Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ObamaCare and Texans after one year

None of this matters for those who don't care about others.

In the Medicare program, there is a gap when someone uses up the initial amount the program will pay for prescription drugs and before they hit the catastrophic coverage. That area of out-of-pocket expenses is often called the “donut hole.” More than 221,121 Texas residents who hit the donut hole received $250 tax-free rebates and will receive a 50 percent brand-name prescription drug discount. The White House estimates the hole will be closed completely by 2020.

There are 2.8 million Texans on Medicare. They are all eligible now for free preventive services and yearly wellness visits from a doctor.

Most insurance companies must cover children with pre-existing conditions now. This means an estimated 1.6 million children who might have been denied before will be covered.

Speaking of kids, if the economy — or the future unknown — has left your offspring unemployed, parents may keep their children on their plans until age 26. That’s about 149,000 Texas young adults.

Small businesses who now face insuring their employees can get tax credits. There is $40 billion in tax credits set aside for up to 4 million small businesses for providing insurance for employees and making premiums affordable. That could mean almost 300,000 in Texas.

About 12 million Texas residents have private insurance. The law keeps insurance companies from dropping or capping insurance plans unexpectedly and from imposing lifetime limits that pose problems for people with chronic diseases, such as cancer or HIV.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Krauthammer stamps his little feet over Social Security again

Time for another editorial by Charles Krauthammer over Social Security. He is wrong again and his stamping his feet and speaking in a louder voice doesn't make him right. Charles is a fine example of the So-Called-Liberal Washington Post's senile and privileged opinion writers.

1. There is no difference in government bonds held by the Social Security Administration and other government bonds. They are all numbers on computers and interest is calculated and paid. In one sense it is one branch of government having a debt and another branch having an obligation but governments work that way. If Social Security redeemed those bonds and bought other government bonds Charles would still object and those purchases would do nothing but generate a lot of transaction costs.

2. Those bonds also represent an obligation to the American people who have paid for those bonds with the Social Security tax and a default would have a big meaning. Such a big meaning I imagine that workers would riot and sweep away Charles's little world if the government ever did what Charles wants and sweeps away the bonds.

3. The statement that the debt is not used in calculations of government debt is simply wrong. It is easy to find presentations of where that debt is used in calculations of government debt and it seems more common than not.

4. Means testing is not any kind of "cure" for reducing Social Security obligations as even a little thought would show. Rich people are not a significant percentage of the population collecting Social Security. Other means for extending the current Social Security payment system past the 30 so years already covered, and is even covered well past that time at higher payments than today, will undoubtedly come to pass but it has nothing to do with the national deficit. It may have a little something to do with the scare-mongering of people like Charles Krauthammer.

5. The real usefulness of idiots like Krauthammer is preparing the people for another grab by the rich from the poor. The rich don't want to pay the taxes they have deferred and Wall Street wants its hands on the people's money that goes into Social Security.

6. As an aside, when is Charles going to quit using that 40-year-old picture that is published in his syndicated columns? Is it a reverse Dorian Gray, it doesn't age while his real face shows all the ravages of corruption and serving the interests of the rich and privileged? The one on the Washington Post page is midway between the Houston Chronicle's and what shows when he emerges from his crypt to appear under TV lights even after pancake make-up and black hair dye.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's economy

Who's screwed? Anyone's whose not a CEO of a company on the S & P 500. While many have lost their jobs and many more have seen their hours cut at work and their paychecks not going as far as they used to go, transnational corporations are poised to see the biggest profit gains in 18 years. Some of the nation's biggest corporations are expected to see a 9% profit gain this year - the biggest since 1993. And unlike in 1993 - when high profits spurred a hiring spree - don't expect the same things to happen today. That's because - thanks to insane free trade policies - these huge transnational corporations have gotten into a very lucrative business - shipping US jobs overseas. In fact - that's about all our nation exports these days - jobs.

-Thom Hartmann

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Einstein on American Democracy

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

I Stand with the Unions

I don't want to say a lot about Wisconsin; though it occupies a lot of my attention. I don't want to say a lot because I really believe this thing could get ugly. While it may seem that Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature hold the upper hand; the fact is, they are left with NO OPTIONS in this; they took it too far to reverse course; it's way too late for them to back down, and the threat to fire anyone who strikes was the trump card. After playing that card, there are no options left for Governor Walker. If the protesters do NOT back down now, in the face of that threat, Governor Walker has one choice: violence, or the threat of violence; he has to intimidate the protesters; and the only way to do that now is to draw blood. Real blood.

But here's what little I will say about Wisconsin:

The Wisconsin decision to strip public workers of their right to bargain collectively followed a long campaign by right-wingers to create a stereotype of public workers as lazy, overpaid, bureaucratic paper-pushers who contribute nothing, and whose very jobs don't matter. They were attacked only after they were first weakened; a group of people they thought no one else will put themselves on the line to defend.

Except, people are paying attention and standing with Wisconsin's teachers, and not just public service employees. A lot of people are offended by the rightwing portrayal of government employees as public welfare recipients.

I am VERY proud of Wisconsin's firefighters for standing with the teachers; Governor Walker made it clear that they would be exempted from any attacks on the teachers. The firefighters chose on principle to stand with the teachers; or maybe they just realized how this kind of thing works, and knew their turn was coming.

All of us need to stand with Wisconsin's public workers. On principle. We don't have to march, or carry signs. We don't have to go to Madison. We can do it simply by sharing our support with those who know us well, and respect us. Our stated opinions are needed.

- Charles A.