By JIM ABRAMS 02/ 8/12 10:00 AM ETAssociated Press AP

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House is trying Wednesday to give President Barack Obama the line-item veto, a constitutionally questionable power over the purse that has been sought by both Republican and Democratic presidents.

The legislation, expected to pass, allows the president to pick out specific items in spending bills for elimination. Currently, the president must sign or veto spending bills in their entirety.

The president’s choices for removal would then have to be approved by Congress.

Congress has made several attempts in the past to enact line-item veto bills, saying that surgical cuts to spending bills are useful both in removing wasteful earmarks and in reducing spending. Most state governors have some kind of line-item veto power.

The House bill, offered by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and the top Democrat on the committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, stipulates that all savings from eliminated programs would go to deficit reduction. House Republicans have included the bill as part of a package of measures to overhaul the budget process so as to save money.

In 1996, a Republican-controlled Congress succeeded in giving line-item veto authority to another Democratic president, Bill Clinton. He exercised that authority 82 times, and although Congress overrode his veto on 38 instances, the moves saved the government almost $2 billion.

But in 1998, on a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, saying it violated the principle that Congress, and not the executive branch, holds the power of the purse.

Supporters say the bill has been written to meet constitutional standards. They say that while the president can propose items for rescission, or elimination, Congress must then vote on the revised spending package and then the president must sign what is in effect a new bill.

Under the proposal, the president has 45 days within the enactment of a spending bill to send a special message to Congress proposing cuts to any amount of discretionary, or non-entitlement, spending. Legislation to consider the proposed cuts would move quickly to the House and Senate floors for automatic up-or-down votes with no amendments.

The White House, in a statement, said it “strongly supports” passage of the bill, praising it for “helping to eliminate unnecessary spending and discouraging waste.” It said the bill was similar to a line-item veto proposal that Obama sent to Congress in May, 2010.

One top Democrat, minority whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, voiced opposition, saying that while he had supported line-item veto bills in the past, he thought the bill was too restrictive in requiring that money saved from a rescission go to deficit reduction and could not be used to fund other priorities.

The bill, if it passes the House, faces an unclear road ahead in the Senate. Four senators – Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Dan Coats of Indiana and Democrats Tom Carper of Delaware and Mark Udall of Colorado – pushed to have a line-item veto provision considered by the supercommittee which last year was unable to come up with a comprehensive plan to reduce the deficit.

But the Senate, traditionally more protective of its constitutional powers, has not always been receptive to the line-item veto idea. In 2007 former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., picked up 49 votes for a line-item proposal, well short of the 60 needed to break a Democratic-led filibuster.

By  Associated Press, Published: September 8

WASHINGTON — In an early show of optimism, Republicans and Democrats on a powerful committee charged with cutting deficits pledged Thursday to aim higher than their $1.2 trillion target, work to boost job creation and reassure an anxious nation that Congress can solve big problems.

Tax reform as well as cuts to benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare will be among the options considered, members of the so-called supercommittee emphasized, although no specific proposals were debated at an opening session than ran scarcely an hour.

While they readily acknowledged numerous obstacles to a deal, committee members said it was essential to try at a time the economy is weak, joblessness is high and the country gives every sign of intense frustration with its elected leaders.

Compromise “is the difference between a divided government that works for the country and a dysfunctional government that doesn’t,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the last of a dozen members to speak.

The panel, co-chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum, hopes to help broker a deal somewhere in the middle — on an issue where failure is the rule.

Shortly after the session, at least one Republican member threatened to quit if the panel considers cuts in defense beyond the $350 billion over a decade that Congress approved last month as part of a package of deep spending reductions and an increase in the debt limit.

“I’m off the committee if we’re going to talk about further defense” cuts, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said he told panel members. Speaking at a defense forum, Kyl said the military “has given enough already, and any further hit would be inimical to our national security around the globe.”

The committee, three members from each party in each house, faces a deadline of Nov. 23. Its most consequential sessions are expected to take place in closed door sessions that will give President Barack Obama and congressional leaders from both parties the opportunity to influence the outcome.

Ironically, the committee owes its existence to earlier failed attempts at sweeping deficit-cutting compromises, most recently an abortive negotiation between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Their talks collapsed over the summer, at a time Republicans were demanding deficit cuts in exchange for passage of legislation to raise the debt limit and prevent a first-ever government default.

In the end, the two sides agreed to increase the debt limit by enough to let the Treasury pay its bills through 2012 while also cutting $1 trillion over a decade from one category of government programs.

It was a significant sum, but far less than the White House and some Republicans had been hoping for. Nor did it change the tax code or significantly affect Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, farm programs and other costly benefit programs than many lawmakers say must be part of any attempt to slow and ultimately reduce the nation’s debt.

That is particularly true of Republicans, although Democrats are largely unwilling to go along unless their GOP counterparts will agree to higher revenues at the same time.

“I approach our task with a profound sense of urgency, high hopes, and realistic expectations,” Hensarling said as he gaveled the session to order. He said the task “will not be easy, but it is essential,” and said the panel “must be primarily about saving and reforming social safety net programs that are not only failing many beneficiaries but going broke at the same time.”

A fellow Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, added another item to the agenda moments later, speaking of “wasteful tax subsidies” that should be eliminated and calling for changes that can turn the tax code into an engine for more economic growth.

“When huge, iconic American corporations can pay little or no income tax, well that’s indefensible,” he said. “So I think we ought to wipe out those special interest favors, have commensurately lower rates, encourage the economic growth that will generate more revenues, generate more jobs.”

Among Democrats, Murray stressed the importance of compromise, saying that in meetings with constituents last month, they “asked why it was that every time they turn on their televisions, they hear about more political battling, more partisan rancor_but nothing more being done for people like them.”

She added pointedly that she was pleased that other members of the panel “have refrained from drawing in the sand or carving out areas that can’t be touched” as part of any deal.

The committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing next week at which Douglas Elmendorf, head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, is expected to explain the forces that have driven the annual deficits into the $1 trillion-plus range, and left the country with a debt of $14 trillion.

The legislation that created the committee also approved a $400 billion debt limit increase, and permitted Obama to request yet another $500 billion increase, with an option for Congress to block it. An attempt to do so failed in the Senate on Thursday evening.

If the committee fails to produce a 10-year package of cuts of at least $1.2 trillion, across-the-board spending cuts would take place that would and simultaneously allow the president to seek another increase in the federal debt limit of the same size.

On the other hand, any agreement on cuts totaling up to $1.5 trillion that are approved by both houses of Congress would permit Obama to request a dollar-for-dollar rise in the debt limit. There is no upper limit to the amount of deficit reductions the panel can recommend.

The committee proceedings were briefly interrupted by demonstrators who shouted “Jobs Now!” in a hallway outside the room. The group dispersed after police threatened them with arrest.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Charley Reese’s final column for the Orlando
Sentinel…
He has been a journalist for 49 years.
He is retiring and this
is HIS LAST COLUMN.

Be sure to read the Tax List at the end.

545 vs.
300,000,000 People
-By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only
people in the world who create problems and then campaign against
them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans
are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if
all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have
inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The
President does.

You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote
on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don’t
write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don’t set fiscal policy,
Congress does.

You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal
Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President,
and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300
million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the
domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the
Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913,
Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a
federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the
special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal
authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a
President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a
politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or
reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s
responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend
much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They
cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a
politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal
human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the
President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He
cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the
supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of
Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is
the speaker of the House now? He is the leader of the majority party.
He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they
want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree
to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot
replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence
and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not
traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth
that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must
follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is
unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red,
it’s because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in
Iraq and
Afghanistan
it’s because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan …

If they do not
receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the
people, it’s because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble
government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to
bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose
gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to
regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con
you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the
economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take
an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are
responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they
alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.  Provided
the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees…

We should
vote all of them out of office and clean up their
mess!

What you do with this article
now that you have read it… is up to you.
This might be funny if it weren’t
so true.
Be sure to read all the way to the end:

Tax his land,
Tax
his bed,
Tax the table,
At which he’s fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax
his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.

Tax his work,
Tax his
pay,
He works for
peanuts anyway!

Tax his cow,
Tax his
goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his
shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his
drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his
beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his
gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.

Tax all he has
Then let him
know
That you won’t be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams
and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He’s good and
sore.

Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which
he’s laid…

Put these words
Upon his tomb,
‘Taxes drove me
to
my doom…’

When he’s gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The
inheritance tax.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL
license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License
Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax
(FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline
Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License
Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties
(tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License
Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate
Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage
Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Sales Tax
School Tax
State Income
Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise
Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State
and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone
Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local
Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License
Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well
Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

STILL THINK THIS IS
FUNNY?
Not one of these
taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the
world.
We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in
the world, and Mom
, if agreed, stayed home to raise the
kids.

What in the heck happened? Can you
spell ‘politicians?’

I hope this goes around THE USA at least
545 times!!! YOU can help it get there!!!

GO AHEAD. . . BE AN
AMERICAN!!!

As reported in Huffington Post Business

Written by William Alden

NEW YORK — As politicians fight over the federal debt ceiling, Americans could start feeling the consequences of Congressional gridlock even before that limit is hit.

Moody’s Investors Service warned on Thursday that if lawmakers have not made progress in negotiations to raise the debt limit by mid-July, the ratings agency plans to reassess the nation’s sterling credit rating for a possible downgrade. The warning, coming after Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook on U.S. debt to “negative” in April, underscores that the current political stalemate in Washington has already begun to dampen the nation’s economic prospects.

A downgrade from Moody’s on U.S. debt, or even the imminent threat of one, could itself begin to choke the economic processes that still have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. It would imply that a credit default is possible, likely causing yields on Treasury debt to rise and pushing up interest rates across the board.

“It would be an earth-shattering event,” said Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo. “It’s taken as a given that U.S. Treasuries are a safe asset. Once you question that assumption, it shakes the foundations of global finance, and the way it’s been established over the last 50 years.”

Federal lawmakers have been locked in a debate over raising the nation’s legal borrowing limit, as the vote to allow the government to fund its existing obligations has been tied to a more controversial legislative agenda. Congressional Republicans insist they will not vote to raise the limit without also achieving measures to reduce the federal deficit, while economic officials in the Obama administration warn that procrastination on the debt ceiling vote could have disastrous consequences.

The country could be forced to default if the limit is not raised by August 2, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in a letter to Congress last month.

But the economic pain could begin before that date. The risk of a default by the U.S. government has risen, Moody’s Investors Service said in a note posted to its website. Moody’s incorporates these considerations into its credit ratings, which are treated by many investors as authoritative assessments of credit quality. Investors use these ratings in their decisions to buy or sell a security.

The country will keep its top rating if the government does not default, Moody’s said. But if the agency determines there isn’t significant progress on a deal by mid-July, it will initiate the process that could lead to a downgrade, the agency said in the release.

“Although Moody’s fully expected political wrangling prior to an increase in the statutory debt limit, the degree of entrenchment into conflicting positions has exceeded expectations,” the note reads. “The heightened polarization over the debt limit has increased the odds of a short-lived default.”

Moody’s added that its long-term assessment would also depend on lawmakers’ hammering out a plan to reduce the federal deficit. S&P sounded a similar note in April, saying it could downgrade U.S. credit if lawmakers don’t settle on a plan to reduce the deficit and debt by 2013.

Investor confidence in Treasury debt began to show cracks on Thursday. Yields on U.S. debt have been low for the past several months even as politicians fight over the debt limit, suggesting that investors believe the government will not ultimately default. But yields edged up on Thursday as the value of the debt fell.

The 10-year Treasury note was yielding nearly 3.03 percent on Thursday, after closing on Wednesday at 2.95 percent. Rising interest rates suggest investors perceive the debt as risky, demanding higher payment in compensation for this lack of safety.

As congressional negotiations drag on, this trend in bond markets could continue, said Anderson, the Wells Fargo economist. Higher Treasury rates would make borrowing more expensive for businesses and individual Americans. Especially in light of Friday’s dismal jobs report, any further economic strain should be avoided, Anderson said.

“The markets would start pricing in the possibility of default even before the drop-dead deadline,” he said. “We can’t deal with another shock.”

As reported by ReimagineAmerica

Congratulations to the FBI for their “take-down” of a $100M Medicare fraud ring on October 13,2010.  According to the NY Times October 14 morning addition, the “band of Armenian-American gangsters” billed Medicare for more than “$100M by inventing 118 bogus health clinics in 25 states”.  According to the paper, the gangsters made off with $35M in cash that cannot be recovered.  You will find a link to the NY Times news story at the end of this blog.

How did this happen?  It happened because Medicare is a wholly automated payment system that is notoriously porous.  If the SSN number of both patient and doctor are validated electronically, and the treatment code is separately validated electronically, an electronic payment is generated.  Only after the payment is any audit performed.   Often, but not always, the audit happens only when a recipient reviewing their own Medicare statement reports activity they know to be fraudulent, according to the CBS 60 Minutes exposé filmed in Florida, earlier this year,   I suppose that Medicare subscriber doctors, also,  report fraud when the IRS accuses them of under reporting their income?

The 2010 Health Care Reform legislation did include funding for Medicare fraud detection.  But focusing on investigation after the fraud occurs and on TV warnings to Medicare recipients urging them to “guard the card” will not solve a problem estimated to be at least $50B – billion with a B – dollars a year!  In fact, the legislation expects these efforts to save only $2B a year – 4% of the estimated reduction in benefit payments mandated by the Act.   Wow we need to do 96% better or cut seniors’ benefits, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates!

Last week Fox Business News reported, and an IBM spokesman confirmed,  that Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM,  told Barack Obama that IBM had carefully studied the Medicare fraud issue and estimated the actual 10 year problem to be closer to $900B – that’s billion with a B — over ten years.  Mr. Palmisano believes so strongly in both IBM’s numbers and IBM’s potential solution that he offered to “build” the  solution for “free”.  Fox reported that Barack Obama turned down this offer.   Can you imagine, an American CEO of an American corporation offers a solution that could, potentially, save 90% of the projected health care reform deficit and the President of the United States turned down the offer?

I was astounded – so astounded that I knew I needed to verify the story before I gave full vent to my frustration.  So I Googled “IBM Medicare fraud”.    Turns out that it’s true!  IBM confirmed it. 

There is no mystery here.  Health care is a great business opportunity for IBM.  IBM Health Care Practice works with partners every day in both the United States and Europe to improve the use of technology to simultaneously reduce the cost of delivering health care and improve health care outcomes.  

It is important to examine my Palmisano’s language carefully.   He offered to “build” the solution for free to “prove” it worked.  He never said, IBM didn’t want to be paid if it worked.  He was willing to “share the risk”.    That has been a standard practice in business for years!  Time that we adopted these money saving practices in the government as well. 

Why would the President turned down such an offer?  Certainly he knows that all major technology initiatives in federal government are done by private contract vendors?   So what’s up?

  1. Most benignly, he does not want to appear to promote one federal vendor over others?  That can easily be dealt with in the contracting process – requiring IBM to partner with other major software and hardware vendors to develop an “open source” solution. 
  2. Can it be the President, who has no business experience,  does not understand the concept “investing in a new business opportunity”?    Mr. Palmisano is not an altruist.  Successfully ending Medicare fraud would further strengthen IBM’s “qualifications” as a global health care solutions provider.  This would be worth billions in new profits to IBM and its partners.
  3. Can it be possible that the President really has such a deep-seated distrust of business and business executives that he cannot imagine a CEO can be a patriot at the same time that he is responsible for producing share holder value? 
  4. Could the President fear that accepting this offer might be seen as a public rebuke of the team at Medicare, who are all SEIU or AFGE members?  Could he be concerned that such a perception would have political ramifications as he looks to government union support in his 2012 Presidential election?

Based on CBS and the New York Times reporting, I can think of a half dozen “quick hit” changes to the existing Medicare payment process that would produce billions in potential Medicare fraud savings.   So,  its easy for me to believe that the full force of IBM, IBM partners,  the Medicare staff, and the FBI could eliminate $900B in Medicare fraud over the next decade.

Personally, I believe that Mr. Palmisano is acting both as a patriot and a good CEO.   Mr. Obama, what do you have to lose?

BEN FELLER | 12/22/10 09:23 PM | AP

WASHINGTON — Buoyant in political victory, President Barack Obama on Wednesday wrapped up a long, rough year in Washington by rejoicing in a rare, bipartisan “season of progress” over tax cuts, national security and civil justice. Halfway through his term, he served notice to his skeptics: “I am persistent.”

The president who strode on stage for a news conference cut a remarkably different figure than the Obama who, just seven weeks ago, held a similar event in which he somberly admitted he had taken a “shellacking” in the midterm elections and needed to re-evaluate. This time, Obama was about to jet off to a Hawaiian holiday vacation knowing he had secured the kind of legislative wins that rarely come so bundled as they just did, particularly in a postelection lawmaking session.

Obama spoke on the same day that he found enough allies in both parties to get Senate ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, a vote watched around the world as a test of international security and presidential clout. He also signed landmark legislation to allow gays to serve openly in the military, calling himself overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment.

And that was on top of other achievements, including a hard-fought deal to extend tax cuts and unemployment insurance even as it piled on more debt, a broad food security bill, a trade deal with South Korea and declarations of progress in the widening war in Afghanistan.

“If there’s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it’s that we are not doomed to endless gridlock,” Obama said. “We’ve shown in the wake of the November elections that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together.”

That spirit may be fleeting.

Obama was able to get the votes he needed in a lame-duck session in which his party still controlled the House and Senate, retiring or ousted members could act knowing they would no longer face voters, and the potential of a politically devastating tax hike on Jan. 1 forced lawmakers into action. None of those factors will be in play come January when Republicans take control of the House and have a greater voice in the Senate as well.

To a nation long tired of political gamesmanship, Obama used the moment to try to put himself above it – and to challenge both parties to join him. He said voters wanted this “season of progress,” promising to stick with that mission and hoping “my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same.”

He also did not get all he wanted, losing some fights and swallowing a two-year extension of tax cuts for wealthier people as part of the tax deal.

Obama underscored his agenda ahead, much of it amounting to unfinished promises: deficit reduction, energy innovation, immigration reform, the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison, education and research investments, and the biggest item of all: finding ways to create more jobs for millions of hurting Americans.

In the course of questioning, Obama revealed that his position on gay marriage is “constantly evolving.” He has opposed such marriages and supported instead civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. The president said such civil unions are his baseline – at this point, as he put it.

“This is something that we’re going to continue to debate, and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward,” he said.

The slow progress on the economy continues to pull down the spirits of the country and threaten to overshadow many of Obama’s other successes. Unemployment was measured at 9.8 percent in November, down only slightly from its double-digit high in 2009. Obama sought to broaden the burden of responsibility to Republicans for a faster economic rebound, saying “people are going to be paying attention to what they’re doing as well as what I’m doing.”

Obama sought to give credit to Congress, and chiefly the Democrats who have been running it, for what he called the most successful post-election period in decades. But he also sought to assert his own role and power, just weeks after his relevancy had been called into question.

“One thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck: I am persistent,” Obama said. “If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it.”

He saved his most emotional appeal for committing anew to the DREAM Act, a measure which would offer a path to legal status for young illegal immigrants who enroll in college or join the military. It died in Congress in the waning days of the session, overwhelmed by Republican opposition. Obama said those young people live in fear of deportation.

“It is heartbreaking,” he said. “That can’t be who we are.”

Obama also promised that deficit reduction would be a major issue in 2011. The midterm elections were seen in part as a reflection of how many Americans are sick of Washington’s spending ways, and promises over the years to rein in deficit spending have fallen short of reality when the choices get tough.

“I guarantee you, as soon as the new Congress is sworn in, we’re going to have to have a conversation about, how do we start balancing our budget or at least getting to a point that’s sustainable when it comes to our deficit and our debt?” he said.

Obama was flying to Hawaii later in the day, joining his wife and the couple’s two children for a year-end holiday. When he returns, it will be a few days before a new Congress convenes, with a House controlled by Republicans and a Senate with a shrunken Democratic majority.

March 17, 6:18 PM Political Buzz Examiner Ryan Witt

By now the health care reform bill has become something like Bigfoot in that everyone talks about it but few know what it really looks like if it exists at all.  For clarification there is in fact a “bill” which is set to be voted on by the House of Representatives this weekend.  The current bill was already passed by the Senate and has been analyzed extensively by experts. However in addition to the Senate bill the House also plans to vote on a “fix” to the bill which will then go back to the Senate.  The “fix” is not all together settled and is still being written after going through markup in the House Budget Committee (picture on left).

Still the fixes are relatively small because they must be in order to be passed through the reconciliation process in the Senate.  We therefore know most everything that the bill would do if it is passed this weekend.  Here is a plain language summary of the major provisions of the health care reform bill.

Would I Be Forced to Purchase Insurance?

Probably not.  If you already have employer-provided insurance you can keep it.  If you do not currently have any insurance you may have to purchase a plan by 2014.  Beginning in 2014 most Americans would have to purchase health care insurance or be forced to pay a fine.  If someone already has insurance (including through their employer) they would not need to worry about this provision.  For those who would be affected they could purchase insurance from anywhere but if they do not they would need to pay either $750 or 2% of their income, whichever is greater.  Exemptions would be granted for those in financial hardship which is measured using the poverty line.

Would My Current Insurance Be Affected?

Yes and no.  Yes in that any new plans would be regulated by the federal government.  The regulation would make plans provide a minimum of amount of benefits but not a maximum.  It would also implement consumer protections and an appeals process for consumers who want to dispute the decisions of their insurance companies on individual coverage.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that premiums would go down under reform compared to the rate premiums would go up without reform.

Having said all that the reform plan “grandfathers” plans already in existence.  Therefore a plan currently in existence would be exempt to any changes at least for a while under the current bill.

What About This Exchange Idea and the Public Option?

There is no public option or new government provided insurance plan under the current bill.  Instead each state would have a health care insurance exchange where any individual can purchase health insurance.  The insurance plans in the exchange would have to meet federal regulation that would ensure they provide minimum benefits, etc.  Individuals who are currently covered by an employer-provided plan could not purchase form the exchange.  Undocumented immigrants could also not purchase from the plan. 

All plans in the exchange would be regulated by the federal government.  These regulations would include requirements that the plans provide a certain minimum level of coverage, that they do not discriminate based on pre-existing exclusions, that they spend a high percentage of their premiums on actual care (around 80%), and that they follow certain consumer protection laws.  In addition plans could no longer limit how much costs they are willing to cover.  In the past insurance companies would be able to limit their liability to $250,000 for example and stop paying once that limit was reached.

What Would Happen to Medicare?

The proposal would set up a board that would research and propose solution to reduce the costs of Medicare.  The board would be specifically prohibited from proposing anything which would amount to rationing care for the elderly.  Instead the proposal would focus on reducing waste and fraud while making Medicare more efficient.

What if I Can Not Afford Health Insurance?

Individuals who make between 100%-400% above the federal poverty level would be eligible to receive credits to assist them in purchasing health care insurance.  The amount of credit would generally go down the more income an individual made.  For the poorest the credit may pay for all of their health care premiums.

Would Employers Be Forced to Provide Insurance?

Maybe.  If a business has over 50 full-time employees they will be forced to offer health care coverage or face a $750 fee per employee.  Businesses with less than 50 employees would be exempted from providing coverage.

What About Medicaid?

Medicaid would be expanded to cover all individuals under the age of 65 who make less than 133% of the federal poverty level.  Currently the poverty level is around $18,000 for a family of three.

Does the Bill Pay for Abortions?

The bill keeps the current federal law on abortion funding in that federal funds could not be used directly to pay for abortion or abortion-related services.  The current bill does not include the abortion language in the House bill which put restriction on funding which were even more strict than the current law.  Essentially the House bill would have prevented individual receiving federal assistance from purchasing any health care plan (private or not) that provided abortion coverage.

What About Small Businesses?

Initially small businesses would receive a tax credit for up to 35% of the money they pay to purchase health insurance for their employees.  By 2014 that percentage would increase to 50%.  The idea is to help small businesses pay for health insurance coverage since they currently do not have the bargaining power of larger businesses.

Small businesses would be allowed to join forces in order to purchase insurance for their employees.  In other words five small businesses could all negotiate with an insurance company together in order to get a lower rate as big businesses currently do.

How is It All Paid For?

First there is a cadillac plan tax.  If an insurance plan costs $8,500 for an individual or $23,000 for family it would be taxed at 40% for any amount above those amounts.  Most health care plans cost much less than those amounts in premiums.

Secondly there are taxes on health insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and medical supply companies.  Each of these companies would be assessed fees.  Pharmaceuticals would pay $2 billion, medical supply companies would pay $2.3 billion, and health insurance companies would pay $2 billion starting in 2011 and increasing to $10 billion by 2017.

Finally the bill would count on increased efficiency and reduced waste in Medicare to offset some of the other costs.  Overall the bill was projected to save a little over $100 billion in the first ten years of its existence and well over $700 billion after that.  Those projections were done by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

As reported in Courier Post Feb 10, 2010

Obama and Congress need a focused reform bill that brings changes most Americans want.

Improving and reforming health care in the United States, at one time, must have seemed like a simple and clear idea to President Barack Obama. After all, once he began hard-selling the idea in the summer, his administration seemed to believe that legislation could be ready to go by Labor Day.

That was six months ago — six long months filled with heated rhetoric, back-and-forth debate, writing and rewriting of the legislation, major changes and a steady erosion of public support among Americans.

It was all done wrong.

The legislation approved a few weeks back by the Senate (the version more likely to be approved than the one passed by the House of Representatives in December) is so muddled, so convoluted and confusing that it has left supporters of health care reform scratching their heads, trying to make sense of exactly what it is. It doesn’t have a public health insurance option for the most needy Americans. It won’t manage to get everyone who isn’t insured onto some kind of health insurance plan. It will lead to hefty fines for people who don’t get health insurance. And it will cost hundreds of billions.

Bottom line, few average Americans understand very much about this monstrous, thousand-page-plus bill. What parts they do understand, they don’t like, including the cost. That’s why opposition to it has steadily mounted and support has weakened.

That’s also why the current version of the health care reform legislation now looks destined to die. The election Jan. 19 of a Republican U.S. senator in Massachusetts who opposes the bill hit Washington like a bomb. The shockwave of that bomb: Many Democrats worried about getting re-elected are reconsidering their support for the bill. And the president is now calling for a televised, bipartisan health care summit in which Democrats and Republicans offer ideas for health care reform.

Obama is changing his game and trying to get Republicans involved because he did it wrong. The Democrats controlling Congress did it wrong, also. They tried to write a bill without a defined set of goals. They just went about fixing every problem, large and small, that they identified. There became no central point of what this legislation would do, aside from create a public health insurance option. Then that got compromised out of the bill.

Health care reform, if it happens at all now in a charged election year, needs to be clear of focus. It needs to prioritize a handful of important goals that most Americans want to see addressed such as lowering the cost of temporary individual (COBRA) health plans and stopping health insurers from rejecting people for coverage due to “pre-existing conditions.” Those and a few others are points we think most people and lawmakers — Republican or Democrat — can agree on.

Stick to those things that have broad support; get Republicans involved in the process; and, above all, make the cost bearable and clearly explain how it will be paid for without cutting Medicare or Medicaid, and you’d have health care reform legislation that more Americans would understand and feel good about.

Our Perspective:

What seemed like a good idea has been corrupted by politics. The fact that in 2010, the United States can not offer access to basic medical care or coverage to all it citizens is shameful. 

Those who are covered by private and group plans  are already paying  a  fee in their premiums for uninsured coverages. As usual pork and politics take front stage and the American people are left holding the bag.

President Obama has to take charge and bring both parties together. Define what they all can agree on and strip everything else out. Maybe it cannot be done all at one time! Think of the people who put you in the office first.

A bipartisan commission can be set up to present an overview of the implementation and define issues they find that should be addressed at a later date.

August 6, 2009

Written by Michael Grabell and Jennifer La Fleur as reported in ProPublica

Since the economic stimulus bill passed nearly six months ago, the Obama administration has repeatedly pledged that the money would reach middle America, seeping into the communities hardest hit by the recession.

But analysis of the most comprehensive list of stimulus spending to date found no relationship between where the money is going and unemployment and poverty.

Stimulus spending is literally all over the map, according to ProPublica’s analysis, which examined nearly all the contracts, grants and loans the government has reported awarding. Some battered counties are hauling in large amounts, while others that are just as hard hit have received little.

Take Trigg County, Ky. [2], where unemployment was 15.8 percent in June after the auto industry crisis rippled among suppliers. The stimulus has chipped in $1 million toward a biofuels facility and $30 million for a road project. According to the data, the county has been awarded $2,419 per resident.

But LaGrange County, Ind. [3], hasn’t fared so well. Despite having the identical unemployment rate, it has received only $33 a person. The community is still trying to recover after recreational vehicle plants shuttered last fall. Yet the stimulus has provided little more than the education and rural housing money that every county is scheduled to receive.

For months now, Democrats and Republicans have debated whether the stimulus is trickling down to communities that need it most. Much of the available evidence has been anecdotal, however, or based on studies that examined only transportation spending or a smaller list of projects.

The debate accelerates today as President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visit Elkhart, Ind., and Detroit for a progress report on the economy that will again highlight the stimulus. What the available data show is that spending is uneven and sometimes runs contrary to measures of need.

Elizabeth Oxhorn, the White House stimulus spokeswoman, said much of the money thus far has moved through existing grant formulas that don’t take into account regional economic swings. But as some newer stimulus programs kick in — such as economic development grants and money to hire police officers — there will be more discretion in where to send dollars, she said.

“Where we do have opportunities to target assistance and programs that are meant to help hard-hit areas, we have done that, particularly in the hard-hit auto communities,” Oxhorn said.

First Look at County-Level Spending

Overall, the stimulus program will pump $787 billion into the economy, including tax cuts.

To assess what has happened so far, ProPublica combined all the data on the federal stimulus Web site, Recovery.gov, with reports from other government sources into a list totaling $120 billion worth of stimulus spending. Of that, ProPublica examined $55 billion that could be traced to the county level.

Getting a complete accounting of the stimulus is nearly impossible because some of its largest elements — tax cuts for individuals, increases in Medicaid and unemployment — aren’t being tracked to the local level or have yet to be distributed by the states.

While those programs clearly benefit individuals hurt by the recession, they aren’t intended to create or sustain many jobs, as with dollars aimed at infrastructure or schools. The 7 percent of overall stimulus funding in ProPublica’s analysis is the broadest, most complete snapshot of spending to date.

The largest categories are highway projects, Pell Grants for low-income college students and funding to school districts for disadvantaged students. The data also include airport grants, small business loans, housing assistance, nuclear cleanup and military construction contracts.

ProPublica tested the relationship between spending per person and several socioeconomic and demographic factors across more than 3,100 counties and equivalent areas, such as Louisiana parishes, to see if there was a statistically significant pattern in the way money has been allocated.

Nationwide, the results showed no significant relationship across counties when spending was compared against unemployment, poverty, race and income. Looking within state boundaries, spending did have a relationship to unemployment in a few cases — but not always in the same direction.

In New Jersey [4], for example, counties with high unemployment were more likely to get more stimulus money per person. The opposite proved true in Michigan [5], which has the nation’s highest jobless rate at 15.2 percent. A searchable list of county stimulus projects and demographics is here. [6]

Nuclear Cleanups Boost Rural Counties

The biggest winner so far — at nearly $12,000 per resident — is Thomas County [7], an area of 583 people in the Nebraska Sandhills. Unemployment there is 4.8 percent, about half the national rate.

Judy Taylor, chairwoman of the Village Board in Thedford, said the majority of residents consider the main stimulus project, a $7 million viaduct over the railroad tracks, a waste of money.

“Out here, there seems to be plenty of work for people,” said Janice Hodges, whose family owns a gas station nearby. “It probably could have been better used somewhere else.”

Overall, the counties faring the best in the stimulus program are sparse communities with a giant road project — such as Brooks County [8], Texas, or Hocking County [9], Ohio — as one expensive project to a county with few people can skew per-capita figures.

Other counties doing well are home to Cold War weapons plants. The stimulus includes $6 billion to clean up and dispose of waste in 12 states, and those were among the first contracts awarded.

Thanks to the massive cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Benton County, Wash. [10], has received more than $1.5 billion — second only to Los Angeles County‘s [11] $2 billion in total funding so far. Benton County’s per capita spending: $9,300.

In metro areas, per-capita spending varies. LA County’s funding equates to $215 per person. New York County [12], which covers Manhattan, is receiving $610; its neighbor, the Bronx, is getting $185. Palm Beach County, Fla., is receiving $57, and Wayne County, Mich., epicenter of the auto industry meltdown, has received $183 per resident — about the national average for spending that could be tracked to the county level.

Some well-off counties are benefiting greatly.

Summit County, Utah [13], home to Park City and several upscale ski resorts, is one of the wealthiest counties in the country with a median household income of $83,000. Under the stimulus so far, it’s received $659 per person.

The money includes a $15 million interstate paving project, a $5 million bridge replacement, $1 million for sewers and sidewalks on Main Street in Coalville, and a $570,000 small-business loan to a Park City oral surgeon.

John Hanrahan, chairman of the Summit County Council, said the highway and bridge projects are in the rural part of the county and are mainly used by long-haul truckers rather than residents.

“It doesn’t necessarily help a farmer a lot for hay or gas,” he said. “It doesn’t affect the ski industry. We still have a significant portion of the population who are struggling with this recession.”

Hanrahan’s point underscores one of the basic uncertainties when determining who benefits from stimulus dollars. Money spent on a project doesn’t necessarily stay in the community. Construction workers often drive through several counties to job sites.

“People will live in one area and work in another,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com. “Some county in a region could be getting more money but it could have a beneficial impact on other counties in the region.”

Obama’s Pledge: Help Is on the Way

When Obama launched the stimulus package in February, he visited Elkhart, a city that had seen its jobless rate skyrocket from a 5.8 percent in October 2007 to 20.8 percent this March.

The next day, he visited Fort Myers, Fla., which had been pummeled by the foreclosure crisis. Since then, administration officials have repeatedly visited auto industry towns to promise help.

Trigg County is one struggling area that has seen a flood of stimulus money. The county, on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, northwest of Nashville, has about 13,000 residents but received $32.5 million.

The county’s largest manufacturer, Johnson Controls, made car seat frames until it closed in March, leaving 560 people out of work. But right on the heels of that shutdown came $30 million in federal money for an ongoing project to widen U.S. Highway 68.

That stimulus money freed state funds already pledged to the $55 million expansion, protecting the contractor’s current workforce. State officials said it might have stalled without the stimulus.

The U.S. Forest Service awarded $2 million in contracts to clean up the Land Between the Lakes recreation area, which had been devastated by an ice storm. The agency also gave the county a grant for a facility that will convert wood to fuel to power a local hospital.

“When you tally it up and see the dollars that will come into our area through the stimulus, it is working,” said Stan Humphries, Trigg County judge-executive. “It doesn’t move as fast as we would like or reach as many families as we would hope for. But we feel that we are getting our share of the funds.”

Big Pots of Money Hard to Track

Edmund Phelps, a Nobel laureate who is director of Columbia University’s Center on Capitalism and Society, said it’s no surprise that spending so far doesn’t relate to characteristics like employment or poverty. To get money out quickly, the government relied on funding formulas that aren’t designed for an economic downturn. “It’s kaleidoscopic,” he said of the stimulus. “And it was all done very quickly.”

Some of the largest pots of money — tax cuts, food stamps and Medicaid assistance — go to more than 100 million individuals, and government auditors are struggling to estimate the local impact.

“Can you send a man to Jupiter? In theory you can,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. “We could in theory track every dollar, but you have to consider the expense and the time it would take to do that.”

For other types of spending programs — such as the $54 billion to stabilize state budgets and help local schools, or $6 billion to build water and sewage treatment plants — the money trail stops at the state governments, which are still deciding how to divvy up the funds. Only a fraction of the stabilization money has been sent to the states from Washington.

Other programs, such as transit grants, mask where the jobs are created. When the Akron, Ohio, transit authority bought 19 buses, for example, it created work at local rubber suppliers — but also at the plants that made the buses in Kansas, North Dakota and California.

“It’s difficult to take into account all of the different dimensions,” said Steve Murdock, a former Census Bureau director who is a professor of sociology at Rice University. “You have populations with various kinds of needs and local economies that reflect different kinds of conditions.”

Elkhart’s Poor Cousin Next Door

As Obama returns to Elkhart, he might want to consider LaGrange County just to the east.

While Elkhart County has been awarded about $169 per resident — a little less than the national average — LaGrange has received just $33 a person, according to the data.

Both counties saw their economies crater last year when high gas prices and tight credit made it difficult to sell recreational vehicles, a primary industry there. Dozens of factories, dealerships and suppliers shut down while thousands lost their jobs.

LaGrange County has several needed transportation and infrastructure projects, said Keith Gillenwater, the county’s economic development director. But so far, it has been shut out of any of the federal highway funding doled out by the state government.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “To me there’s a lot of disparity that should be re-examined and taken into consideration.”

 

ProPublica is America’s largest investigative newsroom.

A Billion Zeros

November 20, 2008

Just a little food for thought!

The next time you hear a politician use the word ‘billion’ in a casual manner, think about
whether you want the ‘politicians’ spending YOUR tax money. Have you seen this, now going around the Internet?

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.
A.

A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
B.

A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

 

C.

A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

 
D.

A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.

 

E.

A billion dollars ago was only

8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government

 

is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain…

let’s take a look at New Orleans …

It’s amazing what you can learn with some simple division.
Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) is presently asking Congress for

250 BILLION DOLLARS

to rebuild New Orleans . Interesting number…

what does it mean?

A.

Well… if you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans

(every man, woman, and child)

you each get $516,528.
B.

Or… if you have one of the 188,251 homes in
New Orleans , your home gets $1,329,787.
C.

Or… if you are a family of four…

your family gets $2,066,012.

Just some things to think about…

Here’s some more to think about. I am going to list some taxes below…

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax < BR>Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food Licens e Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting Licen se Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Ta x
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring ChargesTax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

Now, think about this…

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago…and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
We had absolutely no national debt…

We had the largest middle class in the world.
What happened?

Can you spell ‘politicians!’

And I still have to

press ‘1’

for English.

I hope this goes around the

USA

at least 100 times

What the heck happened????

Comments are welcome!