Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday's Themes

I think this is one of those weeks that has an extra day in it. Oh, well. I very much appreciate your feedback on the blog content. I will try to start weaving some opinion in with the news -- although it's sort of there on the bigger issues. Here goes:

The first Court of Appeals to rule on the health reform law has upheld it. Two of three judges found that the individual mandate is within the federal government's Commerce Clause powers, which allows the federal government to regulate anything that affects commerce in any way. One of those two is a Republican appointee who clerked for Justice Scalia -- the first Republican judge to find that the individual mandate affects commerce, rejecting the distinction between regulating activity and regulating inactivity, i.e., the failure to buy health insurance. There was one dissenter. Two other Courts of Appeals have heard argument and will be issuing a decision, and then the Supreme Court is expected to hear the cases and resolve any disagreement. Boy, does that make me nervous. But some say this opinion was a real blow to the conservative case.

The President appears to be fully engaged in the negotiations over the deficit. He has stated his conviction that there must be revenue raisers as part of the deal. He wants to close loopholes for oil and gas companies, hedge fund managers, and other corporate interests. He said yesterday that the Dems are willing to compromise by cutting spending in uncomfortable ways; the GOP has to meet them half way. So far, the GOP has flatly rejected the President's proposal, so where does this go next? The House is on recess. The Senate is on recess next week. And we're only a month away from hitting the debt ceiling. The refusal of the GOP to compromise at all is indefensible, in my opinion (you wanted opinion, right?). The President also wants to create some job stimulus, extending the payroll tax cut for another year, giving loans for infrastructure repair and putting people to work. That, in my opinion, is what we need. In a flagging economy, this is not the time to take money out of the system. This is the time to pump money into the system and create jobs. In my opinion.

Ezra Klein says that the fact that the President went public with his call to the GOP for compromise is a signal that talks have broken down. While talks were ongoing and a deal was possible, the White House was restrained, not commenting even when the GOP walked out of VP Biden's negotiations last week. He's hit a brick wall.

And just when we hit that brick wall, the Dems finally have agreement among themselves on a budget. It's along the same lines President Obama takes -- no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, but a "fair" (their word) deal that involves raising revenue as well as cutting spending. Seems sort of strange to me to be announcing that they finally have a budget when we're on the verge of collapse and their principles are the same ones VP Biden and President Obama have been relying on during months of negotiations. But it does cut about $4 trillion from the deficit, and that's a good step.

I think people really don't understand the debt ceiling issue. If we don't raise the debt ceiling, interest rates will rise and our deficit will, therefore, balloon. Many government agencies would be shut down entirely. This is not the issue on which the GOP ought to be drawing a line in the sand. If deficit reduction was really their concern, they would get past this hurdle and then fight the fight over the 2012 budget and beyond. But not over the debt ceiling.

Some in the GOP say the debt ceiling's no big deal -- we should just use whatever money we have to pay down the debt. But then who pays the salaries for our military, federal employees? Who pays Congress's salaries? Oh, wait -- a great idea -- let's stop paying members of Congress unless they actually do their job! (Hey -- you wanted more opinion).

Oh -- and the GOP also wants to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget. Understand, folks, that that would mean shifting major costs to the states, which are already broke. Medicaid, Medicare, public works, on and on, the federal government would have to cut far beyond anything on the table now. But wait -- doesn't a balanced budget look at both sides of the equation, spending and income? And doesn't that again mean taxes are on the table? Be careful what you wish for, GOP. And by the way, amending the Constitution takes a long time because it has to be ratified by the states. So that won't help the current problems. I'm tired of symbolic moves when so many people have no jobs and no health care.

Politico declares that Congress is simply dysfunctional. That's pretty clear. The question is what do we do about it?

Meanwhile, a study showed that the Paul Ryan budget plan -- you know, the one that ends Medicare as we know it -- would actually increase health care spending. And seniors would be the ones footing the bill. Really?

The Department of Health and Human Services studies health disparities. Yesterday, they added sexual orientation to the disparities they will study. I got a call just this week from a young guy who was in the ER getting treated, and when a doctor asked if he was gay and he said he was, all treatment ended and he was sent home. So seems to me that it's right to look at disparities based on sexual orientation.

And please take your medicine. The failure of adherence to medication orders costs us a lot of money in increased health care spending. It costs less to deal with the situation up front and relatively inexpensively. This is the best argument there is for reducing drug copays. It would save money, not cost more.

And that's how things look to me on this Thursday morning. Have a great day! Jennifer

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