How To Sweeten Health Savings

Let’s talk about a real grand bargain! One in which the budget deficit is reduced, benefits and services aren’t cut, health care cost growth is slowed, and the America’s families have an improved quality of life. (Checklist each of the goals.)

A single medical condition is responsible for 1 out of 8 to 10 dollars spent every year on health care: Diabetes. Its costs are multiplied by its complications: nerve damage, blindness, limb loss, hormone imbalance, personal care, tests, deaths. Its current costs are estimated to be between $80 and $100 billion annually. Eighteen federal departments spend more than the budget for the Department of Education on diabetes education and related costs.

The good news? Diabetes is a chronic condition that can treated–and eliminated!–for many patients by diet and exercise! Diet and exercise could reduce national health care costs as much as $60 billion annually, $600 billion over 10 years in today’s dollars. We only spend 1/20th of diabetes-related costs on prevention. We could give cash grants to patients for meeting their metrics (and annual bonuses!) and still save enormous sums!

Not one mention in debate or at press conferences ever applies purpose to our problems. Power is the object of debates for its own sake. Solutions that we hold in our hands are ignored. Medically–and politically– we are going blind as a result of chronic conditions.

~walter, you know it isn’t about health care. It’s all about the money. GOP much more than the Dems but even then it’s still about the money and re-election. Dem policies are still much better for most citizens. Not much will change until we get money out of politics. All that money is such a no win for American people. Or a huge national disaster, maybe on the scale of another Yellowstone super volcano. One is overdue according to past eruptions and the seismologists and geologist are keeping a close eye on it. Does any other civilized modern country on the planet allow all the corporation money in politics, PACs, Super PACs, and donations in their elections? Do they say money is speech? I’ve not heard of one. Maybe that’s what makes America feel exceptional now. We have enough super wealthy to buy our government and it appears they have done it with elections at all levels. I’m feeling a lot less exceptional lately.

But western MT is still a great place to live. But we’ve got all the citizens we need for now. Our streets are clogged, the main ones pretty much all day, every day. 80k is enough. Not sure anyone would have enough to pay me to live in NYC or LA, or any other high populace area. Ican be in the mountains by myself in 15-20 minutes. One area is designated Wilderness. Jobs sort of suck but there are always the min wage ones.


Is The Focus On Fairness?

This debacle had the wrong focus and headlines from its start. The 2 % payroll tax cut enacted at the President’s request in the 2009 stimulus ended with a whimper and no comment. Neither the President or Congressional leadership (or the Times!) has explained why these cuts immediately, rather than next year, or in one percent stages, over two years.

The middle class is again in the dark about the legislative deal that directly impacts its income and spending.

If the rise is to protect social security and healthcare, than no changes in benefits or eligibility should be made. The age for benefits should not be kicked down the road. The health services levels should be retained by both parties.

As its taxes go up, the middle class should receive the services and benefits it is paying for.

Finally, the media billed the legislative fight as a battle royal between Congress and the President, or a tussle between party ideologies. It buried the main theme: who pays in funding the national government. All sides proved to be minimalists. They did little more than allow a 14-year old income tax cut and a 3-year old pay roll tax cut to return to previous levels, with savings for a sector of Americans making over $250K without a corresponding increase in the payroll tax above the current cap of $101.5K. Allowing a raise would have strengthened social security and health care with added revenue.

For working families, this deal offered no fairness or symmetry.

Social security is paid for! It is solvent–fully funded–until 2037, at its current level. It is prevented by law from using a single penny of general revenues (from other taxes!) to meet its obligations. If it’s cap were raised so that all Americans paid “their” social security at the same tax rate, it would continue to be solvent.

If you think this is over entitlements, you miss the main point: not’s not about who will pay for “my’ (or yours!) benefits, but why should the rate be capped and give those between $101.5K and $250K a 2 % tax break working and middle class families don’t receive?

“Ruins, Ruins”

SchomburgWith the appointment of Tim Scott to the Senate to fill the seat after Jim DeMint resigned to accept an appointment as Director of the arch-conservative Heritage Institute, a Washington think tank, Tim Scott’s House seat will be filled by a March special election. Scott, an African-American, becomes SC’s first black senator. His House seat was once held by Rev. Richard H. Cain, an AME pastor at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, elected during Reconstruction.

Former SC governor, Mark Sanford, who also held the seat (and slept in his office!) has promised not to run if his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford gets in the race. (They divorced when Stanford to Brasil to carry on an extra-martial affair while he was supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail!) But what we are witnessing in South Carolina is a sea-change, instructive as a forewarning to the rest of America.

From Cole Blease, who in the 1890s publicly advocated lynching, to Strom Thurmond (and Cotton Ed Smith who opposed women voting in between, in the 1920s), South Carolina’s senators and national leaders wielded power and called their own shots. Any plans within the state, sometimes the nation, were approved by them; they marched to their own tune.

(Who remembers Thurmond foiling Abe Fortas’ Supreme Court nomination by setting up closed screenings of adult films in the Capitol to review Fortas’ community standards? Or Thurmond wrestling a senator outside of a hearing room, the winner getting to vote? Or him reading his grandmother’s biscuit recipe into the record in the Senate’s longest filibuster? Or Thumond’s presidential run in 1948 as a third party Dixiecrat? Or him invoking cloture when NC’s Jesse Helms tried to filibuster the King Holiday Bill? Or Thurmond tanking Reagan’s first run at the GOP nomination at the convention?)

Today’s crew (which includes Scott), through reactionary, follow marching orders. They are told what to do by an elite, monied, inter-networked cabal. (Since when do 6 SC representatives worry more about budget deficits than tax cuts puting money in the hands of a state 47th in income?) Their ideology is the beck and call of the oligarchs. Thurmond got paid. These guys are bought. Money trumped power. Ol’ Strom would have never let that happen. Power was his coin.