Another out of control government spending milestone tries to slip by quietly:
It’s another record-high for the U.S. National Debt which today topped the $12-trillion mark. Divided evenly among the U.S. population, it amounts to$38,974.34 for every man, woman and child.
Technically, the debt hit the new high yesterday, but it was posted on the Treasury Department website just after 3:00 p.m. ET today. The exact calculation of the debt is a 16-digit tongue-twister and red-ink tsunami: $12,031,299,186,290.07
And the 12 trillion mark was reached 8 months after reaching the 11 trillion mark – with oceans of red ink ahead as far as the eye can see according to the budgets the Obama administration has projected.
But don’t worry, Sec. of Treasury Timothy “Turbo Tax” Geithner, hero of the AIG bailout, had said they plan on getting serious about the debt. Are you feeling more assured now?
James Pethokoukas thinks he’s picked up on how they plan on doing that – or at least the trial balloon they’ve launched concerning their idea to see how well it flies. He saw this is the Wall Street Journal.
But the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers admitted that health reform and a growing economy isn’t enough to bring down the deficit. She did mention one other place that revenue could come from: letting the Bush tax cuts expire.
You say, “that’s not news, they’ve always talked about letting the Bush tax cuts expire”. No. That’s not what they’ve always talked about. They’ve talked about letting them expire on the richest of Americans. But “95% of you won’t see your taxes go up by a single dime” – remember? Pethokoukas thinks the statement by CoEA Christina Romer is talking about all of the Bush era tax cuts:
Since Obama already wants to get rid of the income and capital gains tax cuts for wealthier Americans that expire at the end of 2010, clearly what Romer is referring to is the rest of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Letting all the 2001 cuts — rate reductions, child tax credit marriage penalty relief — expire would raise tax revenues by $2.5 trillion through 2019. (These CBO numbers assume no negative economic feedback impact from higher taxes.) And letting the 2003 tax cuts on capital gains and dividends expire would be tantamount to a $350 billion tax increase through 2019. And none of this includes possible plans for a VAT that could raise $400 billion a year more to close the huge projected gap — maybe 7 percentage points — between spending as a percentage of GDP and revenues as a percentage of GDP.
3 trillion in raised taxes? If they can manage to get away with it – you bet. And the previous no new taxes pledge for the 95%? It will be explained away as having been overcome by events – the financial meltdown, bailout, stimulus, etc. And again, you will be reminded that government, not you, has first claim on your property as they again raid your paychecks to the tune of a cool 3 trillion over 10 years.
If the article in Der Spiegel is any indication, the answer is “yes”. Lead paragraph:
US President Barack Obama came to office promising hope and change. But on climate change, he has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor George W. Bush. Now, should the climate summit in Copenhagen fail, the blame will lie squarely with Obama.
What, he can’t blame Bush? Surely he can find a way. I guarantee one thing – he will blame it on Republicans and then the Senate.
But the disappointment in Obama is not only palpable, it is obvious:
Barack Obama cast himself as a “citizen of the world” when he delivered his well-received campaign speech in Berlin in the summer of 2008. But the US president has now betrayed this claim. In his Berlin speech, he was dishonest with Europe. Since then, Obama has neglected the single most important issue for an American president who likes to imagine himself as a world citizen, namely his country’s addiction to fossil fuels and the risks of unchecked climate change. Health care reform and other domestic issues were more important to him than global environmental threats. He was either unwilling or unable to convince skeptics in his own ranks and potential defectors from the ranks of the Republicans to support him, for example by promising alternative investments as a compensation for states with large coal reserves.
Obama’s announcement at the APEC summit that it was no longer possible to secure a binding treaty in Copenhagen, is the result of his own negligence. China, India and other emerging economies have always spoken openly about the fact that the US, as the world’s largest emitter of CO2, has to be proactive in commiting itself to targets agreed on by way of international negotiation. But that is not America’s style. The US is quite happy to see itself as the leader of the Western world. But when it comes to climate change, America has once again failed miserably — for the umpteenth time.
To that I say, “thank goodness” for the umpteenth time. This is all a load of blarney and those who’ve looked at the science and considered the findings of scientific skeptics know that not only is the science far from settled, there’s no “scientific consensus” in its validity.
That said, it’s interesting to see how quickly Mr. “Citizen of the World” Obama gets thrown under the bus by Europe. Anyone who has observed Europe over the years would have anticipated this – perhaps not this quickly. But there was no “reset” with the rampant anti-Americanism that lives there. There was only a pause – mostly because they disliked George W Bush so much. But this particular article – among more and more I’m seeing lately – signals a return of the Europe we’ve all known and loved for so long – anti-American, disdainful of all things American and proud of it. Climate change is simply their latest excuse to take shots at the US and its leadership.
It’ll be interesting to see how the administration reacts to this building criticism. My guess is, given how they’ve reacted here, it won’t be pretty.
To me the UK has become the example of what can happen when you allow the state to begin to usurp liberties in the name of “safety” or “security”. What may first be given over to the state usually becomes an ever expanding list of things the state then feels enabled to intrude upon. The old “camel’s nose under the tent”. The latest example from Britain:
Health and safety inspectors are to be given unprecedented access to family homes to ensure that parents are protecting their children from household accidents.
New guidance drawn up at the request of the Department of Health urges councils and other public sector bodies to “collect data” on properties where children are thought to be at “greatest risk of unintentional injury”.
Council staff will then be tasked with overseeing the installation of safety devices in homes, including smoke alarms, stair gates, hot water temperature restrictors, oven guards and window and door locks.
The draft guidance by a committee at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has been criticised as intrusive and further evidence of the “creeping nanny state”.
Ya think? Two things at work here – one of which we’re all familiar, even in the US. This is what? It is “for the children”. All manner of state intrusion is prefaced by claiming it is “for the children”. Which brings us to the second thing – the assumption by the state that parents are too dumb and inept to properly care for their children. While this is true of some, certainly, the standard is applied to all. And we’ve certainly seen evidence that the state is so much better, haven’t we?
So why does the state not only feel the necessity but right to intrude at such a level?
About 100,000 children are admitted to hospital each year for home injuries at a cost of £146m.
Oh, health care costs. And who controls the health care in the UK.
Why the state, of course. So of course it feels it has the right to intrude. When the state pays for health care, it assumes the “right” to tell you how to live your life and it also feels empowered to do what is necessary to make you do so in order to drive down costs, doesn’t it?
Well, it does in the UK. And we’re about to hand a similar power over to the state with this health care bill being considered. Our camel’s nose under the tent moment, if you will. In terms of intrusion, it may not be quite as bad as the UK’s – yet. But then they’ve had 60 years to get to this point.
ABC News leads the report with this:
Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s military superiors repeatedly ignored or rebuffed his efforts to open criminal prosecutions of soldiers he claimed had confessed to “war crimes” during psychiatric counseling, according to investigative reports circulated among federal law enforcement officials.
The report goes on to account for his last few hours and his activities, and the asserts:
Investigators believe Hasan’s frustration over the failure of the Army to pursue what he regarded as criminal acts by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan may have helped to trigger the shootings.
Really? So I wonder why he didn’t go after the soldiers who had allegedly committed the war crimes versus a random lot at a processing center?
The report continues with some pretty damning evidence that not only were there a lot of red flags with this guy, but they seem to have been pretty darn obvious. That doesn’t change the fact that other than some oblique references to his religion, ABC cannot seem to acknowledge that perhaps, at base, it was that which “may have helped trigger the shootings”.
Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club writes a very well done essay on the present Afghanistan decision making process. He compares Andrew Sullivan’s apologia with David Kilcullen’s concerns about the time involved in reaching a decision. You can disregard the Sullivan part except to understand that he thinks it is just marvelous that Obama is taking so much time considering all the options and doing his homework before making a decision to change the strategy there.
Fernandez reminds us of a very important point that seems to have escaped many as they await the decision. The strategy President Obama is planning on changing is his own. In March of this year he said:
Good morning. Today, I am announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This marks the conclusion of a careful policy review that I ordered as soon as I took office. My Administration has heard from our military commanders and diplomats. We have consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments; with our partners and NATO allies; and with other donors and international organizations. And we have also worked closely with members of Congress here at home. Now, I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people. … So let me be clear …
This is surely something the administration would like you to forget. And thus you hear all the nonsense that’s been coming out lately (and has gotten pushback from former VP Dick Cheney) that Afghanistan was just left adrift by the former administration. It is nonsense because the basis of the March “careful policy review” was that which the former Bush administration had done.
However that’s not really the point – the point is that a “comprehensive, new strategy” for both Afghanistan and Pakistan were announced by this administration. A new general, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was named to implement that strategy. Now, suddenly, they’re involved in reviewing that strategy.
What, if anything, has changed?
The event that has been blamed is the national election in Afghanistan. And, as mentioned, it has been coupled with the baseless claim that the Afghan war was left adrift by the Bush administration. The former problem, while serious, isn’t a show stopper (see Iraq). The latter problem is simply untrue. What has changed is the politics surrounding Afghanistan. The polls show a deeply divided United States with the majority not favoring an escalation and many favoring we leave altogether. Given his domestic political problems trying to ram an unpopular agenda through Congress – which has succeeded in splitting his base as well as firing up the political opposition – he needs something with which to bring his base back in line. Afghanistan may be that issue.
Consider too who he has involved in his review: VP Joe Biden who is pushing a minimalist “super ninja” strategy. He wants to use special operators and drones to kill al Qaeda. Let Pakistan and Afghanistan sort themselves out politically. Obviously if that means the Taliban takes over Afghanistan again, well, so be it. The fact that Biden was wrong about every aspect of Iraq as he suggested strategy then doesn’t seem to matter. Also included is Sen. John Kerry. He’s considered such a lightweight when it comes to military matters that he’s usually ignored outright when he pontificates on matters about which he obviously hasn’t a clue. He thinks Gen. McChrystal’s plan goes “too far, too fast”. The fact that Kerry has somehow managed to include himself and is apparently being taken seriously by Obama tells you how little Obama knows about any of this and how out of his depth he is on the issue.
Lastly, there’s David Axelrod, who claims he “doesn’t have a seat at the table” when these policy reviews take place, but attends every one of them anyway. While he may not have an official seat at the policy review table, he owns the table of chief political advisor and Obama sits at that table daily. Axelrod’s job is to divine the political winds and keep Obama sailing in the fair ones.
Thus the strategy review. When Gen. McChrystal accepted the job to implement the Obama administration’s new March ’09 comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, he began what all new commanders do – a commander’s review. In that review he takes the strategy and mission and he games them out. He attempts to ascertain, to the best of his ability, what it will take in terms of resources to accomplish the mission the strategy outlines. Once he has ascertained that, he submits his plan to his commander – in this case, directly to the President.
It isn’t a complicated process – the boss gives you a mission. You analyze the mission, determine what it takes to accomplish the mission and you go back to the boss with a plan and a request for resources. That’s precisely what happened.
However, in the interim, politics began to rear its head. In July, right in the middle of the assessment process, Obama’s National Security Advisor and former Marine General Jim Jones showed up in Afghanistan and made it very clear that requests for more troops would not be a welcome event. Speaking to Marine commanders there he was quite clear:
Now suppose you’re the president, Jones told them, and the requests come into the White House for yet more force. How do you think Obama might look at this? Jones asked, casting his eyes around the colonels. How do you think he might feel?
Jones let the question hang in the air-conditioned, fluorescent-lighted room. Nicholson and the colonels said nothing.
Well, Jones went on, after all those additional troops, 17,000 plus 4,000 more, if there were new requests for force now, the president would quite likely have “a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment.” Everyone in the room caught the phonetic reference to WTF — which in the military and elsewhere means “What the [expletive]?”
Nicholson and his colonels — all or nearly all veterans of Iraq — seemed to blanch at the unambiguous message that this might be all the troops they were going to get.
The “17,000 plus 4,000 more” troops were a part of that March ’09 “new” strategy based on the former administration’s plans. Jones made it very clear that regardless of what these commanders thought they needed to do the mission they’d been given, they’d better plan on doing it with what they had. And later, in another interview, Jones dismissed any additional troops requests or their need by claiming that all commanders in the field ask for more troops, whether they really need them or not.
Apparently, however, Gen. McChrystal decided, Jones admonishment notwithstanding, that he couldn’t with clear conscience, heed that advice and accomplish the mission given (although rumor has it he cut his initial estimate of troops needed from 60,000 to 40,000). He went ahead and submitted his plan at the end of August asking for more resources and troops.
Back to that fairly simple process I outlined above. Once you submit your plan to your boss with the request for resources necessary to accomplish that mission you normally then sit down with him and explain and defend your plan. That, of course, has never happened. And that 20 minutes on the tarmac in Airforce One while in Copenhagen did not give McChrystal the opportunity to do that. That meeting was driven by bad press and politics, not a desire to meet with and discuss the plan McChrystal had submitted. The required meeting, to date, still hasn’t happened. But numerous “war council” meetings continue to happen. And as word leaks out, it appears politics – not a mission to succeed in Afghanistan – is taking center stage.
On October 31st, in their Washington Post article, Anne Kornblut and Greg Jaffe made it clear that Obama was seeking a political decision vs. a military one:
The military chiefs have been largely supportive of a resource request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that would by one Pentagon estimate require the deployment of 44,000 additional troops. But opinion among members of Obama’s national security team is divided, and he now appears to be seeking a compromise solution that would satisfy both his military and civilian advisers.
A worse scenario cannot be imagined. But it is in perfect keeping with how a politician would work vs. a Commander in Chief. Compromise is the bread-and-butter of politics. It is about keeping constituencies satisfied, if not happy. Contentment means votes. But compromise in terms of military strategy usually means disaster. Attempting to satisfy “both his military and civilian advisers” means he’s looking for the best political solution, not the best military solution.
And since such a solution is hardly obvious, he dithers. Sullivan mistakes that for slow, considered and methodical decision making. But in reality, it is a method of stalling as old man himself. Ask for more information, reject the options presented, send your minions back to the drawing board – all the while making the argument or implication that it is the fault of those presenting the options for not getting it right, not the CiC. Of course, anyone with any military experience knows that’s nonsense since it is the “commander’s guidance” from which any options are derived.
That brings us back to David Kilcullen. If you’re not familiar with Kilcullen, he’s considered to be one of the gurus when it comes to counter-insurgency warfare. And Kilcullen gets to the very nut of the problem with this “process” that Sullivan mistakenly praises:
David Kilcullen, one of the world’s leading authorities on counter-insurgency and an adviser to the British government as well as the US state department, said Obama’s delay in reaching a decision over extra troops had been “messy”. He said it not only worried US allies but created uncertainty the Taliban could exploit.
Speaking in an interview with the Guardian, he compared the president to someone “pontificating” over whether to send enough firefighters into a burning building to put a fire out. …
Kilcullen expressed concern that Obama might deny McChrystal the 40,000 extra troops and split the difference between the four options, the kind of fudge common in domestic politics.
“Time is running out for us to make a decision. We can either put in enough troops to control the environment or we can credibly communicate our intention to leave. Either could work. Splitting the difference is not the way to go,” Kilcullen said.
“It feels to me that all these options are dangerously close to the middle ground and we have to consider whether the middle ground is a good place to be. The middle ground is a good place on domestic issues, but not on strategy. You either commit to D-Day and invade the continent or you get Suez. Half-measures end up with Suez. Do it or not do it.”
There is no “third way”. At least not a credible one. In this sort of warfare, to use a poker analogy, you either fold or you’re “all in”. Domestic political considerations should have absolutely no place in these sorts of deliberations and decisions. But it is clear they do.
That is also clearly a disservice (to put it mildly) to every man and woman in uniform serving our nation today. It is also something which may easily get many of them killed.
So let’s remember President Obama’s words at NAS Jacksonville when he told those gathered there:
And while I will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests, I also promise you this-and this is very important as we consider our next steps in Afghanistan:
I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way. I won’t risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, we will back you up. Because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, the defined goals and the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That’s the promise I make to you.
Gen. McChrystal, based on the commander’s guidance issued by the president in his March ’09 strategy for Afghanistan, has done his review and submitted his plan to accomplish the mission outlined in that strategy. Now the commander wants to change the strategy.
Is it any wonder that many doubt Obama’s commitment to success in Afghanistan, military or otherwise? Is it any wonder that many are concluding that he’s looking for “off ramps” well before talking about “on ramps”. And is it any wonder then, that those considering how this process is progressing have come to the conclusion that it’s not about the military or winning in Afghanistan – it’s about the politics of getting re-elected before pulling the plug.
If that’s the case, President Obama will be seen as spending the lives of American soldiers in an attempt to protect his political viability. There is nothing most could think of which would be more despicable than that.
Here’s an interesting exchange between Chris Wallace and Republican GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Fox News Sunday yesterday:
WALLACE: Let me turn, because I would — I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t ask you a few political questions, Senator.
Conservatives are now talking about launching primary challenges against candidates who are actually picked by the Senate Republican leadership in a number of states. We have them up on a map there — in Florida, in Connecticut, in Illinois, in California, and your home state of Kentucky.
In fact, it has gotten so serious that the National Republican Senate Committee has stopped endorsing candidates because it seems that it creates a grassroots backlash.
How concerned are you — how much of a threat is this split within the GOP to your chances in 2010, the way it kind of messed up things in that upstate congressional district in New York?
MCCONNELL: No threat at all. I mean, what you see here is enormous enthusiasm to run. People believe that getting the Republican nomination means you have a good chance of winning.
And so we’ve got, for example, a four-way primary in Connecticut for our nomination, a state we haven’t been competitive in in a very long time. So our view is this is an indication of the shifting political environment.
We all know the Gallup poll just last week, in response — asked the American people if the election were held today would you vote for the Republican candidate for Congress or the Democratic candidate for Congress. Our side had a four-point lead. Among independents it had a 22-point lead.
The political landscape, Chris, has shifted dramatically in the last year…
WALLACE: But — but let…
MCCONNELL: … since this administration, and that’s…
WALLACE: … but let me just…
MCCONNELL: … why all of these — that’s why all of these people want to run for office.
WALLACE: But let me just briefly ask you about the political landscape within the party, because it now seems that an endorsement by the National Republican Senatorial Committee is a bad thing, not a badge of honor.
MCCONNELL: Well, they generally don’t endorse anyway. So it doesn’t make any difference. I mean, we’re happy that there are a lot of people running, and the reason they’re running is because they think the nomination’s worth having because they think they can win in November.
Now I find all of that very interesting for a couple of reasons. One:
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina – driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.
Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent – including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap and Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) – has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.
I told you about that in a post entitled “Why The GOP Remains A Minority Party“. Graham is typical of the type of politician the conservative base is sick and tired of. While NY-23 was the harbinger, Graham’s defeat in a primary would be the definitive signal that the game has decidedly changed within the GOP. Mitch McConnell, putting the best face he can on it, has obviously sniffed out the trend and is “enthusiastically” supporting it.
That’s the second thing I find interesting – will the NRSC be throwing funds Graham’s way in his next re-election campaign (certainly doing so would be interpreted as a sign of endorsement) or not? Taking McConnell and the NRSC at their word (always an iffy bet) I’d have to say no.
The bottom line here is the politicians are paying attention. Given McConnell’s words they don’t see this building opposition to the more “moderate” Scozzafava-type Republicans as going away. In fact, when McConnell says they’re seeing a “shifting political environment”, he’s admitting they’ve finally figured out where that shift is headed, the fact that it is not a fad or a temporary phenomenon and that he and the rest of the GOP politicians had better get on board or find themselves facing a primary opponent.
I’m going to be very interested to see where that leaves mushy old Lindsey Graham in all of this when election time rolls around.
I‘ve got to tell you I’m a lot less excited about “the bow” Barack Obama gave the Emperor of Japan than many on the right. But it does, surprisingly, show an amazing lack of sophistication in our supposed cool and sophisticated President. Not about Japanese culture in particular – a bow is not necessarily a bad thing if it is a bow of equals. His was decidedly not a bow of equals. But instead it demonstrates his lack of knowledge concerning the job he holds. American presidents don’t bow (at least to that extent) to foreign kings or emperors. Just as we don’t dip our flag to any king or emperor, we don’t bow before them. In fact, we made sure that we’d never have ranks and/or titles of nobility in this country by essentially outlawing them. His bow is just another in a long line of indicators that he’s not well prepared for the job.
I think what offends Americans – at least some Americans – is the type of bow Mr. Obama used. Too deep, eyes to the ground, etc. etc. You can read all of the critiques elsewhere. Had he matched the Emperor’s bow (much like the bow he gave the Empress), no problem.
You have to wonder who his protocol people are and whether or not he listened to them or did this on his own. Regardless, he looked foolish and that’s not what we pay our Presidents to do. Of course, as some have pointed out, it’s probably, better than blowing your lunch in the Japanese PM’s lap George HW Bush did – but not much.
In diplomacy, symbolism is very, very important. So is tradition. Both were set on their ear with the bow. You have to wonder when Obama is going to realize that with the job comes the examination of every single thing he does or doesn’t do. But in the big scheme of things, I find his gaff below to be much worse than his bow to the Emperor of Japan.
Commander’s in Chief salute or put their hands over their hearts at appropriate times during ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Veteran’s day (like when everyone else is saluting or putting their hand over their heart). They don’t stand there giving a crotch salute. Typically self-absorbed, I’m sure he just completely forgot this particular ceremony wasn’t all about him.
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Subject(s): KSM to be tried in NY -what does that mean? Suddenly the administration is interested in jobs (not “saved” but real) – about time isn’t it? Is political correctness driving this denial of Ft. Hood shooter Hasan’s religion playing a role in the massacre? New unemployment numbers. Are we in for depression era unemployment? When does this “thorough process” examining Afghanistan and our role there become the dithering of an executive who can’t, or won’t, make a decision?
One of the most persistent myths pushed by the health care “reformers” is that if you like what you have, nothing will change. Yes, friends, according to them, you can have something for nothing.
And nothing exemplifies the silliness of the claim than that which says Medicare recipients will continue to receive the same level of treatment they do now, but government will cut $500 billion from Medicare to pay for it.
For those that need it, a new study now makes official the fact that such cuts will indeed change the levels of treatment and benefits Medicare patients will receive. My guess is, this isn’t the “change” senior citizens voted for.
A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.
The report, requested by House Republicans, found that Medicare cuts contained in the health package approved by the House on Nov. 7 are likely to prove so costly to hospitals and nursing homes that they could stop taking Medicare altogether.
Congress could intervene to avoid such an outcome, but “so doing would likely result in significantly smaller actual savings” than is currently projected, according to the analysis by the chief actuary for the agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid. That would wipe out a big chunk of the financing for the health-care reform package, which is projected to cost $1.05 trillion over the next decade.
First, what happened to the reported cost of 894 billion when the bill first came out? Now it is being “projected to cost” 1.05 trillion – over the threshold. And, as everyone has been paying attention has said, the supposed savings will come at the cost of Medicare benefits for seniors.
In fact, according to this report, the cuts “would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others”. Already low reimbursement rates cut even further would force hospitals and nursing home to reconsider taking Medicare patients at all.
No word if such cuts it will have any effect on this:
The government paid more than $47 billion in questionable Medicare claims including medical treatment showing little relation to a patient’s condition, wasting taxpayer dollars at a rate nearly three times the previous year.
Excerpts of a new federal report, obtained by The Associated Press, show a dramatic increase in improper payments in the $440 billion Medicare program that has been cited by government auditors as a high risk for fraud and waste for 20 years.
Look, there’s no question that Medicare, as structured, is going to break the bank. But then whose fault is that? It is and always has been a government run program, and it has about 50 trillion in unfunded liabilities in our future. So obviously that’s a program that badly needs reform.
But that wasn’t the point of the over all reform, was it? This was the “if you like what you have, you can keep it” reform. The point is that’s all a crock of rabbit pellets. This has nothing to do with leaving what exists alone – either on the government side (Medicare or Medicaid) or the private side (public option).
There’s more to the story though. The politics of this. What the Democrats in the House have presented is a bill which is so much smoke and mirrors it is embarrassing. Democrats know they have to get the number down in order to sell this travesty as not adding to the deficit. They also know how very important a demographic seniors are. So you have to look at this and ask, “are they really willing to risk their majority by making seniors mad? Are they willing to let themselves be defeated by making the hard decision to cut Medicare programs and effect senior’s Medicare benefits?
Of course not. It’s one thing to put it in a bill as a device to “balance” your spending. It’s another thing to do the actually cutting. And, if the “doc fix” bill is any indication, they have absolutely no intention of doing so:
So, to avoid its own prescribed draconian cuts in Medicare doctors’ payments, Congress goes through an annual Chinese fire drill to prevent its goofy formula from being implemented each year. As a budgetary matter, the accumulated cuts now amount to an automatic reduction in physician payment of 21 percent effective next year. That prospect has the professional medical organizations in a tizzy, and they are willing to do anything – anything, mind you- to avoid that fate worse than death, even to the point of formally embracing H.R. 3962, the gargantuan 2032 page House health care bill.
To lure the desperate doctors into bed with the liberals, their big ugly “public option” and all (analogously, a longer prison sentence, but better food and more yard time), the Congressional leadership included a “permanent fix” to Medicare physician payment in the original version of the 1018 page House bill, small increases, no cuts. But they carved it out because its cost made the House health care bill appear too expensive. So, to keep that version “looking cheaper”, they created another vehicle (H.R 3961), a companion bill, that would provide for a permanent Medicare “doc fix” at a ten year cost of $210 billion.
Or said succinctly – it’s all BS. Democrats not only intend to add to the deficit, they intend it in a big way, all the while telling us all lies about how it all stacks up as smoothly as the world’s most accomplished con artist. Is this the “change we asked for?”