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Bill USA

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Member since: Wed Mar 3, 2010, 04:25 PM
Number of posts: 3,676

About Me

Quotes I like: "Prediction is very difficult, especially concerning the future." "There are some things so serious that you have to laugh at them.” __ Niels Bohr Given his contribution to the establishment of quantum mechanics, I guess it's not surprising he had such a quirky of sense of humor. ......................."Deliberate misinterpretation and misrepresentation of another's position is a basic technique of (dis)information processing" __ I said that

Journal Archives

Private Health Insurance premiums were $3.4 billion LOWER in 2012, in part due to the "80:20 rule"


"In total, the administration says the 80/20 standard contributed to $3.4 billion in lower premiums for 77.8 million consumers because health insurance companies charged less up front. "Their incentive will be to keep their premiums at a level where they would at least meet the 80/20 rule," Cohen said."

"In addition to the $500 million in rebates that will go out to individuals in the form of refunds this year or discounts on next year's health insurance premiums, or to employers that provide health benefits, the Obama administration claims the 80/20 rule contributed to lower premiums in 2012.

Health insurance customers received $1.1 billion in rebates last year on their 2011 premiums, more than twice the amount projected for this year. That's partly the result of companies keeping prices lower in 2012 to avoid paying rebates, Cohen said."

"I don't think that we are claiming that the $3.9 billion in savings is entirely due to the 80/20 rule," he said. "But what we are saying is this year compared to last year, what we are seeing is the loss ratios are going up, administrative costs as a percent of premiums are going down and the law is having its intended effect of making insurers more efficient, more cost-effective and providing more value to consumers."

Individuals Health Plan costs to fall at least 50% (uh-huh, FIFTY %) for 2014 in New York


Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.


Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state.

“Health insurance has suddenly become affordable in New York,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president for health initiatives with the Community Service Society of New York. “It’s not bargain-basement prices, but we’re going from Bergdorf’s to Filene’s here.”

“The extraordinary decline in New York’s insurance rates for individual consumers demonstrates the profound promise of the Affordable Care Act,” she added.

Health care law opponents dominate advertising wars (outspend proponents 5 to 1)


WASHINGTON — Opponents of the 2010 health care law have out-spent supporters by nearly 5-1 on the airwaves — as conservatives seek to cast doubts about its effects and pledge to keep it at the forefront of federal, state and local races, an analysis shows.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act spent at least $385 million from March 2010, when Congress enacted the sweeping health care measure, through the end of last month, according to an analysis of TV advertising nationwide by Kantar Media.

The biggest spender among opponents: Crossroads GPS, a political advocacy group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. It pumped at least $40 million into advertising that mentioned the law. Backers, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spent roughly $78 million.

Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group predicts spending on the law will hit $1 billion by its fifth anniversary in 2015, according to the analysis released this week.


National groups (headquartered in DC) dominate spending in Special Elections -


Carpetbagging super PACs and nonprofit groups are dominating this year’s special congressional elections in a potential foreshadowing of the 2014 midterms, where even the sleepiest locales aren’t immune from out-of-state, cash-flush special interests.

Take Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate election, which last month propelled veteran Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to Congress’ upper chamber — and attracted millions of dollars in outside spending from political groups based in California, New York and Florida.

Organizations in Illinois, meanwhile, spent precisely zero dollars to advocate for or against several candidates who vied early this year to replace ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., while outfits from everywhere but collectively burned through more than $2 million.

South Carolina? The biggest players backing or bashing eventual House seat winner Republican Mark Sanford, or his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, weren’t from Columbia or Charleston, but Washington, D.C.

So far this year, just 4 percent of the $12.4 million spent by political groups or party entities on congressional races came from groups based within the state where they’re doing their spending, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal independent expenditure data indicates.

Inspector says IRS WITHELD info on targeting liberals


WASHINGTON — The federal investigator who concluded that the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately targeted Tea Party groups said Thursday the tax agency had failed to give him documents showing progressive groups were subjected to similar screenings.

J. Russell George, who serves as an IRS watchdog at the U.S. Treasury, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that only last week did his office receive documents showing the term "progressive" was used to flag cases for additional review.

"The moment I became aware that other groups were spotlighted by the IRS, I directed my staff to commence review of that," George said.

"I am very disturbed that these documents were not provided to our auditors at the outset," he said. "They were not provided during our audit, even though similar documents that list 'Tea Party' … were."

on the other hand, ThinkPRogress reported that:
Treasury Inspector General Blocked IRS From Releasing Documents That Show Agency Targeted Progressive Groups


The Inspector General conducting the investigation into the Internal Revenue Services’ improper targeting of conservative groups applying for 501 (c)(4) status is preventing the agency from turning over documents showing that progressive organizations were similarly subject to additional scrutiny, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee said on Wednesday.

The allegations come as J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), prepares to explain why he never informed Congress that investigators found “no indication that pulling these selected applications was politically motivated” or that progressive groups were also targeted.

George will testify before the Committee on Thursday and will undoubtedly face questions about why he “personally intervened to block the IRS from turning over documents relating to progressive or left-leaning groups that received treatment similar to Tea Party applicants for tax exempt status,” the Committee’s minority staff said in a press release issued today.

That allegation came from Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel on Wednesday, who testified that George asked the agency to withhold the documents, arguing that they would reveal information about specific tax payers, in violation of U.S. law. IRS career professionals had cleared the documents for release and the agency was preparing to send the information to Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).

Since George issued his report, House Oversight Committee investigators discovered that IRS scrutiny of 501 (c)(4) groups was far more widespread than he had originally reported. A 2010 Power Point presentation instructing IRS officials how to handle sensitive cases and included words like “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” “9/12 Project,” and also “Progressive.” George had previously denied that the term “Progressive” was used in the screening process.

House Votes - again - To Delay Obamacare Individual Mandate


WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans pressed ahead Wednesday on delaying key components of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, emboldened by the administration's concession that requiring companies to provide coverage for their workers next year may be too complicated.

The House voted to delay the law's individual mandate by a vote of 251-174. It also voted to back the delay of the employer mandate by a vote of 264-161.

The votes marked the 38th time the GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or scale back the program since Republicans took control of the House in January 2011.

The votes were a chance to score political points, as the legislation is going nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Still, public unease with the law and the Republican attacks clearly caused consternation at the White House.

Why won't Grand Inquisitor Issa release transcripts of closed door hearings of IRS employees?

Issa's Missing Testimony

Late last week, a few news stories appeared quoting some employees of the IRS Cincinnati office saying quasi-ominous things about being directed from Washington to do this or that. This CBS News article provides a good example. One beleaguered IRS employee, Elizabeth Hofacre, said she was instructed to clear all letters she sent to tea party groups through an IRS lawyer in Washington—which to said groups naturally brings to mind the image of this lawyer hand-delivering the letters to Obama himself as the two of them laugh the laughter of slippery cosmopolitans who’ve hoodwinked the booboisie yet again.

These remarks by Hofacre and others were made in secret session to Issa’s oversight committee, which has transcripts of these conversations. CBS, according to the article, reviewed the transcripts from “some” of the interviews. It seems obvious that reporters were shown mainly the bits that sounded scintillating and kept the story alive.

But lo and behold there were other bits, and a clearly miffed Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on Issa’s committee, released some of those the other day. And what did that include? The testimony of a self-described “conservative Republican” in the Cincinnati office who told the committee he had “no reason to believe” that there was any White House involvement in the whole business. There was a memo Cummings made public Monday in which the employee said the above, as well as attesting that he did not believe “that the screening of cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development.” His clotted rhetoric speaks to his 21 years as a civil servant, but his meaning and intention are clear enough. To this conservative Republican, there was no political agenda at work in Cincinnati.

"He conveniently left out the part about how Paz said no one outside the IRS was involved."

The same can hardly be said, though, of Issa’s committee. He’s been asked now for weeks by journalists on Capitol Hill to release all the transcripts of those closed-door sessions. He’s promised that he will for nigh on a month now, but he never has. The Cummings intervention thus leads us to the obvious conclusion, which is that Issa knows of exculpatory information that came to light in his closed-door sessions and is sitting on it.

Hunger Games, U.S.A. - Krugman


Paul Krugman

Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.

The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week.

For decades, farm bills have had two major pieces. One piece offers subsidies to farmers; the other offers nutritional aid to Americans in distress, mainly in the form of food stamps (these days officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).

Long ago, when subsidies helped many poor farmers, you could defend the whole package as a form of support for those in need. Over the years, however, the two pieces diverged. Farm subsidies became a fraud-ridden program that mainly benefits corporations and wealthy individuals. Meanwhile food stamps became a crucial part of the social safety net.

So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies — at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed — while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.

Fix The Debt CEOs Enjoy Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay - Institute for America's Future


Thanks to a “performance pay” tax loophole, large corporations in the United States today are routinely deducting enormous executive payouts from their income taxes. In effect, these companies are exploiting the U.S. tax code to send taxpayers the bill for the huge rewards they’re doling out to their top executives.

During the three-year period 2009-2011, the 90 publicly held corporate members of the austerity-focused “Fix the Debt” lobby group shoveled out $6.3 billion in pay to their CEOs and next three highest-paid executives.

These 90 Fix the Debt member firms raked in at least $953 million — and as much as $1.6 billion — from the “performance pay” loophole between 2009-2011. The exact full value of corporate windfalls from this loophole will remain impossible to compute until we have more complete mandated disclosure for executive compensation.

America’s top CEOs are pocketing massive taxpayer subsidies at the same time they’re pushing austerity cutbacks in government programs that benefit ordinary citizens.

Top executives at these same Fix the Debt companies are aggressively advocating cuts to government programs that benefit the ordinary American taxpayers subsidizing their compensation. Many of these executives have also added to America’s debt and deficit by using tax havens and other accounting tricks to have their corporations avoid paying their fair tax share.

Lagging minimum wage is one reason why most Americans’ wages have fallen behind productivity


The figure shows the real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) value of the minimum wage, plus what the minimum wage would be if it had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968, as it did for the two decades prior. If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity growth over this period, it would now be $18.67 per hour. That sounds shockingly high—it is two-and-a-half times as high as the current minimum wage and is actually higher than the median wage, which is $16.30 per hour. But it’s important to keep in mind that the primary reason a minimum wage of $18.67 sounds so high today is because the wages of most workers are so low. Most workers have not reaped the benefits of productivity growth for the last four decades. If the median wage had kept pace with productivity growth over the last 40 years, it would now be $28.42 instead of $16.30. In other words, an $18.67 minimum wage sounds shockingly high because the already affluent have captured most of the economic growth in the last 40 years, not because the economy hasn’t seen the kind of productivity growth consistent with that kind of minimum wage growth.

Of course, no one is suggesting a current minimum wage of $18.67 per hour. But this comparison does underscore the fact that the proposal by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015 is a modest proposal indeed. Further, this recent EPI analysis shows that across the country families living on minimum-wage jobs are unable to make ends meet, more proof that an increase is necessary. Also, visit EPI’s new site, inequality.is, which details how wage growth stagnation has contributed to the rise of inequality.

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