Before we get to the bad deeds, I would like to pass on a couple of comments on the Senate Health
Care Bill that I spotted: – Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa): He vowed that Democrats will continue to work on health care reform and promised more legislative fixes in the future. “What we’re building here is not a mansion. It’s a starter home. But it’s got a great foundation. … This is not the end of health care reform, it’s the beginning of health care reform,” Harkin said.
Paul Krugman: – Unless some legislator pulls off a last-minute double-cross, health care reform will pass the Senate this week. Count me among those who consider this an awesome achievement. It’s a seriously flawed bill, we’ll spend years if not decades fixing it, but it’s nonetheless a huge step forward.
And now, the Bad Deeds:
Obstruction, Like Never Before – It wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were filibusters in the past — most notably by segregationists trying to block civil rights legislation. But the modern system, in which the minority party uses the threat of a filibuster to block every bill it doesn’t like, is a recent creation.
The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, “extended-debate-related problems” — threatened or actual filibusters — affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.
Some conservatives argue that the Senate’s rules didn’t stop former President George W. Bush from getting things done. But this is misleading, on two levels.
First, Bush-era Democrats weren’t nearly as determined to frustrate the majority party, at any cost, as Obama-era Republicans. Certainly, Democrats never did anything like what Republicans did last week: G.O.P. senators held up spending for the Defense Department — which was on the verge of running out of money — in an attempt to delay action on health care.
More important, however, Mr. Bush was a buy-now-pay-later president. He pushed through big tax cuts, but never tried to pass spending cuts to make up for the revenue loss. He rushed the nation into war, but never asked Congress to pay for it. He added an expensive drug benefit to Medicare, but left it completely unfunded. Yes, he had legislative victories; but he didn’t show that Congress can make hard choices and act responsibly, because he never asked it to.
Tort Reform Is a Failure in Texas – Supporters of limiting health providers’ liability have touted Texas’ medical malpractice experiment as the solution for improving national health care. For example, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann held up Texas as a successful liability “pilot program” in an address in September, stating, “The state of Texas did a wonderful job of lawsuit reform and actually saw medical costs come down. We know it works.”
But most of the claims touting positive effects of the Texas law – which took effect in September, 2003 and included a $250,000 per defendant liability cap – are flatly contradicted by the data.
By the measures commonly used to evaluate health care – such as cost, the uninsured rate, and access to care – Texas has regressed since its liability law took effect. Collectively, these measures show that Texas has one of the worst health care systems in the United States. Moreover, since 2003 Texas has either failed to improve or grown even worse compared to other states on almost every measure.
Since the liability laws took effect:
• The cost of health care in Texas (measured by per patient Medicare reimbursements) has increased at nearly double the national average;
• Spending increases for diagnostic testing (measured by per patient Medicare reimbursements) have far exceeded the national average;
• The state’s uninsured rate has increased, remaining the highest in the country;
• The cost of health insurance in the state has more than doubled;
• Growth in the number of doctors per capita has slowed; and
• The number of doctors per capita in underserved rural areas has declined.
The only improvement in Texas since 2003 has been a decline in doctors’ liability insurance
premiums. But payments by liability insurers on behalf of doctors have dropped far more than
doctors’ premiums. This suggests that insurers are pocketing more of the savings than they are
passing to doctors.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Gets More Than $40,000 of Taxpayer Money per Month – U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $40,000 per month on office space, staff, cell phones and a leased SUV for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, even as he works as a lobbyist for private corporations and foreign governments.
The payments are perfectly legal under a federal law that provides five years of benefits for former speakers — but only if Hastert never makes use of his government-funded perks in the course of his lobbying work. Ethics experts say that sort of separation is hard to maintain.
Top 10 Fox News Fail[ure]s of 2009 – Most of us know that Fox news is to news as MTV is to music. Since the 2003 court ruling giving the channel the right to lie on TV, they realized they didn’t have to be a credible news source as long as they are entertaining.
Sean Hannity Wants To Radically Change America – Sean Hannity never stops accusing President Obama and Democrats of being dangerous radicals. Yet he cavalierly threw out to his panel on 12/18/09 that “the real answer” is “to eliminate public schools.” Who’s trying to revamp America now?
Glenn Beck’s Christmas Wish for America – On Glenn Beck’s Christmas special on 12/19/09, Beck said that “if we could capture who we are at this time of the year… if we do that all year long, we’d be fine.” This, just three days after he had trumped up an excuse to accuse President Obama of “bordering” on treason. Beck concluded this segment by suggesting that if only more catastrophes, a la 9/11, would strike us, we’d all be better off. Really?
Glenn Beck’s The Christmas Sweater: 12 Better Titles For His One-Man Movie – 😉 Glenn Beck’s movie sold 17 tickets in New York City and another 17 in Boston. Maybe a better title would help:
· Glenn Beck Lays a Yule Log
· Debacle on 34th Street
· It’s a Wonderful Lie
· I Saw Commies Dissing Santa Claus
· Angry White Christmas
· God Hates Thee, Fairy Gentlemen
· Do You Fear What I Fear?
· Textbooks Roasting On an Open Fire
· Here I Come A-Whimpering
· Insanity Claus is Coming to Town
· O Holy Nut
· Glenn Beck’s The Holiday Fruitcake