“Without applause, practice runs have taken about 36 minutes. The [State of the Union] speech will likely extend to an hour as members of the joint session of Congress, the Supreme Court justices, the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff applaud their favorite proposals and rhetorical flourishes.”
AP reports that the permanent members agree Iran should be referred to the Security Council over its nuclear program.
President Bush will use tomorrow’s State of the Union address to promote “health savings accounts” as a solution to America’s health care crisis. Multiple studies have shown that HSAs are likely to increase the number of uninsured and increase health care costs, all while costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. In other words, President Bush is proposing to do for health care what he’s already tried with Social Security — placing more of the cost burden on individuals, while making the system more attractive to the wealthy but less effective for ordinary Americans who need health coverage most.
WHAT ARE HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS?: Generally speaking, they are tax-free savings accounts combined with high-deductible insurance policies that people obtain through their employers or buy independently from insurance companies. More on HSAs here.
HSAs LIKELY TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF UNINSURED: According to the Commonwealth Fund, health savings accounts are “not likely to be an important contributor to expanding coverage among uninsured people” because most of uninsured Americans “do not face high-enough marginal tax rates to benefit substantially from the tax deductibility of HSA contributions.” Another study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that the number of people who would lose coverage due to employers drop health insurance or reducing the amounts they contribute toward their employees’ health insurance costs would likely exceed the number of uninsured people who would gain insurance.”
LOW- AND MIDDLE-INCOME AMERICANS GAIN LITTLE OR NO TAX SAVINGS FROM HSAs: “Low-and middle-income uninsured people will gain meager or no tax savings” from health savings accounts, according to a Commonwealth Fund study. Currently, roughly 50 percent of uninsured adults pay no federal income taxes, meaning that “tax incentives for high-deductible health plans would have little impact on uninsured adults.” Moreover, “uninsured people in the middle income tax bracket would see potential savings of just 3 percent to 6 percent on a typical high-deductible health plan premium of $2,000.” Read more
In an interview to be aired tonight on “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” Tom DeLay tells Chris that his constituents are “very, very supportive” of his candidacy. “They know what Ronnie Earle is “” a runaway district attorney who is abusing his power, indicting me on laws that don’t exist,” DeLay said. “The backlash is in my favor.”
A recent Houston Chronicle poll tells a different story. DeLay is in political hot water:
A criminal indictment and continuing investigations have severely eroded support for U.S. Rep Tom DeLay in his district”¦ Only half of those who cast ballots for DeLay in 2004 said they will do so again. And while a fourth of the 2004 DeLay voters still aren’t sure whom they will vote for this year, almost 20 percent have defected to other candidates ["¦]
DeLay may be able to win back the undecided voters, but he starts with the disadvantage of a 60 percent unfavorable rating in the district he has represented for 20 years. Only 28 percent view him favorably, according to the poll.
You have to hand it to DeLay. He sure is an optimist.
The White House has withheld information out of “concern about diverting attention from President Bush’s message in Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech” and a “post-speech release appears increasingly likely.” (HT: Political Wire)
[Our guest blogger, Mara Rudman, is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Mara was a member of the National Democratic Institute international election observer delegation to the Palestinian legislative elections.]
Watch Mara on Fox News:
On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that she was surprised by the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections:
I’ve asked [my staff] why nobody saw it coming. … It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse.
To those of us observing the lead-up to the election as well as election day, the results were predictable. The Palestinian people were registering their protest with Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians also were registering their despair with leaders who had brought few tangible results from years of efforts to build a Palestinian state. Those in the Bush administration engaged with average Palestinians would have picked this up long before election day.
The Bush administration now needs to fix its blind spot if it hopes to help the Palestinian people move ahead. Read more
likely saved the lives ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman Doug Vogt.
Today, Exxon Mobil recorded the highest quarterly profit ever for a publicly traded U.S. company, raking in $10.71 billion in the fourth quarter of 2005. The previous record was $9.92 billion, set by Exxon in the third quarter of 2005.
Apparently, that’s not enough. Exxon wants the money it had to pay as punishment for the 1989 Valdez oil spill back:
Exxon Mobil Corp. urged a federal appeals court Friday to erase the $5 billion in damages an Alaska jury ordered the oil giant to pay for the 1989 Valdez oil spill.
Exxon attorney Walter Dellinger told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the company should be liable for no more than $25 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to deter and punish misconduct.
If a company pulls in $10 billion in profits a quarter, a $25 million penalty won’t deter anything.
More on Exxon at Exxpose Exxon.
Yesterday, we learned ABC News anchorman Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously injured by an improvised explosive device while traveling in Iraq. Woodruff, at the time of the attack, was riding with an Iraqi army unit:
The Iraqi mechanized vehicle they were riding in is considered more dangerous than U.S. vehicles. ABC said the two were traveling that way to get the perspective of the Iraqi military.
The attack underscores the fact that Iraqi security forces have not been properly-equipped to take on the insurgency, a continuing problem that remains a major stumbling block in the Bush exit strategy. President Bush has stated, “Victory will come when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens.” And he has assured the American public that we are “building up the Iraqi security forces so they can increasingly lead the fight to secure their country.” But the facts belie his rhetoric.
The Washington Times reported recently:
The emerging Iraqi army is in dire need of more armored vehicles, an issue largely lost in the two-year debate over U.S. soldiers and Marines who at one time lacked protective gear. “¦ “One of the main things is they don’t have much armor at all,” said retired Coast Guard officer Michael Kearney, a defense contractor who is working to bolster the force. “Their people are running around in pickup trucks, and they are getting nailed.”
CBS correspondent Lara Logan traveled to Iraq in late November and interviewed members of the Iraqi security forces to find that the terrorists were better-equipped than the security forces:
LOGAN: Is it fair to say that the terrorists are better armed than you?
BRIG. GEN. AMIR AL-DULAIMI: Yes, of course. [CBS Evening News, 11/30/05]
Thanks to courageous journalists like Woodruff, the American public is able to learn the reality of the situation on the ground, a perspective they do not hear frequently from the administration. Our thoughts and prayers are with Woodruff, Vogt, and their respective families.
UPDATE: Read more