Two Months Until The Presidential Election

Democracy is the worst system devised by the wit of man, except for all the others.

This is the famous quote by Winston Churchill and I print it here because the Presidential election is just two months away. Here is a great article by The Post on the current state of the back-and-forth jockeying by the two candidates and what is yet to be. It’s just too terrible that neither represent the real change in the system or in our policies that will not cure rampant injustice on the domestic front or internationally.

Read Here.



The Reality of Health Care Polls

As we close in on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act this week, more and more polls have appeared in the news getting the reaction to health care reform and the impending decision.  For instance, ABC News reported the country is both against the health care law and against the current health care system.  But they included some polling numbers that should be noted:

Positive ratings of current care, for their part, peak among senior citizens, at 86 percent – perhaps ironically, given their enrollment in the government-run Medicare program. Current care ratings also are higher, by 15 points, among people with $50,000-plus incomes, vs. their lower-income counterparts. And strongly favorable ratings of current care spike, in particular, among people in $100,000-plus households.

In other words, people who have easier access to health care compared to the people who don’t, even if that health care is government backed, like it.  This is related to an interesting point if you have been watching much of this polling data recently.  Something has been strangely left out of most of the polls.  Most of these polls seem to avoid asking or reporting how many people thought the ACA didn’t go far enough.  Slight majorities may be against the reform but this does not take into account the number of people against the reform because they wanted a more universal system, such as Canada or Germany.

The big problem with not acknowledging this reality is it seems people are just against the ACA and therein want the status quo, which is clearly not the case as the ABC News poll indicates.  We also know people like many of the provisions the ACA is enforcing (or on its way to enforcing barring a full overturn by the Supreme Court).  For example, from CBS News/NY Times data:

85 percent said insurance companies should cover people with pre-existing conditions and nearly seven in ten supported children under 26 staying on their parents’ health plan.

But we are mostly told we don’t like it without explaining why.  Take for instance an article from the Wall Street Journal.  The article has plenty of polling data but only says this regarding people saying it didn’t do enough:

The health-care law has stirred deep passions on both sides of the partisan divide, including among some liberals who think it didn’t go far enough.

No polling data included as to what percentage believe this.  Not exactly surprising the Murdoch-owned WSJ might gloss over this part of the debate.

One poll that did include this data states, “27 percent said it didn’t go far enough.”  What people want to assume about what we should do on health care based on this information is up to them.  But one thing seems to be clear and that is the media doesn’t do enough to point this fact out in the debate and it is certainly possible what the majority wants is being drowned out of the conversation.  And if the majority wanted something, we would of course get it, right?…Right?

Probably not.  Take the Buffet Rule for instance.  Gallup reported a 60% majority favored it while CNN reported 72% in favor.  Despite these large majorities, the rule died because we live in a democra$y and that’s how democra$y work$.  Rule of the money…excuse me, many.  Maybe it’s many with money.  I’m confused.

The point is we’ve seen a lot of polling data on health care but the media has not been completely honest with us.  If they were, we might figure out the majority wants something the powerful interests at the top don’t and that is simply the same access to the same health care they have and enjoy (and approve of as noted above).  Even if it’s government backed like Medicare.

Supreme Irony: Would a ‘single payer’ health care plan be less vulnerable to the court than the Affordable Health Care Act? – Yahoo! News

Supreme Irony: Would a ‘single payer’ health care plan be less vulnerable to the court than the Affordable Health Care Act? – Yahoo! News.

Very interesting read from Jeff Greenfield on the potential judicial ruling concerning the health care mandate as well as the constitutionality of a single payer system.  His article is not about right and wrong in the health care system and it just looks purely at the idea of whether certain factors would survive judicial review or not.  He states the mandate is almost certainly unconstitutional but a single payer system would survive review, for example expanding Medicare to everyone.

I previously argued the upcoming decision by the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act could potentially speed us to a universal type system and Greenfield’s points might add a new wrinkle to that argument.  If a ‘Medicare-for-all’ system is the only one that would be deemed constitutional by the courts, it may ramp up the fervor for its passing.  The likely overturning of the mandate this month by the Supreme Court might fuel the conversation for a universal system faster than expected since it potentially could be viewed as the only way to fight rising costs.  Only time will tell.

Romney’s Startling Proposed Spending Cuts

After getting a look at the proposed spending cuts by a potential Romney administration, I asked myself the following: why would any rational person vote for this?  No doubt some of this is simply rhetoric to win over some voters in the hard-right base but how is this appealing to the alleged swing or independent vote?  I don’t understand it and the details are rather shocking.

The first two sentences of the article say a lot:

Reducing government deficits Mitt Romney’s way would mean less money for health care for the poor and disabled and big cuts to nuts-and-bolts functions such as food inspection, border security and education.  Romney also promises budget increases for the Pentagon, above those sought by some GOP defense hawks, meaning that the rest of the government would have to shrink even more.

Romney is obviously wanting to look tough on defense but the important element to note here is that will always come at the cost of other programs.  But this increase in defense spending begs a question regarding recent reality.  Didn’t we just finish one war in Iraq and aren’t we winding down another in Afghanistan?  How and why are we needing to increase defense spending as we finish two wars?  Shouldn’t the only conversations about defense spending at the moment be regarding what cuts will be made now that the wars are over or coming to an end?  Shouldn’t we be discussing how to divert some of that defense spending to shore up some of the domestic programs that need it for the long term like Medicare?

My fault.  I forgot Romney wants to end Medicare.  As stated in the article he supports the Ryan plan “to gradually transform Medicare from a program that directly pays hospital and doctor bills into vouchers for subsidizing future beneficiaries in buying health insurance.”  Make no mistake about this being a plan to end Medicare and actually make things worse for everyone in the long run.  One of the reasons Medicare is expensive is because the elderly are typically needing to use medical care more than the young for obvious reasons.  If Medicare is ended and those folks are put into the private insurance pool through vouchers, premiums will go up for everyone as insurance companies will have to cover the higher expenses of the elderly.  Not to mention, if the Supreme Court throws out all of the Affordable Care Act in June, insurance companies will have no obligation to carry the elderly with preexisting conditions and will be able to drop them when they get sick.  The potential disaster should be clear.

Then there is Medicaid.  Romney wants to turn it over to the states in the same way welfare was turned over in the mid-’90s and became a disaster once the economy hit a downturn.  (I’ve addressed this failure here so I won’t be redundant.)  The ability to divert that money into other programs by the states in the same way welfare money is diverted will just lead to more poor people not getting health care.  “An Urban Institute study last year estimated that Ryan’s cuts would force between 14 million and 27 million people off of Medicaid by 2021. Romney’s budget would make deeper cuts.”  Note the word “force” in that quote.  Not help people find a way off.  Force.  Just as Jesus taught us, right conservatives?

One last piece of the article to address:

At issue are these programs, just to name a few: health research; NASA; transportation; homeland security; education; food inspection; housing and heating subsidies for the poor; food aid for pregnant women; the FBI; grants to local governments; national parks; and veterans’ health care.  Romney promises to immediately cut them by 5 percent. But they would have to be cut more than 20 percent to meet his overall budget goals, assuming veterans’ health care is exempted.

Some of these speak for themselves and speak volumes about conservative priorities.  A lot of attacks on the poor since they don’t contribute their $peech to campaign coffers and do not vote in high numbers so these attacks always go on without much of a fight from the people they affect.  And just to drive that point home, Romney (and Ryan) would also cut “food stamps, school lunches, crop subsidies, Supplemental Security Income for very poor seniors and disabled people, unemployment insurance, veterans’ pensions and refundable tax credits to the working poor.”  Who says Romney is out of touch with the working class and the poor?  Clearly he notices them when it comes to his budget proposals.  And remember, this isn’t cutting spending alongside defense cuts.  It’s cutting this spending because of defense increases.

But hey, let’s look at the bright side of all these cuts.  We will have plenty more bombs to blow stuff up with if Romney gets his way.  And those will help tremendously in improving our schools, health care, and economy for the future by comparison to the rest of the world.  Think about it.  Any country that hasn’t already passed us in health care and education and that starts to come close to us and make us look bad, we can blow up their hospitals and schools and maintain our mediocrity in comparison to the rest of the industrialized world.  Yay, bombs!

Scathing Dowd Column on S. Court’s Political Bias

A scathing column by Maureen Dowd on the Supreme Court’s conservative majority’s ideological bias.

Read Here.

We Deserve This

Watching the debate unfold surrounding the Supreme Court’s hearing on the Affordable Care Act has been both disappointing and laughable.  Pundits from both sides have cried foul as it is clear (Surprise! Surprise!) that essentially eight of the nine justices had already made up their minds on the issue before it had been brought to their courtroom.  It’s laughable to hear these arguments, particularly since we brought this on ourselves.

Whenever it is time to appoint a new justice to the highest bench in the land everyone knows what they want.  We want our guy/gal.  We want the person that will make decisions in the interest of our party’s values and nothing else.  We don’t want someone who might just be seen as a moderate and who’s judgement might swing either way (presumably in the way of an objective, Constitutionally-sound decision) on critical cases.  And when we get what we want, we get the horrible arrangement we have now.  One party appoints a clearly partisan judge to replace a less partisan one.  The other party reacts by appointing someone even more partisan on their side.  And so on and so on until we don’t even need to hear the decisions of eight of the justices.  We only pay attention to one.  At the moment, that judge is Justice Kennedy.

It now rests on one man’s shoulders to decide the fate of the health care reform.  One man voting for 300 million.  A tough job no doubt but we know that is what the Supreme Court is for whether their decisions are good or bad.  Not that nine justices voting for that many people sounds much better but we got what we wanted in our partisan judges and now pundits have been taking turns firing shots at the opposing justices as if the ones they support aren’t equally guilty of seemingly biased decision-making.  If a president were to take the high road and actually appoint an apparently unbiased justice, these pundits would scold their own guy sitting in the Oval Office.  Therefore, the anger being shown now is just humorous and I actually question how genuine it is.  They are aware of how this came about and I can only assume most of these partisans just say the provocative thing because it’s expected.

This case has also been disappointing to watch by throwing the reality in our faces that we only have one swing vote on the court any time a controversial issue with partisan undertones comes before them.  One swing vote.  Just in case you aren’t counting, we should have nine of those on the Supreme Court.  People have argued Elena Kagan should recuse herself from this case because a previous meeting might have influenced her and helped make her decision before the case was brought to the court.  I have an idea.  Maybe we should have every justice not named Kennedy recuse themselves so this gets done quicker.  Think of how much time could be saved by just having him ask the questions he wants answers to on cases like this and only hearing his decision.  Three days of questions could have been dwindled down to a half day with the rest of the time devoted to dragging out other issues for no reason.  We could speed up democracy!  I’m kidding, of course, but you get the point.

All that said, is it even fair for pundits to criticize the judges they don’t agree with at this point when they were a big part of creating this situation?  Judge for yourself.  But another question looms stemming from all this that might be more important than the eventual decision handed down by this court on the individual mandate.  And that question is this: What happens when Kennedy retires?  Will we even get one “swing vote” anymore?  Will we forever be doomed to 5-4 decisions in favor of only one party?  Will each party takes turns ramming cases through the Supreme Court to switch decisions on controversial issues every time the majority on the court changes?  To avoid this awful scenario, we can only hope for something we were promised by the last candidate voted into the Oval Office: change.

Will the Supreme Court Decision Speed the U.S. to a Universal System?

As the Supreme Court decides which parts of the Affordable Care Act will be upheld or struck down this week, I wonder how this will effect the inevitable path the Unites States is taking toward a universal health care system.  The fact remains skyrocketing cost is the biggest problem for our system and the only proven way in human history to bring those costs down and cover everyone is through a system with heavy government intervention.  Everyone paying attention to this issue has seen the charts comparing the U.S. to other industrialized nations and has seen the inflated amount of money spent in America on health care with lesser results.  We are going to get a universal system at some point regardless of the opposition to it.  But how will this Supreme Court decision effect the timing of the change?

The biggest issue in the case will be the, at first conservative-championed and now conservative-loathed, individual mandate that states everyone must posses health insurance when the law goes into full effect two years from now.  The reason for the individual mandate is to bring down premiums for everyone by getting healthy citizens who think they do not need insurance to buy into a health insurance plan.  This premium money is then used to pay for the higher cost folks whose health is low or deteriorating.  Without the mandate, premiums for people wanting health insurance will be even higher and our problem gets worse.

If the Supreme Court upholds the mandate, it will likely prolong the march to the changes we really need.  Once the law goes into effect the infusion of money into the coffers of the insurance companies will slow the continuing rise in premium costs and keep the system from reaching catastrophic debt levels for a period of time.  Guessing when this happens is impossible since we have no idea where the economy and factors such as the unemployment rate will be in the years to come but we know it’s coming.

If the mandate is struck down, disaster hits much sooner.  Insurance companies will be mandated to carry the sick (the ones that can actually afford the care that is) and not benefit from carrying the healthy.  Typical premiums for everyone will increase to levels only the highest of incomes will be able to pay and eventually the system collapses.  Either way, major changes will come.

What will the health care system look like at that point?  Germany?  Japan?  The United Kingdom?  Who really knows?  There are lots of choices in how the government can help control the costs of the system contrary to most believing it’s either the U.S. way or the Canadian way.  The most likely path is a “Medicare for all”-type system since that is partially in place as we speak and would be the easiest transition.  Whatever happens then, one thing is clear now.  The system we are currently under is unsustainable in the long term and ACA doesn’t do enough to address costs, regardless of what the Supreme Court decides.  Change is inevitable.