Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Themes

I'm sort of dreading looking at the papers today. Things are pretty grim. Okay, well let's just dive right in:

Impending doom. Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, warns of "calamity" if the debt ceiling isn't raised. Moody's investment ratings is warning of a downgrade of our credit rating -- and that will add TRILLIONS to the national debt as the interest rate we have to pay increases. Here's a good summary of what might happen on August 3 if there's no deal. Still, a gaggle of Tea Partiers including Michelle Bachman say that this is all a lie, we have plenty of money to pay the debt and all of our other obligations. Rep Steve King was on with Chris Mathews last night repeating that nonsense, and Mathews asked him what economists, what experts, he's talked to that gives him this insight to know that the President, the Fed Chairman, the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and every economist around are all lying. He said he listens to his constituents and he has the experience of raising a family -- stuff like that. Unreal. Here's Sarah Palin's takes -- note that she, too, does not believe that default would be catastrophic. And these people have the fate of the world economy in their hands. Mitch McConnell's solution of taking this out of Congress's hands and letting the President do what needs to be done is looking better all the time. He says the debt ceiling increase won't get a single GOP vote. Really? Every Republican in Congress is prepared to allow us to default on our debt, causing the interest on our debt to rise exponentially, and causing huge economic instability both nationally and internationally? Is there not a single grown-up among them who will act responsibly and put politics aside for a minute?

But Eric Cantor continues to reject all proposals on the table, and it seems that he's speaking for the conservative wing of the GOP, which seems prepared to let us default on our debt. He and the President reportedly locked horns yesterday, with the President agreeing to $1.7 trillion in cuts, and saying he would go higher if the GOP would agree to some revenue raisers. Cantor said no and the President left the room, saying he would take this to the American people -- and that he'd see Cantor again today, as the head-butting continues. So who's speaking for the GOP? McConnell, Boehner, Cantor all say different things. We know what's motivating Mitch McConnell: "I refuse to help Obama reelection." Politics.

AARP is warning Congress not to cut Medicare and Social Security as part of a deal. There's really no doubt remaining that Medicare cuts -- cuts in payments to providers, not cuts in benefits -- will be part of the deal if a deal is ever made. But everybody seems to agree that cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would only shift costs to the states and individuals, so who's really helped by that?

In other news -- because I need to think about something else -- two studies show that we finally have a medication that can prevent HIV.

Too few Americans have access to dental care, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine, which urges us to realize that oral health is part of overall health.

And CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield has been recruiting doctors to participate in care coordination, compensating them for doing do. Approximately 75 percent of its network has signed on. This seems like a great thing for insurers to try and see if it helps to control costs.

I strongly urge you to contact your members of Congress about the debt ceiling debate. Understand that raising the debt ceiling does NOT authorize more spending; it just makes it possible to pay our bills for sums already spent. And if we default and our credit rating tumbles, it will cost us trillions in higher interest rate on our debt, thereby increasing the deficit. Even the most fiscally conservative among us should understand that the debt ceiling must be increased by August 2.

Have a great day. Jennifer

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