Tuesday, June 30, 2009
As I and many others have known, and as the current watering down (hopefully not too bad a watering down) of healthcare reform is showing, it's the influence of campaign contributions and lobbying money from the big corporate entitites that prevents progressive evolutionary change in our system.
I invite you to join in changing the poltical system to one of public finance of Congressional (and Presidential) campaigns and transparency in government -
Start here -
And continue here -
PARTNERS OF "CHANGE CONGRESS"
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Via Stand with Dr. Dean -
Report reveals truth behind Rick Scott and CRP's allegations against the public option healthcare plan
By Joe Frandino
SEIU’s Change That Works Health Care Campaign has produced a detailed rebuttal to “Bulldozer” that the
Media Matters Action Network released this report on June 5, following Rick Scott and Conservatives for Patients’ Rights’ controversial segment that was directed at combating the public option health-care plan…
CPR Wants Viewers To Believe That The Health Insurance Market Is Large And Varied
FALSE CLAIM: “There are hundreds of choices of health care plans today…” [Conservatives for Patients’ Rights “Bulldozer” Ad, 6/4/09]
FACT: Only A Few Insurance Companies Dominate The Market, Leaving Americans With Limited Choices In Health Care. According to the American Medical Association, 94 percent of United States health care markets are considered highly concentrated, meaning that one company or a small group of companies control a great deal of the market. [American Medical Association, “Competition in Health Insurance,” 2008 Update]
CPR Wants Viewers To Believe The Government Will Take Away American’s Choices
FALSE CLAIM: “This government-run plan could crush all your other choices, driving them out of existence…” [Conservatives for Patients’ Rights “Bulldozer” Ad, 6/4/09]
FACT: Public Plan Will Only Drive Out Inefficient Private Plans, Leaving Consumers With Greater Choices And Better Care Options. According to Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) chairman Glenn Hackbarth’s comments on National Journal’s health care blog, “some private plans will not survive this competition – namely, plans that do little more than offer free-choice of provider, fee-for-service coverage. We don’t need those plans; a public plan can do that better.” [National Journal’s Health Care Blog, 12/8/08]
FACT: Private Plans That Offer Lower-Cost Options And More Comprehensive Plans Will Be Able To Compete. According to the Urban Institute: “Private plans that offer better services and greater access to providers, even at a somewhat higher cost than the public plans, would survive the competition in this environment. It is also conceivable that private plans offering a lower-cost option – for example, lower premiums than the public plan, say by exploiting care management innovations, and network and payment rate limitations – could stake out a separate niche in some markets.” [Urban Institute, 3/18/09]
FACT:Many States Run Public And Private Plans Alongside Each Other Successfully. According to the Center for American Progress: “Today, state governments (all of which regulate insurance companies) operate public Medicaid programs, purchase insurance for thousands of public employees, and regulate insurers. In fact, many states successfully offer their employees and retirees private health insurance plans side-by-side with these states’ self-funded health insurance plans.” [Center for American Progress, March 2009]
CPR Wants Viewers To Believe The Government Will Remove Coverage For 119 Million Americans
FALSE CLAIM: “Government-run plan” will force “119 million off their current insurance coverage, leaving no choices in health insurance and government in control of your health care.” [Conservatives for Patients’ Rights “Bulldozer” Ad, 6/4/09]
FACT:CBO Director: Lewin Study Claims Are Overstated. According to National Journal’s Congress Daily: “CBO Director Elmendorf told Senate Finance Committee members and staffers he expects fewer Americans would migrate from private health insurance to a public plan than projected by the oft-quoted study by nonpartisan policy experts at the Lewin Group.” [National Journal’s CongressDaily, 5/20/2009]
FACT: Lewin Group Is Mouthpiece For Insurance Industry. The Lewin Group was “acquired” by Ingenix in 2007, according to the Ingenix website. Ingenix is “a leading health information technology company.” According to the New York Times, INgenix is the “database business” of UnitedHealth Group. [Ingenix.com, 6/12/07; New York Times, 3/31/08]
CPR Wants Viewers To Support Maintaining The Failed Status Quo
Rick Scott in “Bulldozer”: “It’s not too late. Protect your health care choices. Tell Congress to say ‘no’ to a government-run plan.” [Conservatives for Patients’ Rights “Bulldozer” Ad, 6/4/09]
FACT: Scott Has Made His Fortune Off Our Broken Health Care System
Scott was ousted by the company’s board of directors in 1997 in the midst of the nation’s biggest health care fraud scandal, which involved alleged Medicaid and Medicare fraud
Scott Received Nearly $10 Million In Severance And A 5 Year Contract With Columbia/HCA Following Resignation. Modern Healthcare reported that Richard L. Scott’s “$9.9 million severance included a five-year consulting contract with HCA.” [Modern Healthcare, 7/11/05]
Scott’s 5 Year Consulting Contract Paid $950,000 Every Year. According to the New York Times: “The Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation said yesterday that it had agreed to pay its former chairman and chief executive nearly $10 million when he was forced out in July in the wake of an unfolding criminal investigation of the company. The agreement with the executive, Richard L. Scott, provided for a one-time payment of $5.13 million, as well as a five-year annual consulting fee of $950,000, for a total of $9.88 million, according to a copy of a severance agreement included in the company’s quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” [New York Times, 11/14/97]
Scott’s Severance Package Included $300 Million In Stocks. According to the Florida Times-Union, Richard L. Scott left Columbia/HCA “with a $10 million severance package and 10 million shares of stock valued at more than $300 million.”
Monday, June 08, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
Areas in bold are my emphasis.
Ailing, Banks Still Field Strong Lobby at Capitol
WASHINGTON — As he often does, President Obama took the opportunity in a bill-signing ceremony last month to remind Congress “to do what we were actually sent here to do — and that is to stand up to the special interests, and stand up for the American people.”
But Mr. Obama did not mention that the measure he was signing, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, was missing its centerpiece: a change in bankruptcy law he once championed that would have given judges the power to lower the amount owed on a home loan.
It had been stripped out three weeks earlier in a showdown between Senate Democrats and the nation’s banks, including many that are getting big government bailouts.
As Congressional Democrats and the White House crow about multiple victories over the financial industry, including new rules for credit card issuers, banks are quietly savoring an even bigger victory of their own.
The defeat of the bankruptcy proposal is a testament to the enduring influence of banks, even as the industry struggles financially and suffers from its role in the economic crisis.
It also shows that in the coming legislative battles that will shape the future of the economy, the financial industry — through a powerful and well-financed lobbying force — may have a far stronger hand to play than might seem evident.
Documents and interviews with lawmakers, lobbyists and administration officials show that the banks defeated the bankruptcy change — the industry picturesquely calls it the “cramdown” provision — by claiming that it would push up interest rates and slow the housing market’s recovery, even though academic studies have countered such claims.
The industry also steadfastly refused offers to negotiate over a weaker version. And it poured millions of dollars into lobbying: four of the industry’s top trade groups spent nearly as much on lobbying in the first three months of this year as they did in all of 2001.
But an industry strategy of dividing the Democrats had the most success.
One target was Senator Mary Landrieu, the moderate Democrat from Louisiana. On April 1, about 30 bankers from Louisiana crowded into a room off the Senate floor to press their view that the bankruptcy measure would force them to raise mortgage rates and hurt the very homeowners Congress was seeking to help.
Donnie Landry, a senior executive vice president at MidSouth Bank of Lafayette, La., recalled that last year Ms. Landrieu had “not been very receptive to some of our concerns. But this time she could not have been more cordial,” even helping them get to see Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate banking committee, while they were at the Capitol.
Ms. Landrieu was among 12 Democrats joining 39 Republicans to vote against the measure, while Mr. Dodd was one of the 45 Democrats and independents who supported it — still 15 votes shy of the 60 needed to shut off a filibuster.
Aaron Saunders, a spokesman for Ms. Landrieu, told reporters at the time that the senator had voted against the measure because of the concerns raised by Louisiana bankers that the provision could cause mortgage rates to rise.
Throughout it all, the banks took advantage of the Obama administration’s seeming ambivalence. Despite its occasional populist rhetoric, the White House was conspicuously absent from weeks of pivotal negotiations this spring.
“This would have been a much different deal if Obama had pressed it,” said Camden R. Fine, head of the Independent Community Bankers of America and one of the chief lobbyists opposing the bankruptcy change. “The fact that Obama effectively sat it out helped us a great deal.”
In the end, the banks’ startling success in defeating the provision, which was pushed hardest by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, caught even their lobbyists by surprise. Not only did they defeat the cramdown provision, but the banks walked away with billions in new bailout money.
The housing bill Mr. Obama signed on May 20 saves banks and credit unions at least $13 billion in special fees that they would have had to pay to replenish dwindling deposit insurance funds.
The outcome left some Democrats frustrated and fuming. “This is one of the most extreme examples I have seen,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, shortly before the vote, “of a special interest wielding its power for the special interest of a few against the general benefit of millions of homeowners and thousands of communities now being devastated by foreclosure.”
The lament was a far cry from the outlook in January, when banking lobbyists believed their situation was hopeless. Some 10,000 homes were being foreclosed on every day. A new president who had campaigned in favor of the proposal — and who co-sponsored similar legislation as a senator — was about to take office.
While Republicans had defeated the measure in 2008, Congress was now more solidly in Democratic hands.
The industry’s worst fears began to come true in early January when Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he had persuaded Citigroup to endorse the idea. Mr. Schumer had held discussions with Vikram S. Pandit, Citigroup’s chief executive, and Lewis B. Kaden, a vice chairman. Mr. Schumer then spoke to other top executives, including Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, hoping to peel more big banks away from the opposition.
Housing advocacy groups argued that it was unfair that bankruptcy judges have had the authority since 1978 to modify mortgages on vacation homes, farms and even luxury yachts, but not on primary residences. They also argued that a string of federal programs to help reduce foreclosures had been ineffective because of resistance by lenders and investors who own pools of loans, all of whom stand to lose money when a mortgage is modified.
Those arguments won the day in the House, which adopted the legislation on March 5 by a 234-191 vote.
In the Senate, where Republicans were looking for a chance to recoup after narrowly failing to block Mr. Obama’s huge stimulus package, the banks argued that the proposal interfered with their contractual rights.
But the real threat was to their profits. The proposal would have shifted negotiating power to the millions of troubled homeowners who could use the threat of bankruptcy to wrest lower monthly payments from lenders. The banks claimed that that would force them to raise rates.
That claim is in dispute. For one thing, the legislation would not have applied to new mortgages.
Moreover, until a Supreme Court decision in 1993, some bankruptcy judges had modified mortgages on primary residences, and recent studies by Adam J. Levitin, an associate law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, concluded that those modified mortgages did not result in increases in lending rates.
Still, Mr. Durbin knew he had a fight on his hands. Within his own party, moderates were badly split. Some, like Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, represent states that are the corporate home to major banks. The industry has showered both lawmakers with campaign cash.
Senator Carper’s three largest contributors this election cycle have been executives and political action committees at Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money and politics. Out of the $4.6 million he has raised, some $375,000, or 8 percent, has been from banks, credit unions and related trade groups.
Senator Johnson has raised about $6.2 million, of which at least $280,000, or 4.5 percent, has come from groups opposed to the legislation.
Compromise Falls Flat
To win industry support in enlisting more of his colleagues, Mr. Durbin approached the trade associations.
Shortly after negotiations began, the American Bankers Association abandoned the talks, saying there was no compromise they could ever support. Soon after, Mr. Fine’s community bankers also left the talks, having refused a demand by Mr. Durbin to publicly announce support for the principle of allowing bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage payments.
Mr. Durbin next sought a compromise with credit unions and three large banks — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. In April, at a delicate stage in the talks, Mr. Durbin gave the banks a proposed compromise that was marked not to be circulated, a senior Congressional aide involved in the talks recalled.
Within six minutes, the memo was distributed to the entire Republican caucus — along with a warning from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, to stay away from it. The compromise went nowhere.
While Mr. Obama reaffirmed his support for the proposal shortly after becoming president, administration officials barely participated in the negotiations, a factor that lobbyists said significantly strengthened their hand. Lawmakers who have discussed the issue with the administration said that the president’s senior aides had concluded that a searing fight with the industry was simply not worth the cost.
Mr. Geithner was lobbied by the industry early. Two days after he was sworn in, he invited Mr. Fine from the community bankers to his office for a private meeting. The association, with influential members in every Congressional district, is one of Washington’s most powerful trade groups.
A senior adviser to Mr. Geithner said the administration supported the cramdown proposal, but it preferred that distressed homeowners seek to modify their loans through the Treasury’s new $75 billion program, which rewarded banks if they modified home loans, rather than through bankruptcy court.
Mr. Durbin acknowledges that it was a mistake not to call on the administration for help.
“If I would have known how it would unfold, I would have called on the White House earlier to get involved,” he said.
Deal Now, Pay Later
While Mr. Durbin had trouble rounding up Democratic votes, Republican leaders kept their members — and potential renegade banks — in line.
Senator Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican leading the charge against the bankruptcy change, told bankers there would be consequences if they dealt with the Democrats. According to an April 20 e-mail message between industry officials in touch with Mr. Kyl, he told them “not to make a deal with Durbin and then come looking to Republicans when they need help on something like regulatory restructuring.”
In an interview, Mr. Kyl, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, did not recall whether he had made the statement, although he remembered telling bankers that he could not defend them if they did not first defend themselves. “I very pointedly said, ‘Don’t make a deal with Durbin on this. You don’t need to. If he has the votes he wouldn’t be dealing,’ ” Mr. Kyl recalled.
There was no counterweight to that legislative muscle. Bankrupt homeowners do not have a political action committee or lobbyists.
Mr. Fine reports that the political action committees run by his association alone have built a war chest of nearly $2 million, a 40 percent jump over the last year, even though members have had to cut other expenses in the recession.
“The banks get it,” Mr. Fine said. “They understand you need a strong political action committee to get access to the fund-raisers. That’s where the lawmakers are.”
Carl Hulse contributed reporting, and Kitty Bennett contributed research.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I am coming from Piaget, not biology, although both are involved and important. I think a lot of people get "stuck" at low levels of consciousness and unless they want to grow, they won't, but not that there is no hope for them. We are all one in Reality.
I agree that we want to choose leaders who have achieved and that means operate/live on the highest level of consciousness - the minimum level being n environmentally aware one which understands the finite nature of our resources on this planet and the urgent (Global Warming) need for cooperative, coordinated interdependent flexible (as you say, ability to go outside the box of FLATLAND) thought and action, and understands and apprehends the flow (and hopefully the levels of development around the world inside and out). We can even hope for even more enlightened leaders who understand that we are all one.
I have been proclaiming that progressives (the NEW NEW left) are more evolved than the right (either the religious wing [mythic level] or the Wall St. one [concrete rational self-interested competitive level]), and I still think that's true.
The commenter below stated that the right is concrete and the left is abstract. A child develops concrete-operational thinking (a level) (foundation below) before he/she develops conceptual thinking. Just so with showing that progressives are more evolved.
The old left was about how the environment determines equity, well being, justice or the lack thereof, while tending to diminish the importance of (the uniqueness of) the individual. The BEST of the right has been about how individuals' inner responsibility, values, and hard work determine happiness, well being, and justice (for one and all, ideally, -- [my ed.]: but not in practice, power-lust and greed tend to overwhelm the best intentions of good fellowship and just opportunity.
The new progressive synergizes both into a new tier that transcends and includes both aspects of ourselves.
It's really as simple as the progression of a single human being as he or she grows from dependence (the old Left) to independence (the best of the Right) to interdependence (uniqueness and universality, ego and transcendence of it) progressives as I denote them. A lot of people don't get this far, but the planet and the human experiment demands that we step UP to the interdependent "plane" sooner than later,as glaciers melt in the Himalayas and Greenland.
See last night's ABC News's special "Earth 2100" - global warming and the necessity of collective cooperative interdependent consciousness and action now.