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Friday, 06 May 2011 12:59

Five Republican Myths About Medicare


There are more than five assertions that the right wing gets wrong about Medicare, but five is a start.

As with many embedded falsehoods in the corporate/wealthy choir book, the Medicare claims by the right are often inconsistent and even contradictory, depending upon which demographic group is parroting them.

BuzzFlash at Truthout noted yesterday that it is imperative that the US discuss public policy issues based on facts, not "factoids" that have no basis in fact.

1) "Medicare is socialist" (often asserted by pre-Medicare age Tea Party members and the vestige of the John Birch Society right wing). Medicare is not socialist. It is a government insurance program that cuts the cost of senior health care by cutting out the profit of private insurers. No health care providers are employed by the federal government for Medicare, as is the case in England, where health care is socialized.

2) "Medicare is not run by the government, so it is not socialized" (sometimes claimed by Republican seniors, who then can argue against "socialized medicine" for the rest of Americans). Medicare is an insurance program administered by the American government through a fund paid into by workers and employers. There are private supplementary insurance policies available for gaps in coverage.

3) "Members of Congress receive the same benefits as Medicare recipients" (occasionally used by supporters of Paul Ryan's Medicare voucher program to "prove" that Republicans in Congress will receive the same care that they are proposing for seniors). Members of Congress receive generous health care insurance through private providers and most of the coverage is paid for by the taxpayer. It is similar to being an employee in a company that provides private health care insurance. It has nothing to do with Medicare coverage.

4) "Medicare is a waste of taxpayer dollars on the poor" (at times used by "poorly informed" Republicans, who don't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.) Medicaid is a government insurance program for the very poor; it has nothing to do with Medicare and is funded through the general federal budget, not through employee/employer contributions.

5) "Medicare costs can only be reduced through a voucher program" (frequently used by advocates of Ryan's budget). As Eric Cantor recently admitted, any savings that a voucher program would have would come from rationing care through private insurance. Medicare is not currently rationed. Medicare costs can be reduced through eliminating supplementary private insurance (thus saving seniors money) ; cutting payments to providers, hospitals, medical equipment vendors and pharmaceutical companies (big pharma is making billions from taxpayers because the Bush Administration ensured that Medicare could not negotiate for prescription costs in Medicare Part D); reducing Medicare fraud; raising employer and or employee premium contributions; and raising taxes on for-profit health corporations among other possibilities. None of these would likely lead to rationing, but a voucher program would, according to Cantor, as a result of the inability of less wealthy seniors to pay for supplemental insurance (because the vouchers would cover only a small portion of private insurance premium costs for an elderly person) and, thus, be denied needed care.

These are only five of the Republican message points on Medicare that are factually wrong or misleading. Imagine if Congress and Americans were debating Medicare and health care as a whole based on fact instead of manufactured partisan "factoids."


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As we hopefully move toward an exit from Afghanistan, let us turn our attention to another debilitating conflict: America's war on reality.

When it comes to creating "facts" out of fiction - through repetition in the corporate media and by the right-wing funded echo chamber - the greatest threat to our nation may come from a misinformed public.

Take a recent New York Times poll which found:

In general, however, few Americans back increasing taxes on American businesses: only 37 percent said corporate taxes should be increased to help reduce the federal budget deficit. The rest agree with an alternative argument that increased taxes would discourage American companies from creating jobs and hurt them in the global marketplace. Thirty-two percent would rather see corporate taxes remain as they are now and 26 percent said taxes on corporate profits should be decreased.

But, reality has shown that American companies are exporting jobs overseas at record rates (more than two million in the last few years); sitting on trillions of dollars rather than investing it; distributing record profits to shareholders and bonuses to executives; and sending funds offshore to avoid US taxes.

Without sufficient consumer dollars in America to support production expansion, and with the cost of labor overseas a fraction of what it is in the US, lowering the tax rates of companies does not generally increase jobs at home. It just increases profits.

Take for example Wal-Mart. According to CNN, Wal-Mart shoppers are "running out of money." CNN notes that "Wal-Mart has struggled with seven straight quarters of sales declines in its stores" in the US.

When the displaced workers who are on minimum wage can't afford Wal-Mart anymore, giving tax breaks to companies isn't going to create many jobs in the United States, because there are fewer people to buy inventory. Why would a company expand when there is decreasing consumer demand? Why would they create jobs in the US when they can increase their profit on a given product ten-fold by paying one-twentieth the labor cost in a sweat shop in a third world nation?

Corporations based in the United States should pay their fair share for supporting a democracy that has allowed them to flourish. Making more Americans aware of the dynamics of modern large corporations - and declining consumer purchasing power in the US - would go a long way in defeating the Chamber of Commerce/Koch brothers' war on reality when it comes to corporate accountability.


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No, BuzzFlash at Truthout is not making some wild accusation.  This is what Eric Cantor said as reported by the DC political publication, The Hill.

In a remarkable moment of candor, Eric Cantor admitted that the Republican plan for health care will involve rationing.

What's next, GOP "death panels"?

Well, actually, here is Cantor's death panel concession - as in he really means it. According to The Hill, "Cantor said Republicans want a safety net for people who can't afford care but that 'we're not for everyone having the same outcome guaranteed.'" In short, less affluent people will get poorer "outcomes," otherwise known as dying.

Cantor defies the fact proven by Medicare by claiming that private insurers will do a better job at "rationing." As a government-administered insurance program that uses private providers, Medicare reduces administrative costs by what some estimate to be as high as 25 percent. Why? It's simple; private health insurance has to make a profit, and it has to employ people to deny services and claims.

So, turning all health care back to private insurance companies would increase the cost of health care, not reduce it. That can only be done by paying health care providers, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment suppliers and hospitals less - or increasing premiums for everyone with health insurance, including seniors, to the hilt. And, of course, it is a given that one of the quickest ways to reduce non-Medicare health care costs is to get rid of private insurance, which adds a double-digit percentage to our national medical bill.

Cantor, ironically, fulfills what Sarah Palin was falsely claiming about the Democratic plan for health care reform: the Republicans want health insurance companies to make more money and Americans with less resources to just accept more limited care.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote that Paul Ryan should be the first volunteer to go on his proposed Medicare plan as his family insurance policy. Cantor should be the second, and the rest of the Republican caucus should follow suit.

Because the system of health care for the wealthy - and Band-Aids to cure cancer for the rest of us - will closely follow their draconian plans for Medicare.


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If the politicians in DC are so serious about deficit reduction, then why don't they start by cutting their own pay, health care benefits and pensions?

Doesn't budget control begin at home?

And if Paul Ryan's Medicare plan is so terrific, why don't Ryan and other Congressional supporters of his budget immediately pass a bill that will replace their health care benefits with the Ryan plan?

In fact, why not run a test program with the Koch brothers, members of their Americans for Prosperity and elderly Tea Party supporters? All of them should volunteer to immediately go on the Ryan Medicare, drastically limited "voucher program" - which would leave a high percentage of seniors unable to afford medical insurance - as sort of a test model of Ryan's plans for privatizing and shrinking Medicare.

Then we can see the actual results of a plan that would raise health care costs by adding the profits of corporations and administrative costs to Medicare, while drastically reducing benefits due to the small amount of money allocated to vouchers for each senior - and the for-profit insurance industry profit motivation to deny as much care as possible.

If Ryan is the "visionary" much of the corporate media makes him out to be, let Americans see his "vision" actualized by a trial implementation of his proposed program.

Let Ryan be the first volunteer, after he cuts his pay, pension and other Congressional benefits.


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No fracking way!

According to the Erie-Times News:

Gov. Tom Corbett defended his proposed budget in his first visit to Erie County as the state's chief executive, and said some universities could make up for the loss of state funds by opening their campuses to natural-gas drilling.

Speaking at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania at a conference for the trustees from the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools, Corbett said six universities on the Marcellus shale formation could open to drilling.

BuzzFlash at Truthout has detailed the toxic cocktail stew used in what is called "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing), a likely cancer-causing process that has ended up in the well and stream water of many areas around fracking sites.

As Thom Hartmann writes in a recent review of "Gasland" (available as a documentary DVD with a minimum donation to BuzzFlash/Truthout): "Instead of just recovering gas, the chemicals often seep into water tables - usually with some of the natural gas - leading to some of the most dramatic scenes in the movie where residents of gas country are able to light their tapwater on fire as it's coming out of the tap."

Since BuzzFlash at Truthout first began monitoring fracking, a populist revolt has arisen against it, particularly in the Marcellus Shale drilling basin that include Pennsylvania. Just type "fracking" into a Facebook search and see how many grassroots groups there are in opposition to the process.

Of course, Corbett, who has received much money in contributions from the drilling industry, may have a couple of ulterior motives for turning higher education into a zombie lab chemistry experiment.

For one, according to the Erie-Times News, "Corbett's proposed 2011-12 budget includes a $2 billion decrease in education funding and 50 percent reduction in aid to colleges and universities. That includes $220 million in aid eliminated from PASSHE's state allocation and $182 million cut from the Pennsylvania State University system's allocation."

It appears Corbett is intent on transforming higher education into lower education, where, at frat parties, students can get drunk and light their tap water on fire for cheap thrills.

As far as drinking the water, we hope that Governor Corbett has set up a college chemotherapy fund, despite his cutbacks for education


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Would Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tell hungry people to go without food?

Apparently so, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which provides details of Walker's effort to outsource decision making about who should receive food stamps to a for-profit company.

One online publication, Politicususa, labels this latest radical Walker initiative "his Wisconsin food stamp starvation scheme."

Not only is it ethically appalling to implicitly assert that Wisconsin can save money by, in essence, letting a for-profit company ration food stamps to the hungry, it doesn't appear to even work.

According to the Journal Sentinel,

Federal officials pointed to past problems with privatization deals in other states such as Indiana and Texas. In 2009, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration dropped IBM's $1.4 billion contract to handle intake for residents of that state seeking health coverage and food assistance.

The state ended up suing the company for allegedly failing to live up to the contract and provide adequate service to sick and needy residents, said Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. The dispute drags on in court.

Furthermore, the Journal Sentinel indicates that Wisconsin will lose money from D.C. if Walker's plan is implemented: "Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to privatize work determining who is eligible for food assistance in the state would violate federal law and could expose the state to a loss of more than $20 million in federal money, federal officials say."

Food stamps have been shown to have a strong positive economic effect, returning more money to the economy than their cost. How is that possible? Because a hungry family that uses food stamps creates jobs for food stores, truck drivers, farmers, food workers, etc.

Walker's rationing of food stamps through a for-profit company is not just callous, it's an economic folly for the taxpayers of the Badger State.


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The revolt against authoritarian Republican "Daddy States" continues, as a Michigan election panel gave preliminary approval for a recall effort to proceed against Governor Rick Snyder.

According to the Detroit Free Press the main group behind the initiative, Michigan Citizens United, "would need the signatures of 807,000 registered voters collected within a 90-day period to force an election."

Snyder is being targeted by Michigan residents dissatisfied with several of his actions since assuming office. These include the passing of an "emergency fiscal manager" bill that gives the governor enhanced powers to dissolve local governments, contracts with public employees, and privatize public services from the local to state level.

Most recently, Snyder has faced criticism for cutting $895 million from local aid to schools, while requesting (thus far passed in the Michigan House) a $1.8 billion tax break for businesses. The cut in taxes for businesses will be financed, in large part, by the transfer of school funding into the state's general operating funds.

More significantly, Snyder is giving the tax break to business at the expense of seniors, who would have the taxes on their pensions increased. Furthermore, support for those in poverty would be reduced to underwrite the giveaway to business. According to the Detroit Daily News, a Democratic state representative, Lisa Howze of Detroit, scathingly responded to the concept of taking from seniors and the poor to give to the better off,

"Today it became clear that 'Jobs' is not Job No. 1 for Republicans," she said in a statement. "I'm shocked and appalled that they are supportive of a nearly $2 billion transfer of wealth from our most vulnerable to big business without a guarantee of a single job being created."

"The measures," according to the Daily News, "also eliminate the state's Earned Income Tax Credit that gives an average of more than $400 to 700,000 Michigan families. Critics of the move have said dumping the credit will push 14,000 more children into poverty."

Whether the recall effort moves forward will depend upon whether Governor Snyder succeeds with legal challenges, and whether or not Michigan Citizens United can gather sufficient signatures to initiate a special election.


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If you think the incessant coverage of a reality television star, the repeatedly bankrupt Donald Trump, is proof of the dumbing down of America, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is working hard at making his citizens dumber.

Not only is Walker conducting an assault on public education and teachers - as well as trying to implement plans that would make the highly regarded University of Wisconsin a political football - he's slashing the state budget for libraries.

According to the Madison paper Isthmus,

Under Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget, Wisconsin libraries would see their funding requests cut by more than $18.9 million in 2012 alone, threatening a wide variety of services, including those for job-seekers and the blind....

"Officially? Nobody's saying they're taking retirement, but people are dropping like flies," says Rhonda Puntney, Wisconsin Library Association president.

The cuts come at a particularly bad time, as workers struggle to recover from the recession, says Puntney.

"It's not just books and story times and computer access," she says. "We're helping people look for jobs and learn computer skills, so they can apply for jobs. That's been a really big focus, especially for adult services. A lot of places have really stepped up, especially places like Racine and Beloit, with programs specifically geared toward job hunters."

So, not only will the residents of Wisconsin have less access to library services for education and reading, Walker's cuts will have an impact on the ability of jobless people to utilize them for research and retraining assistance.

When you run an authoritarian "Daddy State," ignorance, for your vassals and jobless, may be bliss.


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Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans, such as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, are implementing antidemocracy "Daddy States."

What happens in a "Daddy State"?

The first rule is that your vote is taken away and "Daddy" decides for you. This applies if you have personally voted, with the majority, a policy into law via the referendum process. It also means that "Daddy" governors, such as Walker, can take away the rights of municipalities to decide regulations that govern their employees.

In Wisconsin, Walker is likely to sign a law that would nullify a 2008 City of Milwaukee referendum mandating paid sick leave for workers. It passed by a margin of 69-31 percent, a landslide by any standard.

"Who are we as a legislative body to question 69 percent of the voters of the City of Milwaukee?" asked Milwaukee Democratic Assemblymember Chris Sinicki.

The Superior Telegram newspaper notes that the law "would also ban similar ordinances from being passed elsewhere in Wisconsin."

So, in Walker's or Snyder's "Daddy State," your vote doesn't count in terms of local and community rule.

"Daddy" decides what's best for you, even if Daddy doesn't know best.

(Special thanks to Mark Crispin Miller for the tip.)


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With the surprise White House release of the long form version of President Obama's birth certificate (see .pdf of birth certificate here), Obama has finally taken on the alternative reality of the right wing, ambushing the re-emergence of the issue by Donald Trump.

For his entire presidency, Obama has pretty much ignored or downplayed the dangerous and obsessive fantasies promoted by FOX and the right-wing propaganda machine, including the birther movement.  But a recent poll indicated that only about 1/3 of Republicans believed that Obama was born in the US - and that was before the publicity hound from New York used the issue for self-promotion, in the typical Trump egotistical media attention-grabbing fashion.

So Obama, as he indicated in an unscheduled early Wednesday morning White House press appearance devoted to the birther claims and the document that disproves them once and for all, realized that the spectacle-loving press was going to continue to sensationalize the charges of the alternative universe unless he punctured a hole in the psychotic theories.

Obama's remarks to the White House press corps singled out the media for ignoring public policy issues and, instead, covering crazy theories - not to mention Barnum and Bailey celebrity camera hogs such as Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not running for president; he is just getting as much air time as he can.  That is what he lives for.  The guy has so many skeletons in his closet, there's no room for his contoured toupee and purple ties, so forget any serious consideration of the presidency by him.

The media loves Trump because he's good press, an outsize New York egomaniac who is a great mass audience draw and therefore increases advertising dollars and profits.  Obama was laying down a marker to the press in his remarks, a point that David Corn of the Nation similarly concludes.

From now on, Obama has called out Orly Taitz, Michele Bachmann, and a large part of the Republican Party which has adopted absurd and dangerous fantasies as the basis of their politics, while the nation faces extraordinary challenges that require serious public policy discussion.

But if the mainstream corporate media - which is now more devoted to the dollars associated with sensationalism and entertainment than the fate of the nation - continues to move in the direction of the National Inquirer, America's ability to function as a nation will be, perhaps, fatally impaired.

It appears now that Obama finally gets it.

Reality counts.


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