Our guest blogger is Lindsay Rosenthal, a Special Assistant for Domestic Policy at the Center for American Progress.
With lawmakers determined to curb spending, legislation to prevent Medicare providers from taking a 27 percent cut in 2012 has been swept up in congressional battles over the payroll tax, bringing a new urgency to the debate surrounding how best to reform the Sustainable Growth Rate formula (SGR). Since 2002, when the cost of health care skyrocketed beyond the nation’s economic growth rate, Congress has sheltered doctors from the excessive payment cuts required by the SGR, continuously voting to prevent full cuts to Medicare reimbursement payments and kicking the can down the road through so-called ?doc fixes.?
Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post raises the question of whether we should ?fix doc fix? at all. As she argues, we already pay doctors, particularly specialists, much more than other countries pay their physicians, without achieving better health outcomes. But surveys conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA) also show that cutting doctors? payments could cause some to flee the system and exacerbate the Medicare doctor shortage (which is quite pronounced in some geographic areas).
Ultimately, fixing the doc fix is a problem we need to tackle, if only to free ourselves from the perennial headache that the legislation has caused. But the fix should be part of a larger package of reforms in which doctors accept changes in the way that health care is paid for and delivered. Effective payment and delivery system reforms would build on the measures already put in place by the Affordable Care Act and improve the quality of care for patients, while lowering the health care growth rate over the long term. For example, bundling payments would ensure that doctors are reimbursed for the quality of services they deliver, rather than the volume and quantity of (often unnecessary and unproven) tests and services they provide.
In a system where one-third of Medicare spending is excessive and unnecessary and over 56 percent of annual spending on health care goes to labor costs, examining how we pay providers for their services should be part of any conversation that takes place around reforming the SGR.
On Tuesday, Newt Gingrich told an Iowa voter primarily concerned about marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans to vote for President Obama, indicating that he would not be interested in engaging on the issue of same-sex marriage as president. Last night, that voter — adjunct college professor Scott Arnold — appeared on MSNBC’s Ed Show and said that Gingrich’s refusal to ever consider changing his mind on the fundamental issue of equal rights made him feel like a second-class citizen:
ARNOLD: It was almost as if he drew a line in the sand saying, you know, I don’t want your support. Go vote for this other guy because there’s no place for you in my, you know, in my presidency, there’s no place for you almost in a sense, you know, as an American. What do gay Americans do if Newt Gingrich was president? It was baffling really. [...] If he wants to be president, he should be president of all Americans. And, yeah, that did make me feel like a second-class citizen. Absolutely.
The Gingrich campaign has issued a statement standing by the Speaker’s refusal to consider gay rights, saying, ?As you can see from the transcript and video, Gingrich was saying that he plans to talk to all Americans about jobs, national security, creating a better future for America and many issues.” ?He did say that for voters whose most important issue was allowing gays the right to marry, that it was legitimate for them to support Obama for president.? Republican gay groups have also jumped to Gingrich’s defense.
A binational same-sex couple that has been together for over a decade and married in Vermont earlier this year may be split up before the end of the year because the federal government does not recognize their relationship under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Frances Herbert had sponsored her Japanese wife Takako Ueda for citizenship, but the couple received a letter from immigration services rejecting the application and “telling them that Ueda had to leave the country within 30 days. Ueda’s student visa expired in July.” “Your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex,” the letter said. “Therefore, under the DOMA, your petition must be denied.” Immigration lawyers are hopeful that the couple is granted “prosecutorial discretion” and their case is either dismissed or the deportation notice is not enforced. Stil, until DOMA is fully repealed, binational same-sex couples will remain in legal limbo.
Speaking about his jobs record at Bain Capical, Mitt Romney wants you to know that he feels your pain, unemployed people:
?I have experienced first-hand the change in people?s lives as they lose employment? I understand that in the way, I think, a lot of people in my circumstances do not understand it because I?ve served as a pastor in my church and worked with people who are out of work. I know the huge human cost that?s associated with an enterprise going out of business,? said Romney.
This represents progress of a sort: Romney is no longer claiming to be unemployed. That said, having known an unemployed person doesn't mean you have "experienced first-hand" anything about unemployment. It's like how you don't say "I have a friend who died of cancer, therefore I have experienced death from cancer first-hand." You have some first-hand information, maybe. But experienced? No, your friend is dead and you are alive and what Mitt Romney has experienced is not unemployment but instead continuing to make millions of dollars from a company he retired from 13 years ago. Poor guy. He's experienced such a rough time of it, first-hand.
Occupy Houston and Occupy Austin protestors are facing felony charges for taking part in civil disobedience earlier this month outside the Port of Houston. The felony charges had at first been dismissed by a judge, but have now be reinstated by a Harris County grand jury empanelled by the Harris County District Attorney’s office. There is [...]
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At the moment, according to Nate Silver?s most recent forecast, Mitt Romney is in a dead heat with Ron Paul for first place in the Iowa caucuses. Both hold a 40-percent chance of winning the contest, though Paul holds a slight edge in most of the polls used by Silver. Even still, this is an abrupt change from most of the fall, when Romney was projected to lose the Iowa caucuses on account of his moderate background and opposition from evangelical Christians.
Iowa isn?t a ticket to victory in the Republican presidential primary, but it does set the stage for the proceding contests. A world in which Romney loses Iowa is one in which his opponents (like Rick Perry) have a chance to block the former governor?s path to the nomination with wins in states like South Carolina (which is similarly conservative) and Florida. But what if Romney wins Iowa? In that case, we can safely say that Mitt Romney is?or will be?the Republican nominee for president. A win in Iowa cuts off a challenge from the right, provides the momentum for an overwhelming victory in New Hampshire, and makes South Carolina a likely win as well. From there, it?s like watching dominoes fall into each other; the momentum from one state carries into the next until Romney has accumulated the delegates necessary to win the nomination.
It?s hard to say if this is good or bad for Romney?s campaign. A long primary can strengthen campaigns, as they learn how to deal with attacks and crises, and extend their reach to voters around the country?this is essentially what happened with Barack Obama in 2008. That said, a long primary could also harm a campaign for the same reasons; attacks from all sides could leave voters with a negative view of the candidate. For Romney, it all comes down to whether his campaign is ready for a general election. Given the stakes, Democrats are sure to hit Romney hard from the beginning, in an attempt to define him to voters. If his team is ready for the struggles of a general election, this shouldn?t be a problem. But if they aren?t, then a quick win in the primary might have done more harm than good.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Thursday that House Republicans might be willing to look at a three-month extension of the payroll tax holiday as a compromise.
?If they [the Senate] went to three months and did the first quarter, we might have made sense of that,? Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said on CNBC?s ?Squawk Box.? ?If we can?t do a year, at least do a quarter, something that matches up with what employers have to report.?
First things first, the whole point of two month extension isn't that the Senate merely wants to extend the payroll tax cut for two months?it's to make sure there tax cut continues while the House and Senate work out their differences on how to pay for the full year tax cut (as well as other issues like unemployment insurance). So debating two versus three months is pointless, and the only reason Camp is to let Republicans save face. I guess they think it would be embarrassing to vote for two months, but not three?as if they haven't embarrassed themselves enough already.
That'd be funny enough, but it gets better, because it appears that Camp is trying to set the stage for Speaker Boehner to beg for mercy. Check this out:
President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats, and many Republicans both in and outside Congress have called on House Republicans to pass the Senate?s version of the payroll tax cut extension, which lasts for two months. But in his statement, Boehner will note that while because businesses send in their taxes every three months, the result could be ?more burdensome? and ?costly? for employers.
?In fact, non-partisan payroll tax experts have told us that a two-month extension is ?unworkable,? and ?could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees,?? Boehner plans to say. ?As a result of the Senate bill?s approach, many workers won?t even see their tax cut in January. We can do better. People expect us to do better.?
"Do better"? Uh ... talking about two versus three months as a serious policy issue doesn't qualify as doing better. Again, the whole idea here is that the payroll tax cut must be extended for a full year, but because House Republicans have thus far refused to pass such an extension without including poison pills, the Senate was forced to pass a short-term fix to make sure the tax cut didn't expire.
Even if three months were a tiny bit better than two months, it would be a disaster Congress can't extend the payroll tax cut for a full year. Boehner may think he's trying to save face, but he's actually just deepening the humiliation of House Republicans with this silly gambit. He should pass the Senate's bipartisan two month extension, and then quickly get down to business on reaching a deal to extend the tax cut for the full year. Engaging in brinksmanship over the duration of a short-term extension is shows appallingly bad judgment.
But it does make for great comedy.
Hahahahahahahahahaha:Most of us know who we'll be tomorrow: pretty much who we are today. For Mitt Romney, the king of flip-flopping, who the hell knows who he'll be tomorrow? Or which football team he'll root for. Or what he'll think about health care mandates. Or abortion. Or Iraq. Or getting Bin Laden. Or ...
With Mitt, you really don't know who he'll be tomorrow because he's willing to change into whoever he thinks people want him to be. He is running for office, for Pete's sake.
And if that wasn't funny enough, there's video:
At a time when legislators, consumer advocates and the Occupy movement batter big banks for their questionable business practices, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America have gone soft and fuzzy. The nation?s two largest banks are running saccharine television commercials that portray the massive multinationals as the Bailey Building and Loan Association.
Bank of America recently rolled out its ?Opportunity? campaign to highlight the company's nationwide bid to lend a hand?i.e., money? to small businesses. (Ironically, It?s A Wonderful Life director Frank Capra modeled the Bailey's bank on BoA.)
In Brooklyn, tenants of a green affordable housing project partly funded by BoA gush over their sleek new apartments, replete with AC and electric keys. ?No one can pick the lock,? notes a tenant in a web version of the ad. Another tenant, a formerly homeless girl about ten, says of her new digs: ?I feel smarter."
In Los Angeles, Richard Pink, one of the owners of Pink?s Hot Dog?s, recounts how BoA lent his parents $4,000 in 1939 to start their mom-and-pop shop. The Pink?s ad lays on the mustard pretty thick, using the condiment to spell ?Pinks loves Bank of America" on a line of hot dogs. His parents, reminisces Mr. Pink, ?just pleaded with their enthusiasm for this hot dog business. The branch manager said ?all right, I will take a risk. I will take a chance with the two of you, and I will loan you the money to buy the property.?? (Today that banker would show the Pinks the door if they offered ?enthusiasm? as collateral).
BoA?s tearjerkers coincide with less inspiring news about the company. The New York Times recently reported that Small Business Administration-backed loans by BoA plummeted 89 percent from 2006 to 2010. Meanwhile, BoA ranked on the bottom of JD Power?s annual Small Business Banking Study. The U.S. Treasury just issued Bank of America, as well as JPMorgan Chase, poor reviews for their performance in a federal program intended to modify the mortgages of homeowners facing foreclosure. And the fallout continues from the bank?s much-maligned plan, since dropped, to charge a monthly fee to debit card customers.
J.P. Morgan Chase also followed headlines about heartless behavior with the release of a heartwarming ad. Earlier this year, Chase ponied up $56 million to settle a class action lawsuit accusing the bank of overcharging more than 6,000 active-duty troops on mortgages and wrongly foreclosing the homes of fourteen military families. But let bygones be bygones. Chase?s latest ad salutes its mission to hire military veterans. The commercial shows clean-cut former soldiers donning new uniforms?crisp blue ?Chase? dress shirts. ?Chase knows when you are hiring a veteran, you?re hiring America?s best,? ooh-rahs one of the bank?s cadets.
Gene Grabowski, who specializes in crisis management at Levick Strategic Communications in Washington D.C., believes that the banks? ads could pay dividends for the embattled companies. ?People have been critical of banks since Old Man Potter shut down the Savings and Loan,? says Grabowski. ?Does this really change the perception? No. But it does relieve some of the pressure from Capitol Hill and reminds consumers, ?maybe banks aren?t all bad.?
A hearts and minds ad campaign might be a wily marketing strategy, but how about trying contrition and accountability? Imagine the commercials, which would cost little to produce. J.P. Morgan Chase?s CEO Jamie Dimon and Bank of America?s CEO Brian T. Moynihan face the camera in front of a plain backdrop. First, the CEOs thank the American people for the bailout. ?You were there for us even though we have not been there for you,? admits each banker. Then Dimon and Moynihan apologize for their respective bank?s misdeeds and announce their immediate resignations. Fade to black.
Now that would be a holiday miracle.
A holiday tradition at my house, I enjoy them any time of year.Cranberry Canes are basically a stuffed yeast bread roll up, like a Cinnamon Roll. It's the presentation of twisting the prepared strips and putting a crook at one end that gives them[...]
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