FoxNews.com, the official website of the Fox News anti-Obamapropagandanetwork, is promoting what it calls the “Obama Change Index.” The index purports to chart “the impact of policies promised by President Obama,” and conveniently graphs Obama’s progress on a scale of 0-700. It appears that Fox’s “change index” is tabulated by asking one Democratic, Republican, and Independent pundit what they think of Obama on 7 different issues: budget, stimulus, homeland security, foreign/military affairs, social issues, dealing with Congress, law and justice. While Obama’s favorable ratings have been going up recently, Fox News’ index unsurprisingly shows Obama tanking. Reddit user KingBeetle writes of the index, “I can’t even figure out what it means, but for some reason this week, Obama is down 271 points.” It’s now 282 points:
A couple of interesting observations from the “Obama Change Index”: On the week of 9/16/09, Obama scored a zero on Homeland Security for no apparent reason. Similarly, Obama scored a zero on “social issues” the week of 6/30/09 because he “tried to placate the gay community.”
First, we’re looking at pieces of legislation with no cost containment. There is no bending the curve, as Doug [Holtz-Eakin] indicated, in these pieces of legislation. I have a hunch that members of Congress, as they’re thinking about constructing proposals, are going to come back to that curve bending discussion, as you indicated in your opening remarks and I think that’s going to be very important.
Ignagni is right to argue that Congress should strengthen the individual mandate requirement, but her central claim is demonstratively false. In fact, many economists believe that the very policy measures she opposes would bend the cost curve downward.
As Christina Romer explained this morning during a speech at the Center for American Progress, the excise tax on high cost plans “will discourage insurance companies from offering high-priced plans that would otherwise eat up larger and larger shares of workers’ wages. A policy such as this is probably the number one item that health economists across the ideological spectrum believe is likely to stem the explosion of health care costs.”
Secondly, the Senate Finance Committee’s bill (along with the House legislation) goes a long way towards “reining in costs” and controlling spending (over the long term and the short term). It restructures payments to Medicare Advantage plans (to base payments on plan bids with bonus payments), establishes an independent Medicare Commission to submit proposals for reducing excess Medicare cost growth by targeted amounts, reduces Medicare DSH payments by an amount proportional to the percentage point decrease in the uninsured, reduces payments for preventable hospital readmissions in Medicare, and establishes a hospital value-based purchasing program in Medicare to pay hospitals based on performance on quality measures. The House and Senate Finance bills also invest in critical delivery system reforms.
Ignagni is dismissing cost containment policies that undermine insurer profits and pretending that the industry is not at least partly responsible for the trend in spending. But just because she refuses to see them, doesn’t’ mean they don’t exist.
This afternoon, Lou Dobbs attacked Fox News host Geraldo Rivera for stating that Dobbs himself is “almost single-handedly responsible for creating, for being the architect of the young-Latino-as-scapegoat for everything that ails this country.” While Rivera accuses Dobbs of defaming an entire race of people, Dobbs insists that he loves immigrants and Latinos and claims that his accusations are nothing but a reflection of Rivera’s “stupidity” and the company of “ethnocentric left-wing activists” that he keeps:
DOBBS: I’m just still fuming over something that Geraldo Rivera said. I shouldn’t let — This guy is nothing but a fiction of his own imagination and a figment of whatever he sees in the mirror. But, I gotta tell you — the guy is so annoying. I should not let people get to me like this, but you know what? I’m starting to get short of patience with them. [...]
Geraldo Rivera wouldn’t know a fact if it hit him in the rear end — and that would probably be an appropriate place if you wanted him to absorb the information. … This is the kind of vile stupidity and ignorance that he spews everywhere he goes.
“Over the years, Lou Dobbs has consistently used his CNN platform to spread hatred and fear,” states Drop Dobbs, one of three campaigns aimed at pressuring CNN to hold Dobbs to journalistic standards or drop him altogether. News Corp. is reportedly “keen” on luring Dobbs over to the Fox Business Channel. However if CNN does drop Dobbs, it doesn’t look like he’ll have too many friends over at Fox. Last week, Dobbs ripped Fox Business News anchor John Stossel as a “self-important ass” with his “own brand of myopic idiocy” after Stossel told Fox News’ “rodeo clown” Glenn Beck that he does not support “the Lou Dobbs-kind of rants about immigrants wrecking America.” Rivera says that one of his Fox News bosses assured him that Dobbs “is not coming to Fox News.”
Earlier this month, the South Florida-based Southeast Broward Republican Club held an event at a gun range where targets included silhouettes of Muslim stereotypes and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). At the gathering, Wasserman Schultz’s GOP competitor “fired at a full-body silhouette with ‘DWS’ written next to its head.” The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that the Republican activist Ed Napolitano, who was in charge of the club, has resigned from all his party positions, saying he was “pushed to quit”:
While he’s stepping away from the party, Napolitano said today he’s not ending his political activism. “I’m not going to be going away. You’re still going to see me around.”
He expressed frustration with Republican Party leadership, which he said doesn’t stand by and defend volunteer Republican activists – like himself – when they’re attacked.
“The leadership in the Republican Party is lacking in courage, and they do not stand by their people,” Napolitano said. “We’re volunteers. We volunteer our time and we volunteer our money. They’re there to facilitate us. We’re not there to facilitate them. They act like we’re their servants.”
The Florida Republican Party says it didn’t call on Napolitano to resign. Although Napolitano has apologized to Wasserman Schultz for the incident, Lowry has not.
U.S. Army Spc. Jack Barrios served bravely in Iraq only to come back to the US with a debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder and learn that his wife, who he refers to as his “everything,” might be deported back to Guatemala.
Frances Barrios was illegally brought to the US by her mother when she was only 6-years-old and wasn’t even aware of her immigration status until high school. Nonetheless, she would have to return to her home country and stay there for 10 years before being able to apply for a US green card to be with her husband and two children. The Los Angeles Times points out that Frances has no criminal record and speaks better English than Spanish.
Frances is not alone. Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney who helped establish the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Military Assistance Program, claims she receives one call a day related to immigration problems. New America Media reports that one commander was almost deployed not knowing if her husband would still be there when she got back. The army ended up being more understanding than federal immigration agents and agreed to let her command her unit from a station in the US. If her husband is deported, she will have to quit the army and move with her family to either Mexico or El Salvador.
Last year, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced legislation — co-sponsored by two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee — that would give servicemembers’ spouses a path to citizenship. Yet the legislation has its critics. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, describes the bill as a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) also offers little sympathy, stating “Our soldiers fight and, in some cases, give their lives to preserve the rule of law. It seems ironic indeed that some would propose to disregard the rule of law just as another reward or inducement to serve our country.”
Several widows and widowers of deceased soldiers have also been affected by a draconian policy which allows immigration officials to annul spouses’ permanent residency applications when their US citizen husbands or wives die before the marriage is two years old. A bill that overturned what is often referred to as the “widow’s penalty” passed Congress this month and is awaiting President Obama’s signature.
Rural electric cooperatives, which represent many small, coal-dependent utilities in the Midwest and raised a ruckus in the House debate, are eligible for a portion of allowances under the new draft.
But at a conference last week, the head of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Glenn English, said “the basis for a deal” on climate would not revolve so much around allowances, but around whether people in coal-dependent regions would get enough help with efficiency retrofits on homes so they can manage potential electricity spikes.
Wow — somebody who would rather have smart policies than more allowances.
Seth Borenstein of the AP has a pretty great piece knocking down all the nonsense about “global cooling” that the Washington Post op-ed page and others have been pressing:
Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book. Only one problem: It’s not true, according to an analysis of the numbers done by several independent statisticians for The Associated Press. [...] In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.
[...] Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880.
Unfortunately, I see the piece bylined as “By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer” which makes me worry it’ll be buried in newspapers’ science sections (or not seen at all since lots of papers barely do science coverage at all these days) rather than front-and-center in politics sections where it belongs. This story is about a key piece of propaganda being put out by political actors in order to win a political fight. It’s a political story.
One point I’m not clear on with regard to the idea of an “opt-out” public option is who does the opting? If the way it works is that you need concurrent affirmative action by both houses of the state legislature and the governor, then it strikes me as very likely that the public option that emerges from an opt-out process will be very strong. If governors can do it unilaterally, then you’ll get something with more of a swiss cheese quality to it.
Similarly, if a state has opted out and decides four years later that it wants in, who gets to decide?
Today, Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Chair Christina Romer appeared at the Center for American Progress to discuss how health care reform is essential if we want to get the nation’s budget deficits under control. During her speech, Romer explained how rising premiums have contributed to the current three-decade long stagnation in wages for American workers, and said that if premiums are not controlled, wages will actually be pushed into a decline. This not only lowers the standard of living for workers, but also contributes to a loss in revenue (and thus less ability to address deficits), as taxable income disappears.
During an interview with The Wonk Room, Romer said she believes that if premiums come down, workers will actually see an increase in wages, as employers redirect savings:
We do know that what’s been happening to median income, to wages for workers in this country, is we have seen them stagnate…We do know that a bigger and bigger fraction of people’s compensation is taking the form of that health insurance benefit, as health insurance has been getting more and more expensive…Our projections, actually very reasonable projections for what might happen to the growth rate of health insurance costs, does say that take home wages — or that part of compensation net of insurance costs — would start to go down in the not so distant future. So that is a genuine worry. [...]
I do think that competition is a really important part of making sure that workers get their fair share and I think the fact that firms have to compete for workers is the main thing that helps to make sure that, if firms are spending less for health insurance, it does show up in people’s take home wages.
Here’s a chart from the CEA showing how wages will be affected if health care reform doesn’t occur. The top line is total compensation (in 2008 dollars) inclusive of insurance premiums, while the bottom line takes the premiums out. As you can see, even as compensation goes up and up, take home wages actually begin to decline in the next few decades.
But it’s not as if companies are just going to cough up savings in the form of higher wages instantly. In the short-term, it’s more likely that companies will just pocket the difference, particularly given the weakness of today’s labor market, which removes bargaining power from the worker. I’m not as optimistic as Romer that competition will be enough to boost wages in the short-term (though that would likely occur over the much longer-term).
Of course, simply getting back to a 1990′s style strong labor market, in which workers have more leverage, would help in this regard, but so would better collective bargaining abilities for workers — possibly in the form of a higher rate of unionization — which is what helped workers earn their fair share of productivity gains pre-1980.