Saturday, April 30, 2011

I love the English in these vows!

Kate and William's Christian Royal Wedding vows
  • April 29th, 2011
(VIDEO) Kate and William's Christian Royal Wedding vows Credit: The Royal Channel

Silliness and Sleight of Hand NYTimes By CHARLES M. BLOW

President Obama buckled.
On Wednesday, he released his long-form birth certificate, but not without chiding the media and his detractors for their “silliness” in forcing the issue.
No sooner had he released it than Donald Quixote was off to his next windmill: the president’s college grades.

Donald Trump is still playing to suspicions of President Obama. And it’s no longer theoretical. It’s theological. For the detractors, truth is no longer dependent on proof because it’s rooted in faith: faith that American exceptionalism was never truly meant to cover hyphenated Americans; faith in 400 years of cemented assumptions about the character and capacity of the American Negro; and faith that if the president doesn’t hew to those assumptions then he must be alien by both birth and faith.

This is how the moneyed interests — of whom Trump is one — want it. That is how sleight of hand works: distract and deceive. They need this distraction now more than ever because the right’s flimsy fiscal argument — that if we allow fat cats to gorge, crumbs will surely fall — is losing traction.
It’s losing traction with voters as the Supreme Court continues its crusade to put corporate interests above those of citizens. Just Wednesday, it ruled that there is a way for businesses to keep consumers claiming fraud from banding together in a single class-action lawsuit.

It’s losing traction among workers. Gallup reported this week that a majority of Americans worry that they won’t have enough money in retirement. And that worry is well founded. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual Retirement Confidence Survey released last month, 56 percent of American workers said they have less than $25,000 in retirement savings and investments. Twenty-nine percent of those said they have less than $1,000. At the same time, the average Wall Street cash bonus in 2010 was nearly $130,000, and the Republican budget proposed by Representative Paul Ryan seeks to dismantle Medicare and lower taxes on the wealthy.

It’s losing traction among young people as it was reported last week that the unemployment rate for workers ages 16 to 24 reached a record high last year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile, last summer, student loan debt exceeded total credit card debt for the first time, and the Republican budget seeks to slash Pell grants.

It’s losing traction with families as the national average price of a gallon of gas is nearing $4, while oil companies are reaping record profits while taking billions of dollars in government subsidies.
(There’s something immoral about giving handouts to entrenched corporate interests with armies of lobbyists while seeking to cut those to hungry children, struggling families and frail seniors.)

It all loses traction as more Americans begin to see the far right for what it truly is: a gang of bandits willing to sacrifice the poor and working classes to further extend the American aristocracy — shadowy figures who creep through the night, shaking every sock for every nickel and scraping their silver spoons across the bottom of every pot.

In fact, Gallup reported on Thursday that unfavorable views of the Tea Party, which was cheered and championed by billionaires and business interests, had jumped to 47 percent this month, a new high, while last week it reported that approval of Congress among Republicans and independents had dropped to a depressing 15 percent.

So the right needs to backfill its shaky fiscal reasoning with political segregationist rhetoric — amplifying a separation of the “us” from the “other.”
State Senator Jake Knotts of South Carolina last year called President Obama — along with the state’s governor Nikki Haley, who is Indian-American and a Republican — a disparaging slur. When pressured to resign, he refused, proclaiming that: “If all of us rednecks leave the Republican Party, the party would have one hell of a void.”
 Do tell.

This is not to say that all Republicans are tolerant of this behavior. Far from it. But the party has taken the strategic position that in some cases it’s politically advantageous to allow demagogues and xenophobes, sectarians and homophobes to not only see the party as a sanctuary but as a place to rise to its top.
In the last several months, Republican state lawmakers and party officials have said the most reprehensible things about Hispanics, gays and blacks.

State Representative John Yates of Georgia compared the state’s threat from illegal immigrants to the threat from Hitler in World War II and suggested that border agents should be allowed to “shoot to kill.” State Representative Curry Todd of Tennessee compared pregnant illegal immigrants to multiplying rats.

State Representative Larry Brown of North Carolina suggested cutting off financing used to treat people with H.I.V. and AIDS because they are “living in perverted lifestyles.” Brown also drew criticism in October for an e-mail he sent to fellow Republicans in which he used disparaging terms about gays.

And David Bartholomew had to resign as the Virginia Beach Republican Party chairman after forwarding an e-mail that joked about someone taking his “dog” to the welfare office and saying: “My Dog is black, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English” and has no clue “who his Daddy is.”

In 1965, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described how the strategy of separating people with common financial interests by agitating their racial differences was used against the populist movement at the turn of the century, explaining that “the Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow.”
He continued that Jim Crow was “a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man.” He called this “their last outpost of psychological oblivion.”

But the right, with a new boost of energy from Trump, is reaching for new frontiers. The language and methodology are different, but the goal is the same: to deny, invalidate and subjugate, to distract from real issues with false divisions.

Trump is helping the right shape new weapons from old hatreds, forming shivs from shackles, all the while patting himself on the back and promoting his brand.
But his point of pride is the right’s mark of shame. 

Trump racist says David Letterman

Video: Dr. Phil talks Trump on Letterman

Friday, April 29, 2011

TRUMP BOMBSHELL: The REAL Reason He Avoided Vietnam

And this might be why he never runs... not the F-bombs... it sounds like Trump has the quintessential rich politician problem: Vietnam.
According to a new document unearthed by The Smoking Gun: Donald Trump received 4 student deferments, and one medical deferment, which is in contradiction to a previous quote explaining his draft status: “I actually got lucky because I had a very high draft number. I’ll never forget, that was an amazing period of time in my life.”
Technically, that doesn't have to be a lie. Eventually Trump got a high draft number, but it appears that it's definitely not the only way he avoided the war.
Again, that Vietnam service has been an issue for many candidates is known to everyone, and for someone who was born wealthy -- and going to Wharton at the time -- the deferrals look worse.


- "New Dem. money group to take on GOP" - Bill Burton:

 "The days of a double standard are over" -- "Democrats with ties to the Obama White House on Friday are launching a two-pronged fundraising effort aimed at countering deep-pocketed GOP groups in 2012 - and adopting some of the same policies on unlimited, secret donations that President Barack Obama himself has long opposed ... The two groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, aim to raise $100 million to defend Obama's re-election from an expected onslaught of attack ads from similar Republican outside money organizations activated in the 2010 midterms ... The Priorities companion committees will have one that discloses donors - and one that doesn't, a practice Obama hammered during last year's election cycle as undermining the democratic process. The Priorities group also is jettisoning an Obama rule aimed at limiting the influence of special interests by welcoming unlimited contributions from lobbyists, labor unions, corporations, and political action committees - sources that are still banned from giving to the president's re-election campaign ...

"'While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars,' said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and co-founder of the organization. 'We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of a double standard are over' ... [The] leadership team includes Burton, a former deputy White House press secretary; Sean Sweeney, who was a senior adviser to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and former Clinton political strategist Paul Begala. Geoff Garin, who was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, is also among the group's top strategists and will be its lead polling expert.

"Among the group's first donors are Ellen Malcolm, the wealthy founder of the pro-abortion rights group Emily's List; Harold Ickes, a former Clinton adviser; Jon Youngdahl, a Service Employees International Union political strategist. They also include Jay Dunn, a long-time party fundraiser; Greg Speed, a long-time progressive advocate and media consultant; and Rob McKay, a major Democratic donor who is head of the McKay Family Foundation. The influential SEIU, one of the nation's largest labor unions, also is among the first donors to the joint effort. Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg donated to the effort and has agreed to help raise money for the committees. ... Priorities USA will be registered under the tax code as a social welfare group, which means it does not have to disclose its donors, according to a memo outlining the effort. Crossroads GPS is registered under the same tax code.'

Former Obama aide: Where are Trump's tax returns?

Donald Trump (Credit: John W. Adkisson/Getty Images)
Now that President Obama has released his long-form birth certificate to appease those questioning the site of his birth, a former member of Obama's team is asking Donald Trump to provide some documentation as well -- his tax returns.

"Donald Trump said he'd release his tax returns as soon as the president released his birth certificate, so the ball is in his court now, and I know everybody is anxious to see his tax returns over the last 10 years," former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told Politico.

In response to Gibbs' remarks, Trump told Politico, "Gibbs is a loser."
Trump, who says he is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, has insisted that people will be "shocked" by how strong his financial records are, but has said he won't release them until he's actually in the race. In an interview with ABC earlier this month, Trump tied the release of his tax returns to his persistent questions about Mr. Obama's birth certificate.

Birth certificate won't kill "birther" movement
Schieffer: Racism underlying Trump's assertions
Obama makes time for birther "silliness"

"Maybe I'm going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate," he said. "I'd love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama's birth certificate."

ABC News asked Trump yesterday if he would follow through on that, and Trump said it's "something I would be thinking about doing anyway."

"But before I do anything I have to make the decision [to run] in June, and the first thing I'm going to be releasing will be financials," Trump said. Specifically with respect to releasing his tax returns, Trump said, "at the appropriate time I'm going to do it."

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Rand Paul -- whose father, Republican Rep. Ron Paul, is also running for president -- used the release of Mr. Obama's birth certificate to take a jab at Trump's past ties to the Democratic party.

"I want to see the original long form, with embossed seal, of Donald Trump's Republican registration," Paul said at a New Hampshire fundraiser, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dr Laura is joining Glen Beck OFF STAGE! Thank goodness!

The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura,
written by a US man, and posted on the Internet, 

poking some gentle fun at those who take Biblical admonishments, advice and instructions too literally.

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law.
I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.
When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example,
I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ...
End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.
   A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.
   Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.
   In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24.
   The problem is how do I tell?
   I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9.
   The problem is my neighbors.
   They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.
   Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.
   Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death.
   Am I morally obligated to kill him myself,
   or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10,
    it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.
    I don't agree.
   Can you settle this?
   Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight.
   I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.
   Does my vision have to be 20/20,
   or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples,
   even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27.
   How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean,
    but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm.
     He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field,
     as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend).
     He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.
     Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.
    Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair,
    like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan.
James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

p.s. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Schieffer: Racism underlying Trump's assertions

Donald Trump has moved on from the "birther" conspiracy to allege President Barack Obama didn't get good enough grades to warrant entry to Harvard Law School, an assertion that CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer called absurd on the "CBS Evening News" on Wednesday.

"That's just code for saying he got into law school because he's black. This is an ugly strain of racism that's running through this whole thing. We can hope that kind of comes to an end too, but we'll have to see," Schieffer said.

Trump first raised the issue on Monday with the Associated Press, saying: "I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

In a press conference Wednesday after arriving in the important primary state of New Hampshire, the potential candidate for the 2012 GOP nomination continued to pound on the issue, saying: "The word is, according to what I've have read, is that he was a terrible student when he went to Occidental. He then gets to Columbia and then gets to Harvard. I heard at Columbia he was not a very good student, and then he then he gets into Harvard. How do you get into Harvard if you are not a good student? Maybe that's right, maybe that's wrong, but I don't know why he doesn't he release his records. Why doesn't he release his Occidental records?"

Trump explained the source of his concerns about Mr. Obama's undergraduate education performance. "I am just reporting what I read. Hey, I read stuff that you people write," Trump said in response to a question from a reporter at his press conference on whether he was using innuendo as opposed to facts to attack Mr. Obama.

Trump had said earlier that he raised the "bad grades" question because he had friends with smart kids who couldn't get into Harvard.

Mr. Obama received an undergraduate degree from Columbia University in 1983. (He transferred from Occidental College in 1981.) He then got his Juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1991.

Donald Trump in New Hampshire amid ‘birther’ madness

  “Today, I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish. I was just informed...that our president has finally released a birth certificate. …He should have done it a long time ago…when the Clintons asked for it.”
--Donald Trump, April 27, 2011
“CNN did a poll -- CNN did a poll recently where Obama and I are statistically tied. If you would like, I can send it to you. Just call up CNN.”
--Trump, April 27, 2011
“I am a Republican. I'm a very strong Republican. And I have been a Republican for a long while. And I'm proud of it.”
--Trump, April 27, 2011
“The other question I ask is this, we get no oil from Libya. We get no oil…China, taking over the world gets a big portion of its oil from Libya. They're Libya's biggest customers.”
--Trump, April 27, 2011
“During that entire week, the dominant news story wasn't about these huge, monumental choices that we're going to have make as a nation; it was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.”
--President Obama, April 27, 2011

President Obama released a copy of his so-called “long-form” birth certificate Wednesday, and prospective GOP candidate Donald Trump promptly took credit when his plane landed in New Hampshire. During his news conference, the self-proclaimed billionaire made a series of statements that cry out for checking.
 The president, in his brief statement, also made a comment that seems to stretch the facts, so we will look at that as well.

The Facts

 We will grant Trump his belief that he forced the administration to release this document with his constant demands in the last month to see the original birth certificate.
 White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, in a news briefing, acknowledged that the president acted because “in recent weeks, the issue has risen again.” Obama himself couldn’t resist a sharp dig clearly aimed at Trump: “We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”
But Trump goes too far when he claims that that our president has finally released a birth certificate. As has been repeatedly reported, the document released by the Obama campaign in 2008 is the legal document proving birth in the state of Hawaii. (In other words, Obama would use it to get his passport.) There are no ifs, ands or buts about that fact, no matter what you may have read on one of the birther blogs.
The document released Wednesday is the form, bound in a volume in the records of the state health department, that forms the basis for the legal document that the Obama campaign had previously released. Of course, the release of that document has not convinced the skeptics of Obama’s birth history (See here and here).
Trump further makes the claim that “the Clintons asked for it.” He repeated this two more times in his news conference, specifically mentioning Hillary Clinton at one point. But this is incorrect. The Clinton campaign never made an issue of Obama’s birth certificate, though there is evidence that the birther controversy originally began on the left—not the right.
After Clinton lost the nomination race to Obama, some of her diehard supporters began to question the circumstances of Obama’s birth. John Avlon, author of a book titled Wingnuts, wrote that “the Birther conspiracy theory was first concocted by renegade members of the original Obama haters, Party Unity My Ass, known more commonly by their acronym, the PUMAs. They were a splinter group of hard-core Hillary Clinton supporters who did not want to give up the ghost after the bitter 50-state Bataan Death March to the 2008 Democratic nomination.”
 The Obama campaign released his birth certificate in response to these questions, but that did not stop the first birther lawsuit from being filed in August of 2008—by Philip Berg, a Democrat and a Hillary Clinton supporter.
 Trump veered off in fantasyland at other points during his news conference.
 “CNN did a poll recently where Obama and I are statistically tied.”  
This claim immediately puzzled CNN, which put one of its pollsters on the air to explain whether or not this was true. The answer was an emphatic “no.” CNN has never done a head to head comparison, though three other polls show him behind Obama by double digits.
CNN, however, does show Trump statistically tied with Mike Huckabee in the race for the GOP nomination, so maybe the real estate mogul mixed up Obama with the former governor of Arkansas.  (Caveat: all of these polls are fairly meaningless at this point.)
“I have been a Republican for a long while.” 
Trump has been a Republican, but at least from 2001 to 2008 he was a registered Democrat. In fact, The Washington Post documented that most of his political contributions have been to Democrats. NY1, the New York news channel, recently examined Trump’s voting record and found that he did not vote in primary elections for a span of 21 years, even during the historic fight between Obama and Clinton. At the time, Trump said he supported Obama, saying he “has a chance to go down as a great president.”
  Trump defended his contributions Wednesday by saying that Democrats so dominate the political life of New York that “a Democrat will get 94 percent of the vote and that's if a Republican is doing a good job.” The numbers are sometimes lopsided, but never like that in contested races.
 “We get no oil from Libya…[The Chinese are] Libya's biggest customers.”
 Wrong. The United States is not a big consumer of Libyan oil, but it gets some, while China is far from the biggest customer. According to the latest figures from the Energy Information Administration, about 28 percent of Libya's oil goes to Italy, 15 percent to France, 11 percent to China, 10 percent to Germany and Spain and 3 percent to the United States. 
Finally, we have to take issue with Obama’s statement that coverage of the birth certificate “dominated” coverage during the week the House Republican put forward a budget plan and the president responded to it with a major speech.
We have asked the White House for documentation, but in the meantime the Pew Research Center found based on 52 news sources that the ongoing deficit debate accounted for 31 percent of all news coverage that week, swamping coverage of issues such as the earthquake in Japan, the economy and gasoline prices, which actually had much higher interest among the public. The birther rumors accounted for about four percent of the news coverage, Pew said.  The issue also did not dominate social media.  
Obama was making a rhetorical point, but it is still worthy of at least a Pinocchio unless we get clarification from the White House. (Our colleague Anne Kornblut reports that Obama was furious after a recent interview by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos veered from fiscal issues to birther questions.)  

The Pinocchio Test

Trump continues his pattern of simply making things up. Sometimes it is hard to find where the thread of truth might even begin.

Barack Obama Just Made Another Huge Political Error

Barack Obama
Image: The White House
What was Obama thinking?
The best think the President had going for him in the 2012 election was the fact that the nutters were running the show on the GOP side, and not talking at all about the real issues of the day.
Now, by releasing his birth certificate, he's taking this issue off the table, giving plenty of breathing room for the "mainstream" candidates (Romney, Pawlenty, Huckabee, etc.) to easily distance themselves from the fringe candidates.
Obama should have let the Republicans squirm as long as he could, watching them deal with Donald Trump's theatrics.
Beyond that, he confirmed that it's the GOP that dominates the debate. What they want, they get. He's at their whim.

TOP BIRTHER RESPONDS: Birth Certificate Doesn't Matter Because Obama Renounced His Citizenship In Indonesia

phil berg birther
Image: Courtesy of
Phil Berg, the attorney who filed the first birther lawsuits, said today that the release of President Barack Obama's birth certificate does not resolve the issue of his presidential eligibility.
Obama may have been born in Hawaii, Berg says, but he renounced his American citizenship when he was adopted by his stepfather Lolo Soetoro while living in Indonesia. Berg claims Obama's Indonesian school records list him as an Islamic Indonesian named Barry Soetoro.

"I'm not that concerned with the birth certificate," Berg told TBI this morning. "Unless there is evidence that he renounced his Indonesian citizenship, we believe he is an illegal president."
The release of the birth certificate is a "good first step," Berg said. "But I don't think it solves all of our problems. At best, he is naturalized citizen, and a naturalized citizen cannot be president."

Berg has changed his tune on the birth certificate issue after courts dismissed his 2008 and 2009 law suits that claimed Obama was actually born in Kenya. He says he is now getting ready to file a new suit that asserts Obama is an illegal alien.

Bear in mind, the former Pennsylvania prosecutor also sued President George W. Bush, claiming in 2004 that the president was complicit in the September 11 attacks.

Report: 1 in 4 children in US raised by a single parent, higher than other developed nations

MIAMI — One in four children in the United States is being raised by a single parent — a percentage that has been on the rise and is higher than other developed countries, according to a report released Wednesday.

Of the 27 industrialized countries studied by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. had 25.8 percent of children being raised by a single parent, compared with an average of 14.9 percent across the other countries.
Ireland was second (24.3 percent), followed by New Zealand (23.7 percent). Greece, Spain, Italy and Luxemborg had among the lowest percentages of children in single-parent homes.

Experts point to a variety of factors to explain the high U.S. figure, including a cultural shift toward greater acceptance of single-parent child rearing. The U.S. also lacks policies to help support families, including childcare at work and national paid maternity leave, which are commonplace in other countries.
“When our parents married, there was a sense that you were marrying for life,” said Edward Zigler, founder and director of Yale’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. “That sense is not as prevalent.”

Single parents in the U.S. were more likely to be employed — 35.8 percent compared to a 21.3 percent average — but they also had higher rates of poverty, the report found.

“The in-work poverty is higher in the U.S. than other OECD countries, because at the bottom end of the labor market, earnings are very low,” said Willem Adema, a senior economist in the group’s social policy division. “For parents, the risk is higher because they have to make expenditures on childcare costs.”
The Paris-based organization looked at a broad sector of indicators that affected families and children, including childhood poverty, early education and amount of time spent on parental care.

Across the nations examined, preschool enrollment has grown from 30 to 50 percent between 1998 and 2007. The average enrollment was 58.2 percent, while in the U.S. it was lower.
The report noted that public spending on child welfare and education is higher in the U.S. than in other countries — $160,000 per child compared to $149,000. However, the authors say most of that money is spent after the crucial early childhood years.

“This means early investment — including childcare and support for families around the time of birth — could be strengthened,” the authors wrote in a separate paper examining the United States.
The study pointed out that the U.S. is the only OECD country that does not have a national paid parental leave policy. Some states have started to adopt such policies, but most parents are offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This is particularly difficult for unwed mothers, who may not be able to afford to take time off, Zigler said.
“We have not built in the kind of national support systems for families and children that other countries have,” he said.

Childhood poverty rates in the U.S. are also expected to climb — 23.5 percent from 20 percent. Adema said the rise is a direct result of the financial crisis and higher unemployment rates.
“The financial strain causes all sorts of other strain, so ultimately it might contribute to family dissolution,” Adema said. “At the same time, it might bring some families together. I suspect that the response differs across families.”

The single parent phenomenon has been occurring over recent decades. The study noted the U.S. and England have higher teenage birthrates than other countries, partially contributing to the higher single-parent numbers, though the proportion of children born outside marriage was not significantly higher than the other countries.

Christina Gibson Davis, a professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, said changing gender roles, the rise of contraception, high incarceration rates in some communities and an acceptance of having children out of wedlock have all contributed to the growing number.
Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, added it isn’t being a single parent in itself that raises difficulties.

“Single moms do a brilliant and amazing job raising their children,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “It is also true that single moms in this country are systemically underpaid, and systematically under-resourced and systemically unrespected. It’s not the fact they are single moms that makes things difficult.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press

Obama releases long-form birth certificate

President Obama's birth certicificate, as released by the White House.
(Credit: AP)
Updated at 11:10 a.m. In an effort to finally put to rest questions about where he was born, the White House on Wednesday released President Obama's long-form birth certificate. (seen above)
Mr. Obama even made an impromptu appearance in the White House briefing room to urge the press and American citizens to drop the issue and focus on the nation's real problems.

"We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers," Mr. Obama said. "We've got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there still looking for work... We do not have time for this kind of silliness."
Mr. Obama had in 2008 released on the Internet his "certificate of live birth" -- a short-form birth certificate provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state -- but that failed to quell rumors that the president was born outside of the U.S.
Those rumors were brought back into the forefront of discussion in recent weeks thanks to questions from Donald Trump, a potential 2012 Republican presidential contender, who has said he is unconvinced of the president's origins. A recent CBS News/ New York Times poll showed that one in four Americans incorrectly believe Mr. Obama was born outside of the United States.

The White House today said it took the effort to release Mr. Obama's long-form birth certificate so that the nation can move on from this "fake issue."
Obama: Media has been "distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers"
Trump takes credit for Obama birth certificate release, but wonders "is it real?"
"At a time of great consequence for this country - when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog. "The President's hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country."

Mr. Obama said in the briefing room today that he normally wouldn't comment on an issue like this. Yet he noted that in the past few weeks, "the Republican house pout forward a budget that will have huge consequences and... I gave a speech about my budget and how we need to invest in education and infrastructure." Yet the dominant news story "was about my birth certificate."

The president said he's confident the nation can come together to solve its problems, but "we're not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other... if we just make stuff up and pretend facts are not facts."

As the White House continued to receive requests for the president's birth certificate, Mr. Obama finally directed his legal counsel to ask the Hawaii State Department of Health to break their protocol and release his long-form birth certificate. According to the White House, the state granted the exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.

The White House today also handed out to reporters in the press briefing room copies of Mr. Obama's birth certificate.

"The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn't good for the country," Pfeiffer wrote. "It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country."

At a press conference in New Hampshire today, Trump boasted that he was able to compel Mr. Obama to release his long-form birth certificate when no one else could.

"I feel I've accomplished something really, really important, and I'm honored by it," he said. "You have to ask the president, why didn't he do it a long time ago?"

He added that "now we can talk about oil, we can talk about gasoline prices, we can talk about China ripping off this country."

Even so, Trump expressed skepticism about this latest birth certificate.

"It is rather amazing that it all of a sudden materializes," he said. "A lot of people have to look at it, experts will look at it."

As Pfeiffer explained on the White House blog, the matter should have been put to rest back in 2008, when Mr. Obama released his short-form "certificate of birth" because it is the standard Hawaiian birth certificate.

"The document posted on the campaign website is what Hawaiians use to get a driver's license from the state and the document recognized by the Federal Government and the courts for all legal purposes," he wrote. "That's because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question."
Along with Trump, a couple other potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates reacted to the White House release via Twitter.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tweeted, "Media: admit it, Trump forced the issue. Now, don't let the WH distract you w/the birth crt from what Bernanke says today. Stay focused, eh?"

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tweeted, "What President Obama should really be releasing is a jobs plan."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Women Better Educated Than Men

CS - Womens Education
Kris Connor / Getty Images
Girls rule, boys drool—in the Ivory Tower at least. New Census figures show that more American women than men have completed college and hold advanced degrees. It’s the first time in history that women have outnumbered men in key educational metrics, but it’s also the culmination of a decades-long trend toward better women’s education and workplace equality. Among adults over 25, women barely edge out men as holders of advanced degrees, but still lag in business, science, and engineering. For bachelor’s degrees, though, the difference is greater: The U.S. has 1.5 million more female degree-holders than male ones.

Rachel Maddow OBLITERATES John McCain, Joe Lieberman, And Lindsay Graham's Libyan HypocrisyIn recent days, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsay Graham have all advocated different variations of the "cut the head of the snake off" approach in regard to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The Senators criticized President Barack Obama's dealings with the Libyan leader, arguing that the United States needs to do more to eliminate Gaddafi.
Which might be the correct opinion, but -- as Rachel Maddow pointed out -- the trio visited Libya 20 months ago and could not say enough nice things about the Colonel they are now calling an enemy of the American state.
Back in a 2009 democratic cable, "Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism" while McCain said the country's relationship with the US had taken a "remarkable and positive turn in recent years."
Now, however, the Senator from Arizona is comparing Gaddafi to another former dictator.
"I don't think we worried too much when we wanted to get rid of Hitler who would take his place," McCain told an interviewer.
Maddow, understandably, thought the three men's about-face was rather absurd, but also -- sadly -- rather just another day in Washington.
"Inviting these Senators to opine on the war and to chest bump about how if they were in charge, Gaddafi would be a dead man because only they have moral clarity about what a bad guy Gaddafi is," she said. "Having these Senators opine on this war, after they've just crawled out of Gaddafi's tent themselves? That is a political science case study in 'getting away with it.' In a just world, this would be embarrassing, but in the Beltway, it's just Sunday morning."
Video below.

Anderson Cooper Left Stunned By Donald Trump's Total Refusal To Be Swayed By Actual Facts

cooper trumpBeyond his tenacious ability to spectacularly drop himself into international breaking news stories the other thing Anderson Cooper does really well is confront crazy people on TV.
Now, Donald Trump is not crazy, per se (and his willingness to engage with any and all media is actually rather winning) but his birther claims are looney and last night Cooper devoted his show to a) disproving them and b) confronting Trump (alas by phone).
In regards to the former Cooper and CNN actually sent people to Hawaii to investigate whether Trump really does have investigators there.  They came up empty-handed.  Though the fact CNN footed the bill to discover that in and of itself is really a testament to Trump's media savvy.  (Also, probably, CNN's struggling ratings.)
With regards to the latter, Trump called into Cooper last night so the exchange lacked some of the sparks former similar interviews have boasted. 
But even still, Cooper did a reasonably good job of holding Trump's birther feet to the fire.  Not that it mattered.   Who needs facts when you've got ratingsVideo below.

SHEP SMITH: "Fox News Can Confirm That The President Of The United States Is A Citizen Of the United States. Period"

Shep Smith appears to be losing patience with the crazies. (This is not the first time.)
Said Shep on his show Fox Report last night: "Fox News can confirm that the President of the United States is a citizen of the United States.  Period."
In a perfect media world Donald Trump will see this, take some time away from his regular segment on Fox & Friends, and go on Shep's afternoon Studio B show wherein Shep will take him to the woodshed. Dare to dream. 
Shep, long considered the voice of reason at Fox, is one of a handful of on-air personalities at the network (Chris Wallace is another, Bret Baier wants to be) that allow Fox News reporters to hold their heads up in actual news situations.  
So while it's great when he speaks his minds on TV, and he is just generally better than anyone else on TV at what he does, don't think that Roger Ailes doesn't rely on him to issue declarations like this from time to time.  It's part of what he gets paid the big bucks to do.  Which isn't to say it doesn't rock when it happens.
Video below.

Football's Future If the Players Win

There would be no draft. Incoming players would sell their services to the richest teams.

Late Monday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued a ruling that may significantly alter professional football as we know it.
For six weeks, there has been a work stoppage in the National Football League as the league has sought to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement with the players. But Judge Nelson ordered the end of the stoppage and recognized the players' right to dissolve their union. By blessing this negotiating tactic, the decision may endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history.
What would the NFL look like without a collectively bargained compromise? For many years, the collectively bargained system—which has given the players union enhanced free agency and capped the amount that owners spend on salaries—has worked enormously well for the NFL, for NFL players, and for NFL fans.
For players, the system allowed player compensation to skyrocket—pay and benefits doubled in the last 10 years alone. The system also offered players comparable economic opportunities throughout the league, from Green Bay and New Orleans to San Francisco and New York. In addition, it fostered conditions that allowed the NFL to expand by four teams, extending careers and creating jobs for hundreds of additional players.
For clubs and fans, the trade-off afforded each team a genuine opportunity to compete for the Super Bowl, greater cost certainty, and incentives to invest in the game. Those incentives translated into two dozen new and renovated stadiums and technological innovations such as the NFL Network and
Under the union lawyers' plan, reflected in the complaint that they filed in federal court, the NFL would be forced to operate in a dramatically different way. To be sure, their approach would benefit some star players and their agents (and, of course, the lawyers themselves). But virtually everyone else—including the vast majority of players as well as the fans—would suffer.
Getty Images
Small-market teams like the Buffalo Bills would suffer.
Rather than address the challenge of improving the collective-bargaining agreement for the benefit of the game, the union-financed lawsuit attacks virtually every aspect of the current system including the draft, the salary cap and free-agency rules, which collectively have been responsible for the quality and popularity of the game for nearly two decades. A union victory threatens to overturn the carefully constructed system of competitive balance that makes NFL games and championship races so unpredictable and exciting.
In the union lawyers' world, every player would enter the league as an unrestricted free agent, an independent contractor free to sell his services to any team. Every player would again become an unrestricted free agent each time his contract expired. And each team would be free to spend as much or as little as it wanted on player payroll or on an individual player's compensation.
Any league-wide rule relating to terms of player employment would be subject to antitrust challenge in courts throughout the country. Any player could sue—on his own behalf or representing a class—to challenge any league rule that he believes unreasonably restricts the "market" for his services.
Under this vision, players and fans would have none of the protections or benefits that only a union (through a collective-bargaining agreement) can deliver. What are the potential ramifications for players, teams, and fans? Here are some examples:
No draft. "Why should there even be a draft?" said player agent Brian Ayrault. "Players should be able to choose who they work for. Markets should determine the value of all contracts. Competitive balance is a fallacy."
No minimum team payroll. Some teams could have $200 million payrolls while others spend $50 million or less.
No minimum player salary. Many players could earn substantially less than today's minimums.
No standard guarantee to compensate players who suffer season- or career-ending injuries. Players would instead negotiate whatever compensation they could.
No league-wide agreements on benefits. The generous benefit programs now available to players throughout the league would become a matter of individual club choice and individual player negotiation.
No limits on free agency. Players and agents would team up to direct top players to a handful of elite teams. Other teams, perpetually out of the running for the playoffs, would serve essentially as farm teams for the elites.
No league-wide rule limiting the length of training camp or required off-season workout obligations. Each club would have its own policies.
No league-wide testing program for drugs of abuse or performance enhancing substances. Each club could have its own program—or not.
Any league-wide agreement on these subjects would be the subject of antitrust challenge by any player who asserted that he had been "injured" by the policy or whose lawyer perceived an opportunity to bring attention to his client or himself. Some such agreements might survive antitrust scrutiny, but the prospect of litigation would inhibit league-wide agreements with respect to most, if not all, of these subjects.
In an environment where they are essentially independent contractors, many players would likely lose significant benefits and other protections previously provided on a collective basis as part of the union-negotiated collective-bargaining agreement. And the prospect of improved benefits for retired players would be nil.
Is this the NFL that players want? A league where elite players attract enormous compensation and benefits while other players—those lacking the glamour and bargaining power of the stars—play for less money, fewer benefits and shorter careers than they have today? A league where the competitive ability of teams in smaller communities (Buffalo, New Orleans, Green Bay and others) is forever cast into doubt by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor teams in larger, better-situated markets?
Prior to filing their litigation, players and their representatives publicly praised the current system and argued for extending the status quo. Now they are singing a far different tune, attacking in the courts the very arrangements they said were working just fine.
Is this the NFL that fans want? A league where carefully constructed rules proven to generate competitive balance—close and exciting games every Sunday and close and exciting divisional and championship contests—are cast aside? Do the players and their lawyers have so little regard for the fans that they think this really serves their interests?
These outcomes are inevitable under any approach other than a comprehensive collective-bargaining agreement. That is especially true of an approach that depends on litigation settlements negotiated by lawyers. But that is what the players' attorneys are fighting for in court. And that is what will be at stake as the NFL appeals Judge Nelson's ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mr. Goodell is commissioner of the National Football League.
USA Today 1A, "Poll: Trump is fired up but he likely won't be hired," by Susan Page: "Fifty percent of Americans, including 31% of Republicans, say Trump would make a 'poor' or 'terrible' president.

Better Hand-Washing Through Technology


Why can’t hospitals get health care workers to wash their hands?
Hospitals in the United States enjoy access to running water. Virtually all of them have alcohol-rub dispensers, hundreds of them, in the hallways. Using one takes a few seconds. Yet health care workers fail to wash hands a good percentage of the times they should. Doctors are particularly bad.
A health care worker’s hands are the main route infections take to move from one patient to another. One recent study of several intensive care units — where the patients most vulnerable to infection reside — showed that hands were washed on only one quarter of the necessary occasions.
It’s not that hospitals are ignoring the problem — indeed, they are implementing all kinds of strategies to promote hand-washing. Nevertheless, it is rare to find a hospital that has been able to keep the hand-washing rate above 50 percent.
Readers of Fixes know our skepticism about relying on things that beep in health care. In general, the American health care system depends too much on technology and not enough on human connection. But in the case of hand-washing, the opposite may be true. Improving hand-washing rates is not simple – if it were, we wouldn’t have a problem. It requires many steps that take into account human foibles. But for measuring compliance — one of the most important and difficult steps — we may have been relying too much on people to do a machine’s job. There is a new technological fix available that — when accompanied by other changes — may be key to reducing dangerous infections.
Why is this even a problem at all? There cannot be a single trained health care worker, anywhere in the world, who is unaware of the importance of hand-washing. Yet 2 million patients in America acquire an infection in the hospital every year — about one in 20 patients — and 100,000 people die of them. This is the fourth leading cause of death in America. Few families don’t have some horror story that started with a hospital-acquired infection. And hand-washing rates in other wealthy countries are not much different.
Hospital-acquired infections cost the American health care system between $30 and $40 billion annually. Simple division puts the rough average cost of treating of a hospital-acquired infection at $15,000 to $20,000. One study that gathered data from other studies found the average cost of treating an infection with MRSA, a staph bacteria resistant to many antibiotics, is $47,000.
There are several reasons, however, that hospital hand-washing rates may be about to improve. One reason is that hospitals have a strong financial incentive to reduce infections. In 2008, hospitals were told that Medicare would no longer reimburse them for the cost of treating preventable hospital-acquired conditions it calls “never events,” which includes many kinds of hospital-acquired infections. The new health care reform bill instructs states to do the same with Medicaid. Many insurance companies also now refuse to pay for never events. This tends to concentrate the minds of hospital executives.
Another powerful incentive to prevent infection is the rise of superbugs, like MRSA, that are increasingly resistant to our arsenal of antibiotics. Infections are getting more and more deadly. No one is more aware of this than the people most in contact with these bugs. Hand-washing is not only protective for patients.
Patients are also more knowledgeable about hospital infections and more empowered. Hospitals are increasingly required to report their incidence of hospital-acquired infections, and those results will be posted online. Patients can use this information to help them choose a hospital.
Many people have studied why hand-washing rates are so dismal. On Friday I will write about the reasons, and what has helped — although not enough — to fix the problems. The most important reason is probably that health care workers are so busy; stressed-out people with too much to do often forget to wash their hands, or it just gets skipped.
Using alcohol rub takes only a few seconds, but many nurses should be doing this dozens of times a day — in some intensive care wards, 100 times a day for each patient.
It will be very difficult to improve compliance unless hospitals can tell who is and isn’t cleaning hands, and in what circumstances. Individual doctors and nurses need to know their own hand-washing rates.
“Data really helps us work backwards,” said Katherine Ellingson, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “If hospitals can identify wards that have problems or wards that are doing very well, they can learn where the gaps are or how people have found a way to get adherence up. And when people have data, they pay attention. The CEO may pay attention. The health workers themselves will pay attention if you provide data on their performance.”
Until now, hospitals have had two ways to measure hand-washing. One is by monitoring how often each soap or alcohol gel dispenser needs to be refilled. By tracking how much product a unit uses, you can get a rough idea of how much hand-washing is going on. The limits here are obvious: there is no way to tell who is washing hands and when.
The method currently considered the gold standard is using human observers: nurses or other health care workers who roam halls and patient rooms with a clipboard, recording who does and doesn’t wash hands. Sometimes they’re like secret shoppers and sometimes they’re announced.
This system, too, is woeful. Spending health care workers’ time in observing is expensive. And they can monitor only a small sample of health care workers. A recent study at the University of Iowa to test whether observers should stand still or move around found that moving more was better, but the real news was this: “All observation schedules capture at best 3.5% and at worst 1.2% of all daily opportunities” for handwashing.
When the monitors are announced, it’s bound to inflate compliance, in part because their presence reminds workers to wash hands. Their data may be entered into a computer and analyzed only weeks or months later. It isn’t enough. Hospitals need accurate information about who is and isn’t washing hands, and they need to be able to remind people to do so in real time.
Enter technology. In the last year or two, several new ways to promote hand-washing – all things that beep – have made their debut: HyGreen, BioVigil, Patient Care Technology System’s Amelior 360 and Proventix’s nGage are some of them, but there are others. Some are spinoffs of systems widely used to track hospital equipment (this is how hospitals can find a wheelchair when it is needed). All employ new technology that can detect alcohol — which in hospitals is a component not only of rubbing gel but also soap.
They work like this: every health care worker wears an electronic badge. When she washes her hands or uses alcohol rub, a sensor at the sink or dispenser or her own badge smells the alcohol and registers that she has washed her hands. Another sensor near the patient detects when her badge enters a room or the perimeter around a patient that the hospital sets. If that badge shows that her hands were recently washed, it displays a green light or something else the patient can see. If she hasn’t washed, her hands, the badge says so and emits a signal to remind her to do so. The sensor also sends this information to a central data base. Information about the hand-washing practices of a particular unit, shift or individual is instantly available.
Do they work? It is early yet — these systems are largely in the pilot phase or in use in only a handful of hospitals. But several different studies have shown that they greatly improve hand-washing compliance. There is some evidence that the systems are associated with a drop in infections. Proventix claims its nGage system saw a 22 percent drop in infection in the units where it was used in a seven-month trial, while elsewhere in the hospital the drop during that time was only 4 percent.
Miami Children’s Hospital said that during the time it used the HyGreen system in its oncology unit, the unit had a whopping 89 percent drop in infections. Deise Granado-Villar, chief medical officer, said that the gains have been maintained eight months later. These studies should be read cautiously; they are very small – Granado-Villar would not say how many infections were being counted – and not peer–reviewed.
The drawback to these systems is that they are much more expensive than other measures hospitals have tried. This is the “hand hygiene-industrial complex,” as Philip Polgreen, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, calls it. These systems are brand new and their price is likely to drop substantially, but right now they are expensive — Amelior, for example, costs $1,500 to $2,000 per hospital bed to install. Most offer hospitals the option to buy a system or lease it.
Hospital-acquired infections are so expensive, however, that a system that proves effective will pay for itself in the first year. “It paid for itself with the avoidance of one infection,” Granado-Villar said of the HyGreen system. “It cost $50,000 to implement, which can be the cost of one infection today.” An article in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found that if a hospital improved hand-washing rates by 5 percent, it would save $1,000 per bed each year in averted MRSA infections alone – and MRSA infections make up only 8 percent of all hospital-acquired infections.
Related More From Fixes
Read previous contributions to this series.
The technological approach is expensive enough that hospitals struggling with raising hand-washing rates will likely first want to make sure they are getting other things right — creating a culture of accountability, redesigning hand hygiene systems to make hand-washing easy and automatic, and other strategies. These improvements are necessary whether or not hospitals add the technological piece. “I come back to: what do you pair it with?” said Lisa McGiffert, campaign director for Consumer Union’s Safe Patient Project. “When you implement something like this technology you also have to do some culture change.”
On Friday, I’ll look at how some hospitals are changing hand-washing culture, and what we can learn from an absurdly simple idea that has already brought a deadly type of hospital infection down to near zero in Michigan.

Donald Trump: Obama Too Dumb for Ivies

BS Top - Avlon Trump
Katsumi Kasahara / AP Photo
Donald Trump is trying out a new, racist dog whistle about President Obama: Saying he was a “terrible” student and wondering how he got into Columbia and Harvard. "I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?" Trump asks the Associated Press. "I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can't get into Harvard. We don't know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.” Obama graduated magna cum laude in 1991 from Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Real Choice on Medicare
We know it is not how most people want to spend their time, but Americans need to give a close reading to the Democrats’ and Republicans’ plans for Medicare reform. There are stark differences that will profoundly affect all of our lives — and clear political choices to come.
The Democratic approach is mostly imbedded in the broader health care reforms enacted last year. The Republicans’ approach — including a call to repeal reform and ultimately privatize Medicare — was fashioned by Representative Paul Ryan and adopted by the House.
Here are some of the most significant elements:
FOR BENEFICIARIES, OR THOSE WHO WILL SOON BE During last year’s Congressional campaign, Republican leaders claimed to be Medicare’s stalwart defenders — conveniently ignoring their historical animosity toward the program. Older voters overlooked that history and flocked to the party in large numbers. Now the Republicans have embraced many of reform’s changes for Medicare — without, of course, advertising their flip-flop.
One of the biggest differences, under both parties’ plans, would be a large reduction of unjustified subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans that serve 11 million of Medicare’s 46 million enrollees. Last year, those plans were paid 9 percent more per enrollee, on average, for coverage comparable to what traditional Medicare would provide. By eliminating most of the subsidies, the Democrats hope to save $136 billion over 10 years. The Republicans plan to cut only $10 billion less.
The Republicans have also embraced health care reform’s necessary plan to slow the growth rate of payments to health care providers, which was expected to save hundreds of billions over the next decade.
House Republicans would make another deep cut — definitely not in the Democrats’ plan — that would hit many current and future Medicare users hard. The reform law provides subsidies to help close a gap in prescription drug coverage, known as the doughnut hole, that poses a hardship for millions of patients who need lots of medicine and often cannot afford to pay for it. The Republicans would repeal that subsidy.
Perhaps most significant, the two parties have very different approaches to what they would do with their savings. The Democrats would use the savings to extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans, a goal we heartily endorse. The Republicans say only that they would use the money in some way to bolster the solvency of Medicare. That is not good enough.
MEDICARE IN THE FUTURE The differences get even bigger over time. President Obama wants to retain Medicare as an entitlement in which the federal government pays for a defined set of medical services. The Ryan proposal would give those turning age 65 in 2022 “premium support” payments to help them buy private policies. There is little doubt that the Republican proposal would sharply reduce federal spending on Medicare by capping what the government would pay at very low levels. But it could cause great hardship by shifting a lot of the burden to beneficiaries. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2022 new enrollees would have to pay at least $6,400 more out of pocket to buy coverage comparable to traditional Medicare.
Huge numbers of Medicare beneficiaries live on modest incomes and are already struggling to pay medical bills that Medicare does not fully cover. We should not force them into private health plans that would charge them a lot more or provide much skimpier benefits.
CONTROLLING REAL COSTS The country cannot wrestle the deficit under control unless a way is found to slow the rise in medical costs — and Medicare’s demands on the federal budget. President Obama is clearly dedicated to reforming the health care system. Mr. Ryan relies mainly on the idea that costs will come down because of competition among private plans and more judicious use of health care by patients who are forced to pay more. His proposal is too sketchy to determine whether he would repeal or retain most of the reform law’s quality-improvement efforts, consumer protections and pilot projects to reduce costs.
What is clear is that House Republicans are determined to repeal reform’s strongest cost-control measure: an independent board that would monitor whether Medicare is on track to meet spending targets and, if not, propose further reductions that Congress would have to accept or replace with comparable savings.
Republicans charge that this would allow “unelected bureaucrats” to “ration” health care, and members of both parties object to relinquishing any power over federal spending. But Congress has shown it is far too susceptible to lobbying by insurers, hospitals, patients and other special interest groups. It makes sense to let experts drawn from diverse backgrounds set a course for Congress based on the best available evidence of what might work.
We were skeptical when the Republicans suddenly claimed to be Medicare’s great defenders. We are even more skeptical now that we have read their plan. We are also certain that repealing reform — the Republicans’ No. 1 goal — would do enormous damage to all Americans and make it even harder to wrestle down health care costs, the best way to deal with the country’s long-term fiscal crisis.