Raising the Medicare Age is a Baaaaaaad Idea

From the Incidental Economist, Aaron Carroll, a great healthcare info cite.  The CBO checked into that federal spending savings we’d get if we raised the Medicare eligibility age to 67, um, no. 

Phasing this in starting in 2016 could save $19 billion over the next 8 years. That’s less than $3 billion a year. That’s… insane.

Why isn’t it more? Well, once again, the more people you kick of Medicare, the more you get on Medicaid. That increases federal expenditures. More people will also need exchange insurance, too, which means more people needing subsidies. That will also increase federal expenditures. These expenditures reduce the savings to the federal government from the $63.5 billion it would have cost to cover the 65 and 66 year olds to only $23 billion in savings.

1. Many people who are sicker get on Medicare earlier than 65, and so those costs for ages 65 and 66 would be passed on to Medicaid or the states so that cuts into the savings.

2. Some 65 and 66 year olds continue to get insurance from employers, they only use Medicare as a supplementary, so again, less savings than you think.

3. We end up paying for these people one way or another. Medicare is the most efficient way to do so.

The amazing thing is this almost happened in 2011, as Paul Krugman reminds us.

We should be lowering the Medicare age. Hell we should lower it to zero and give it to everybody, but let’s start with 55.

When the RWNJs say that Obamacare is the slippery slope to single payer I say “Amen brother!”

The real reason 500,000 people died in Iraq

Howard Zinn wrote about it. Rachel Maddow’s “Drift” too. Go back to Mandelstam’s “The Best and the Brightest” about Vietnam. War isn’t just hell, it’s usually completely avoidable hell being prosecuted for no good goddam reason.

A senior official from former President George W. Bush’s administration is quoted in “Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House” saying American troops went into Iraq because the U.S. was looking for a fight.

“The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy,” the anonymous official said, according to Politico.

Go through the list of American military involvements and the sad reality is that most, and some would say all, were about projecting strength, protecting business interests, or just the plain, cynical, political advantage one gets from flag waving. Especially when the flags end up on coffins.

Killing mass numbers of people, just to prove that you can, is morally unconscionable. But does it even work? After nearly seven decades of post World War II butt-kickery, U.S. respect and support — and arguably power and influence — are at or near record lows. The nations that are on the rise are the ones that have invested less in producing weapons of mass butt-kickery and more in “soft” things like education and bridges that don’t collapse.

Exactly.

Prisoners of Profit – The Tragedy of Private Youth Prisons

One of the surest symptoms of a society gone mad is the story of how we’ve privatized our prisons making incarceration an industry with a profit motive. Please read this harrowing expose from the Huffington Post.

“It’s everything that’s wrong with politics rolled up in a package,” said Evan Jenne, a former Florida state representative who toured one of YSI’s youth facilities after local public defenders raised concerns. “You’re talking about society failing children. It’s politically motivated, and it’s money-motivated.”

Shut Down & ACA Website Fiasco – The Nail in the Coffin of Reaganism

In conversation with my puzzled and disappointed Austrian friends, they asked how the U.S. had come to this sorry state of affairs with a faction of know-nothing, anti-government (apparently anti-business as well, they really are confused) extremist wackos forcing a government shut down and near default. The answer is the unfortunate legacy of Reagan who announced that “government is the problem”.

As Ian Reifowitz pointed out in Daily Kos “Barack Obama made clear that the shutdown and the threat of a national default flowed directly from Reaganism, that the tea party republicans are no fringe element, but rather represent the core values of today’s Republican Party.”

After forcing the government shut down (or as the Orwellian mind fuckers at Fox News referred to it, the “slim down”), the GOP celebrated its own “accomplishment” (while simultaneously trying to blame it on the President), but then went running to the microphones as people realized that things they needed government to do weren’t getting done.

The spectacle of Congressmen who just shut the government down then yelling about the consequences of what THEY DID had to have been the laugh highlight of the fiasco. Their screaming at park rangers over the closure of veterans memorials or donning lab coats to talk about the National Institutes of Health (whose funding they are always threatening even in good times) has only been topped by the more subtle post closure story of their full dudgeon carping about the failures of the Obamacare website.

In their race to defend their anti-government dogma of “see? government doesn’t work” they once again prove the opposite point. The ACA website is also government and their complaining about it not working well illustrates that WE NEED GOVERNMENT TO MAKE THINGS TO WORK FOR US. Just like with their entire argument to repeal Obamacare, but offering no replacement for it to help those without healthcare coverage, they are giddy to criticize the failures of the federal government website (as opposed to the states that wisely chose to handle it themselves and are not having trouble) but it’s all just pointless politically motivated complaining with no solutions offered. The ACA is an effort to help people whereas their simplistic drivel HELPS NOBODY.

Barack Obama, Octobber 17, 2013

In fact, one of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important.  It matters.  I think the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people’s lives.

We hear all the time about how government is the problem.  Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways.  Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries.  It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe.  It helps folks rebuild after a storm.  It conserves our natural resources.  It finances startups.  It helps to sell our products overseas.  It provides security to our diplomats abroad.

So let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse.

Government is only the problem when it’s perverted into a great make work program for politicos who funnel tax dollars away from services for the American people towards their crony contractor contributors and K Street lobbyist golf partners – which is the real legacy of Reagan, Gingrich, DeLay, Boehner, Bush, Cheney, etc.: making government work for you, but nobody else.

P.S. – In a matter of weeks or months the website will get fixed, but the GOP will still be stupid.

P.S.S. – 20 years from now, nobody will remember the website issues, but they will remember they got healthcare.

P.S.S.S –  Lost in all this is the fact that the website was put together by a Canadian private contractor that probably shouldn’t have gotten the contract. There’s plenty of failure here, but the GOP answer is to do nothing and let the market handle it, no answer at all.

More sane billionaires is nice

William D. Cohan in Bloomberg profiles Tom Steyer. Who? Steyer was a Goldman Sachs arbitrager who formed his own hedge fund Farillon Capital Management and made a fortune that he is now using to educate people about climate change and stop the XL Pipeline. The hedge fund billionaire is tightly aligned with activist college professor Bill McKibbon of 350.org.

Both Steyer and McKibben agreed that, while their effort to convince President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone pipeline had made some progress, they have reason to worry that the fossil-fuel industry will win in the end. “You can predict with unerring accuracy how a congressperson will vote, depending on how much money” he or she takes from the industry, McKibben said

While the Kochs and Adelsons go whole hog pushing pro business candidates and shadowy think tanks and artificial turf organizations, the handful of lefty billionaires tend to spend their money more on individual pet projects and passions, not so much ideological endeavors or trying to tilt the playing field for their businesses.

They also tend to run for office themselves because they can actually stand up for an agenda in the light of day. The Kochs, Adelsons and company are less telegenic to be sure, but also stand for values that are more successfully pushed from the dark shadows of the edges of politics for the simple reason that few people would agree with their agenda, if they were upfront about it. 

How Others See Us

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The highlight of my weekend was getting a chance to spend some time with friends from Europe. Suzanne lives in Vienna, Austria and first came to America as an exchange student in the early 80s. She’s travelled extensively and visited America a number of times. She brought her daughter Jasmin, a 21 year old law student, with her on this trip. Jasmin also has been to America before. She loves everything Disney and has great admiration for the American dream, and the bigger is better spirit of America. Each of them in lively conversation mentioned how much they admire America. Each used the phrase “the American dream” and said that America represents exciting things to them. Through television they’re very familiar with all things America and have been for years. But on this trip, this time, they came away with some very mixed feelings about the U.S.

Their overall feelings now about America can be summed up as disappointment.

They followed the government shutdown and the to do about the debt ceiling with the trepidation of bystanders to a slow motion car crash, wondering if the out of control car would hit them. They saw the daily news about us possibly defaulting and wondered what the hell we were doing here and who was in charge. Besides disappointment there was a bit of anger over the fact that, economically speaking, if America sneezes countries like Austria get a cold, and here we were deliberately inhaling pepper. It was baffling to them how Americans could have put people in charge who would be so irresponsible.

I tried to explain how the Tea Party achieved its place as monkey wrench in the gears of government through the low turn out election in 2010. Their shock at how few Americans vote was palpable. Almost as bad as their shock in seeing so many homeless on the streets, especially veterans. These things don’t happen in Austria they said.

Jasmin happily noted that as a law student at a very fine Viennese university her tuition is zero. Zero. She had also just had a nasty fall down the stairs in her home before the trip and just averted a broken arm. Her trip to the emergency room cost her zero, as does all health care in Austria. They are covered under the national plan. But Suzanne also has a private policy so she can go to doctors outside of the national system if she wants to. That policy costs her €250 a month or about 10%-25% of what a similar private health insurance policy for her and Jasmin would run in the U.S. Healthcare conversations made them animated. They could not understand how we do not have a similar system, or anybody’s opposition to such.

In our political discussions of just how the U.S. got to where it is today they were particularly puzzled by the lack of participation in the system and by our paucity of political parties. The idea of only having essentially two political parties that dominate everything, everywhere is mind boggling to Austrians who might have as many as 7 or 8 parties vying for parliament seats. There’s no getting by saying they’re all the same when the candidates run the spectrum from really far right nationalists (that scared them) to (actual real life) far left communists and everything in between (well, actually everyone in the middle are socialists, its just that some are more pro-business and others are more pro-worker).

Both of these well educated, well travelled, and I might say very elegant ladies had always thought about getting out of small, homogenous Austria. They had imagined life in America might be very exciting. But they both said that they really had to give thanks for living in Austria, a country that may not be as exciting, but really took care of its citizens.

I surely wish I could have offered a more spirited defense of my country, but all I could do was shrug and tell them that many of us were working to make “the American dream” real again. The Austrians certainly wish us well in that effort and wish to look up to us again.

The Christie Phenomenon in Action

Crooks and Liars has the story of how the Newark Star-Ledger calls The Luckiest Man in America (aka Chris Christie) “fraudulent” and “hostile to low-income families.” But then turns around and endorses him.

Do you ever wonder why Governor Chris Christie has a good chance at the presidency in 2016, even though he’s been a miserable failure for New Jersey? Then read this endorsement from the Star-Ledger’s editorial board for Governor.

They endorsed him, even though he’s refused to speak to them for four years running–while Buono did a full interview. They call him a failure with a big, fat ego who is more about spin than the truth. Oh, I guess their most important criteria is that he plays a mean game of town hall.

The endorsement is indeed the model of the kind of lack of self-awareness that usually attends a rationalized acquiescence to seduction. The highlights:

Gov. Chris Christie is the most remarkable political talent America has seen since Bill Clinton…..

Balance that against his measurable failures, and you have to conclude he is much better at politics than he is at governing.

  • The property tax burden has grown sharply on his watch.
  • He is hostile to low-income families, raising their tax burden and sabotaging efforts to build affordable housing. He’s been a catastrophe on the environment, draining $1 billion from clean energy funds and calling a cease-fire in the state’s fight against climate change.
  • The governor’s claim to have fixed the state’s budget is fraudulent.
  • New Jersey’s credit rating has dropped during his term, reflecting Wall Street’s judgment that he has dug the hole even deeper.

Yeah, my boyfriend is kind of an asshole, I know. But he’s not a bad guy.  Bob Braun has the answer to the Ledger.

What is extraordinary about  today’s Star-Ledger editorial endorsing Chris Christie  is that it invites readers to follow an immoral—or, at least, amoral—path: To vote for a man its anonymous author points out is “hostile to low income families” by raising their taxes and “sabotaging”  affordable housing. The writer asks us to vote for a man who is a “catastrophe” for the environment and “fraudulent”  in his budget. The newspaper concedes he is destroying our independent judiciary.  New Jersey’s largest daily further asks us to embrace someone who is at least borderline corrupt because he made sure a friend won a no-bid state contract.

While I was gone – the gays can marry in NJ

Well, well, The Luckiest Man in America (aka Chris Christie) is going to drop his court challenge to the court rulings in favor of gay marriage now in light of the 7-0 ruling last Friday that indicated the court was not going to view his obstruction of gay marriage favorably. Thusly, gay people are marrying in the Garden State. While I would almost certainly not enjoy attending their weddings anymore than all the straight ones I’ve suffered through, I am glad they now also have the right to be silly for a day. About time.

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Senator Elect Cory Booker officiates at the first gay marriage in NJ just after midnight October 21, 2013.

Back in Town, so much to say

Really wanted to do some on the road blogging while attending the ceremonial joining of two people in matrimony but found it took all my energy just to experience it all. The writing it down part had to wait.

Let me just start with how remarkably perfect a long drive in the northeastern part of this country was this last weekend. I believe we must have reached peak leaf color explosion and there were some spectacular post card quality vistas along the ride. Wow! Just Wow! Gorgeous!

This is my favorite time of year even when my American football team loses (which is often). When they win and the government isn’t shut down and my 401(k) isn’t tanking, well, life can be good.

I am not a wedding person. This seems dramatic I know, but I don’t believe I have ever had a good time at a wedding. Whereas ironically, I have enjoyed a good funeral once or twice. Yes, even I had to laugh at writing that. No offense to the people whose weddings I have attended – It’s just not my thing. My wedding, I am told was really enjoyable and people had a great time. I didn’t (except for the sex part where Mrs. Polislice and I ducked away from the party to have sex during the reception – that was pretty good, I recommend that). 

In fact, I was prompted by all of it to turn to my wife and ask her, “why did we get married?” Neither one of us was particularly marriage obsessed. I’ve often stated that I don’t believe in it. (Official position: marriage licenses should be renewable like drivers licenses. You get 4 years and then you have to mutually decide to renew, or not. No taking that marriage for granted anymore!) After all these years since our marriage I’m really not remembering why we didn’t just continue to live together and have kids and whatever, without a huge party with clergy (ugh!).  

And I am strictly speaking of the reception/party – the drinking dancing part that most normal people would think of as a fun time. I’m not even talking about the solemn religious ceremonial situations that are always full of what I, as an atheist, think of as tiresome claptrap. The pious blatherings of invoking the Bible as we consecrate the joining of two individuals so they can get a good tax deduction next January is galling. God is surely smiling on these people and Jesus will bless them with children (again, sneak away and have sex. That has more chance of success in these areas than praying).

I normally quite enjoy opportunities to drink and dance, one of those to excess, maybe both. Reunions, the odd bar mitzvah I can enjoy. Weddings? Nope. I wish the married couple all the best and I celebrate their happiness, ’cause that’s what it’s all about. But there’s something about all the hoop-de-do surrounding the wedding that just depresses me.

Could it be the over 50% divorce rate? The ridiculous amount of money spent and silly traditions adhered to? The amount of expectation and emotion invested in one day that just… has… to… be… perfect? Yeah, maybe that’s it.

Anyway, much interesting to report. Will do so soon.

Houston, We Recognize a Problem Too Goddamn Late

The Houston Chronicle now regrets endorsing Ted Cruz.

But hold on because the Op-Ed is a brilliant piece of head-explodingly silly burying of the lede.

They begin by saying how much they miss the former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, “her advocacy for NASA”… “extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary”… blah blah blah. Here’s the money shot:

One reason we particularly believe that Hutchison would make a difference in these hectic days is that if she had kept her seat, Cruz would not be in the Senate.

When we endorsed Ted Cruz in last November’s general election, we did so with many reservations and at least one specific recommendation – that he follow Hutchison’s example in his conduct as a senator.  (emphasis mine)

Get that? We miss Hutchison because Cruz is sooo not Hutchison and WE ENDORSED HIM!

Let’s be clear, Ted Cruz has always been a fire breathing asshat radical. I do not call him a conservative because there’s nothing conservative about him. He wants to destroy everything the U.S. has done from Teddy Roosevelt forward.

If you voted for Ted Cruz, or endorsed him, you can’t reasonably say he is disappointing you, he’s doing what he said he would – throwing a monkey wrench into government to roll back the 20th century.

So you can suck it Houston Chronicle, just like the people who voted for GWB twice and now disown him.

Just like the people who do not vote in off year elections and are then surprised that their votes for Obama in 2008 and 2012 were offset by the election of 2010 that they sat out.

Like the false equivalence squad in the media that has to balance everything out – if the right is crazy, well then the left must also be.  Nevermind that they can’t come up with a single politician or act by anyone on the left even remotely analog to the everyday nuttiness of the Tea Party.

And the centrists, oh the centrists. Often the same as the false equivalencers, these people vote for divided government. Ds and Rs work best in in balance – not getting much done.  Because what do we have to accomplish in America, since we’re so perfect?  Right? They’re completely oblivious to the idea that a gridlocked government is exactly what the radical anti-government side wants – it’s not balanced at all, it’s inert!

Another annoying aspect of the centrists that makes me say “suck it centrists” is their congenital need to confirm the rightness of their own wishy-washiness by spouting data that says most Americans are like them – centrists, they disagree with the far right and the far left (which doesn’t exist). It’s a centrist country, maybe center-right. Oh really?

So when they poll Americans, what do they actually say about social issues? What do they believe about the role of government? What do they want from the country? Literally on just about every issue the American public predominantly agrees with the Democrats on the issues.

I heard famed centrist Michael Smerconish today interviewing a pollster that was touting a poll that amazingly enough found that people were centrist. How do we know they’re centrist? They disagreed with the Republican view on almost everything. So why weren’t they Democrats? Well they disagreed with the Democrats on affirmative action. So there you go, not Democrats. They disagreed with the Republicans on taxes, abortion, immigration, social security, healthcare, etc., but disagreed with the Democrats on 1 thing so centrists.

Michael Smerconish can suck it!