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TomCADem

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Member since: Fri May 8, 2009, 12:59 AM
Number of posts: 7,160

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Health Spending Has Lowest Rate Increase on Record

Source: U.S. News and World Report

The U.S. is spending more on health care every year, but last year the growth rate in medical spending was the lowest on record, a change government researchers are attributing both to the economy and to various health care policy implementations, including Obamacare.

The Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services presented the findings at a Health Affairs event Wednesday at the National Press Club in the nation's capital. The increase in spending on health care in 2013 was at 3.6 percent, lower than it has ever been since 1960, when the government began tracking the figure. Total spending on health care increased to $2.9 trillion, or $9,255 per person.

The government researchers found that health care spending slowed by half a percentage point from 2012 to 2013 – a change they attribute to a slower growth in private health insurance and Medicare spending. Slower growth in spending for hospital care, investments in medical structures and equipment, and spending for doctors and clinical care also contributed to the low overall increase, states the Health Affairs report.

Still, the economy played a significant part in the outcomes, which even before reaching the lowest record last year did not grow above 4.1 percent from 2009 to 2013. The low rate of health spending falls in concert with slow overall economic growth since 2009, or what is considered to be the end of the great recession. In fact, that year showed the next-lowest increase in health spending, at 3.8 percent. Since that time, share of gross domestic product on health care has remained at 17.4 percent.

Read more: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/12/03/health-spending-has-lowest-rate-increase-on-record



This should be bigger news, but many corporate news outlets are reporting this simply as Health Spending Increases, which is totally misleading! The passage of the ACA was supposed to start "bending the cost curve," which it has,

Is The News of Economic Weakness and Unease Corporate Propaganda?

On the one hand, corporate profits are up, unemployment is down, stock market is up, oil prices are down, sales are up, etc. In other words, according to the traditional metrics are that the economy is growing and continuing to grow. Yet, we also here news through the narrative of the unease of Americans with the economy and that they are hurting and uneasy despite the statistics that appear far better than during most of the Bush years when things seemed to be in a state of precipitous decline.

My wonder is whether the economic narrative is actually designed to keep workers docile? In other words, despite the fact that corporate profits are booming, don't ask for a raise or an increase in benefits because it is a tough world out there, and we can replace you in a moment. Also, ignore the unemployment numbers because there is are uncounted unemployed who will quickly take your job. Put another way, is the repeated narrative of economic unease designed to keep American workers fearful about demanding higher wages and better benefits?

That way, as the economy grows, profits go to the 1 percent, since they do not actually have any increased costs due to higher wages, since workers are fearful of asking for their fair share, since it is a tough economy out there despite the lower unemployment, stronger US dollar, increased sales, etc. Oh by the way, vote for a Republican Congress, because things are terrible and while you are at it buy some gold from Glenn Beck, because inflation is going to shoot up....some day...

So, the corporate news narrative operates to reinforce the stagnation in working class wages, because it keeps workers docile from demanding their fair share of a growing economy.

Media’s awful right-wing fetish: Why pundit calls for Obama centrism are deluded

The thing is that even liberals buy into this narrative that is designed to troll and exagerate splits between Democrats by arguing that President Obama should, of course, move more the right away from the left members of his party. Of course, this ignores the recent election where many Democrats in contested races ran to the right of the President! Nonetheless, watch as the media ignores Republican inaction and posturing on immigration, and buys into Republican efforts to paint the Presidents efforts to keep families intact in the enforcement of immigration laws as executive overreach.

http://www.salon.com/2014/11/19/medias_awful_right_wing_fetish_why_pundit_calls_for_obama_centrism_are_deluded/

On Monday we had Politico telling us President Obama needed Sen. Mitch McConnell to “save his legacy.” Wednesday the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar takes his turn defining Obama’s legacy, explaining that Obama has big bad plans to “advance his legacy … at the expense of the Democratic Party’s long-term health.”

The problem with these narratives is that they leave the definition of Obama’s desired “legacy” in the hands of pundits not well qualified to define it. And both pieces posit that Obama and his party are at cross purposes: What’s good for one is bad for the other.

* * *

Predictably, Kraushaar is riding the pony of false equivalence. Early in the piece he reveals “the dirty secret in Washington.” Wait for it: “While Obama (rightly) blamed Republicans for holding positions to the right of the American electorate, the president is pursuing policies that are equally as far to the left.” You can be forgiven if you stopped reading there.

* * *

What these “legacy” pieces have in common is the fiction that securing a positive legacy for the Democratic president requires centrist compromise with Republicans, nothing else. Never mind that Obama delivered an important new social democratic program in the ACA, brought the country out of what might have been a second Great Depression and crafted imperfect but decent financial services reforms. Those are the things that historians will define as his legacy. Cozying up to Mitch McConnell or Joe Manchin won’t merit a footnote.

Eric Alternman - "Midterm Media Meltdown"

Nice piece from Eric Alternman that goes behind the corporate media's rightward turn of the electorate/return of "mainstream" Republicans narrative.

http://www.thenation.com/article/190505/midterm-media-meltdown#

One problem with the answers to the above is that they reside in phenomena that are complex and multifaceted, while our media insist on a narrative that is simple and straightforward. To be fair, some of the weaknesses of our system fall into the category of “It was ever thus.” Turnout is always anemic in midterms; the president’s party almost always loses in his sixth year. And while it’s true that Republican state legislatures have shamelessly gerrymandered their election maps to the party’s advantage, the distribution of the population would likely ensure a Republican House majority anyway, given the way that conservatives spread themselves across the rural areas and liberals crowd themselves into the cities.

* * *
Finally, the 2014 election coverage suffered even more than usual from the mainstream media’s inability to admit the degree to which the Republican Party has been captured by a fringe element with an unshakable commitment to ideological fantasy. As Heather Digby Parton notes in Salon, Iowa’s new senator-elect, Joni Ernst, professes to believe “in the fringe constitutional theory called ‘nullification,’ has told audiences that she’s ready to take up arms against the government, and thinks a 20-year-old U.N. resolution to encourage nations to use fewer resources called Agenda 21 is a threat to the American way of life.” (A spokesperson has denied that Ernst supports nullification.) But as Norm Ornstein reports, The Washington Post almost completely ignored her nutty notions: “A Nexis search shows that the Post has had four references to Ernst and Agenda 21—all by Greg Sargent on his blog from the left, The Plum Line, and none on the news pages of the paper.” Receiving far more coverage was her opponent’s argument with his neighbor over some chickens. The Times, too, made no mention of Agenda 21, but seven of the chickens. (On MSNBC, Luke Russert’s issueless reporting explained Ernst’s appeal with the assertion that she was “trying to ride this popular charisma” into statewide office.)

As Ornstein demonstrates, Ernst was hardly alone in benefitting from her bizarre beliefs being whitewashed for her by the mainstream media. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said in a telephone town hall: “Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico, who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.” In this case, the Post did run a fact-check column by Glenn Kessler on Cotton’s assertion, but not a single news story. The Times made no mention of it whatever.

The whitewash was especially thick this year because the narrative of the night was that the Tea Party had been defeated and the GOP was back in the hands of its far more responsible “establishment.” In fact, much closer to the truth is that the lunatics are now running the asylum… and, rather frighteningly, both houses of Congress.

Landrieu v Cassidy - How Liberals and Working Class Are Fooled By The Media Narrative

The corporate media has repeatedly pushed the narratives:

1. That the President is unpopular and politically toxic.
2. That Democrats are running away from President Obama and his policies.

Only stories that fit in this narrative are portrayed. Stories that are inconsistent with this narrative are ignored. This narrative fulls the public, including liberals, into apathy with the meme that Democrats' only platform is that they are not President Obama. In the meantime, as Bernie Sanders explained issues of relevance to the people are ignored. This is why voters could manage to vote for Republicans who are against the minimum wage while also supporting propositions raising the minimum wage,

If you look at the Landrieu race, you see thread after thread on this Board calling Senator Landrieu a DINO based entirely on her position on the Keystone pipeline, which should not be surprising since LA is one of the States that would likely benefit from the pipeline even though most other states would not benefit.

However, there are issues beyond the pipeline, and it is clear that there is a world of difference between Landrieu and Cassidy. Many of folks have insisted, even on Democratic Underground, that it would not make a difference if Cassidy beats Landrieu. The ignorance of this line of argument is exposed by the summary below of the candidate's stated positions on the issues. Some will argue why haven't we hard this? Perhaps it is because it just does not fit the media narrative that (1) Democrats are running away from President Obama and Democratic priorities and (2) that there just isn't that much difference between Democrats and Republicans. Look at how the mainstream media largely ignored the extreme positions states by Joni Erst in the Iowa race.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/campus-election-engagement-project/mary-landrieu-vs-bill-cas_b_6014592.html

Budget: Did you support raising the Federal debt ceiling with no strings attached?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Campaign Finance: Do you support the DISCLOSE Act, which would require key funders of political ads to put their names on those ads?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Campaign Finance: Do you support the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations and unions?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Unknown

Economy: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Economy: Do you support extending unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Economy: Do you support the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and sought to increase regulation of Wall Street corporations and other financial institutions?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Economy: Do you support federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: Yes

Education: Do you support refinancing of student loans at lower rates, paid for by increasing taxes on income over a million dollars?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: Unknown

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Environment: Do you support government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: Yes

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Healthcare: Do you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes. Also authored bill permitting people to keep insurance policies that didn't meet the coverage standards of the law.

Healthcare: Did you support shutting down the federal government in order to defund Obamacare in 2013?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes

Immigration: Do you support the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which would allow children brought into the country illegally to achieve legal status if they've graduated from high school, have a clean legal record, and attend college or serve in the military?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Immigration: Do you support the comprehensive immigration plan passed by the Senate in 2013, which includes a pathway to citizenship and increased funding for border security?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Landrieu: No, although supports ban on late-term abortions
Cassidy: Yes

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes

Social Issues: Should Planned Parenthood receive public funds for non-abortion health services?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Social Security: Do you support partial privatization of Social Security?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Unknown

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose "any and all tax increases" meant to generate additional revenue.)
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No. See above




Why do "fans" of Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy Oppose Mary Landrieu, Begich & McCaskill?

Immediately after the election, we saw posts saying that we need to bring back Howard Dean and his 50 State Strategy. I agree. But, many of the same folks who are in favor of this strategy simultaneously express indifference if not hostility toward Democratic Senators from Purple or Red States like Begich, McCaskill, Manchin or Landrieu. For example, Manchin is very pro-coal, which should not be surprising, since he is from a coal producing State that employs many people in the coal industry. Likewise, Landrieu is very supportive of petroleum industry, which is not surprising since she is from Lousiana.

Back around 2008, I remember many progressives complaining about Howard Dean's 50 State strategy and the types of Democrats he attracted such as former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, a former Republican. Jim Webb was very pro-military, which again should not be surprising since he is from Virginia, a State with a lot of defense contractors. It is contradiction to say that one supports Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy of trying to expand into purple or red States, but also insist on ideological purity. Heck, one need look no further than Scott Brown or even Mitt Romney to see how Republicans themselves are willing to bend their so-called rock hard philosophical stances in the interest of electoral expediency.

My personal take is that it is far easier for Democrats to make progress with Senators like Landrieu, Manchin or McCaskill who are supportive of industries that are strong in their respective States, then it is to deal with Republican Senators from such States who have no incentive whatsoever to cut a deal or compromise with Democrats. I support Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy. I also understand that to pursue it, you are not going to be successful fielding a Henry Waxman clone in West Virginia in pursuit of West Virginia's mythical anti-coal progressives.





Republicans vow EPA fight as Obama touts China climate deal

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - Republican congressional leaders on Wednesday wasted no time in criticizing what they called President Barack Obama's "one-sided" climate deal with China, using the announcement to declare war on the administration's plan to use executive actions to combat carbon emissions.

In brokering a high-profile pact with China, the Obama administration knew it would preempt one of the most often-cited arguments Republicans have used to argue against mandatory domestic carbon cuts: China will continue to pollute unabated.

But even with China vowing to curb its carbon, Republicans were quick to question the validity of China's headline-grabbing pledge and used the announcement to rally the party as it prepares to lead Congress by promising to do what it can to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency, whose rules will achieve the bulk of promised emissions cuts.

"As we enter a new Congress, I will do everything in my power to rein in and shed light on the EPA's unchecked regulations,” said Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, a climate change skeptic and critic of U.N. climate talks who will become the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/12/us-china-usa-climatechange-mcconnell-idUSKCN0IW1TZ20141112



If it were Democrats who opposing this climate deal, I bet Chuck Todd would be saying they were disqualified from governing. But they are Republicans, so we give them a free pass.

Putin has plunged Russia into a vicious cycle of economic decline

It seems like Putin is pursuing a Dubya like approach by using a war to try to distract Russians from his economic failure at home. Yet, Putin is seen as a strong leader with great approval ratings while President Obama is portrayed as a weak President at home.

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/10/7175641/putin-russia-ruble-economy

The Russian economy is in bad shape. On Monday morning, Russia's central bank announced that it expects the Russian economy to grow zero percent in 2015 and 0.1 percent in 2016. The value of Russia's currency, the ruble, plummeted more than 8 percent in the past week alone — and it's down more than 40 percent since the beginning of this year.

The fall in the ruble appears to be mainly the result of two factors: a sharp decline in global oil prices and sanctions that Western countries put on Russia in retaliation for invading Ukraine. Those two things might not appear connected, but in a sense one led to the other. Many Russia-watchers believe that, when Russia's economy began weakening, and, thus, so did Putin's approval ratings, Putin responded in part by trying to increase his popular support by stirring up nationalism. That is likely one of the reasons why he invaded Ukraine, which also distracted from the poor economy.

If that's right, then that would mean that the sanctions meant to weaken Russia's economy are also a result of Russia's weak economy. And that, in turn, should prompt questions about what Putin might do to shore up his support in the face of this new bad economic news.

* * *
Many observers believe that Russia's involvement in the Ukraine was due in part to the slowing economy, as Putin whipped up nationalism and anti-Western fervor to distract from the stagnating economy. If that's right, then the strategy that Putin used to distract from the weakened economy has actually weakened the economy even further.

Vox (Sarah Kliff) - It looks like America is now Ebola-free

With the release of Craig Spencer, there is no current diagnosed cases of Ebola in the United States.

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/10/7190141/it-looks-like-america-is-now-ebola-free

The New York Times reported Monday that Bellevue Hospital plans to release Craig Spencer, the doctor who contracted Ebola while treating patients in West Africa, on Tuesday morning. While it's not explicitly stated in the article, his release suggests that Spencer, who was diagnosed with the disease on Oct. 30, is now cured of Ebola.

The World Health Organization's official doesn't declare a country cleared of Ebola until it has had no new cases for six weeks. That will be sometime in December. But at least at this moment, there do not appear to to be any known cases of the disease anywhere in the country.

This is not especially surprising. Experts have always expected that the robust American health care system would handle Ebola better than weaker public health infrastructure in places like Sierra Leone — where the death toll continues to mount.

We've learned from this Ebola outbreak that patients treated in the United States have much higher survival rates. They also appear to infect fewer new patients; of the 9 people treated in the United States only one, Thomas Duncan, transmitted the disease.

Vox (Ezra Klein) - Obamacare premiums are falling by 0.2% across 48 major cities

As the Supreme Court prepares to wipeout the ACA in those States that have not adopted their own exchanges, here is what we will be walking away from.

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/11/7193451/obamacare-premiums-are-falling-by-0-2-across-48-major-cities

In September, the Kaiser Family Foundation looked at insurance premiums for Obamacare's benchmark silver plan in 16 major cities and found, to their surprise, that prices were falling by 0.8 percent on average. On November 11th, they updated the analysis with data for 32 more cities — and found that the initial finding held. On average, prices are falling by 0.2 percent.

"Falling" is not a word that people associate with health-insurance premiums. They tend to rise as regularly as the morning sun. And, to be fair, the Kaiser Family Foundation is only looking at 48 cities, and the drop they record is modest (though this is the same methodology they used in 2014, and to good results). But this data, though preliminary, is some of the best data we have — and it shows that Obamacare is doing a better job holding down costs than anyone seriously predicted, including Kaiser's researchers.

"I expected premium growth to be modest in most of the country," Larry Levitt, a co-author of the report, told Vox's Sarah Kliff in September. "But what we saw were some decreases instead."

* * *
Obamacare is doing better at a lot of things than anyone seriously expected. The law's initial premiums came in cheaper than the Congressional Budget Office projected when the law first passed. In April 2014, the Congressional Budget Office said the unexpectedly low premiums meant Obamacare would cost $104 billion less than they previously thought. If Kaiser's estimates hold nationally, Obamacare's cost will have to be revised downward yet again.
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