Former Senator and potential 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) appeared on Fox News to attack health care reform but defended the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole, a provision passed by Congress in 2003, which forces seniors to pay out of pocket for their drug costs once they fall into a coverage gap:
SANTORUM: They got an expansion of the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, but that program was designed to do two things: take care of seniors who were poor and needed drug coverage and those who are high users of prescription drugs. It did both. It left a little hole in the middle for those, who frankly could afford to do it. And that was a good allocation of money. The Democrats said, ‘well we don’t care, we’re just going to throw more money at seniors, to offset the fact that we’re making huge cuts in Medicare.’
Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, enrollees enter the doughnut hole when their total drug spending equals $2,830 and receive no Medicare coverage until they reach $6,440 in total drug spending. Almost three and half million, or 26 percent, of Medicare Part D enrollees reached this coverage gap in 2007 and those who couldn’t afford to pay for their medications stopped taking medicines altogether. For instance, a recent study of diabetes patients — who typically require multiple medications — found that beneficiaries who fell into the gap cut back on their drugs, “which may result in worse health outcomes.”
The health law relies on money from the pharmaceutical industry to close the gap in coverage, and HHS has been sending partial rebates to Part D beneficiaries who have reached the doughnut hole. Beginning this year, Part D beneficiaries who reach the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount. This will be phased up to a 75 percent discount on brand name drugs by 2020 and a 7 percent discount on generic drugs — bringing costs to Part D beneficiaries back down to 25 percent (standard coverage level), thereby effectively closing the doughnut hole.
Towards the end of the segment, Sanotrum also expressed outrage that Democrats offset the costs of the coverage expansion by saving money in Medicare, saying “the Medicare program itself is in trouble and needs to be reformed to save it!” Of course, actuaries have estimated that reform would do just that, extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 years.
Apparently gay marriage in a handful of states has already ruined things.
Joking aside, I’m not sure people always take due account of this sort of thing when looking at trends in recent American history. I’m not the type to get nostalgic about the good old days of patriarchy, but the fact of the matter is that from a strictly economic point of view a married couple household is a much more efficient arrangement than the one-adult alternative. So if you look at any kind of strictly economic trend, part of what you’re seeing is a growing tendency for lower-efficiency, but possibly higher happiness, living arrangements—divorce, extended singledom, etc.
Not to have a Bones-heavy week, but it says something slightly depressing to me about how Fox sees Bones that the guy they’ve cast to anchor a spin-off of the show is not another great nerd, functional adult nerd but…the hot guy from Wedding Crashers. And the hot-but-dumb Ultimate Hetero Boyfriend in D.E.B.S.:
And She’s Out of My League:
And I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell:
This is not promising. The reason David Boreanaz’s character works is that secretly, his character’s kind of a dork, what with the “Cocky” belt buckle, and the matching socks. He’s a dude-bro who actually values being part of a nerd co-fraternity more than he values his dude-bro cred. Unless Stults has more than his glint and his chin, the spin-off could be disastrous, and worse, entirely ordinary.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the newest member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claimed today that the coal industry doesn’t receive any government subsidies, unlike every other form of energy. The former governor of coal-state West Virginia, who famously fired a rifle at clean energy legislation in a campaign ad, argued that the Obama administration has “villainized” coal. In a hearing on energy markets, Manchin went on to criticize the Environmental Protection Agency — which has issued regulations to limit the catastrophic impact of mountaintop removal mining and the existential threat of global warming pollution — for putting up “roadblocks” on the “greatest source” of energy in the nation:
What I don’t understand is the subsidies. The subsidies of energy, whether it be to oil, gas, wind, solar, biofuels, ethanol. The only energy source — which is the greatest source that we have so far as we’re dependent on — is coal. It doesn’t get a penny of subsidies. But it’s been villainized by this administration and so many people and it’s the one we depend on the most. It gives back more than it takes. I can’t figure it out.
We’re trying to use it in so many different forms, in super-critical heating, and things of this sort. We’re running into roadblocks with the EPA from every turn that we go. We’re trying to use it in conjunction with our natural gas productions, and trying to look at the changing the fleet to compressed natural gas, I think that’s very doable. Do you all have a comment on why that one source of energy which is the most dependent upon in this nation has no types of subsidies but the others demand so subsidies?
In reality, the coal industry is heavily subsidized by the federal and state governments, enjoying explicit subsidies of billions of dollars a year, plus the indirect subsidy of free pollution that costs the United States 10,000 lives a year, destroys the land and water of mining communities, and destabilizes our climate. In September 2009, the Environmental Law Institute identified coal industry “subsidies of around $17 billion between 2002 and 2008″:
Credit for Production of Nonconventional Fuels ($14,097)- IRC Section 45K. This provision provides a tax credit for the production of certain fuels. Qualifying fuels include: oil from shale, tar sands; gas from geopressurized brine, Devonian shale, coal seams, tight formations, biomass, and coal-based synthetic fuels. This credit has historically primarily benefited coal producers.
Characterizing Coal Royalty Payments as Capital Gains ($986) – IRC Section 631(c). Income from the sale of coal under royalty contract may be treated as a capital gain rather than ordinary income for qualifying individuals.
Exclusion of Benefit Payments to Disabled Miners ($438) – 30 U.S.C. 922(c). Disability payments out of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund are not treated as income to the recipients.
Other-Fuel Excess of Percentage over Cost Depletion ($323)- IRC Section 613. Taxpayers may deduct 10 percent of gross income from coal production.
Credit for Clean Coal Investment ($186)- IRC Sections 48A and 48B. Available for 20 percent of the basis of integrated gasification combined cycle property and 15 percent of the basis for other advanced coal-based generation technologies.
Special Rules for Mining Reclamation Reserves ($159) – IRC Section 468. This deduction is available for early payments into reserve trusts, with eligibility determined by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Solid Waste Management Act. The amounts attributable to mines rather than solid-waste facilities are conservatively assumed to be one-half of the total.
84-month Amortization Period for Coal Pollution Control ($102) – IRC Section 169(d)(5). Extends the amortization period used in calculating the deduction from the generally applicable 60-month period available for other types of pollution control facilities.
Expensing Advanced Mine Safety Equipment ($32) – IRC Section 179E. The costs of qualifying mine safety equipment may be expensed rather than recovered through depreciation.
Black Lung Disability Trust Fund ($1,035)- As industry excise tax payments did not sufficiently cover early benefits payments, the BLDTF was given “indefinite authority to borrow” from the U.S. General Fund, and bailed out for $6.498 billion, 13 percent of which is relevant to the 2002-2008 period.
Financial support for the World Bank and other international financial institutions that finance fossil fuel use and extraction. Since 1994, these institutions have provided $137 billion in direct and indirect financial support for new coal-fired power plants.
U.S. Treasury Department’s backing of tax-exempt bonds and federally subsidized taxable Build America Bonds for use in the electric sector. $81 billion in tax-exempt debt was issued between 2002 and 2006 for electric power, most for coal plants.
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service provision of loans, loan guarantees, and lien accommodations to public power companies that are investing in new or existing coal plants.
Tax credits, loans, and loan guarantees through the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2009, DOE issued $5.9 billion in loan guarantees for advanced coal projects.
Furthermore, cash-strapped state governments give millions of dollars in subsidies to coal, including $115 million from Kentucky, and $26 million from Virginia. In 2008, then-Gov. Manchin himself offered Appalachian Fuel $200 million in subsidies for a liquid coal plant.
Meanwhile, the health and environmental costs of mining and burning coal are staggering. “What’s been the healthcare cost of 47 tons per year of mercury from burning coal,” the Sierra Club asks, “that put 300,000 fetuses at risk for neurological damage each year?”
The coal industry was responsible for 2,237 megatons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent greenhouse pollution in 2008, 38 percent of the United States footprint. The cost of this “market externality” is between $60 and $600 billion every year, given expert estimates for the cost to human civilization of manmade climate change.
Manchin is correct that coal “doesn’t get a penny of subsidies” — the industry gets trillions of pennies, borrowed against our children’s future.
As counter- and pro-Mubarak government protests have become increasingly violent over the past few days in Egypt, foreign journalists have been harassed, beaten, arrested, and detained throughout the country. Most notably, CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported yesterday that his crew had been attacked; a Fox News reporter and producer were hospitalized after being targeted. Today, the State Department suggested that the Egyptian government may be involved in the campaign. Spokesperson PJ Crowley said today that “these do not seem to be random events”:
CROWLEY: There are very strong indications that this is part of a concerted effort. I can’t tell you who is directing it, but with the increasing number of instances of people roughed up, journalists’ cars attacked, offices broken into, journalists detained, these do not seem to be random events. […] I think at this stage we have information that has primarily come from you all which says that, in various interactions that you’ve had today, the Ministry of Interior personnel have been involved.
ABC News has compiled a sizable list of journalists “who have been in some way threatened, attacked or detained while reporting in Egypt,” which include the Washington Post’s Leila Fadel and CBS’s Lara Logan, both of whom spent considerable time reporting from Iraq.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this afternoon that the crackdown on journalists “is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and it is unacceptable under any circumstances. … The Egyptian government must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists’ ability to report on these events to the people of Egypt and to the world,” she said:
Let’s just state for the record that if you are inane enough to base your decisions on Al Gore’s personal life in any respect whatsoever — let alone so inane that you actually tell a reporter this — then you have lost your credibility forever.
In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama emphasized his commitment to transforming America’s energy policy, with initiatives to move our nation away from killer fossil fuels. Although he called for doubling “clean” electricity in the United States, he argued only that this was important to keep America competitive and “win the future.” Climate hawks were dismayed that the president did not even make passing mention of global warming — either the dark future of a superheated planet or the present turmoil of catastrophic weather, fueled by coal and oil pollution. Nor did he defend the thousands of scientists whose work has come under attack by nearly the entire Republican Party. Today, Obama briefly recognized the reality of climate change as he announced an initiative to cut energy waste in our homes and buildings:
Right here at Penn State, a university whose motto is “Making Life Better,” you’ve answered the call. Today you’re preparing to lead the way on a hub that will make America home to the most energy-efficient buildings in the world. Now, that may not sound too sexy, “energy-efficient buildings.” But listen. Our homes and our businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use. Think about that. Everybody focuses on cars and gas prices, and that’s understandable. But our homes and our businesses use 40 percent of the energy. They contribute to 40 percent of the carbon pollution that we produce and that is contributing to climate change. It costs us billions of dollars in energy bills. They waste huge amounts of energy.
The good news is we can change all that. Making our buildings more energy-efficient is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution, and create jobs right here in the United States of America. And that’s what we’re going to do.
Reflecting many of the idea’s in the Center for American Progress’s Rebuilding America proposal, the president’s goal of increasing building energy efficiency 20 percent by 2020 is tied to new tax incentives for commercial building retrofits, expanded loan guarantees, a new competitive grant program for states and municipalities, and new training program and extension service for businesses in energy efficient building technology.
With his strong clean-energy jobs push, President Obama is addressing the crises facing this nation. Steering America to fight climate pollution is his great unmet challenge. He missed the opportunity to teach Americans about the true nature of the severity of the climate crisis in his first two years in office, even as Nashville, Fargo, Russia, Pakistan, Australia, and the rest of the world were pummeled by the hottest, wettest climate on record. He must do more than mention “carbon pollution” in passing before a friendly, collegiate audience, but it’s a start.
But surely she must see, I counter, that the majority of British Muslims are moderates? Sitting in her publisher’s office in an elegant grey-flannel trouser suit and pearl earrings, she fixes me with her lucid brown eyes. “If the majority are moderates, why did the Muslim community never take to the streets to abhor the 7/7 bombers? Why is it that the only time we see Muslims protesting en masse is when Islam is allegedly insulted, like with the Danish cartoons, or the Pope’s comments?”
“I’ll tell you why: because Islam is the new fascism. Just like Nazism started with Hitler’s vision, the Islamic vision is a caliphate – a society ruled by Sharia law – in which women who have sex before marriage are stoned to death, homosexuals are beaten, and apostates like me are killed. Sharia law is as inimical to liberal democracy as Nazism. Young Muslims need to be persuaded that the vision of the Prophet Mohammed is a bad one, and you aren’t going to get that in Islamic faith schools.”
That’s not really a worldview that leaves you with a lot of practical policy options vis-à-vis Egypt. I mean, it’s a great big country full of Muslims. Maybe in 50 or 100 years, folks like Ali and I who don’t believe in God will persuade Egyptians that we’re right. But in the short to medium term, there’s no real alternative to Egypt being governed predominantly by avowed Muslims. And if Islam as such is “the new fascism” then what’s the point in worrying about the Muslim Brotherhood in particular?
Over the past couple of years, lawmakers have repeatedly pointed to the alarming levels of drug-related violence that is unraveling on the Mexican side of the southern border in a way that suggests that the horrific crimes are spilling over into the U.S. This deceptive line of reasoning has most often been used either to argue against comprehensive immigration reform or support harsh immigration measures such as SB-1070, the law that was recently passed by Arizona. Earlier this week, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano called on politicians to stop exaggerating the levels of violence occurring on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico:
The verdict is that our approach is working. We have strengthened the southwest border in ways that many people did not think possible. And our partnership with Mexico along the border is very strong.
It is inaccurate to state — as too many have — that the United States’ side of the border is overrun with violence or out of control. This statement often made to score cheap political points is just plain wrong.
Shortly thereafter, a coalition of border city mayors chimed in to denounce a recent op-ed written by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) which claimed that Al Qaeda openly boasts of using drug tunnels to smuggle weapons of mass destruction through our porous defenses.” Although Huckabee conceded that “[f]ortunately, those boasts have proven empty — at least so far” he still concluded that DHS has “failed miserably” to secure the border. The U.S. Mexico Border Mayors Association echoed Napolitano’s remarks in their response. Politico reports:
In a letter obtained by POLITICO, the mayors from cities in Arizona, Texas and California — saying they represent 7 million people — responded sharply to a recent op-ed Huckabee wrote in the New York Post. [...]
“(C)laims that our border cities are out of control are just not true,” reads the letter from eight mayors addressed to Huckabee and the Post. “Not only do these claims fly in the face of statistical evidence, but they also disparage the tremendous efforts that our law enforcement agencies have made to protect this border and the people who live in border communities.”
They added, “We can tell you first hand that the Southwest Border Initiative is certainly working. We have seen unprecedented investment in terms of manpower, resources, and technology that has resulted in a more secure border. We have implemented a successful strategy which includes greater collaboration with federal, state, local and tribal, and Mexican partners while facilitating legal trade and travel.”
The mayors also added that they “constantly have to correct the false perceptions that our cities are not a safe place to live, work and play.” In fact, according to FBI statistics, they are amongst the safest. The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin — all of which happen to be pretty close to the U.S. – Mexico border. Counties along the southwest border have some of the lowest rates of violent crime per capita in the nation and those rates have dropped by more than 30 percent since the 1990s while immigration has soared.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t appear the public officials Napolitano and the border city mayors were referring to are paying much attention to the data. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — an ardent SB-1070 supporter — accused Napolitano of downplaying border-related violence and of being “divorced from reality.” He also announced that he expects armed conflict with the Mexican drug cartels soon. Meanwhile, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office suggests that it’s the northern border that actually poses a much larger terror risk.