Archive for February, 2010

Free markets don’t work in health insurance

WASHINGTON — John Oxendine, Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner and candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, agrees with President Obama on at least one thing: health insurance companies need stricter government oversight. Oxendine has proposed a law that would allow Georgia’s insurance commissioner to block excessive health insurance rate hikes on policies sold in the individual market.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding health care giant WellPoint, whose insurance companies plan steep rate hikes on individual policies in several states, Obama has proposed giving the federal government the authority to deny excessive premium increases. About half the states provide mechanisms for ameliorating hikes in health insurance rates, but Georgia is not among them.

Oxendine tried to get a law passed in 2008 that would have given his office more control over premiums, but the Georgia General Assembly, struck by a wave of insurance-industry lobbying, refused to pass it. …

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GOP used to believe 51 votes was enough

You’ve probably heard a lot about so-called ‘reconciliation,” an obscure Senate rule that allows the majority to bypass a filibuster and pass legislation with a simple-majority vote. Because Democrats are threatening to use it to pass a health care bill, Republicans have taken to describing “reconciliation” as just short of a Communist plot.
But the GOP used to love reconciliation. Watch Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) give a fiery 2005 speech defending it: “If you’ve got 51 votes for your position, you win!”

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The SCLC’s slow suicide

The FBI is investigating the Rev. Raleigh Trammell, chairman of the SCLC board, and a few members say they have evidence that he put more than half a million of the organization’s funds in his personal checking accounts. If he cared about the organization, he would step down. Instead, he’s being propped up by board members whose reflexive action is to defend any black person in trouble. It doesn’t matter it they end up killing the SCLC.

From Ohio TV station WHIO:

Members of the the National Board of Directors for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference came to Dayton Thursday from all over the country to throw their support behind Rev. Raleigh Trammell.
Trammell, chairman of the national board and president of the SCLC’s local chapter, is under investigation for allegedly embezzling nearly $570,000 from the national organization’s funds. The national treasurer is also facing the same allegations.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, SCLC national board members …

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If the GOP really believes in insurance reform, they believe in more government regulation

Since the Washington inside-the-Beltway talking heads are dominated by folks who see politics as a heavy-weight boxing match, some of the pundits were grumbling this morning that yesterday’s health care summit produced “no clear winners.” They’re wrong. Despite partisan bickering, rambling diatribes and cliched talking points, the summit was a win for American voters, who were able to witness leaders from the two parties airing essential philosophical differences. (I hope those of you who’ve complained that the health care debate was not on C-SPAN watched all seven hours.)

The biggest difference is this: Democrats do believe in government regulation, and Republicans don’t. (The Democrats’ bill, once again, is not a “government takeover.” The vast majority of Americans would still get their health care from private insurers.)

Here’s the contradiction with the Republican vision: If you really want insurance reform, you can only get it with government regulation. As the …

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AP: Obama right on costs; Alexander wrong

Sometimes the facts have a liberal bias.

From the Associated Press:

When President Barack Obama and a Republican lawmaker sparred Thursday over what might happen to health insurance premiums in an overhauled system, both cited a nonpartisan analysis that looked at that very question. The president gave a fairer summary of what the analysis found.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander declared in his statement to the White House health policy conference that “for millions of Americans, premiums will go up” under the Obama plan. That much could be true — but for millions of others, premiums are expected to go down and those who face higher costs would be getting better coverage than they have now.

The debate on that point is key if Americans are to accept the insurance changes Obama wants. Democrats know that pitching their plan as a means to extend coverage to the uninsured is not enough: They must convince middle-income Americans who already have insurance that they, too, …

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It’s on: Watch the theatrics of health care “summit”

That highly touted bit of political theater — the health care “summit” — is on. At the end of the day, we’ll know how well the GOP fared in the theatrics by how much attention the commentators on Fox News give it. Fox didn’t air much of last month’s Q&A between Obama and House Republicans — a sign that the GOP-leaning network thought the prez did better than Republicans.

From the NYT:

The starting point in the debate is this: Mr. Obama and the Democrats argue that comprehensive legislation is needed to provide nearly universal health insurance coverage; Congressional Republicans say the nation cannot afford to broadly expand coverage and should work incrementally to control costs.

In recent days, each side has sought to build strategic advantage.

Mr. Obama released his own legislative proposal, built largely on the bill adopted by the Senate on Dec. 24 but also incorporating a number of changes designed to appeal to House Democrats. At the same time, the Obama …

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GOP senators were against jobs bill before they were for it

UPDATE: Six, not eight, GOP senators voted against allowing a jobs bill on the floor for a vote Monday; then, they turned around and voted for it today. They are:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Thad Cochran (R-MS); James Inhofe; (R-OK);George LeMieux (R-FL); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK);Roger Wicker (R-MS) (h/t TPM)

A rare — and very odd — moment of bi-partisan cooperation just broke out on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Thirteen Republicans joined 57 Democrats to pass a jobs bill that would provide tax cuts to businesses if they hire workers.

Here’s the odd thing: Just yesterday, eight of those Republicans voted AGAINST allowing the measure to even come up for a vote. They detested it so much yesterday they wouldn’t agree to end a filibuster. What happened to get them to switch?
(Some right-wingers are still unhappy about any bi-partisanship. See Kathleen Parker’s excellent column on the hate-fest that Scott Brown has endured.)

From the WaPo:

The Senate easily passed a $15 billion …

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Georgia benefits from stimulus, and GOP knows it

WASHINGTON —  Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell isn’t shy about proclaiming the benefits of the stimulus bill passed a year ago. Of course, Rendell is a Democrat, and you would expect him to praise the legislation, which has been roundly denounced by Republicans as a budget-busting, porkbarrel-laden, government-expanding exercise in futility.

But California’s GOP governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has also praised the bill, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“I have been the first of the Republican governors to come out and to support the stimulus money. I say to myself, this is terrific, and anyone that says that it hasn’t created jobs, they should talk to the 150,000 people who have been getting jobs in California,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Give Schwarzenegger credit for his candor. Many Republicans have bashed the bill publicly while rushing to get part of the money for their states — or to take credit for the local programs …

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Why do Augusta nuke plants deserve taxpayer money?

UPDATE: As some of you have pointed out, the nuke plants are near Augusta. Thanks for the correction.

Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss were happy to claim credit for the Obama administration’s announcement that it was guaranteeing loans that would help build nuclear reactors on Georgia’s coast. But it’s an odd thing for the two Republicans, who usually argue that the government ought to stay out of private industry.

In fact, economists might argue that the huge government subsidies are little different from the bank bail-outs and bail-outs for the automotive industry.Liberals and conservatives have argued against the federal guarantees. From the WaPo:

Nuclear power plants “are simply not economically competitive now, and therefore they can’t be privately financed,” said Peter Bradford, an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School and a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “There are many cheaper ways to displace carbon, and there are many cheaper ways to provide …

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Isakson, Chambliss say ‘no’ to tax breaks for businesses

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Republicans could be counted on to vote for a bill that would give tax breaks to businesses. Not anymore. Not this Republican Party. Not the party-of-no, we-want-Obama-to-fail GOP.

Yesterday, the Senate broke a filibuster against a proposed jobs bill that would provide tax breaks to businesses that add workers to the payrolls. Only five Republicans voted to end the filibuster. (Georgia’s leading lights, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, were not among them.) That’s what counts as bi-partisanship in Washington these days. From the WaPo:

Aided by a handful of Republicans, Senate Democratic leaders on Monday kept alive a $15 billion job-creation measure and are poised to pass the measure later this week.

Five Republicans, including new Sen. Scott P. Brown (Mass.), joined 57 Democrats in voting to break a filibuster of the jobs bill, after a suspenseful buildup in which members of both parties wondered whether Senate Majority Leader …

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