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Bill USA

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Member since: Wed Mar 3, 2010, 05:25 PM
Number of posts: 6,436

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

Medicare purchases of medical equipment based on Competitive Bidding - in danger

Tea Partiers in Congress are mounting an effort to kill competitive bidding requirements in the purchase of medical equipment (like electric scooters, uh-huh) by Medicare. The law which requires competitive bidding for such purchases by Medicare is being slowly expanded to more states and it is saving us BILLIONs in otherwise fraudulent over-charges due to outrageous over-pricing.

This is certainly an effort that deserves an aggressinve response from citizens with emails, telephone calls and letters to representatives in DC.

see: Medicare bidding competition in danger: Our view - USA Today

Medicare bidding competition in danger: Our view - USA Today

.. Tea Partiers in Congress are mounting an effort to kill competitive bidding requirements in the purchase of medical equipment (like electric scooters, uh-huh) by Medicare. The law which requires competitive bidding for such purchases by Medicare is being slowly expanded to more states and it is saving us BILLIONs in otherwise fraudulent over-charges due to outrageous over-pricing.

This is certainly an effort that deserves an aggressinve response from citizens with emails, telephone calls and letters to representatives in DC.

Here's a thought: Since Medicare saves and extends lives, defrauding Medicare reduces its ability to save lives and therefore, should be a capital crime. Further, anyone aiding and abbetting such activity, such as lobbyists and representatives who pass laws to stop competitive bidding requirements for such purchases by Medicare, are guilty of conspiracy to defraud medicare. This would therefore, also be a capital crime.

[font size="3"] If removing the requirement that Medicare use competitive bidding in purchases of medical equipment seems a crime to you, please email or call you Congressman and Senators about this.[/font]

(emphasis my own)

In 2010, Medicare spent more than $14 billion on oxygen devices, mobility scooters, diabetes test strips and other "durable medical equipment" and supplies that patients use at home. For taxpayers, and for beneficiaries with a 20% co-pay, that was about $5 billion too much.

Everyone overpaid because for years, Medicare bought or rented things like this on a fee schedule set by Congress, for prices that had nothing to do with normal market competition.

Now a competitive bidding process is starting to produce big savings and has the potential to cut costs even more — unless the industry and its allies in Congress manage to derail it.


Under the new system, for example, oxygen equipment that used to go for about $177 a month will now cost $93. A hospital bed that cost $1,376 under the old rules will now go for $738. Diabetes test strips that used to cost almost $78 a month will now cost less than $23 a month — a discount of more than 70%.


...[font color="red"]a move in the House to dump and overhaul the bid process has almost 200 co-sponsors and is led by Tea Party favorites such as Reps. Tom Price, R-Ga., and Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., both of whom have suppliers in their districts. Medicare officials fear this would undo the savings and put the process on hold for years.[/font]


Our Deficits aren't as bad as Washington thinks - Ezra Klein

[font size="3"]...Here's one for 'Blow-hard' Joe Scarborough to read - not that it would sink in.[/font]



Today’s deficits are, if anything, too small. Yes, I said it. Too. Small. We’ve seen real, clear damage from spending cutbacks — if public employment had remained steady since 2008, unemployment would be down to about 7.1 percent — and the world is begging us to borrow more money. In fact, they’re paying us to borrow more money; real interest rates on Treasury debt have, amazingly, turned negative. We should accept the world’s generous, limited-time offer.

This is the moment to pass a big tax cut for employers who hire new workers, to rebuild our infrastructure at bargain- basement rates, and to help state and local governments reverse the deep cuts they’ve made in recent years. It’s not the moment to begin sequestration.

Future deficits are a legitimate concern. But as either Yogi Berra or Niels Bohr said, predictions are very difficult, especially about the future. And future deficits are, annoyingly, situated entirely in the future. So most everyone in Washington has outsourced the difficult task of estimating future deficits to the genial and diligent wonks at the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO has come back with two projections. One is a simple, mechanical projection of future deficits based on current law. Everyone pretty much ignores this analysis, because, in recent years, current law has been a poor predictor of future policy. The law said, for instance, that all the Bush tax cuts would expire at the end of 2012 and that huge Medicare cuts would be imposed. Everyone knew that Congress wouldn’t let that happen, and that the current-law projection was wrong.


Ryan’s tax reforms cost more than all his spending cuts combined

by Ezra Klein

So how will he pay for his much, much lower rates? Well, he doesn’t say. In fact, he doesn’t even begin to say. His budget doesn’t name even one tax deduction, exclusion, credit, or loophole that will be closed. All he says is that he will pay for his lower rates, or at least the House Ways and Means Committee, which is in charge of writing any tax reform bill, will pay for them.

But he doesn’t say that they’ll pay for them while keeping the tax code as progressive as it is today.

Ryan’s budget is very clear in its instructions to the House Ways and Means Committee. They can only submit a tax reform bill that “simplifies the tax code to make it fairer to American families and businesses and reduces the amount of time and resources necessary to comply with tax laws,” “substantially lowers tax rates for individuals,” “repeals the alternative minimum tax,” “reduces the corporate rate to 25 percent,” “transitions the tax code to a more competitive system of international taxation,” and is “revenue-neutral”.

Nowhere does it say the final bill needs to retain the current progressivity of the code.

That’s likely because it would be impossible to enact the kind of reform Ryan’s previewing while retaining the progressivity of the tax code.

Ten Years Later, What Paul Wolfowitz 'Owes to the Country'


Andrew Bacevich has a wonderful essay, in the form of an open letter to Paul Wolfowitz, in the current Harper's. You have to subscribe to read it -- but, hey, you should be subscribing to any publication whose work you value. This essay isolates the particular role Wolfowitz had in the cast of characters that led us to war. As a reminder, they included:

- Dick Cheney, who was becoming a comic-book churl by this stage of his public life;

- Colin Powell, the loyal soldier, staffer, and diplomat whose "Powell Doctrine" and entire life's work stood in opposition to the kind of war that he, with misguided loyalty, was to play so central a role in selling;
- Tony Blair, the crucial ally who added rhetorical polish and international resolve to the case for war;

- Donald Rumsfeld, with his breezy contempt for those who said the effort would be difficult or long;

- Paul Bremer, whose sudden, thoughtless dismantling of the Iraqi army proved so disastrous;

- Condoleezza Rice, miscast in her role as White House national-security advisor;

- George Tenet, the long-time staffer who cooperated with the "slam-dunk!" intelligence assessment despite serious disagreement within the CIA;

- and of course George W. Bush himself, whose combination of limited knowledge and strong desire to be "decisive" made him so vulnerable to the argument that the "real" response to the 9/11 attacks should be invading a country that had nothing to do with them.

But Paul Wolfowitz was in a category of his own because he was the one who provided the highest-concept rationale for the war. As James Galbraith of the University of Texas has put it, "Wolfowitz is the real-life version of Halberstam's caricature of McNamara" [in The Best and the Brightest].

Bacevich's version of this assessment is to lay out as respectfully as possible the strategic duty that Wolfowitz thought the U.S. would fulfill by invading Iraq. Back before the war began, I did a much more limited version of this assessment as an Atlantic article. As Bacevich puts it now, Wolfowitz was extending precepts from his one-time mentor, Albert Wohlstetter, toward a model of how the United States could maximize stability for itself and others.

Boehner Admits There Is No Immediate Debt Crisis But Wants Cuts Anyway


Appearing on This Week, John Boehner sat down with interviewer Martha Raddatz to rattle off the latest Republican talking points. While he gives President Obama credit for engaging in discussion with members of the GOP, Boehner still stands firm against raising taxes on “the American people.” Remember now, anytime we hear him use that phrase, we should automatically amend that to mean “the top 1%” or “my rich benefactors.” Either way, he’s against raising their taxes by even a few percentage points. Nope, he’d rather make cuts to social programs.

“We do not have an immediate debt crisis. But we all know that we have one looming. And we have– one looming– because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They’re gonna go bankrupt. Washington has responsibility– to our seniors and our near seniors– that we firm up these programs so that they’re there for the long term. Because if we don’t do it, not only will they not get benefits, we will have a debt crisis right around the corner. We have time to solve our problems. But we need to do it now.” (Source)

In GOP-speak this translates as “We don’t really have a reason to but let’s gut Medicare and Social Security, anyway.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be gone in 2024. But let’s take a look at what they said in 1980: oh look, Medicare insolvency will be here in 1994! And in 1990, they said it would be bankrupt by 2003. Well, that’s not how it went, is it? The fact is, the date always keeps moving further down the road. But heck, let’s just make sure and cut benefits anyway. Better safe than sorry, eh? After all, we can’t possibly ask the ultra rich to pay even a teensy bit more, can we?

The goatf**k that is the sequester is starting to make itself known. Once it really gets rolling, it will certainly be more noticeable to the average American. With a figure of $85 billion in cuts, how can we not be feeling the pinch soon? But the Republicans insist on their ideological stand of no taxes on those who are doing the best in this economy and cutting benefits of those who need them the most. And we are on track to lose 3/4 of a million jobs if the cuts remain in place through September. Which means that more people will need the social safety net that the GOP wants to shred.

While we’re here, let’s take a moment to trample the idea that Social Security and Medicare are entitlements. Though the Republicans love to make it sound like these are government largesse, they are not. We have earned them. We have paid into them. And we refuse to let the party that has despised these programs from the day that they were passed – something they fought hard against for both programs – take them away. They will continue to attempt to kill them and we must keep fighting them.

Obama pleads with the Degenerates for restraint on filibusters of nominees....sigh


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama made a plea to Republican senators in their private meeting Thursday to ease up on their filibusters of his nominees, but he appears to have gotten a cool reception.

"The president made the pitch that it would be useful to his administration if nominees were more quickly confirmed," said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) after the president spent more than an hour chatting with the GOP caucus as part of his "charm offensive."

But it seems that Republicans will not relent on bogging down nominees, and also do not agree they are obstructing Obama's picks.

"I think the facts, particularly on judicial nominations, [show] our record is better than [in] other administrations, as far as one party approving the judicial nominations of a differeint party's president," Moran said.

Senate Dems Weigh Consequences For GOP Filibusters Of Key Nominees

Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed.

“The general agreement was that Republicans would only filibuster nominees in the case of extraordinary circumstances, and once again Republicans are expanding the definition of that term to make it entirely meaningless,” the aide said.

The source said conversations are still too preliminary for Democrats to lay out publicly potential avenues of recourse just yet. And the last thing leaders want is to create the expectation that they will change the filibuster rules in the middle of the current Senate session. But they are occurring in the wake of a series of GOP filibusters of top nominees, including a cabinet secretary (Chuck Hagel), the CIA director (John Brennan), and a federal judicial nominee (Caitlin Halligan) whom Republicans have effectively blocked from confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for years.

Halligan is a career government lawyer with broad support among leading conservative and liberal lawyers. But Republicans have redefined “extraordinary circumstance” in her case to mean her authorship of a single brief for her now-former boss, then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, which earned her powerful enemies at the National Rifle Association.

Are we about to drag out of this Republican Dystopia: economy improves despite GOP's treachery?

Dow Posts Another Record High, Logs First 9-Day Win Streak Since November 1996

Historic Week: Dow Sets All-Time High Above 14,400; Major Averages Rally 2% for Week

"Stocks finished higher across the board Friday with the Dow setting a new record high and all three major averages up more than 2 percent for the week"

"All 10 S&P sectors finished higher for the week, led by financials and consumer discretionary."

February Jobs Report: U.S. Economy Adds 236,000 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Down To 7.7

Despite constant budget fights in Washington, the U.S. economy managed one of the best months for job gains in the past year in February, driving the unemployment rate to its lowest level in more than four years.

But the job market would be even better, and the unemployment rate even lower, had not the government spent most of the recovery cutting spending and jobs. And though Wall Street may cheer February's jobs report, the pain of government cutbacks looks to get worse as the year goes on.

U.S. employers added 236,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, up from 119,000 in January. That was the best payroll growth since 247,000 jobs last November and the second-best month for job growth of the past 12 months.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January, with 12 million people looking for work. That is the lowest unemployment rate since December 2008, when the rate was 7.3 percent.

Longer Workweek results in equivalent jobs of 329,000 more jobs

The 236,000 jobs the economy added in February lifted markets Friday — and hidden in the details of the jobs report may have been the equivalent of 300,000 more.

That's because the average workweek inched up to 34.5 hours last month, up from 34.4 in January and 33.8 in 2009. It's also within sight of the 34.7 hours per worker per week when the economy peaked in 2006.


That means employers are near the end of their ability to get more work done by extending workweeks, said Drew Matus, an economist at investment bank UBS. If demand keeps rising — not a certainty with federal budget cuts that began March 1 — hiring should accelerate through the year, he says.

"If people working hourly get more hours, it's more money in their pocket,'' said Matus, who estimated that the gain in hours, multiplied by all private-sector workers, was the equivalent of 329,000 new jobs. "It leads to more demand, more retail hiring and eventually more hiring generally.''

... Despite the GOP's treachery of killing several jobs bills, threatening Government shut-downs and Government defaults and now the Sequester's hit to aggregate demand, the economy, amazingly, seems to be slowly gaining speed. Given the extraordinary efforts of the GOP to sabotage any and every effort of Obama and the Democrats to breath life into an economy knocked low by the Republican Trickle Down Deregulation disaster (Supply Side prosperity?) it looks as if we just might be slogging our way out of this [font color="red"]Republican Dystopia[/font].

But, I think I'll hold onto my confetti. Never count the GOP out when it comes to ruthless political tactics and implacable opposition to anything that threatens the perquisites of the plutocrats they serve (e.g. GOP seeks to weaken Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).

The Idiot Culture - by Carl Bernstein really is a very good read....

It's from 1992, but it's a great critique of the media and is only more relevant today ....
..(oh, and also, it's not too long)


(things appear to be very slow over on the Media forum and I thought Bernstein's piece was just too good to be neglected)

Paul Krugman: Paul Ryan's Budget Is 'A Path To Continued Depression'


Paul Ryan's budget plan promises to "help grow our economy today." Paul Krugman says that's rubbish.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist wrote in a blog post Wednesday that Ryan's latest budget proposal would hurt the economy by slashing government spending, including repealing Obamacare's health insurance expansion.

"This particular 'Path to Prosperity' is, in the short to medium term, very much a path to continued depression," Krugman wrote. "Luckily it isn't going to happen."

Ryan's proposal, which would cut the budget by $4.6 trillion over 10 years, slashes funding for government programs that help the poor, like Medicaid. Though the plan is unlikely to become law, if it were implemented, it would shrink the U.S. economy and eliminate 2 million jobs in 2014 alone, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
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