Tonight on CNN’s Larry King Live, a panel that included Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) discussed the impact and influence of the 24-hour cable news chatter. Bachmann once again demonstrated her true love for Fox News, arguing that Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are gaining audiences because “people go where they think they’re going to hear the truth.” King then pressed Bachmann on whether she wants those right-wing pundits to be the “voice of the Republican Party”:
KING: Would you want the Limbaugh, that crowd — would you want them to be your voice as the Republican Party stands in this country?
BACHMANN: Well remember it’s who the American people are referring to Larry. And the American people are looking to voices like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck –
KING: I just told you — it’s 2 percent of America. It’s 2 percent!
BACHMANN: If you look for a critical mass, that’s the movement, that’s the direction that the critical mass is going. And the American people are very smart people.
Bachmann’s answer got a chuckle out of Larry King. “That’s funny,” he said.
“I’m certainly not going to fear the likes of Keith Olbermann,” Bachmann said earlier today.
In recent days, GOP leaders have focused their crosshairs on the individual mandate, a key component of an effective health care reform bill. FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey (R-TX) attacked the mandate as a “healthcare industry boondoggle”, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) called the mandate a “stunning assault on liberty,” and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) delayed the committee mark-up by questioning the mandate’s constitutionality.
HEMMER: Now as I understand it, you want stronger language preventing federal funds from going to abortion. You want stronger language to make sure illegal immigrants are not covered. If you got those two big points, would you go for it?
GRASSLEY: No, there are other points as well, but let me mention other points that you didn’t mention. And one would be the individual mandate, which for the first time would have a federal penalty against people who don’t have health insurance. I could do that through re-insurance and risk pools, to make sure we get more people insured in a voluntary way and I’m very reluctant to go along with an individual mandate.
In spite of their current rhetoric, it wasn’t long ago that Grassley and many of his Republican colleagues were strong supporters ofthe individual mandate. Progressive Media compiled a series of GOP endorsements of a mandate. Watch it:
The GOP’s newfound opposition reveals that this is not a matter of policy but yet another political strategy intended to obstruct reformat any cost.
One of the candidates being mentioned as a possible successor to Lewis is Sallie Krawcheck, the head of Bank of America’s wealth-management unit. That position, which Krawcheck moved into two months ago, now comes complete with the honor of overseeing Merrill Lynch, the troubled investment broker that BofA bought in the midst of the economic crisis.
In an appearance yesterday on CNBC, Krawcheck was asked whether she intends to change compensation practices at Merrill Lynch, an idea which she derided as “stupid,” because she wants to “honor the culture” at Merrill:
The first line of being a successful manager is don’t do stupid things. And so, trying to go and change the compensation — I’ve heard we’re going to try and smash U.S. Trust and Merrill together — we’re not doing any of that stuff. What we want to do is bring these great capabilities that we have to clients, [and] honor the culture…The industry always tinkers with compensation on the edge. For the industry, it’s sort of an annual ritual.
[A]s Merrill Lynch’s performance plummeted, Merrill severed the tie between paying based on performance and set its bonus pool based on what it expected its competitors would do. Accordingly, Merrill paid out close to $16 billion in 2007 while losing more than $7 billion and paid close to $15 billion in 2008 while facing near collapse. Moreover, Merrill’s losses in 2007 and 2008 more than erased Merrill’s earnings between 2003 and 2006. Clearly, the compensation structures in the boom years did not account for long-term risk, and huge paydays continued while the firm faced extinction.
Of course, BofA is one of the companies whose pay packages are subject to review by the Obama administration’s “compensation czar,” Kenneth Feinberg, who may have a different feeling regarding whether Merrill’s compensation culture is worth preserving.
- Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of AHIP: “People will drop coverage and those who stay in would see rate shock,” Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry trade group, said in an interview Monday.
- Alissa Fox, Lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shied: “It might seem like they are solving the problem, but what happens is premiums for everyone are going to get more expensive in the new market.” “It only works when everyone is in the pool.”
Under the Senate Finance Committee’s bill, which leaves more than 25 million Americans without health care coverage, the maximum penalty for a family that does not purchase coverage “would start at $200 in 2014 and rise to $800 in 2017“; people who have to pay more than 8 percent of their adjusted gross income for the cheapest available insurance plan “would not be required to purchase it.” As Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) explained during mark-up, the government cannot not require Americans to purchase unaffordable or inadequate coverage. “We should make insurance more affordable by increasing the subsidies,” Schumer said. “That was not fiscally possible to stay within the constrains that we have in this committee. Hopefully we can move them, make them better as we move forward in the process.”
As Daily Kos’ mcjoan points out, “Insurance companies could maybe not pay their CEOs tens of millions of dollars every year and actually, maybe, put those combined millions and millions of dollars into, oh, I don’t, providing coverage? Or they could cut a lot of staff hours and have them work more efficiently by not having them spend all that time doing research to figure out how to deny claims.” The opportunities for introspection are endless. Unfortunately, from the insurers’ perspective, it’s far easier (and cheaper) to pressure the government to force Americans into private coverage than to sacrifice profits on behalf of affordability.
At a briefing with conservative bloggers held at the Heritage Foundation today, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) articulated “the way forward for conservatives.” Bachmann’s strategy consisted of defeating Democrats in 2010, defunding the left and passing a series of “repealer” bills:
BACHMANN: We have to defund the left. And this is great. Gallup came out with a poll, I think last week or the week before, that said the American people believe that Congress wastes 50 percent — 50 cents or 50 percent of every dollar it spends. God love the American people. They get it. They understand the truth that actually there’s huge waste. So we defund that but then the third thing that we do, which you’re getting into with economic development, is we have to after we defund the left, we pass repealer bill after repealer bill after repealler bill. Because there’s a huge machinery that’s been built up in this town. And we have to just repeal it. And we have to campaign on that to the American people. That is a hugely winning message right now with the American people.
Bachmann isn’t the first conservative member of Congress to express a desire to “repeal” legislation passed under Obama if Republicans take back control of Congress again. In August, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said “we’ll repeal” health care reform if it passes. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) said at the Values Voter Summit last month that he dreams of telling President Obama in 2010, “we need to repeal the disaster and the tyranny that you passed last session.”
A 0% risk and profit charge, by definition, builds in no cushion for any of the risk that Anthem BCBS takes on by selling Individual Insurance Products in Maine. In addition, with a 0% risk and profit charge under the Superintendent’s approved rates, Anthem BCBS will not be able to provide any contribution to the surplus of the Company…Anthem BCBS — a for-profit Company — cannot be required to operate its highly risky Individual Insurance Products essentially as a non-profit company that must offset losses generated by the Individual Insurance Products through its group insurance business in Maine.
Indeed, considering the company’s financial strength and profitability, the “ample evidence” of “extreme financial hardship of subscribers,” and the company’s dominance of the market place (Anthem controls approximately 78% of the market in Maine), the state chose to shield its residents from subsidizing the insurers’ profits. After all, individual plans represent only “about 6.5%” of Anthem’s total revenue from all operations and “for the nine years that Anthem has been in operation in Maine, the pre-tax operating gain — or profit — from its individual line of insurance in the State totaled approximately $17.4 million.” For the year that ended December 31, 2007, Anthem’s total revenue from all operations for the year, “was over $1 billion, and its net income…was over $100 million.”
In its brief, Anthem argued that the Superintendent’s “reliance on the comments of policyholders is improper.” “None of the witnesses who made sworn or unsworn statements professed to have an actuarial background and/or familiarity with the financial and actuarial analysis reflected in Anthem’s BCBS’s rate filing to determine whether the rates were designed to cover the costs of the products plus allow for a reasonable rate of return,” the company concluded.
According to the World Resources Institute, the razing of forests from Indonesia to Brazil is responsible for the release of five billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, which amounts to 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — more than all the cars and trucks in the world. The international effort to comprehensively fund forest protection as part of a new climate treaty is known as reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Experts estimate that an investment of about $10 to $20 billion a year will cut deforestation by half, if properly implemented. This is one of the cheapest routes to cutting global warming pollution, even ignoring the $4.5 to $5 trillion in benefits of saving the world’s tropical forests. As Papua New Guinea’s climate negotiator Kevin Conrad said last month:
We have to value forests when they are alive and standing. Presently, we only value them when they’re dead.
Saving the world’s tropical forests is a profound challenge. A funding framework controlled by corporations and international bodies raises great concerns from representatives for indigenous people, who worry that “States and Carbon Traders will take more control over our forests.” “Where countries are corrupt,” the United Nations notes, “the potential for REDD corruption is dangerous.” Realizing these fears, a $100 million scandal involving false carbon credits swept Papua New Guinea this summer.
“Logging companies may turn into carbon companies,” warns conservationist Rob Dodwell, who notes that only efforts that strengthen local communities rather than reward multinational corporations have any chance of being fair, sustainable, or trustworthy. An international framework to solve deforestation cannot ignore the “links between the exploitation of natural resources and the funding of conflict and corruption.” In other words, storing carbon must not be the only reason to save the forests.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) have been leading efforts in the U.S. Senate to confront international deforestation. In February, Lugar said he hopes the United States will “exercise leadership in protecting forests and responding to the risks of climate change”:
Deforestation is a critical national security challenge because of its connections with threats from climate change and food security.
The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), passed by the House in June, “provides funding for tropical countries to prepare and implement plans to reduce deforestation, as well as for achieving these reduction goals.” ACES establishes private and public financing from polluters to prevent deforestation, and would create an “International Climate Change Adaptation Program within the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide adaptation assistance to the most vulnerable developing countries.”
Last week, Sens. Kerry and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Senate version of ACES, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The international forestry provisions in the bill “echo those originally included in the House bill,” though it “would allow international offsets to account for a quarter of projects annually rather than the half called for in the House bill,” thus making the private offsets program more reliable, and shifting more responsibility to public deforestation projects.
Republican Rep. Michael Castle announced at a press conference today in Wilmington, Del., that he will seek the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Vice President Biden last year — instantly boosting the GOP’s chances of capturing a Democratic seat.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which handicaps congressional races, called Castle’s candidacy a “major recruiting victory” for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Cook moved the race from the “solid Democratic” column to the “toss up” column.
This breaking news from USA Today raises two interesting questions: First, will RNC Chair Michael Steele denounce him, too? Second, will Castle continue to advocate for clean energy jobs and climate legislation, or will he try to walk away from his vote like Mark Kirk has in Illinois?
“Why would we not want a public option?” Shep Smith asked Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), kicking off a tense and lively exchange this afternoon on Fox News. When Barrasso quickly launched into his Frank Luntz-inspired GOP talking points, calling it a “government take-over of health care,” Smith — who’s been known to go offthe Fox News reservation from time to time — pushed back:
SMITH: It’s not a government take over, Senator! That’s not fair and we both know it. It’s not a government takeover because what it would be is a government option if you have insurance now and you like it you can keep it. … That’s not a government take over if we’re being fair is it Senator?
Barrasso struggled to muster a response. “Well compare it to Medicare, which we know right now is going bankrupt,” he said. Later, Smith engaged in fierce advocacy in favor of the public option:
SMITH: As the costs have gone up, the insurance industry’s profits on average have gone up more than 350 percent and it’s the insurance companies which have paid and have contributed to Senators and congressman on both sides of the aisle to the point where now, we can’t get…what more than 60 percent of Americans say they support, is a public option. This has been an enormous win for the health care industry. That is an unquestioned fact. [...]
[E]very vote against a public option is a vote for the insurance companies, sir. It is!
Again, Barrasso replied with trite talking points. “We’re not even allowing the people of America to read the bill,” he said, later adding that “Washington is incapable” of running health care. “I want to be clear,” Smith told Barrasso, “this wouldn’t be Washington running the system, Senator. It would be a government run plan paid for by the people who sign up for the plan.” Watch it:
As Smith railed against insurance companies, Barrasso responded, “I’m not going to defend the insurance companies — I’ve been fighting them for the last 25 years of practicing medicine.” In fact, the Wyoming senator has received a considerable amount of contributions from the health care industry: Over $500,000 from health professionals and nearly $100,000 from the pharmaceuticals and health products industry over his career and nearly $40,000 bundled from health care lobbyists in the last two years.
Fox News constantly peddles the false talking point that the Democratic health care plan would be a “government takeover” (see e.g. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Greta Van Susteren). Kudos to Smith for letting the Fox audience know that most of their anchors are lying to them.