Archive for July 14th, 2009
Looks pretty good on first glance. Steve Benen in Political Animal:
House Democrats were poised to unveil their health care reform package last week, but ran into a little trouble. Leaders said it would be a brief delay, but there was talk of an "indefinite" postponement.
To their credit, the committee chairs and the leadership pulled everything together quickly, and this afternoon presented what appears to be a great piece of legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday the bill is both a starting point and a path to success. She was joined by committee chairmen and other House leaders. They stood before a banner reading "Quality affordable health care for the middle class."
Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the House would pass the bill before the August recess.
There’s a lot to go through, but for industrious readers, the bill is online, as are a lot of related materials from the House Committees on Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce.
The bill has already drawn enthusiastic praise from the White House. In a statement, President Obama lauded the legislation: "This proposal controls the skyrocketing cost of health care by rooting out waste and fraud and promoting quality and accountability. Its savings of more than $500 billion over 10 years will strengthen Medicare and contribute to our goal of reforming health care in a fiscally responsible way. It will change the incentives in our health care system so that Americans can receive the best care, not the most expensive care. And it will offer families and businesses more choices and more affordable health care."
As for what’s next, my sources indicate that House leaders are moving as quickly as possible on this, and the House Committee on Education and Labor will begin the mark-up of the bill tomorrow afternoon around 3 (eastern).
Update: CBO scores the bill: $1 trillion, just where House Dems were aiming.
Second Update: Jonathan Cohn seems encouraged by the bill, and though it wuoldn’t be fully implemented for a few years, he found that it "will accomplish most of the goals on my mental checklist":
* Generous subisides, available to people making up to 400 percent of the poverty line
* Expansion of Medicaid to cover people making less than 133 percent of the poverty line
* Guarantees of solid benefits for everybody, with limits on out-of-pocket spending
* Strong regulation of insurers, including requirements that insurers provide insurance to people with pre-existing conditions without higher rates
* An individual mandate, so that everybody (or what passes for everybody in these discussions) gets into the system and assumes some financial responsibility
* A public plan, one that appears to be strong, although I’ll reserve judgment on that until I hear from the experts
* Choice of public and private plan, at first just for individuals and small businesses, but later for larger businesses and–possibly–eventually for everybody
* Efforts at payment reform, if not necessarily as strong as they could be
* Investment in primary care and prevention, which is not sexy but potentially important for general health.
Philosophy doesn’t have to be daunting. Thanks to the Continuing Education program at Oxford University, you can ease into philosophical thinking by listening to five lectures collectively called Philosophy for Beginners. (Find them on iTunesU in audio and video). Taught by Marianne Talbot, Lecture 1 starts with a “Romp Through the History of Philosophy” and moves in a brief hour from Ancient Greece to the present. Subsequent lectures (usually running about 90 minutes) cover the following topics: logic, ethics, politics, metaphysics, epistemology, and language. For those hankering for more philosophy, I’ve listed below a series of more advanced philosophy courses and also some philosophy podcasts. (You can get more free university courses here and intelligent podcasts here).
- Consciousness – MP3s here – Susan Stuart, University of Glasgow
- Death – Download Course – Shelly Kagan, Yale
- Existentialism in Literature & Film – iTunes – Feed – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
- Heidegger – iTunes – Feed – MP3s – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
- Heidegger’s Being & Time – Feed – MP3s – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
- Introduction to Practical Reasoning and Critical Analysis of Argument, iTunes – Daniel Coffeen, UC Berkeley
- Kant’s Epistemology – iTunes – Dr Susan Stuarts, University of Glasgow.
- Man, God and Society in Western Literature – iTunes – Feed – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
- The Examined Life – iTunes – Greg Reihman, Lehigh University
- Philosophy Bites iTunes Feed Web Site
- A British podcast featuring interviews of top philosophers that delves into some essential philosophical questions — what is the meaning of life? what is the nature of reality? what is evil?, etc.
- Philosophers’ Cafe Feed Web Site
- Comfortable surroundings for vibrant street level discussions on burning issues of the day. No formal philosophy training required; real life experience desired. Come early, stay late. Presented by Simon Fraser University.
When her husband was in the oval office, Laura Bush launched an initiative to promote literacy across the United States. Unfortunately, there was no comparable effort to promote numeracy in our nation’s capital. This has been evident in the discussion of the stimulus among politicians and commentators in the week since the June job numbers were released.
Republicans have been anxious to pronounce the stimulus a failure, while Democrats have insisted that the package just needs more time, pointing out that most of the money has not yet been spent. Neither assertion can withstand the test of simple arithmetic.
The basic story is that the stimulus was too small, pure and simple. It would have been too small even if the Obama’s administration’s projections for the severity of the recession had proven accurate. However, since the downturn is considerably steeper than they had projected, the inadequacy of the stimulus is even greater.
Here are the numbers. The unemployment rate is currently 9.5% and virtually certain to cross 10% by the end of the summer. It is likely to hit 11% early next year, but we’ll just work off the 10% figure.
The target for unemployment should be no higher than 5%. (The year-round average for unemployment in 2000 was 4%.) This leaves a gap between actual unemployment and our employment target of five percentage points. As a rule of thumb, it takes a two-percentage point increase in GDP to reduce the unemployment rate by one percentage point. This means that in order to reach our target of 5% unemployment, we would have to increase GDP by 10%, or $1.5tn.
Different types of stimulus have different multiplier effects…
When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) secretly left the country last month, there was quite a bit of email and phone call traffic going in and out of the governor’s office. South Carolina’s The State newspaper obtained records through open record laws, and received nearly 600 pages documenting communications between the governor’s aides.
There are plenty of interesting exchanges — it seems there was genuine, widespread confusion about Sanford’s whereabouts when he went to visit his Argentine mistress — but of particular interest were the emails from conservative media outlets. (via Zachary Roth)
Some outlets, hoping to outdo their competition, were volunteering to coordinate with the governor’s office to spin the story to Sanford’s advantage.
A staffer with The Washington Times wrote in an e-mail that "if you all want to speak on this publicly, you’re welcome to Washington Times Radio. You know that you will be on friendly ground here!"
On June 23, a Fox News Channel correspondent wrote to [Sanford’s communications director, Joel Sawyer], "Having known the Governor for years and even worked with him when he would host radio shows for me — I find this story and the media frenzy surrounding it to be absolutely ridiculous! Please give him my best."
The Wall Street Journal‘s Brendan Miniter emailed Sawyer to complain about his own newspaper’s coverage of Sanford’s disappearance. "Someone at WSJ should be fired for today’s story. Ridiculous," Miniter wrote.
Now, I realize that in the media industry, media professionals may try to curry favor with a source (or potential source) in the hopes of landing a bigger story or interview. When a high-profile criminal, for example, is convicted, he or she will likely receive plenty of sympathetic-sounding letters from major news outlets, each trying to land the first post-trial interview.
But this Sanford story seems different, to the extent that conservative news outlets communicated to aides for a conservative governor that they’re on his side. In the case of the Washington Times, there isn’t even a pretense — the staffer wrote that Sanford’s communications director would "on friendly ground." Media professionals are not supposed to coordinate with a controversial figure to make sure his/her story is told the way he/she likes it.
Given these details, Josh Marshall calls the emails, "Hacks on Parade."
There are reportedly other emails that have not yet been published. Maybe they’ll be exculpatory for the conservative media figures, but I kind of doubt it.
The insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the A.M.A., and the rest of the axis of evil opposed to meaningful health care reform have been working overtime. They are desperately trying to come up with reasons why people in the United States can’t enjoy the same quality of health care as people in other wealthy countries at a comparable price. They want us all to believe that we will always have to pay two or even three times as much for care that produces no better outcomes.
That’s a hard sell, but fortunately the industry groups have lots of money to make their case. They think that they have produced a winning formula. It’s called “rationing.”
Their focus groups showed that people dislike the idea of rationing health care. So, the industry boys have been running around warning that President Obama’s health care plan could lead to rationing. They want everyone to believe that the government is not going to let you or your loved ones get that medical procedure that is necessary to stay alive.
It’s a great story of the industry boys, but it has nothing to do with the world, which is apparent on a moment’s reflection. The most radical proposal on the table at the moment is a public health care insurance option. That means people would have the option to buy into a plan run by the federal government.
Like other plans, a government-run plan would pay for some procedures, but presumably not pay for others. Is this rationing? If you don’t like the government plan, don’t buy into it. Where’s the rationing?
Suppose employers can buy into the government plan for their workers, so you get stuck with the government plan because your boss liked it. Well, tens of millions of workers have bad health care plans because that is what their boss selected. What will have changed because we have a public plan?
Furthermore, even if we only had a public plan that everyone had to buy into (something which is clearly not on the table), it still would not amount to rationing. If there were a medical procedure that the plan would not cover, then anyone would still be entirely free to pay for the procedure out of their own pocket. Where is the rationing?
Rationing is when …
Obama really hit the nail on the head. Read what he had to say about Sam Roberts. And Obama was right.