Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Archive for January, 2010

Obama’s First Year

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 30, 2010

Thanks to Bob K. for passing on an e-mail he received which contained a link to an article that pretty much sums up President Obama’s first year and is especially noteworthy since it comes from a liberial. Below are quotes from the e-mail and a link to the article.

Mort Zuckerman is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of ‘US News and World Report’ and was for years the owner/publisher of ‘The Atlantic Monthly’ magazine. In 2008 Mort was the 147th richest man in the United States. He WAS also a VERY strong Obama supporter. He is a strong supporter of Jewish causes and was one of those ‘caught’ in the Bernie Madoff ponzie scheme.

Here is what Mr. Zuckerman has to say about President Obama, today: (article from US News and World Report on January 21, 2010).

The Incredible Deflation of Barack Obama

Posted in Presidential Politics | Leave a Comment »

Oregon Voters Raise Taxes

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 30, 2010

By a 54% “yes” vote, Oregon voters approved one measure to raise taxes on the wealthy (defined as income of $125,000 for singles, $250,000 for couples) and another to increase business taxes.

Predictions:

1. Oregon’s unemployment rate will increase
2. Oregon will have a net outflow of businesses
3. Oregon will have a net outflow of “wealthy” people
4. The income from the tax increases will fall short of projections
5. The tax cancer will spread to other Democrat led states

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

Born Again in America

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 29, 2010

Here’s a catchy tune sung by various artists across the country.

Enjoy!

http://www.bornagainamerican.org/index.html

Posted in Other | Leave a Comment »

Obama vs the Banks

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 27, 2010

Maybe I’m becoming paranoid or turning into a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder if any of Obama’s friends shorted bank stocks just before he announced his plan to increase regulation and taxes on banks? The market, bank stocks in particular, may have been poised on a correction cliff but the President’s rhetoric – populist, self righteous anger – certainly pushed it over the edge.

Didn’t one of Obama’s Chicago advisors once say, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”?

Let me take off my tinfoil hat and say there are probably two more likely reasons for his public bank bashing. He may believe attacking the banks, who everyone loves to hate, will take the heat off the Massachusetts Revolution and/or his far left ideology blinds him to the consequences of his policies.

This is not to say that banks don’t deserve condemnation but once again politics and spin trump rational discussion and transparency. For another view on the subject, read the commentary by LA Times writer Michael Hiltzik.

Posted in National Politics | 1 Comment »

Bush & Obama, Who’s the Red Ink Champ?

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 27, 2010

Thanks to Jay A. for alerting me to the below site. It requires no further comment from me but feel free to add yours.

http://blog.heritage.org/2009/03/24/bush-deficit-vs-obama-deficit-in-pictures/print/

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Rethinking Senator Murray’s Shoe-in Status

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 24, 2010

I wrote a post recently essentially agreeing with the conventional wisdom that Senator Patty Murray is unbeatable given the Republicans who have announced or are considering running for her Senate seat. While I thought with a well known, well funded, experienced candidate there was a possible path to defeating her next November, it still would be an uphill battle. Then came a new cry from the cradle of the American Revolution, little known Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown crashed his pickup through the gates of the Kennedy compound, ran over the shoe-in Democrat candidate and set in motion what may well be the greatest political reversal in American history.

Senate seats across country, once considered safe, became the “people’s seats” and vulnerable. New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, North Dakota, Nevada, California and now Washington are in play, perhaps others too. The unimaginable just a few days ago, Republican takeover of the Senate, has moved into the realm of possibility. Of course, Republicans would have to hold all their seats and run the table to add ten more for the magic 51 total. Karl Rove thinks Republicans have a shot at a five to eight seat gain. To reach ten, Washington would have to turn Red.

A well known talk show host speculated that if Susan Hutchison ran and was able to hold the same King County vote she got in her losing race for King County Executive, her support in the rest of the state would carry her to victory over Murray. I’m not sure she’d be interested in another down and dirty campaign so soon after the Executive race.

Among the six or so lesser known to unknown candidates, Chris Widener, has professional speaking ability and a very large potential contributor list from which he hopes to raise a significant war chest. If he catches a new wave of change rolling across the nation, he may be the Scott Brown of the West come November 2, 2010.

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

New Rumor on Paul Allen & Pete Carroll

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 12, 2010

New rumor: Seahawks owner Paul Allen really wanted to buy the USC football team but there was some problem with NCAA/PAC 10 rules so he took their coach instead.

Posted in Humor | Leave a Comment »

Senator Murray Packs Her Bags

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 10, 2010

The Seattle Times published an article Saturday that reads like it was written by Senator Murray’s campaign staff, a fluff piece if there ever was one. It extolled the virtues of another taxpayer-funded trip to China for Murray. Two other Senators, Kit Bond (R) Missouri and Roland Burris (D) Illinois, whose terms are up this year, as is Murray’s, are joining her on the junket.

Excuse me but Senator Bond is not running for re-election and Senator Burris, appointed to the Senate by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich during the “Obama Senate seat for sale” scandal, has opted out also. Are these trips like a gold watch for retirees, one more spin around the globe on Uncle Sam.

Of course if the trip means the “Mom in tennis shoes” is about to announce her retirement from political office, well I could be a little more charitable.

Posted in National Politics | Leave a Comment »

Obamacare – Will It Fail to Pass?

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 9, 2010

President Obama on the campaign trail promised an open, bi-partisan reform of the health care system. Perhaps the “bi” referred to the internal debates, bribes and threats within the Democratic Party. And the “open”? The two health care reform bills, House and Senate, are being integrated into one by the Democratic leadership – behind closed doors. Expect white smoke above the Capitol Building signaling the crafting of a final bill. Next, the Dems will try to use their super majorities in Congress to ram through another unread multi thousand page bill sometime before the January 19 special election in Massachusetts to fill the late Teddy Kennedy’s seat. Should the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, win, out goes the 60 vote Democrat strangle hold on the Senate and Obamacare just might be shelved until the 2010 congressional election campaign where the Democrats will blame Republicans and George W. Bush for their failure to pass reform.

Democratic control of Congress does not assure passage of any “consensus” legislation. The House Republican Conference has produced a paper, “Issues to Be Resolved Between Pelosi and Reid Health Care Bills”, delineating the thorny issues that would need to be resolved between the House and Senate bills if the Democrats have any hope of seeing a Rose Garden Presidential signing ceremony. Don’t be surprised, however, if chameleons Obama, Pelosi and Reid with a strong dose of Chicago Style politics pull it off.

Posted in National Politics | 1 Comment »

GOP Policy Brief on Reid/Pelosi Health Care

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 9, 2010

The House Republican Conference produced the below piece listing the major road blocks to passage of health care reform even with overwhelming Democratic control of Congress. Any one of the issues could derail the train on this Democratic railroad.

Issues to Be Resolved Between Pelosi and Reid Health Care Bills

January 8, 2010

The New Year has seen Democrats once again retreat behind closed doors to finalize a single version of their government takeover of health care (H.R. 3962; H.R. 3590). The Republican Conference has compiled background on several of the major issues that must be reconciled between the two versions.

Taxes: The Pelosi bill includes over $700 billion in job-killing tax increases, including nearly half a trillion dollars from a surtax on high-income filers—many of whom are small businesses—that would, according to a model developed by Christina Romer, the Chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, demolish or destroy up to 5 million jobs. Conversely, the Reid bill is funded largely through an increase in the Medicare payroll tax on individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples with incomes over $250,000—a “marriage penalty” that could prove cumbersome to administer—and taxes imposed on the health sector, most notably a 40 percent tax on “high-cost” health plans (those above $8,500 for an individual and $23,000 for a family). The Administration has expressed support for the Senate approach, even though the excise tax would break two central Obama campaign promises—not to raise taxes on those with incomes under $250,000, and not to tax employer-provided health insurance policies.

Government-Run Health Plan: The Pelosi bill includes a government-run health plan that independent actuaries at the Lewin Group found could cause as many as 114 million individuals to lose their current coverage, as many employers would drop their current plan offerings. On the other hand, the Reid bill contains $6 billion in federal funding for new co-op insurance plans, and requires the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to “offer at least two multi-State qualified plans” in each State. Despite press reports implying that “moderate” Democrats managed to eliminate a government-run health plan from the Senate bill, many may be concerned that both the OPM federally sanctioned plans and cooperatives funded through federal start-up grants would in time require ongoing federal subsidies, and that a “Fannie Med” co-op would do for health care what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have done for the housing sector.

Abortion Coverage: Thanks to an amendment adopted on the House floor by the strong bipartisan vote of 240-194, the Pelosi bill would not allow federal funds to flow to private insurance plans that cover elective abortion, nor fund elective abortion in the proposed new government-run health plan. However, provisions in the Reid bill would undermine both protections inserted into the House bill—the Senate measure would permit funds to flow to private plans that cover elective abortion, and create new national health plans administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that would cover elective abortions. Such provisions violate the long-standing policy of the insurance coverage offered to Members of Congress—which provides a choice of private plans, none of which may cover elective abortions.

Undocumented Immigrants: The Pelosi bill would permit undocumented immigrants to buy health coverage through the insurance Exchange; such individuals may not receive federal insurance subsidies, but would purchase their policies through a federally-funded Exchange mechanism. The Reid bill includes a nominal prohibition on the undocumented accessing the Exchanges. However, as both the Pelosi and Reid bills do not require applicants to verify their identity when confirming eligibility for subsidies, some may be concerned that both bill’s inadequate verification provisions could result in the undocumented accessing taxpayer-subsidized benefits, regardless of the specific provisions.

Affordability: In exchange for removing the government-run health plan, House Democrats have discussed further increasing subsidies above the levels in the Senate bill, particularly for those just above the threshold for Medicaid eligibility. These rises would come after changes made during Senate consideration that increased the level of subsidies provided from $93 billion in 2019 under the original Finance Committee mark to $109 billion under the Reid bill—an increase of more than 17 percent.

Exchanges/Insurance Regulations: The Reid bill would force States to establish insurance Exchanges, and includes a variety of new mandates on health plans—that will according to CBO raise the cost of individual health insurance by up to $2,100 per year. The Pelosi bill would go even further, creating a single, national, government-run Exchange that eliminates State flexibility—and abolishing the private market for individual health insurance entirely. Regardless of the specific details adopted, many may view these provisions—along with myriad other federal regulations, bureaucracies, and price controls included in both bills—as indicative of the true nature of the government takeover of health care proposed in the legislation.

Medicare Advantage Cuts: Both bills would cut well over $100 billion from Medicare Advantage (MA) plans; however, the two bills would impose those cuts in significantly different ways. The Pelosi bill would reduce MA benchmarks to traditional Medicare fee-for-service levels over a three year period; MA plans in rural areas with low Medicare costs would be most affected by this change, whereas plans in urban areas like New York and Miami would be somewhat less impacted. Conversely, the Reid bill would phase in over three years a new system whereby MA plans would bid against each other—but not against government-run Medicare—to offer services to seniors; this change would have less of an impact on rural areas than it would in urban centers with many MA plans and higher costs. (Florida seniors would be exempt from many of the changes under an agreement Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) negotiated with Reid.)

Federal Health Board: The Reid bill, unlike the Pelosi bill, contains provisions to create a new board of unelected bureaucrats required to submit recommendations to Congress to keep Medicare spending below targeted levels—and such recommendations would be legally binding absent legislative action by Congress. The White House has expressed support for this concept. However, several senior House Democrats have expressed concerns about unelected bureaucrats deciding Medicare policy; Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark called the concept “stupid at best, childish, unworkable, idiotic.” Moreover, many may be concerned the commission could lead to government-imposed rationing of life-saving treatments solely on cost grounds.

Medicaid and Related Earmarks: Democrats will work to determine whether to shackle States with more than $20 billion in unfunded mandates associated with the Medicaid expansion—or to preserve or expand the special earmark provided to Nebraska under the Senate bill, which exempts that State alone from any increased Medicaid costs in perpetuity.

Medicare Prescription Drugs: Despite protestations by industry leaders to the contrary, multiple press reports indicate that the “rock-solid deal” negotiated by the pharmaceutical industry this summer will be changed, so that the industry can “voluntarily” contribute more towards the cost of lowering the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole—a change which the Congressional Budget Office previously estimated could raise seniors’ Part D premiums by 50 percent.

Effective Date: While the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the coverage provisions of the Reid bill spent “only” $871 billion within the 10-year budget window, this score was only achieved by delaying the implementation date to January 2014. By contrast, the Pelosi bill—which according to CBO spent $1.055 trillion on coverage expansions, and nearly $1.3 trillion overall—would begin imposing government-run health care one year earlier, in January 2013. Given this dynamic, any bill starting “only” three years from now would cost over $1 trillion—well above the President’s promised price tag of $900 billion, despite the various budgetary gimmicks deployed in both bills to minimize the bill’s true costs.

Related posts on the Health Care issue:

Start Over on Health Care Refrom

Dr. Medicare

Posted in National Politics | Leave a Comment »

 
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