How They Pay for It: Breaking Promises of the Obama Campaign

House Democrats are preparing to break President Obama’s campaign promises as a way to pay for his healthcare plan.

According to The Associated Press, Ways and Means Committee Democrats are contemplating the following tax increase:

• Increasing the price of soda and other sugary drinks by 10 cents a can.
• Applying a potential 2 percent income tax increase to single taxpayers earning more than $200,000 a year and households earning more than $250,000.
• A new employer payroll tax could target 3 percent of employers' healthcare expenditures.
• Taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits above certain levels — a less likely option but one that still is in the running.

Presidential Pooch or Public Health Plan?

Today the White House formally released its official photo of the president's Portuguese puppy. Over two previous days we learned about the president's ability to swat a fly. Before that we heard about the president's date nights. Do the phrases "overexposed" and "cult of personality" ring a bell?

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that credit cardholders are in expanded revolt against rip-offs after passage of the credit card bill, The New York Times reports that small business is being crushed by rate increases on credit cards, healthcare is bogged down, lobbyists are in full attack, Democrats hold a big fundraiser sneaking lobbyists in through the backdoor and liberals worry (correctly) that the president might retreat (again), this time on the public health plan.

Healthcare Proposal a Travesty

Ezra Klein, in The Washington Post, details the proposed cutbacks in the healthcare reform bill that have been made in committee to reduce its cost. The result is that the package has gone from bloated to fraudulent. It no longer covers the uninsured.

Under the new plan, everybody would have to buy health insurance but subsidies would only be available to families making less than three times the poverty level. That's about $50,000 or so for a typical household (depending on how many children). So what does this bill mean for families making, say, $60,000? It would mean no subsidies but a requirement that they spend about $4,000 or so a year on health insurance. It’s essentially an extra tax.

No Health Reform by August

Say what you will about President Obama and his team, but they are an aggressive lot. In the midst of an economic crisis the likes of which the country hasn’t faced since the Great Depression, coupled with a brewing international pot of nastiness in North Korea, Iran and Russia (yes, Russia — just you wait), still the Obama White House pushes on. Even after borrowing 50 cents for every dollar it’s foolishly and recklessly pumping back into untold programs with unknown benefits, still the Obama White House pushes on.

Why Healthcare Reform is Job No. 1

This should be a win-win. Everyone agrees that our healthcare system is broken — it costs too much, it delivers too little to too few and it is gobbling up obscene amounts of our gross national product.

Each year we spend over $2 trillion, nearly 50 percent more per person than the next most costly nation. Right now, over 46 million Americans have been uninsured for at least a year and flood our emergency rooms for costly care. But the more amazing figure is that 87 million Americans were uninsured for at least a month over the past two years. The number of Americans who don’t go to doctors, who don’t engage in preventive care, who fail to heed the warnings of obesity, heart disease and curable cancer is a national tragedy.

Sen. Mark Warner: Enhancing Healthcare Choices for Seniors

Another step toward healthcare reform — proposed new legislation from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.):

The Senior Navigation and Planning Act of 2009 will:

* enhance Medicare and Medicaid coverage of advanced illness care management services;

* require doctors to provide patients with information on living wills and other planning tools;

* give providers incentives to achieve accreditation and certification in hospice and palliative care;
* encourage more comprehensive discharge planning; and

* increase public awareness about the importance of end-of-life planning.

And Baucus is the Moderate One

Roll Call, the Capitol Hill rag, reported yesterday about a meeting that the staff of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) held with health industry representatives and lobbyists, where they were basically told that if they met with a couple of Republicans senators, they would be crushed in the healthcare negotiations process.

To quote:

Russell Sullivan, the top staffer on Finance, and Jon Selib, Baucus’ chief of staff, met with a bloc of more than 20 contract lobbyists, including several former Baucus aides.

“They said, ‘Republicans are having this meeting and you need to let all of your clients know if they have someone there, that will be viewed as a hostile act,’ ” said a Democratic lobbyist who attended the meeting.
“Going to the Republican meeting will say, ‘I’m interested in working with Republicans to stop healthcare reform,’ ” the lobbyist added.

Republican leaders have been meeting with healthcare stakeholders for months, with those sessions occurring “more frequently than once a month,” according to a senior Senate GOP aide.

The stated purpose of Thursday's meeting, organized by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), is to discuss proposals for how to pay for healthcare reform.

In other words, if you exercise your constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech and you exercise your legal right to do your job, and you talk to Republicans, you will be punished harshly.

And Baucus is the moderate one.

You have to wonder what kind of threats are being made by Pete Stark, Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy’s people.

It is interesting to note that the Baucus folks are most concerned about a Republican meeting about how to pay for this multitrillion-dollar entitlement that we simply cannot afford at this time. Cleary, the Montana senator doesn’t have the answer to that critical question yet, and he might be afraid that the best answer is the most obvious. Don’t do a public plan at all.

When Republicans put together the Medicare reform bill several years ago, they were criticized for not inviting Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to a couple of meetings with House and Senate negotiators. Rangel was dead set against the bill, and was disruptive in other meetings, which is why they cut him out.

But Republicans never went to the lengths that Senate Democrats seem to be going with these threats.

It shows how the pressure is really getting to the Democrats and to the Baucus staff in particular.

To the credit of the Senate Finance Committee chairman, he said he didn’t know anything about the meeting or about the threats, and I believe that is true. But I also know that Sullivan has been around long enough to know what impact his words have, and he was making those threats to send a message to K Street.

Those threats, though, are starting to look more like desperation than anything else. The AMA is walking away from negotiations, as is the Chamber, and possibly the NFIB.

The public option is starting to look like the weakest option. Cost is the reason. They can’t raise taxes enough to pay for it, they can’t cut spending to pay for it, and they can’t just put it on the credit card. The credit card is already maxed out.

But the double standard still needs to be mentioned. Had Republicans threatened Democratic lobbyists to this extent, it would have hit the front page of every major newspaper, provided for constant chatter on every cable channel, and Brian Williams (the president’s favorite correspondent) would have done a two-hour special on it.

Alas, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Still isn’t fair, though.


Tweety 3-P

Sometimes they have all the right ingredients: By that I mean news stories that combine Twitter's vacuity, with parochial political pandering (known as a "3-P") and media desperate for news on a slow day.

I refer, of course, to the short outbursts from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who used Twitter to dump on the first family for having the audacity to vacation somewhere "over there": "Pres Obama," he Tweeted, "You got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us‘time to deliver’ on healthcare. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND.”

Scant Agreement on Healthcare

Healthcare reform bills are going to start coming out from behind their respective curtains in the days and weeks to come, and the issue will consume the entire summer here in Washington. If two bills pass the House and Senate before Congress begins its August recess — which is currently the plan — we will be able to say we have witnessed a miracle.

How the Democrats plan to pull this off is beyond me and most other Congress-watchers who have witnessed the gridlock and legislative grinding halt that most major initiatives encounter in the marbled halls of the Capitol. President Obama's aggressive push for passing something this year is admirable and likely the only hope healthcare has of becoming a reality at all during his presidency, but what we're seeing nearly halfway through June isn't encouraging.

Here Comes Healthcare Rationing

By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

The photo-op was too good to be true. Healthcare providers trooped out of the White House and trumpeted their goal of saving $1.7 trillion in costs over the next decade in health spending. Now these drug companies, hospitals, insurance companies, medical device manufacturers, labor unions and doctors have laid out their plans in more detail.