NCPSSM Says Protect the Middle Class, RomneyCare Copies RyanCare, RomneyCare Not the Gingrich Plan


Advocacy:  Short and To the Point

From the Medicare Rights Center:  "The latest proposal by the House leadership to further increase Medicare premiums for supposedly 'high-income' people with Medicare, those with minimum incomes of $80,000 per year, is misguided.  It is ironic that many of the same lawmakers who refuse to increase revenues by raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires are supporting a measure that would, in effect, increase taxes on older Americans and people with disabilities with relatively modest incomes."

The Medicare Rights Center is an expert on Medicare and its impact on the aged and disabled.  Why?  Because they actually counsel them and help them deal with the eligibility and coverage problems of Medicare.  You don't often hear about those problems, although you do hear about ideas for changing eligibility and coverage to save money.  The fact is: there are eligibility and coverage changes that are needed which would HELP people who really need and depend on Medicare -- taxpayers who already have contributed to their pre-paid public benefits.

More Advocacy:  Asking the President's Help

Another major advocate, the National Committee To Preserve Social Security and Medicare, has "written to President Obama and Budget Director, Jack Lew, urging the administration to protect programs vital to hard-working Americans and their families as the administration prepares its Fiscal Year 2013 budget.  Social Security and Medicare provide lifelines to millions who still suffer in this economy, yet these programs continue to be targeted by those in Washington hoping to balance the budget by cutting benefits to seniors, the disabled, and their families."

NCPSSM is working hard to protect vital pre-paid public benefits.  You, too, should write the President and ask him to do everything he can to truly strengthen Medicare and Social Security.

Romney Favors Ryan Plan

"Mitt Romney left it to his campaign surrogates yesterday to gush over Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization plan and bash Newt Gingrich’s early opposition.  But today, the candidate discussed it himself in Iowa.  Asked by an audience member at a rally whether he would sign Ryan’s plan, Romney danced around the question but made clear that he had plenty of love for the Wisconsin congressman’s approach.  'When his plan came out I applauded it as a very important step, I said my plan would be a little different,' Romney said."

Yeah, but not much different.  A Conservative Republican is basically the same regardless of fine points or details.  If he gains the nomination, it will be interesting to see how he tries to maximize his voter appeal by minimizing his unpopular positions on Medicare and Social Security.

Romney Attacks Gingrich Plan

"The Romney campaign stepped up its assault on Newt Gingrich Friday with a web video hitting the former House speaker for going against party orthodoxy in May.  Soon after he jumped into the race, Gingrich was asked about his thoughts on a plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to overhaul Medicare. Gingrich called the plan, which would institute voucher accounts for beneficiaries, 'right-wing social engineering.'  Public outcry from the party forced Gingrich to walk back his statement and eventually offer support for Ryan's proposal."

"The Romney campaign makes hay with that outcry in the web video, playing sound bites from leading Congressional Republicans praising the Ryan plan and conservatives criticizing Gingrich's comment."

For Your Information

Saving Our Democracy -- by Senator Bernie Sanders.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, December 9, 2011

Romney & Gingrich on Medicare, Republican Politics As Usual, Berwick Departure

RomneyCare vs. GingriSystem

There's more than one way to skin a cat, and Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich each have their own way of repealing Medicare without coming right out and saying so.  Mr. Romney favors a voucher-like system, and Mr. Gingrich would re-make Medicare into its own separate system of health care (typical of a policy wonk, we might say).  Of course, details are sketchy at best for any possible plan that might be devised.

"Mitt Romney’s campaign is ripping into Newt Gingrich over his past criticism of Paul Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a private voucher system.  So what’s the actual difference between the two candidates’ proposals?  Romney, of course, isn’t exactly offering voters a chance to vote for Ryan Plan either.  And back when Ryan debuted his controversial -- and widely disliked -- plan to change Medicare in to a voucher system, Romney was vague in his response."

The Romney Plan:  "Despite his cautious initial response to the Ryan plan, when Romney put out his own plan, conservative wonks were pleasantly surprised to find it retained many similar features.  It would gradually replace the current system [emphasis added] with a premium support system in which seniors could buy private coverage on their own.  Unlike Ryan’s plan, it keeps 'traditional' fee-for-service Medicare as one of these plans.  However, if the private plans end up being cheaper than Medicare, seniors have to pay the difference out of pocket to keep it."

The Gingrich Plan:  " ... seniors would be able to purchase private insurance with a voucher, a la Paul Ryan, or stick with Medicare.  Sounds like Romney, right?  Not quite.  As the Wall Street Journal notes in an editorial today, the difference is that under Gingrich’s proposal, Medicare won’t be just another plan competing with the premium support system that seniors can purchase with a voucher, but a whole separate system in and of itself [emphasis added]."

The Wall Street Journal Editorial:  The Newtitlement State -- On Medicare, Mitt Romney has the bolder, better reform.  Interesting reading.

GOP Fake Compromise

"House Republicans have narrowed their internal differences and plan to move ahead next week with legislation to renew the current payroll tax cut, extend unemployment benefits, and prevent Medicare physicians from experiencing an automatic pay cut."  "According to GOP sources and members, the GOP plans to offset the cost of the payroll tax cut and the so-called Medicare doc fix in several ways."

"The legislation will include partisan, or largely partisan measures to rescind federal benefits from wealthy Americans, require families receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit to prove their children’s citizenship, and cuts to President Obama’s health care law.  It will also seek to force the administration to allow construction of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, that would run from the Canadian border, through the plains states, to the Gulf of Mexico -- a provision that has drawn an explicit veto threat."

Yes.  That's the same pipeline that the ideologically Conservative 60 Plus Association has supported -- as if the pipeline was a policy related to older people or vital services for them.  We can't help but see the 60 Plus Association as a bogus enterprise, probably designed as a full employment program for its founder by tapping the "right" resources.

Parting Shot At Obstructionists

"Don Berwick, who left his job last week as head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs after sustained opposition from Senate Republicans who accused him of supporting rationing, struck back Thursday with a blistering attack on his critics.  'The true rationers are those who impede improvement, who stand in the way of change, and who thereby force choices that we can avoid through better care, Berwick said in a farewell speech in Orlando."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone