Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are Democrats heading for an October Surprise on Obamacare?

The above graph shows the impact of Obamacare after its first year and how well it did in solving one of the two biggest problems that healthcare reform was supposed to accomplish -- getting coverage for 50 million uninsured Americans.

The dark bars show the percentage of uninsured Americans by region before Obamacare in 2013, and the
the light blue shows the effect of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act on the percentage of uninsured Americans after it's first year. As anyone can see, the reduction of uninsured Americans represented by the blue bars as a result of the ACA is nothing short of pathetic,  virtually insignificant everywhere except the south, where the number of uninsured has, instead of going down, actually skyrocketed. This is what the Obama administration and many in the media and Obama sycophants at sites like Daily Kos have been trying to pass off as success.

While Obama has taken a lot of deserved criticism over the last year for his spectacular display of weakness in foreign policy especially in Syria with Assad and Putin and Ukraine, and practically had to be shamed into taking stronger  action against Isis after doing nothing for 3 years rejecting the advice of his smartest advisors, his  first, biggest, most significant and perhaps most lasting display of weakness came on healthcare reform when he caved in to the insurance lobby who opposed the public option and dropped it, and in a cynical bait and switch gave the country Obamacare instead, a law essentially written by and for the health insurance industry themselves which he hoped would get the Republicans off his back.   Even though he had the votes in congress to pass the public option which the majority of Americans and the congress had wanted.

In 2010, once Obama signaled he would capitulate to the health insurance lobby and drop the public option  with a replacement bill  written by the health insurance lobby (see the Frontline documentary "Obama's Deal"),  I wrote a peice in August of 2010 that predicted that if Pelosi and Reid didn't take health care reform away from Obama and pass the public option anyway so that Obama was in the position of either signing it or vetoing it (which he couldn't do politically),  Democrats would get wiped out of congress in the 2010 elections. They didnt, and that is exactly what happened. 

And now both politically and as policy,  the Obama administration and some Democrats are trying to put lipstick on a pig when it comes to Obamcare.

When the insurance exchanges closed in March, the Obama Administration announced, crowed really, that 8 million people had bought insurance through the exchanges. Democrats were being urged by both Nancy Pelosi and Obama to run on Obamacare in November and some on the left , like many of the Obama sycophants at so called "progressive" web sites like Daily Kos, were and still are, gloating that Republican attacks on Obamacare have failed and will even backfire because of Obamacare's "success".

But despite dishonest statistics put out by the Obama administration that the news media and Obama supporters swallow whole, Obamacare has failed miserably in what healthcare reform was supposed to accomplish as the graph above proves. 

Obamacare failed completely to fix the two major issues healthcare reform was intended to fix --  getting coverage for the 50 million Americans who have no health care coverage,(which drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone)  based on the idea that healthcare should be a right not a privilige, and bringing down the insane, out of control costs of healthcare for Americans who did have coverage.

A year after Obamacare's implementation, with what even the White House conceded were unattractive low end health care plans that had high premiums and skimpy coverage, the percentage of the 50 million  uninsured Americans who recieved coverage through Obamacare was, according to the Gallup Well Point Well Being Index, 2.2%. That is what Obama and Obamacare sycophants are trying to call success.

That is a decrease of only 1.2 million out of 50 million. And most of those were in the older and sicker category. The remaining 48.8 million uninsured Americans looked at what was being offered by Obamacare and turned away, preferring, if that's what it comes to, to pay the penalty.

Since it might be fair to assume that most of the 50 million uninsured are potential Democratic voters, the fact that Obamacare has  done nothing for them doesn't bode well for any Democrat trying to run on Obamacare's virtues in November and who tries to call it a success.

With low end so called bronze and silver healthcare plans carrying premiums ranging as high as $600 a month for a single person in New York City,  rural Georgia and other markets with little competition that come with $6,000 deductibles and 40% co-pays, the vast majority of the 32 million younger, healthier uninsured also said no thanks, they'll take their chances.  Only 2.8%  of those 32 million, or less than 900,000 according to the Gallup Well Being Index, purchased policies in Obamacare's first year. And according to experts, signing up those 32 million is neccessary to keep premiums from skyrocketing for everyone else under the Affordable Care Act.

As for the 8 million claimed by the Obama administration as proof of Obamacare's success, that also is bogus. Even taking that number on its face, Obamacare  would be a failure. But that 8 million figure is far from real. That number was based on total applications submitted for health insurance not actual enrollments.

According to the insurance companies, about 20% of those applicants failed to send in their first month's premium invalidating their applications which brings the actual number down from 8 million to 6.4 million. But  it was also discovered that about 5% (possibly more)  filed multiple applications because of web site glitches bringing the total number down another 400,000 to 6 million or less. But wait, as they say in the telebrand commercials, there's more. Many applying for health insurance falsified their  income on applications to get insurance subsidies they didn't qualify for and are being rejected. That number is still being tabulated by the IRS, matching income reported on the insurance applications with filed tax returns,  but  it will certainly bring down the number of actual people getting insurance through Obamacare even further, perhaps to a little over 5 million. Substantially below even the original 7 million target which was in itself a ridiculous and politically motivated low ball standard much less the 8 million claimed.

Sometime in October the health insurance companies will announce their premiums for 2015. Some have already started. They will, naturally,  vary from state to state. But Obamacare apologists are already trying to trumpet an 8%  increase in premiums expected in many markets as proof of Obamacare's success in terms of slowing the increases in healthcare premiums which flies in the face of one of healthcare reform's primary goals  --  to bring down the cost of healthcare, not label as success the insane costs of health care getting more insane but at a slower rate.

Higher premiums by insurance companies, or to keep premiums stable, reducing the quality of coverage by increasing co-pays and out of pockets,  could cause any Democrat trying to run on Obamacare a  major problem. Especially since there is also talk that some markets could see increases in healthcare premiums by as much as 17%. Or more. Everyone will know by the end of October.

Since all politics are local, in districts that see significant increases in health care premiums or costs, Democrats who have been blindly supporting Obamacare could be in big trouble if they continue to call it a success since by any measure, Obamacare has been an abject failure compared to what the public option would have produced. And higher premiums could produce an October Surprise for Democrats they are unprepared for.

Not too long ago, Nancy Pelosi stood at a podium and reminded Democrats running in November that the first word in the Affordable Care Act was "affordable".  "Affordable, affordable, affordable" Pelosi repeated from the podium like a kindergarten teacher trying to drum a vocabulary lesson into the heads of five year olds. And she exorted Democrats to go back to their constituents and run on the success of Obamacare.  Except for the 48.8 million who still have no healthcare coverage because they still can't afford it, Pelosi sounded a lot more like Marie Antoinette than FDR.

So unless Democrats  running in November are willing to publicly admit Obamacare's failures and shortcomings and repudiate it (while still pointing out that Republicans opposed any healthcare reform at all),   and publicly pledge to revive the public option to replace it, they and the Democratic party might find that they can't afford Nancy Pelosi's idea of affordable either. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Forget Ray Rice. Anheuser-Busch wasn't "disappointed" when the NFL reinstated Dante Stallworth after he killed a man while driving drunk.

After the second Ray Rice video became public, there was a mad PR scramble by the NFL, the Ravens, the usual bandwagon jumping suspects in the news media who never stick their necks out for anything unless they feel its safe, and last but certainly not least, we had a word from the sponsors. Lots of sponsors. Lots of words. 

The most recent and the most publicized was from Anheuser-Busch, those wonderful folks who bring us beer commercials that look and sound like they were created by people who flunked intelligence tests, who, as a major sponsor of sports events, especially the NFL, reacted to both the Rice incident and the Adrian Peterson arrest by issuing a press release that included the sentence:

"We are not yet satisfied with the NFL's handling of behaviors that go so against our own company's culture and moral code".

The problem with their statement, and the real problem with how the NFL handles societal and criminal matters could be traced back to 2009 and the NFL's handling of Dante Stallworth and his suspension and relatively quick reinstatement after pleading guilty to killing someone while driving drunk. It was also  an incident, that for Anheuser-Busch given their reaction at the time compared to their reactions now, could lead to criticism that their "company's own culture and moral code" didn't include killing someone while driving drunk.

In 2009 Cleveland wide reciever Dante Stallworth killed a pedestrian 
while driving drunk in his Bentley in South Beach in Miami. It came after a night of drinking at the Fountainbleu Hotel and ended at 7:10 a.m. when, driving back to his hotel,  he ran down and killed 59 year old Mario Reyes , a crane operator who was crossing the street rushing to catch a bus to get to work. Stallworth's blood alcohol level at the time was 1.26. The legal limit in Florida was 0.08.

The first outrage, which had nothing to do with the NFL but might have influenced their reaction,  was the Miami prosecutor allowing Stallworth to plead guilty to manslaughter in a deal that saw  Stallworth receive a sentence of 30 days in jail. For killing someone. While driving drunk. Yes, 250 hours of community service too. But he killed someone. It was a working stiff, crossing the street, trying to catch a bus to get to his job to provide for his family when Stallworth, driving at 50 mph and over the speed limit, ran him down in his Bentley while stone drunk.  That was good for 30 days in jail.

After pleading guilty to manslaughter, the NFL issued a statement saying they would review the matter for possible disciplinary action. Possible. As in, you know, maybe killing someone rises to the level of an offense requiring NFL discipline and maybe it doesn't. It certainly didnt rise to the level of Anheuser-Busch putting out any statements about behaviors that go against their company's moral code.

In the end Goodell gave Stallworth a 6 month suspension and he was reinstated to the NFL in Feburary of 2010, 8 months after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

No outrage by the news media or at Anheuser-Busch or any other NFL sponsor over Stallworth's lenient treatment.  No expression of "disappointment" from Anheuser-Busch. Or anyone else. Except maybe the family of Mario Reyes.

 So don't be fooled. Everyone who is now coming out the woodwork against domestic violence, from the usual sheep in the news media to Radison Hotels, Anheuser Busch and even Obama who felt the need to once again insinuate himself into a situation where no one asked him and where he has no place,  arent coming out against domestic violence -- they are feeding off it.

They are feeding off it commercially or politically.Because it's all about  PR or an attempt to avoid bad PR. So no  one deserves a pat on the back. In fact a fair person might even say Ray Rice has shown more remorse and more honest contrition and a willingess to stand up and face the music and accept the punishment and public scorn for what he did than the NFL or any of its sponsors.

Domestic violence has been in the public consciousness for a long time. And while domestic violence, especially against women,  was swept under the rug for centuries its been out in the open as a societal and legal cancer for decades. More than 30 years ago there was even a TV movie made about the Rideout case, a landmark case on domestic violence which focused on whether a husband could be found guilty of raping his wife. A jury for the first time in history said yes.  There were many other cases related to domestic violence that had gotten wide spread media attention decades ago. Its not new. So when either the NFL or the Ravens or the news media or sponsors say they are reacting because they hadnt seen the second Ray Rice video, who are they kidding? What was in the second video they didn't already know? What havent they known for decades?

The first video showed Rice dragging his future wife out of an elevator as she was laying face down, out cold. Everyone knew how she got there. The second video was nothing new of any substance. What  was new was actually seeing Rice throw the jab in the elevator that knocked her out. What followed after the second video became public was a mad scramble to save face and a lot of Olympic bandwagon jumping, the result of a  See Dick Hit Jane mentality that created a PR nightmare for everyone concerned.

It wasn't that the second video made Rice look bad. The first video already did that.  What the second video did was make everybody else look bad. It made the two game suspension look bad. It made the "boys will be boys" attitude of both the NFL and its sponsors look bad. So now everyone is scrambling. And it comes off as Mickey Rooney saying, "hey kids lets be against domestic violence."

The real question is why did anyone expect anything different? Which leaves all the nonsense being written in editorials and empty headed agenda driven opinion pieces,missing the point by a mile.

Lets not get into a spitting match over which societal evil is worse, but for decades drunk driving has been treated as a minor offense when it is in fact domestic terrorism and should be treated as a felony even as a first offense. Every year more than 17,000 people are killed by drunk drivers.That's six 911 attacks every year. The number of people killed by drunk drivers every year is also 3 times the number of combat soldiers killed in the bloodiest year of the Viet Nam war. Every year. And in every case it was not the first time the driver had been arrested for driving drunk. Most had a multitude of prior drunk driving arrests. But never any jail time. Had they been sent to jail the first time, tens of thousands of people would be alive today who were killed by drunk drivers.

So if you can get reinstated  in the NFL after killing someone after  driving drunk, something that drew no outrage in 2010 by all those who are "outraged" now,  it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Rice was given a 2 game suspension for throwing a punch at his wife.

A few months ago Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts was arrested, booked and pled guilty to DWI. His NFL punishment -- a six game suspension.  There were no protests from Anheuser-Busch about behaviors that go against their moral codes.  And no outrage in the news media. Or anyone else.

No one should be giving Goodell any pats on the back. But no one should have acted like this was some kind of new example of outrageously lenient treatment. Goodell said he got it wrong with the Rice suspension. Where Goodell and all the news media pontificators got it wrong was in 2009 with Dante Stallworth. And a few weeks ago with Jim Isray which also drew no outrage by the professionally outraged.  And they probably will keep ignoring it. At least until someone from the NFL kills someone again driving drunk. And there is video that shows it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The 911 Memorials: absence of Bush, Rice or Cheney is as close to a confession as anyone will ever get.

As 911 Memorial services on the 13th anniversary of the attacks take place in New York City, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania,attended by first responders, families,  dignitaries and officials including previous New York city mayors and presidents Clinton and Obama along with current Secretary of  Defense Hagel,  conspicuous by their absence,not just on this day, but at any memorial event commemorating the September 11 attacks since leaving office, was the president and members of his administration under whose watch 911 happened.

George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush Administration on whose watch the 911 attacks occurred did not attend any of the ceremonies, nor did they attend the dedication to the 911 Memorial and Museum this past March which included the two presidents who held office before and after the attacks. Nor have they attended any 911 memorials or ceremonies since leaving office. None.

If one thinks it unusual, that of all the people to be absent from any 911 Memorial or ceremonies of remembrance, that it would be George W. Bush, Rice, and Dick Cheney, it's not only not unusual, it's fitting. And is as much of an admission, a confession really,  by Bush, Rice and Cheney that were it not for their catastrophically bad judgement and gross negligence,as revealed in the hearings by the 911 Commission, there would have been no need for a 911 Memorial.Because there would have been no 911 attack.

The evidence presented at the 911 Commission hearings was overwhelming that  Bush, Rice and Cheney had more than enough intelligence which, had they acted would have prevented the 911 attacks. Though Bush tried to scapegoat and blame the intelligence community for the failures, the 911 Commission proved the only intelligence failures were at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Not the least of which was intelligence that not only told Bush and Rice that a "spectacular"(in the words of the CIA translation )  attack  by Al Qaeda against the U.S. was  imminent, but  a report that told Bush and Rice on August 6, 2001, that the method of the attack was going to involve the hijacking of U.S. airliners.( a copy of the brief can be found by Googling "August 6 2001 PDB").  And they did nothing.

When Rice was grilled in front of the 911 Commission by counsel Richard Ben Vineste and asked why, with the intelligence that Al-Qaeda was going to attack within the United States and after being told by CIA director George Tenant that CIA intercepts of Al Qaeda chatter indicated an attack was imminent, and that part of the attack involved hijackings that she and Bush did nothing, her stupefying answer was, " we had no idea they were going to use the planes as missiles". Presumably hostages would have been okay.

It is also important to remember that while the news media has given almost wall to wall coverage of the events in Ferguson and the domestic assault involving Ray Rice and his wife,  proof that the 911 attacks, one of the most life altering events in American history, could have been easily prevented was virtually ignored by the media out of sheer cowardice knowing that had they held Bush,Rice and Cheney  accountable Republicans would have attacked them as "the liberal media" being unpatriotic in a time of war. Democrats as well kept quiet afraid Republicans would accuse them of politicizing the attack (Benghazi anyone?).   Ironically one of the only media outlets not to ignore it was the conservative Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post.

Most news outlets  never held anyone accountable for the catastrophically bad judgement and gross negligence of Bush, Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, in their dismissal of terrorism as a threat from the very beginning  and simply ignoring any and all intelligence related to Al Qaeda prior to 911 based on their belief that the Clinton administration had exaggerated the threat when,  had they taken the intelligence seriously,  the  911 attacks would have been easily prevented. As well as everything that came after, from Iraq to Afghanistan. And Bush, Rice and Cheney know it.

Which is why the absence of Bush, Rice, Cheney or  anyone connected to the Bush administration at any 911 memorial today or any time, is as close to a real admission as anyone will ever get.