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On This Day, 1924 February 3, 2011

Posted by Ken in Politics.
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While it is never polite to cheer at someone’s death, and while I don’t think my ‘friend’ means it personally, I have to believe that somewhere over Rockefeller Center my ‘friend’ has a slightly bigger bounce in his walk, that his demeanor is just a wee bit happier today, Feb. 3rd, the 86th anniversary of the death of Woodrow Wilson.

From Twitter:

@westwingreport On This Day. 1924: Woodrow Wilson died. He was the 28th President, serving between 1913-21.

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Tea Party October 2, 2010

Posted by Ken in Politics.
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The following is a response to the write-up in the Oct. 15th issue of Rolling Stone on the Tea Party – here it is, typos and all – enjoy!

Hey, they got POTUS, VPOTUS out doing ‘Get Out The Vote’ rallies (for those candidates that will have them) and sparked a resurgence in study/understanding the Constitution. The first is pretty sad (it boils down to ‘aw come on, give us more time’), the second can only be good (greater understanding of the Constitution can’t be bad).

What is fun to watch is how career politicians become unhinged by questions like “What gives Congress the right to require the purchase of private healthcare coverage?” The politicians aren’t used to straight-forward questions.

They rail against passing unread bills, and are called kooks.

The ‘tea party’ is not a real political party, it us a loosely-defined set of shared beliefs that candidates either agree with or not, in whole or in part.

This administration has spent 18+ months vomiting trillions of dollars on union special interests (why not scrap ‘prevailing wage’ requirements for infrastructure projects? More bang for the buck…), throwing billions at teacher benefits at the expense of Americans working overseas, defense spending and food stamps over the next ten years, and repeatedly ‘stimulating’ the economy to ‘loosen credit’, which has not yet happened, now that we are in our third, fourth stimulus package.

It’s hard to pay attention to what is going on and NOT be frustrated/mad – the tea party provides a core set of beliefs most many Americans can understand and rally around.

It will be interesting to see how many dormant non-voters of either party decide to vote this time around. The only number I’m interested in this election are a) the percentage of eligible voters that vote, and b) I want Rep. Holt to be voted out. Aside from the above, I’d like Republican control of House and Senate, remember that was the combination that led to the oft-mentioned “Clinton Surplus.” Pelosi/Reid have had 4 years controlling the legislative branch of Gov’t, they have become the failed policies of the past.

Where the Truth Lies September 26, 2010

Posted by Ken in Politics.
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Rupert Murdoch on the cover of Wired Magazine, July, 2006

Wired Cover, July, 2006

I read an old Wired Magazine (14.07, July, 2006) over the past few days, and came across a posting by Lawrence Lessig (who’s intellect and knowledge I have the utmost respect for both, but I find myself disagreeing with him slightly less than half the time I read his writings. I will concede my opposition is likely based in my own ignorance of the topic under discussion, but that is where I fall frequently.). In it, while he was gushing support and admiration on former VP Al Gore & his PPT stack cum movie, he recited a quote from Richard Posner’s Catastrophe that resonates with much going on in politics today:

The challenge of man aging … catastrophic risks is receiving less attention than is lavished on social issues of far less intrinsic significance.” The reason? Attention is guided. And when the guides allow themselves to be guided, the result is less attention where it objectively matters and excessive attention only where it pays, either politically or economically. Who has time for catastrophes when there are gays who want to get married?

My point, ignore the topic du jour and focus on what’s important – avoid the side-show, focus on what really matters…

Gov Christie on Education Funding in NJ September 9, 2010

Posted by Ken in Education, Politics.
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Here is a quick video of a teacher attempting to show-up Gov. Christie – it doesn’t go so well for her… Every one of her points are tired half-truths from the State and local teacher’s unions, and Gov Christie responds to most of her points with straight-forward facts that are easily verifiable and have never been disproven – enjoy!

Another Rally in DC September 2, 2010

Posted by Ken in Politics.
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A rally in DC on the National Mall, what a wonderful idea! The real question is this: Are they holding a rally to promote honor, responsibility and charity, or to demand bigger wedges off the Gov’t cheese wheel? As a cynic, after looking over the names of the organizers, I suspect the latter, and timing it one month before the election, and tying it to a simultaneous door-to-door get out the vote effort ensures this will most definitely NOT be a political rally – right?

October 2, 2010 – or 10/2/10 – be sure and save the date!

LINK: http://blog.aflcio.org/2010/08/05/one-nation-formed-to-bring-back-the-american-dream/

Reminder on Medicare Part D Donut Hole September 1, 2010

Posted by Ken in Health Care, Politics.
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A hand-drawn chart showing Total Out-of-Pocket expenses under Medicare Part D

Recently Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said that there is “a lot of reeducation to do” heading into the midterm elections – to help her in her efforts, I wanted to take a moment and explain the one immediate benefit many Americans are enjoying as a result of the Health Care Reform Bill referred to as “Obamacare” – the $250 rebate check for the so-called donut hole in their prescription drug coverage.

As you may recall President Bush (43), with bi-partisan support, implemented the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act commonly referred to as “Part D” that provided real, significant savings to nearly all seniors who need prescription drugs. In a nutshell, seniors would choose the Part D plan that best suited their needs, and they would realize savings once their drug costs exceeded $295/year. The plan provides for 75% savings on every dollar spent above $295, until your medication costs exceeded $2,700 for the year, with a second round of discounts kicking in once your total expenses hits $6,154, after which you get 95% savings on every dollar spent above that threshold. But what does that mean?

If you spend less than $295/yr on prescription drugs, this plan offers you no savings, but at just under $25/month, your expenses should be fairly manageable.

If you spend between $296 and $2,700/year on prescription drugs, your maximum out of pocket expense will be $896.25 – a maximum possible savings of over $1,800. Every dollar between $295 and $2,700 spent only costs you 25 cents.

If you spend between $2,701 and $6,154 you will have no savings on any dollars spent in excess of $2,700 – this is the “Donut Hole” and the folks that complain about the donut hole tend to forget that Part D has already saved them over $1,800, and if you were to calculate the savings after Part D was enacted, they are only spending $4,350.25 for what cost them $6,154 before Part D was enacted – a 30% savings on all drugs right up to the Donut Hole upper limit.

Now, if your needs are such that you require more than $6,154 a year in prescription drug expenses, you will realize a 95% discount on every dollar spent beyong $6,154. In my sample chart, I only go to $9,000/yr, which is $750/month, and at that level the realized benefits are that for the $9,000 in total annual benefits your total-out-of-pocket expense is $4,492.55 – just a smidge more than a 50% discount, and and expenses increase, the savings really add up – the next $5,000 in benefits only increase the out-of-pocket expenses for the patient by $250!

But, having exploited the seemingly horrific “donut hole,” certain politicians felt a change was needed to address the Donut Hole, so, as part of the Health Care Reform Bill passed into law earlier this year, they included a provision that instituted “rebate checks” to help ease the financial strain of those that find themselves in the dreaded “donut hole” – they will get a $250 check from the government. The Health Care reform bill proposed to eliminate the “donut hole” by the year 2020.

This very real benefit from the Healthcare Reform Bill kicks in once you spend more than $$2,700/yr on prescrition drugs and alters your out-of-pocket expense. For my worst-case patient that requires $750/month in prescription drugs, their out-of-pocket cost is decreased from $4,492.55 (50% discount) all the way down to $4,242.55 (a 52.8% savings).

Secretary Sebelius reports that over one million $250 rebate checks have been sent out so far (meaning that over one million medicare recipients have spent more than $896.25 for more than $2,700 worth of prescription drugs, and she further expects a total of four million rebate checks may be sent out before they year is over (the checks are sent as the $2,700 expense threshold is crossed) – the total cost of the rebate checks will therefore approach one billion dollars this year.

Also, just a reminder, that medicare recipients can select Part D plans that include additional coverage to help with the so-called “donut hole” expenses by paying slightly higher premiums for their coverage.

Thoughts on HR1586 August 11, 2010

Posted by Ken in Education, Health Care, Politics, Taxation.
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Congress took money from defense, food stamps, and will tax Americans working overseas (for 10 years!) to pay for “teacher jobs” and propping up Medicare… First off, why did it take TEN YEARS of cuts and sacrifices by Americans before this bill is deficit neutral? Second, I thought we had a few wars going on, why cut BILLIONS from defense? Third, I thought Medicate was the wonderful example of Gov’t healthcare, why must it be bailed out (for six months of benefits, paid for with 10 years of taxes)? And finally, who thinks that cutting food stamp payments in 2014 (rolling them back to ‘pre-stimulus’ levels, AKA 2008 levels) is the best way to restore a couple of teacher jobs?

Once this bill is understood (BTW, love the name “___________ of __________”), many on the left will join the right in opposing it.

What gets lost in the discussion is that this bill took the place of the ” TARP Bailout Bonus” clawback taxes AND the investment in Air Safety initiatives that were the previous bills under this number (H.R. 1586) – both bills were scrapped to get this pandering POS bill on Obama’s desk ASAP, before elections…

How many teacher’s jobs will this restore? I bet almost none, since the money won’t come until after school starts, expect to see a lot of federally-funded programs that don’t involve re-hiring teachers… And what happens to any teachers hired this year under this bill? Will states suddenly find the hundreds of millions they need to retain them next year?

This is like taking out a ten year loan on this seasons NFL Season Pass on satellite TV – it seems like a good idea, but wait until the season is over and you still have 9 1/2 years of payment stubs before you’ve paid it off!

The Appearance of Fairness August 8, 2010

Posted by Ken in Politics, Taxation.
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A little reminder from the 2008 Presidential Election – (then) Senator Obama clearly said that he was willing to raise tax rates despite a history that shows it is counter-productive, for the sake of the appearance of fairness… Does he still think that is a useful strategy? (I choose this clip despite it’s few snarky comments from the poster since it includes the complete question and (then) Senator Obama’s complete answer – no Sherrod-treatment here!)

The Three Main Issues in Healthcare Reform August 2, 2010

Posted by Ken in Health Care, Politics.
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The healthcare problems we find ourselves facing in America today are rooted in three fundamentally very simple issues:

  1. Healthcare for many Americans is tied to their employment.
  2. Few Americans actually know what the care they receive costs – they know what their insurance co-pay and premiums are, but nothing more.
  3. Americans insist on the latest, newest procedures, drugs, and devices.

The answer to the first issue is that healthcare coverage is tied to employment is the result of the Revenue Act of 1942 which made healthcare benefits tax deducatbale while placing salary caps on many industries. Nowadays, employees demand defined healthcare benefits, maintinag the previous year’s level of services irrespective of cost, and employers are thus at the mercy of the insurance companies who are not motivated to lower healthcare costs.

The second issue is that there is almost no concern to conserve or do any cost benefit analysis done by the patient, causing costs to escalate – once the patient makes their $10-25 copay, they have no interest in considering lower-cost procedures – to them, all cost the same.

The third issue is that America is the home of many of the latest breakthroughs in healthcare and as a people we demand availability to the latest treatments, that raises costs as well.

Further insulating consumers from the cost of their healthcare will not drive down costs.

Squeezing incentives from providers will drive out providers (doctors, etc.) and only make healthcare more scarce, again driving up costs.

The only portion of the current healthcare reform bill that will lower costs (actually, more likely simply contain costs) are the various review boards that will determine the appropriate level of care for a given ailment, and may ration more expensive treatments.

Thinking about the National Debt July 27, 2010

Posted by Ken in Politics, Taxation.
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After my post yesterday based on a chart provided by a friend last year, I’ve been thinking about the numbers, and they simply don’t add up. My initial question has to do with the oft-cited surplus President Clinton left behind at the end of his second term, $236 Billion. First off, let me say I will stipulate that this amount of money was “left over” after all revenues were collected and all expenses met that year, FY2000. Looking a bit deeper we see that the national debt stayed at $5.6 Trillion from FY1999 through FY2000 – but that’s my problem, why didn’t National Debt get reduced by $236 Billion, to $5.364 Trillion? Let me explain… (more…)