Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) launched a pre-emptive strike against the GOP’s forthcoming budget during a committee hearing Tuesday morning, arguing that the Republicans’ plan to transform Medicare through “premium support” would increase costs for seniors. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to release the party’s budget sometime next month, which will call for lowering federal health spending by providing seniors with a “premium support” voucher to purchase insurance from an exchange of private health care plans.
During a question and answer session before the house committee, Rick Foster, the program’s chief actuary, confirmed that traditional Medicare is more efficient than private insurers and went on to say that shifting beneficiaries from fee-for-service Medicare into private plans does not lower overall health care costs. “If you’re simply transferring the Medicare beneficiary from the Medicare system into the private health market and the growth in cost in the private health care market is the same or higher than Medicare, they’re not going to contain any less, are they?” Van Hollen asked. “Other things being equal that’s correct,” Foster responded.
Foster also agreed that the GOP’s “premium support” plans are different than the health care policies members of Congress enjoy through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP), where each member’s “premium support credit” keeps up with actual health care costs:
VAN HOLLEN: The Federal Employee Health Benefits System (FEHBP) — which every member of Congress is on — is targeted to the market price. But members of Congress are guaranteed a certain share of their premiums will be paid by the federal government, I think that’s right.
FOSTER: That’s correct.
VAN HOLLEN: Ok, and there is a big difference between that — in terms of economic security — between that and a system where the amount of the voucher or premium support (whatever you want to call it) is not linked to the market price, but could be linked to an indicee that does not rise as the same rate cost-wise as the market. Right?
FOSTER: Yes. [...]
VAN HOLLEN: In your testimony, you point out that in those cases where your support — the amount of your voucher doesn’t keep pace with the market cost of health care, you may have to choose to either pay a lot more out-of-pocket or not get a health care plan that covers all your needs. Is that correct?
FOSTER: That’s certainly a risk and it’s a pretty important risk.
Watch a compilation of the exchange:
This year?s House budget will likely be similar to Ryan?s proposal from last year, which passed in a vote of 235-193 with no Democrats in support, but may include some changes to the Medicare provisions, akin to the plan Ryan unveiled with Senate Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR). The proposal may maintain traditional Medicare as an option and grow the premium support credit with the actual cost of the policies. Ryan?s 2011 budget grew the premium support substantially slower than actual health care costs, shifting health care costs to beneficiaries.
That’s the day we’ll find out if Sheen’s choice of material is proof that he’s committed to addressing his past awful behavior towards women , as FX chief John Landgraf suggests, or just an attempted cash grab by FX, which has financed a lot of its creative innovation with the proceeds from Two and a Half Men. Fortunately, Louie and Wilfred will return that night, and Russell Brand’s new chat show, Strangely Uplifting, will debut, so we’ll have something to cushion us against the pain.
As House Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce team up for their latest assault on the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, specifically a rule reining in banks’ risky trading, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has released its latest Quarterly Banking Profile, which shows that GOP claims regarding Dodd-Frank killing America’s banks have little truth behind them.
The release reports that FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions earned $26.3 billion in profits at the end of last year — a figure that is up 23 percent from earnings reported in the final quarter of 2010 — making 2011′s fourth-quarter the most profitable period for the industry since 2006:
For the year, earnings hit $119.5 billion ? the most since 2006.
Banks with assets exceeding $10 billion accounted for almost all of the earnings growth in the fourth quarter. While they make up just 1.4 percent of U.S. banks, they accounted for more than 81 percent of the earnings.
Those banks include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. Most of them have recovered with help from federal bailout money and record-low borrowing rates.
Many of these same banks complained last year that new regulations mandated by Congress have hurt their ability to make money and moved to charge new fees to make up the difference.
Clearly, the FDIC’s findings stand contrary to the GOP’s claims that the law “hinder[s] American markets, competitiveness and job creation” and is “killing the banking industry now.” In fact, the number of banks on the FDIC’s “problem list” declined 11 percent, from 844 to 813, while total loans and leases increased by $130.1 billion, as did insured deposit accounts, which increased by $249.7 billion during the quarter.
Yesterday, the Senate voted 86-2 to confirm Margo Kitsy Brodie, 45, to a vacant judgeship on the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Despite no real opposition in the Senate, Brodie waited months for this vote. Brodie was nominated in June and reported out of the Senate Judicial Committee unanimously in October. The overwhelming vote to confirm Brodie is another example of a President Obama’s judicial nominees being delayed despite zero opposition to their nominations on the merits; the seat she will fill has been vacant for 329 days.
Everyone likes birth control. Everyone.Do you need yet another poll to prove that despite the kvetching from Catholic bishops, Rick "Even straight, married sex makes me want to throw up" Santorum, and the woman-haters in Congress, Americans actually like birth control?
Okay, you got it. Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU. 2/23-26. Registered voters. MoE ▒3.1% (no trendlines):
Q: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of birth control?And a closer look at the numbers shows it's not just dirty liberal sluts who like birth control:
Not sure: 18
And the list goes on and on. Rich people, poor people, coastal elites and Southerners, old people, young people?pretty much everywhere you look, Americans like birth control.
So despite Rep. Darrell Issa's boys only hearing about how birth control makes rape apologists of the cloth sad, and despite threats from Catholic bishops to shut down hospitals rather than cover birth control, Americans have roundly rejected the "aspirin between the knees" approach to contraception in favor of real birth control. So sorry, bishops and Republicans. Guess you'll need another hearing about how that makes you sad too.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (Jason Reed/Reuters)The Senate is going to be voting on Sen. Roy Blunt's amendment repealing the administration's birth control mandate and with it much of the health insurance coverage the Affordable Care Act extended. Though the primary focus of the Blunt amendment has been on birth control, the actual language of the bill would allow employers to dictate all kind of coverage exemptions for their employees, under the guise of "moral convictions." That's a proposal, by the way, which is hugely unpopular.
Which is why Democrats in the Senate are anxious to take the vote.
Democrats see the vote as a way to embarrass Republicans ? especially those up for re-election in moderate states like Maine and Massachusetts ? and believe that the battle may alienate women and moderates from the Republican Party. Republicans need to pick up a number of seats to take back the Senate.Lasting damage to the Republicans is all well and good. The GOP's overreach on social issues has to come to an end at some point through a good electoral stomping, and it might as well be now.
?They?ve gone way overboard in the mind of independents,? said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, in a conference call with reporters, referring to Republicans generally. The fight over contraception, he said, ?is going to do lasting damage? to the Republican Party.
But, Democrats, how about a little effort to take the bull by the horns and start making up for the huge ground lost to the zealots in the past few decades in women's reproductive health rights? Now that the nation has a crystal clear view of exactly what Republicans intend to do with the freedoms of 51 percent of the nation's population, it's the perfect time to be proactive with a coherent message to America's women that you'll start fighting for us again.
That goes for the White House, too, which seems a little hesitant to make this a real fight.
One White House official cautioned that should the debate devolve into shrill arguments, the net result would be the alienation of the independent or moderate voters whom Mr. Obama is trying to woo in his reelection bid. ?Look, we don?t want to overplay this either, so we?ll be cautious,? another White House official said.Just look, again, at the polling. There's no time like the present for getting just a little bit shrill. That's the least the nation's women deserve.
In defiance of all evidence Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is claiming that the incredibly deadly war on drugs in Mexico has not been a failure. The ongoing drug war in Mexico has been incredibly bloody, destructive and deadly. Nearly[...]
Read The Full Article:
Mitt Romney endorsed his own version of Operation Hilarity in Massachusetts
Here's Mitt Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom a few minutes ago on MSNBC, attempting to explain why Mitt Romney thinks it was okay for him to register as an independent in order to meddle in Democratic primaries, but it's not okay for Democrats to do the same in Michigan:
That was a totally different situation, that was when Mitt was a private sector businessman, before he started his political career. He was an unenrolled voter, and that meant he could go into either party primary [...] He never in any of the races where he was a candidate ever encouraged Democrats to go into a Republican primary and create mischief and that's what Rick Santorum is doing.In other words, when it works for Mitt, he's totally cool with Operation Hilarity (even when it means he pretends to be an independent), but when it works against him, he thinks Operation Hilarity is totally unethical. That's a real touching and principled commitment to the democratic process, isn't it?
But it gets better, because when Andrea Mitchell asked Fehnrstrom if Romneyland planned to blame defeat at the polls on Democrats, he said that no matter what happens at the polls, Romney expects to get the most delegates:
Well, look, we don't expect to lose. But what I will say is no matter what happens in Michigan, and as I said, we expect to win, but no matter what happens, tomorrow Mitt Romney will gain the most delegates, we're confident of that.I guess in Mitt Romney's world, to the winner should go the spoils. Unless he's the loser. In which case, to the loser go the spoils.
So when the rules help Mitt, he's all for following them. When the rules hurt Mitt, then you're unethical if you follow them. M'kay. Is it clear yet why nobody really trusts this guy?
Kathleen Falk (D): 48 (41)
Scott Walker (R-i): 47 (49)
Undecided: 5 (10)
Tom Barret (D): 49 (46)
Scott Walker (R-i): 46 (48)
Undecided: 5 (6)
Scott Walker (R-i): 46
Kathleen Vinehount (D): 44
Undecided: 5 (10)
The Democratic candidates most likely to take on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the upcoming recall election have significantly improved their standing since PPP last surveyed the race in late October. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, the current favorite for the nomination among the announced candidates, has shown particular improvement by transforming an eight-point deficit into a razor-thin one-point lead.
There is every reason to expect an extremely close race in Wisconsin. As the most polarizing governor in America, Walker is almost as loved by Wisconsin Republicans as he is loathed by Wisconsin Democrats. As such, this is the sort of campaign where factors like grassroots energy and base turnout may well prove more important than swing voter persuasion.
Let's make it happen. Please, give $6 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to recall Scott Walker.
I?m reasonably sure that this wouldn?t have happened to a white parent moving their kid into a better school district.
This is the weirdest thing I?ve read in a long time.
And now for a little shameless self-promotion: I baked a really awesome batch of cookies last week, and the recipe is up on my recipe blog. You should check it out.
Another trailer for Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Also, if you haven?t watched the original series, you should do it, immediately: