When it comes to healthcare, said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick, “the decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” With healthcare costs rising and Medicaid enrollment growing — and slated to increase by another 16 million beginning in 2014 — Americans are already getting an eye-opening experience in what such rationing will look like.
According to two recent USA Today articles by Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News, several states, feeling the pinch of increased Medicaid enrollment and the end of federal “stimulus” spending, “are pushing Medicaid recipients into managed-care plans run by private insurers, cutting reimbursement rates to hospitals and doctors and reducing benefits.” In short, they’re rationing care.
How can this be when government-run healthcare is touted as protecting Americans from money-grubbing private insurers who would deny them necessary treatment? Galewitz explains:
The new federal health law requires states to maintain Medicaid eligibility and enrollment standards until 2014, when the expansion begins to add 16 million Americans to the program. States are still free, however, to cut optional benefits, which include drugs, vision care and visits to certain providers such as chiropractors and podiatrists.
An investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has confirmed that more than seven million dollars in federal stimulus money went to an Oregon forestry project that generated not a single U.S. job. Instead, precisely $7,140,782 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), President Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus plan, was siphoned off to four Oregon forestry services to pay wages for 254 foreign workers.
In 2009, when the program’s contracts were approved, Oregon was home to the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate (11.1 percent), with joblessness in many rural areas surpassing 15 percent. In addressing the state’s economic woes, the Obama administration said that the funds were aimed to produce hundreds of forest clean-up jobs in central Oregon. But despite severe job shortages, contractors professed that they wrestled to attract local workers in the area, and did so "unsuccessfully." However, the OIG reported:
Only two Oregonians were listed on the employer recruitment reports, indicating that workers in Oregon were likely unaware these job opportunities were available. In fact, although 146 U.S. workers were contacted by the three employers regarding possible employment, none were [sic] hired. Instead, 254 foreign workers were brought into the country for these jobs.
In an effort to examine the Occupy Wall Street crowd’s complaint about income inequality, economist Mark Perry has concluded that people with higher incomes work harder and longer than those who don't.
A quick perusal of Perry’s graph based on the Census Bureau’s data illustrates the following reasonable conclusions: Households with high incomes have more people working full time, they’re in their peak earning years, they’re married and college-educated. On the other hand, households at the opposite end of the spectrum have fewer people working, more likely to be single and less-well educated, and less likely to be in their peak earning years.
Current data from the Census Bureau show the following:
The Nullify Now! tour sponsored by the Tenth Amendment Center has gained momentum since its inception last year and has effectively brought states rights to the forefront of political discussion amongst conservative groups. This past weekend, the tour made its way to Jacksonville, Florida, where state sovereignty was highlighted and asserted to be the last best hope against a federal government operating in an unconstitutional manner.
The all-day event at the Jacksonville Riverfront Omni Hotel, attended by approximately 250 people, featured an informative agenda and prominent experts on the subjects of constitutionalism and nullification.
The Tenth Amendment Center’s Francisco Rodriguez told The New American, “We were glad to see a broad array of people interested in these subjects, ranging from monetary policy to Agenda 21. There was a good response overall.”
Rodriguez also discussed his excitement at the launch of the Tenth Amendment committees, which he describes as “groups within groups” whose goal “is to get people engaged after the event, providing them educational classes on the constitution, the Tenth Amendment, and nullification.” Rodriguez added that his group is “looking forward to the committees being a big success.”
Back in August, when Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history, from AAA to AA+, the Obama administration was disgruntled and fearful of how such a move would impact economic growth. Once the initial shock of the maneuver passed, however, Washington returned to its business-as-usual mentality. Now, however, it seems that this period will be short-lived, as another downgrade is expected.
According to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s Ethan Harris:
We expect a moderate slowdown in the beginning of next year, as two small policy shocks — another debt downgrade and fiscal tightening — hit the economy. The “not-so-super” Deficit Commission is very unlikely to come up with a credible deficit-reduction plan. The committee is more divided than the overall Congress. Since the fall-back plan is sharp cuts in discretionary spending, the whole point of the Committee is to put taxes and entitlements on the table. However, all the Republican members have signed the Norquist “no taxes” pledge and with taxes off the table it is hard to imagine the liberal Democrats on the Committee agreeing to significant entitlement cuts.
The credit rating agencies have strongly suggested that further rating cuts are likely if Congress does not come up with a credible long-run plan. Hence, we expect at least one credit downgrade in late November or early December when the super Committee crashes.
Citigroup has agreed to pay $285 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of complex mortgage investments just as the housing market was starting to collapse. The Securities and Exchange Commission brought forth the civil action against Citigroup, claiming that investors who bought into the deal (which involved, essentially, stuffing portfolios with risky mortgage — related investments, selling it to unsuspecting customers, and then betting against those investments) had been defrauded. The transaction involved a one-billion dollar portfolio of mortgage-related investments, many of which were handpicked for the portfolio by Citigroup without telling investors of its role or that it had made bets that the investments would fall in value. The SEC says that as investors lost millions, Citigroup made $160 million in fees and profits.
Citigroup neither admitted nor denied the SEC's allegations in the settlement. "We are pleased to put this matter behind us and are focused on contributing to the economic recovery, serving our clients and growing responsibly," Citigroup said in a statement.
The penalty is the largest involving a Wall Street firm accused of misleading investors before the financial crisis since Goldman Sachs & Co. paid $550 million to settle similar charges last year. JPMorgan Chase & Co. resolved similar charges in June and paid $153.6 million.
The SEC on Wednesday also brought a case against Credit Suisse, which played a smaller role in the transaction, and against one individual at each company.
If Congress fails to pass President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act, “murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crimes will continue to rise,” Vice President Joe Biden told a reporter from Human Events on October 19. This was in keeping with a theme that Biden has been using lately: Because the bill would help keep state and local governments from laying off police officers, and because fewer cops on the beat mean increased crime, to oppose the bill is to favor more crime.
To those who doubt “whether there’s a direct correlation between the reduction in cops and firefighters and the rise in concerns in public safety,” Biden said during an October 18 appearance in Flint, Michigan, “they need look no further than your city.” He continued:
Let’s look at the facts: in 2008, when Flint had 265 sworn officers on their police force, there were 35 murders and 91 rapes in this city. In 2010, when Flint had only 144 police officers, the murder rate climbed to 65 and rapes — just to pick two categories— climbed to 229. In 2011, you now only have 125 shields.
The next day Biden asserted that in Flint “murder rates have doubled in the last year” and “rape was up, three times.” Then he challenged scoffers to “go look at the numbers.”
Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” has done precisely that; and the numbers he found just don’t add up to the soaring totals that the Vice President cited.
On Friday the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) closed and sold off four more banks, bringing the total shuttered this year to 84. The FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund paid out $358 million to enable the transactions to take place, with additional losses being borne by the failed banks’ new owners. Through 2010 the FDIC has paid out $76 billion and the total is likely to exceed $100 billion by the end of this year.
The losses resulted from the FDIC making good on the banks’ bad investments, mostly related to real estate, that went sour during the recession. Under current rules, depositors were made whole if their accounts were valued at $250,000 or less.
The banks just closed were Decatur First Bank in Decatur, Georgia; Community Capital Bank in Jonesboro, Georgia; Old Harbor Bank in Clearwater, Florida; and Community Banks of Greenwood, Colorado. The banks picking up the remains included State Bank and Fidelity Bank in Georgia, First United Bancorp in Florida, and Bank Midwest out of Kansas City, Missouri. Georgia now leads the country in failed banks during the recession with a total of 21, while Florida has had 12 banks closed so far. More than 400 banks have been closed by the FDIC since 2007, compared to an average of four bank closings per year prior to the start of the recession.
New York City's Comptroller, John Liu, long touted as a top-tier candidate to be the city's next mayor, has hit some stumbling blocks. Liu, the first Asian-American elected to citywide office, raised more than one million dollars in campaign donations in the first half of 2011, but the source of much of that political war chest is now being questioned. In an October 11 front-page story, the New York Times, which has in the past been a big booster of Liu, reports that its investigation of Liu's donors has uncovered troubling irregularities. The Times story by Raymond Hernandez and David W. Chen reports:
"Canvassing by The New York Times of nearly 100 homes and workplaces of donors listed on Mr. Liu's campaign finance reports raises questions about the source and legitimacy of some donations, as well as whether some of the donors even exist. Some two dozen irregularities were uncovered, including instances in which people listed as having given to Mr. Liu say they never gave, say a boss or other Liu supporter gave for them, or could not be found altogether." The story continues:
Two people who described attending banquets in which Mr. Liu appeared and posed for photos said that company executives who support him provided donations in the names of those in attendance.
"In addition," says the Times piece, "Mr. Liu is not complying with some basic campaign finance laws: To protect against so-called straw donors, the city requires that donor cards submitted with campaign contributions be filled out only by the person making the donation. In numerous instances in Mr. Liu's campaign, one person appears to have filled out cards for multiple donors."
California has enacted the nation’s first cap-and-trade program, designed to provide financial incentives to companies to help curb greenhouse-gas emissions. After an exhausting eight-hour meeting last Thursday with union leaders, industry representatives, and various supporters and opponents of the plan, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to implement the first state-administered system that would stick a price tag on carbon emissions and permit the state’s industries to trade carbon credits. The plan is an integral component of the state’s ambitious 2006 global-warming law, signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which looks to slash emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The new air regulations will commence in 2013, and then only for the state’s largest carbon emission entities, typically electrical utility companies and large industrial plants; the program will expand in 2015 to include 85 percent of "pollution" emitters. The plan will first institute a cap on emissions, and then allow businesses that are under their carbon limit to sell their excesses to companies that have exceeded their carbon allowance. Businesses will have an initial requirement to pay 10 percent of their credits, and they will be able to purchase carbon offsets, which will comprise emission containment projects such as investments in forestry, to comply with eight percent of their annual emission obligations.
State officials expect other state and federal officials to observe the California model, hoping that similar programs — or, as they would prefer, a national program — will be employed throughout the country. "When Washington considers how to address climate change, as I think it will, California’s climate plan will serve as a role model for the national program," asserted Stanley Young, the board’s spokesman.