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Candidate Obama VS President Obama On Fixing Medicare

by on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 10:55 am EDT in Healthcare, Politics

On the campaign trail, CANDIDATE Obama was very specific on how he intended to fix Medicare:

1. To lower Medicare costs, Candidate Obama said he would permit Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with the price-gauging pharmaceutical industry:

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SEN. OBAMA: But one thing I have to say, we are not going to make some of these changes unless we change how business is done in Washington. The reason that we can’t negotiate prescription drugs under the Medicare prescription drug plan is because the drug companies specifically sought and obtained a provision in that bill that prevented us from doing it.

MS. WASHBURN: Thank you.

SEN. OBAMA: And unless we change that politics, we’re going to continue to see the waste that we’re seeing in the entitlement programs.

2. He would increase revenues by $300 Billion simply by ending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and use that to shore up Social Security and Medicare:


We’re not going to solve social security and Medicare unless we understand the rest of our tax policies. … Let’s be clear about my tax plan and Senator McCain’s, because we’re not going to be able to deal with entitlements unless we understand the revenues coming in. […]

Senator McCain wants to give a $300 Billion tax cut to — $200 Billion of it to the largest corporations and $100 Billion of it going to people like CEOs on Wall Street.

If we get our tax polices right so that they’re good for the middle class. If we reverse the policies of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place, and that Senator McCain supported, then we are going to be in a position to deal with Social Security and deal with Medicare, because we will have a health care plan that actually works for you, reduces spending and costs over the long term, and Social Security that is stable and solvent for all Americans, and not just some.

 So let’s see how PRESIDENT Obama fared in advancing his progressive platform for saving Medicare:

 1. Promise to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices:

In August of 2009, the Obama Administration admitted to cutting a secret back room deal with Big Pharma which SPARED the wealthy drug industry from having to negotiate drug prices with Medicare. Obama, additionally, broke another promise by dealing away Americans’ ability to import cheaper drugs from Canada.

In return, the drug industry agreed to kick in $80 Billion in savings over ten years (a mere 2.6% of the $3 Trillion Americans are predicted to spend on drugs over that same time period), and the industry additionally agreed to toss Obama $150 million in television ads to sell his “health reform” bill.  

2) Promise to add $300 Billion in revenues by allowing Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy to expire (which he would use to shore up entitlements): 

Now you might have expected, by the way Candidate Obama tied Bush Tax Cuts (as a source of revenue) directly to offsetting entitlement expenditures during his campaign, that he would have made entitlements the central focal point last December to make the case for allowing Bush tax cuts to expire.

But to the shock and dismay of his own party, Obama flipped on this campaign promise, quickly agreeing to extend Bush Tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And only THEN, after it passed — thereby ensuring there would be no additional revenues — did he moves on to addressing entitlement expenditures. 

His NEW PLAN For Fixing Medicare:

Here was Obama over the weekend, revealing his new — perhaps undisclosed would be a more accurate depiction? — plan for fixing Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid:

Essentially, what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending, both domestic and defense. We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.

Who the hell is this guy?

Here Comes The Pain: Two-thirds of States Cut Mental Health Care Funding

by on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 1:29 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics, Tax Policies

Despite an increase in our nation’s mental health care needs due to tens of millions of Americans having lost their jobs, and tens of thousands of military personnel returning home from war, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is reporting that two-thirds of states are making deep cuts to their mental health care programs.

NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick is calling these cuts “a national crisis”:

“Cutting mental health means that costs only get shifted to emergency rooms, schools, police, local courts, jails and prisons,” Fitzpatrick said. “The taxpayer still pays the bill.

“Mental health cuts mean that clinics, crisis centers and hospitals close. Admissions are frozen. Emergency room visits increase. Where services remain, staff is cut, wait times for appointments are stretched and when people finally are seen, it’s for shorter amounts of time.

“Cuts mean people don’t get the right help in the right place at the right time. Communities suffer and families break under the strain. Some people end up living on the street or dead.”

Their report breaks down each state’s cuts and includes the seventeen states who have managed to increase their mental health care programs’ funding.

This is what President Obama and the Republican Party failed to mention when they insisted on extending tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, and as they continue to shield multi-billion dollar corporations from paying a single penny in taxes: they have made a choice to further enrich the wealthiest Americans and corporations by kicking the most vulnerable and the most marginalized amongst us to the curb. Literally!

“Job Creators” & “Investors”: The Disconnect Between Republican Policies & Economic Stimulus

by on Monday, March 7, 2011 at 11:03 am EDT in Politics

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)The Republican Party’s latest economic policy proposals are nothing short of pure unadulterated neo-liberalism — the radical merciless ideology foisted upon the world by economist Milton Freedman. Recent events throughout the country have been playing out like a chapter straight out of Naomi Klein’s hugely important bestseller, The Shock Doctrine.

First the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, then the calls for deregulation, union-busting, and privatization; followed by — surprise! — severe austerity measures. These policies, if fully enacted, will accomplish little more than transferring trillions of dollars to the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and in doing so crushing the lives of average Americans.

Any ‘trickle down’ effects yielded from extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy — which added nearly a trillion dollars to our national debt — would have been negligible at best. But they will literally be jack-hammered to oblivion if followed by the Republican-proposed Draconian measures.

Their calls for deep spending cuts in the public sector (both at Federal and State levels) will translate into whittling away all safety nets for America’s elderly and most vulnerable, while issuing pink slips for teachers, cops, firemen, postal employees, librarians, etc.

Instead of paying teachers to educate our children, and cops to fight crime, taxpayers will instead be writing their unemployment checks. That is, until Republicans can finally figure out a way to terminate unemployment insurance as well. Meanwhile, our national infrastructure continues to crumble beneath our feet.

And their proposals do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy. Unless you believe that sacking public workers will magically reduce unemployment, and somehow stimulate consumer demand (the driver for economic expansion).

Rather than subjecting lower and middle-income Americans to severe austerity measures, our economy would be best served by doing the very opposite. Policies that help to improve the financial bottom-line for struggling Americans guarantees an economic spark, if only because these Americans have little choice, but to spend every last dollar they make on necessities (i.e. they put ALL of it right back into the economy).

Unlike lower and middle-income Americans, the wealthy have the luxury to hoard each and every penny netted from their tax cuts. And few of them will be enticed to invest in a recessionary environment where risks are abnormally high.

How many millionaires are out stimulating the economy right now by purchasing third or fourth homes here in the U.S., when economists are now forecasting a double dip in home prices? How many are considering starting up new businesses, dependent upon consumer spending, when consumer bankruptcies just hit a 5-year high?

For wealthy individuals who do choose to invest, many will wisely target foreign companies, foreign mutual funds, foreign real estate, and multinationals who do business where economies are still growing. In other words, the ‘trickle-down’ part of Republican economic policies will actually occur in China, India, and elsewhere.

The supply-side ideology is based upon a faulty and outdated model that conveniently ignores competition for investment dollars overseas, and is largely dependent upon exaggerating the discretionary spending behavior of the wealthy.

As for corporate tax laws, two-thirds of all U.S. corporations dodged paying a single penny in taxes between 1998 and 2005. And how did these corporations repay the favor? By shifting their labor investments overseas, to countries where the cost of labor is extremely low, and where few if any environmental protection laws exist.

Cisco just released their international salary report showing that the average annual salary of their technical professionals in India ($14,508) is just 1/4 of what their American counterparts make ($62,993). And yet their Indian employees work 56 hours per week, on average — that’s 25% more hours than their American counterparts (45 hrs).

To rub some serious salt into the wounds, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that U.S. corporations (not even including Wall Street Banks) were sitting on close to $2 trillion in cash — the highest corporate cash reserves in over 50 years! — and still refuse to hire in the United States:

Rather than pouring their money into building plants or hiring workers, nonfinancial companies in the U.S. were sitting on $1.93 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of September, up from $1.8 trillion at the end of June, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Cash accounted for 7.4% of the companies’ total assets—the largest share since 1959.

The cash buildup shows the deep caution many companies feel about investing in expansion while the economic recovery remains painfully slow and high unemployment and battered household finances continue to limit consumers’ ability to spend.

Yet, Republicans contend we must deregulate our industries further to help corporations cut their costs — at the expense of the environment and consumer protections — and desist from demanding they pay their fair share in taxes — all so that they will have the money they need to “create jobs”.

NO informed American — outside of wealthy individuals and corporate profiteers — could possibly support the Republican Party’s economic policies.

Which begs the question: how does a political party, which serves only the interests of its wealthiest contributors, continue to successfully legislate policies that work against the very interests of the American people?

Since their ideology is unsupported by the facts, they hire “word doctors” who coin misleading phrases to be repeated over and over again. Phrases that are both simplistic and somehow ‘intuitive’ to a non-discerning public.

This has remained their tried and true method for selling destructive economic policies to the American people. Take Frank Luntz, probably the most famous of all conservative “word doctors”. He coined the phrase “government takeover of healthcare”, which became the talking point for the Republican Party during the health care reform debate. It helped spur the Tea Party into storming Democratic town hall meetings during that period — terrified that “Marxists” were coming after their Medicare.

Their current economic play-script is inundated with two phrases: “job creators” and “investors” — to be used in place of “corporations” and “wealthy individuals”. These phrases — more or less the equivalents of “fair and balanced” being used to describe Fox News ‘reporting’ — are now the cornerstone of the entire Republican economic policy narrative.

Take Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Virtually every sentence that comes out of his mouth includes the phrase “job creators”. Check out his Twitter account and count the tweets where he reiterates the phrase “job creators”. In fact, he created a website called where he asks “job creators” to tell him what kinds of consumer protection regulations he should dismantle on their behalf.

The guy is a corporate lobbyist’s wet dream.

And our obsequious President — instead of showing leadership on this issue and dismantling this fictitious narrative — first capitulated on extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, then capitulated to Issa back in January on the argument that deregulation helps create jobs. In doing so, he legitimized what he knows to be untrue, making it next to impossible for his party to now push for MORE regulation and RAISE taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals without immediately being branded as hostile to “job creators”.

The Conservative Party in Canada, having noticed the success their Republican counterparts across the border were having with this “job creators” phrase, quickly employed it as their own anti-tax slogan.

But make no mistake about it. Our current economic plight was created by:

  • Bush’s deregulatory policies leading to a financial meltdown, and the ensuing AIG and TARP bailouts.
  • Bush’s misleading us into unnecessary & expensive wars.
  • Bush’s granting the wealthiest 2% nearly $3 trillion in tax cuts over the last decade.
  • Two-thirds of all corporations having evaded paying a single penny in taxes from their trillions in profits over the last decade.
  • Corporations having moved our higher paying jobs overseas to low-cost labor countries.

It is not due to a lack of investing capital by cash-hoarding, tax-evading corporations and the wealthiest 2% (the so called “job creators”) — which remains the Republican rationale for cutting taxes and deregulation.

Yet, somehow the lives of the rich and powerful keep getting easier — more comfortable — while the burden for the reckless calamity they unleashed on this country slowly, but surely — thanks to a combination of an emboldened right-wing and a compliant, timid President — gets shifted onto the backs of the American people in the form of harsh austerity measures.

Milton Friedman’s legacy continues to haunt us.