Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where's the "fierce urgency of now?"

"Yes, we can!"

As President Obama begins his Campaign 2012 for re-election against a GOP field that ranges from the terminally disingenuous to the dangerously demagogic, we have a "must-read" commentary from Ezra Klein (the WaPo's Wonkbook), reflecting on some undeniable weaknesses of the administration's approach to dealing with its opposition - most notably a failure to take a compelling counter-argument directly and dramatically to the American people:
I don’t blame Obama for being unable to change Washington. I don’t blame him for being unable to pass cap-and-trade. But I blame him for ceasing to try. And for sometimes letting what can be done distract from what needs to be done...

Back when Obama won the South Carolina primary, he warned of a “status quo that extends beyond any particular party and right now that status quo is fighting back with everything it’s got.” If anything, he was understating his case. But he was right to try to inspire voters to cast away their skepticism, to say that “where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words — yes, we can.”

Lately, the administration’s creed can be summed up more modestly: “Hopefully, the Senate won’t let them.”
The contrast with the 2008 campaign — which correctly saw some virtue in ambition, even if what it promised was unrealistic — is stark.

Read Klein's entire piece, "What happened to the 'fierce urgency of now?'", HERE.

GOP budget czar Paul Ryan proposes killing Medicare - and replacing it with "Obamacare" for seniors

Forbes' columnist & health care consultant Rick Ungar has the story:
Ryan, 3/23/10: "Obamacare is a fiscal Frankenstein, it’s a train wreck."
Despite the Republican propensity to compare the Affordable Care Act to something akin to the antichrist, word is that GOP budget leader, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), will propose a dramatic change in the Medicare program that will closely mirror the key features of Obamacare – only for seniors.

The proposal would do away with (for everyone presently under 55 years of age) the current single payer government system for senior medical care and replace it with a program whereby seniors would choose private health insurance coverage from a menu of approved private health insurers. The government would subsidize the program by giving seniors a voucher to be used in purchasing coverage, the amount of such payment to be defined according to need.
The columnist then asks, "Does this sound familiar?"  Well, yes.  It's a government subsidized exchange system following the model of what the GOP derisively dubbed "Obamacare" - the Affordable Care Act of 2010 that reformed our health insurance system for those under 65. But there's a poison pill in this "Ryancare" bill. A Congressional Budget Office study last November determined that seniors would likely either face higher premiums or less extensive coverage under Ryan's scheme to kill Medicare. 

Forbes' Ungar explains:
Unfortunately, while Ryan has emulated a number of features from the ACA, he’s forgotten to make the adjustments the law makes to actually ensure that health care is more accessible to beneficiaries rather than more profitable to health insurance companies.

Making private insurance work for the younger demographics is far easier than trying to make it work for the elderly due to the most basic tenant of health insurance – the insurance pool must be balanced by having 80 healthy people in the pool to pay for every 20 who are ill.

Given that most Americans 65 and older are a walking pre-existing medical condition, it is difficult to imagine how functioning insurance pools can be constructed from a universe filed with these people.

Shutdown! - the "Tea Party GOP" plays a dangerous game in a fragile economy

The Financial Times' Clive Crook weighs in on the GOP holding the country and the economy hostage to their destructive agenda:
Rep. Paul Ryan: "It sounds worse than it probably is."
Republicans in Congress are playing an outrageous game of brinkmanship over the budget for the current fiscal year.

Some Tea Party supporters happily contemplate a shutdown of government at the end of this week....
(W)ith the US labour market at a turning point, whatever Congress can do to undermine confidence and add to uncertainty, it is doing. Just as the private sector shows signs of reviving, Capitol Hill is threatening to drag it back down.

'Tis the season - A tax chart

Be sure to keep this one in mind over the next ten days...

    Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

This is from the New York Times "Economix."  There is no indication what external events such as periodic upswings in profits or specific tax policies affected the "bumps" within the overall decades-long decline in corporate taxes as % of GDP, but as a general trend the article's author, Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, notes:
In 2008, the Government Accountability Office reported that 83 of the 100 largest publicly traded corporations in the United States had subsidiaries in jurisdictions listed as tax havens; it cautiously emphasized that this did not prove that their decisions to locate there were motivated by tax minimization.
The British journalist Nicholas Shaxson takes a bolder and more aggressive swipe at the issue in a new book, “Treasure Islands,” arguing that the globalization of tax evasion is undermining fiscal and economic stability in developed and developing nations alike...

The most vivid character in Robert Louis Stevenson’s beloved adventure story “Treasure Island” was the one-legged sailor Long John Silver. He never described himself and his colleagues as pirates. No, they were “gentlemen of fortune.”