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Member since: Thu May 7, 2009, 11:59 PM
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Republican Medicare plan would be a gamble

Source: LA Times

WASHINGTON — While Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan are campaigning on a promise to "preserve and protect" Medicare, their proposal to revamp the popular government health insurance program would be the plan's biggest gamble since it was created nearly half a century ago.

The members of the Republican presidential ticket argue that giving seniors vouchers to shop for a private insurance plan would spark competition among health insurers, holding down costs and ensuring the long-term viability of Medicare.

But several previous experiments with privatizing Medicare insurance coverage have ended up raising costs to taxpayers. And on the other side, there is little evidence that moving millions of elderly and disabled patients into commercial health plans will protect their coverage or tame the nation's skyrocketing healthcare tab.

"Doubling down on private insurers is a risky proposition," said University of North Carolina health policy professor Jonathan Oberlander, a leading Medicare historian. "Medicare has lost money on private plans for a long time."

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-na-medicare-20120819,0,7076443.story

This is a nice, though relatively rare article, that actually addesses the substances of Romney/Ryan's attacks and their proposed plans to turn Medicare into a voucher system in order to "save it" in a classic we needed to burn the village down in order to save it strategy. The article has a nice graphic illustrating the impact of Romney/Ryan's plan:


Finally, the article notes that by restoring the spending that was cut, Romney and Ryan would open a large deficit in Medicare, pushing the program's main trust fund into the red in just four years, rather than 12 under Obama's plan.

CU professor calls “BS” on Romney’s 13 percent tax rate claim

Source: Fox Denver

“What Romney’s saying is technically true, but it’s misleading,” Victor Fleischer told FOX31 Denver. “The reason it’s misleading is because it’s 13 percent of what?

“Of his taxable income, that may be true. But you can have a lot of economic income that isn’t taxable and Romney has shown himself to be quite sophisticated in keeping his taxable income low even as his economic income remains high.

“He’s got interests in a lot of different investment stocks, and he can basically choose when he wants to recognize income from those funds. So he can use capital losses to offset capital gains and keep his taxable income low.”

* * *

“When you have a wide portfolio of investments, you can have a good year, but still not have a lot of taxable income, as long as you sell some losers as well as some winners,” Fleischer explained to FOX31 Denver. “That appears to be what Romney did in 2009, paid tax on whatever income he had, but it doesn’t mean he paid a lot.”

Read more: http://kdvr.com/2012/08/16/romney-on-taxes-ive-paid-at-least-13-percent/

I think this may explain why the Obama campaign has dared the Romney campaign to just produce three more years of returns even though five years of return is still far below the norm for a Presidential candidate. Romney may say he paid a 13 percent tax rate, but he is not saying that is his effective tax rate. Also, if he claimed a lot of losses, he might only be paying a tax rate on a nominal amount of reported income, thus rendering his effective tax rate close to zero.

The interesting thing about this story is that it appears on a Fox affiliate station in Colorado.

Kaiser Health News - "Can GOP Deliver On Its Promise To Preserve Traditional Medicare?"

Here is an excellent article that explains how even Ryan's second Medicare plan that offers to promises to preserve traditional "Medicare" as an option actually hastens its demise.


The Romney and Ryan-Wyden plans would replace the current guaranteed benefits with a subsidy, paired with a minimum set of benefits. Federal spending would be capped, with beneficiaries expected to be on the hook for additional expenses – exactly how much is unclear since neither Romney, nor Ryan and Wyden have provided many details.

* * *

Under the Ryan-Wyden proposal, all plans, including traditional Medicare, would submit bids for how much they would charge to cover a beneficiary's health care costs. The government would pay the full premium for the private plan with the second lowest bid, or for traditional Medicare, whichever is lower. Beneficiaries would have to pay the difference if they chose a plan that set rates higher.

Uwe Reinhardt, a health care economist at Princeton University, predicts that traditional Medicare would likely cut payments to medical providers to avoid higher premiums, driving many of them out of the program. "More doctors and hospitals would have the ability to say they are not taking Medicare patients, as they do with Medicaid," he said. "If the bulk of the elderly are in the private plans, and only the rump are in fee-for-service, it's easy to make that a poverty program."

Traditional Medicare could also be at a disadvantage if it is left with the sickest enrollees -- a scenario that is already playing out, Gruber said. Today, three-quarters of Medicare beneficiaries are in that program, and a quarter are in private Medicare Advantage plans -- mostly HMOs and PPOs. Those plans have enrolled the healthiest seniors since the mid-1990s, using inducements such as subsidized gym memberships, according to an April report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

NY Times Editorial - "In Thrall to Sheldon Adelson"

Very good read that just underscores how the Republican ticket is brazenly selling out Americans for ultra rich.


Three days after Paul Ryan became the presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate, he made a pilgrimage on Tuesday to the Las Vegas gambling palace of Sheldon Adelson, the casino tycoon who is spending more than any other donor to try to send Mr. Ryan and Mitt Romney to the White House. No reporters were allowed, perhaps because the campaign didn’t want them asking uncomfortable questions about the multiple federal investigations into the company behind Mr. Adelson’s wealth.

Those questions, though, aren’t going away, and neither are the ones about the judgment of Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan in drawing ever closer to a man whose business background should lead them to back away — fast. By not repudiating Mr. Adelson’s vow to spend as much as $100 million on their behalf, the two candidates seem more eager to keep the “super PAC” dollars flowing than to preserve the integrity of their campaign.

The issues swirling about Mr. Adelson’s business practices are not new and can hardly come as a surprise to the Romney campaign. Last year, his company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, announced that it was under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — specifically, that it bribed Chinese officials for help in expanding its casino empire in Macau. Later, the F.B.I. became involved, and even Chinese regulators looked askance at the company’s conduct, fining it $1.6 million for violating foreign exchange rules, The Times reported on Monday.

Hidden Truth - Obama Is Outraising Romney, But Not Romney, RNC, Adelson AND Koch

The media has been happily pushing the narrative of Mitt Romney as this amazing fundraiser with the Romney campaign embracing this idea and claiming that the money is reflective of people flocking to Romney's "cause." Yet, the hidden truth behind the numbers is that President Obama's campaign committee is actually outraising Romney's campaign committee by a significant amount!

However, rather than report this, the media combines the funds raised by each campaign committee along with various other fundraising devices that Romney has utilized to enable to rich contributors to circumvent limits on the amounts that any one person can contribute directly to candidate. Worse, some reports also throw in the amounts that are contributed by SuperPACS such as those controlled by Sheldeon Adelson and the Koch Brothers.

So, the truth is that President Obama is actually raising money at a rate similar to his record setting 2008 campaign. Indeed, President's Obama has raised significantly million more in July 2012 than July 2008. Yet, there is a real gap because Romney is being carried by SuperPACs and rich donors who are utilizing various tricks to circumvent the limits on direct contributions to Romney's campaign committee.


Recent media reports have said that Romney has caught up with the president in fundraising, but they involve a slightly different comparison -- between all the political committees raising money for each presidential candidate. In Romney's case, that means also counting checks to the Republican National Committee and a joint fundraising vehicle, Romney Victory, that will send millions of dollars to a host of state-level party committees. Romney's official campaign committee has never beaten Obama's in fundraising for any period of time in the 2012 election cycle.

Both campaigns combine their own fundraising with the amounts raised by their respective party committee and joint fundraising vehicles in their press releases announcing monthly totals. This gives the impression of much larger war chests than the official campaign committees actually have.

It is true that, for all intents and purposes, money sent to the Republican and Democratic national committees will be spent to elect their respective nominees. And Romney and the RNC are currently outraising Obama's team. This was noted in a Tuesday email from Obama to his supporters: "Over the past two months, we have been outraised by our opponents." In a Monday email solicitation, Vice President Joe Biden raised the same worry in stark terms: "If we don't win this election, it will be because we didn't close the spending gap when we could."

But federal rules that limit how the parties can spend their money, particularly on television ads, force the candidate committees to raise huge sums for themselves.

This article also touches on how Obama's campaign committe is actually out-raising Romney, but Romney is relying on various tricks and loopholes to draw more money from corporations and the wealthy.


In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama raked in $750 million, shattering fundraising records and earning a reputation as the single best fundraiser in the history of American politics.

Now, Obama faces the very real prospect that he will be outraised (and outspent) in this election by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

So how does Romney’s fundraising to date stack up with that of Obama during his 2008 campaign? We break it down after the jump.

* * *
Obama the candidate has continued to outraise Romney the candidate this cycle. (Check out this great Paul Blumenthal analysis.) But when you add in affiliated committees, Romney is opening up a sizable lead.

WaPo - "How super PACs are saving Mitt Romney" - Welcome to Life After Citizens United

This election may be seen in future generations as a turning point when democracy essentially was undermined by the power of corporations and the wealthy to buy elections. So what if 10,000 people contribute $200 each to President Obama's campaign when Sheldon Adelson contributes $20 million to a pro-Romney Superpac in June 2012 alone. Unless we manage to erase Citizens United, this could very well mark the year that we begin to rapidly move toward a corporate facist government headed by Romney as he blatantly pushes for tax cuts and benefits to the very rich while cutting needed benefits to 99 percent of Americans.


Republican-aligned super PACs and other outside conservative groups have spent more than $144 million on general election ads in swing presidential states, a huge outlay of cash that has allowed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to not only combat but exceed heavy early ad spending by President Obama.

Roughly 80 percent of all ad spending by Republicans on the general election has come from these super PACs, as Romney has expended a relatively meager $35 million to date on ads in swing states, according to ad buy figures provided to the Fix by a GOP media buyer.

* * *

Republican outside groups have spent seven times as much as their Democratic counterparts on ads so far in the general election. In fact, the two-pronged American Crossroads (a super PAC) and Crossroads GPS (a 501c4) have spent in excess of $94 million on TV ads — approximately five times as much as Democratic super PACs have spent combined. And that $94 million is roughly two and a half times more than Romney himself has spent on ads in the general election to date.

* * *

What that raft of numbers make clear is that Republican super PACs and other outside groups have effectively kept Romney afloat as he recovered — financially and otherwise — from a costly Republican primary campaign.

BainGate and Romney's Repeated Vows To Repeal Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations

Romney says he wants to talk about the economy, rather than Bain. Well, why not both?

Romney has repeatedly vowed to repeal Dodd-Frank, which was adopted by Congress in the aftermath of the financial meltdown. Now, Romney, the former CEO of financial firm Bain, wants to repeal Dodd-Frank and has collected millions from the financial sector due to this promise. Shouldn't we ask about Romney cozy's ties with the financial sector, including his own company, Bain Capital? Shouldn't we look into Romney's tax returns to see how he would personally benefit as a result of his proposals to repeal Dodd-Frank and lower tax rates for the richest one percent?


New Wall Street Scandal Threatens Romney
A surprising development on Wall Street Thursday could magnify a little-discussed but key difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney — one with enormous consequences for public policy.

On a conference call with analysts, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon announced that his firm had lost $2 billion investing in the same species of derivative that exacerbated the 2008 financial crisis.

Dimon claims the company is prepared to absorb the loss, but it puts the reputation of one of the only big firms to weather the 2008 financial crisis directly on the line.

This is exactly the type of major loss of depositor money that the Obama administration sought to ban with one of the major planks of its 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law — the Volcker Rule, named after former Fed chairman Paul Volcker. And that’s bad news for Romney, who wants to repeal the whole law, Volcker Rule and all.


Mitt Romney says he wants to talk about the economy in this presidential campaign, including his call to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s $2 billion trading loss in risky transactions isn’t the sort of conversation he had in mind.

So far, presumptive Republican nominee Romney has said little about the transaction that is roiling Wall Street and Washington, prompting an inquiry by the Federal Reserve, a call for a congressional investigation and a demand by Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts, that JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon resign from the board of the New York Federal Reserve.
“Any time you have a development that suggests businesses take unnecessary and unwise risks, you give ammunition to Democrats and cause problems for the Republican narrative,” said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “Romney will have to deal with it.”

Romney, co-founder of private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC, has spotlighted his vow to repeal the Dodd-Frank law that aims to strengthen financial regulations, calling it one of several overly burdensome laws backed by President Barack Obama that costs jobs. Romney hasn’t directly commented on the JP Morgan losses since Dimon disclosed them on May 10; he ignored a reporter’s shouted question about the matter at a May 11 rally in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Romney is mum on how to regulate big banks
Republican Mitt Romney is pledging to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, a promise that is helping him reap millions from Wall Street contributors. But the presidential candidate is silent on how, without Dodd-Frank’s new rules, he would prevent the nation’s investment houses and bankers from once again engaging in the sorts of risky, poorly regulated practices that caused the 2008 financial crisis. It is a notable gap in the platform of a candidate who is running on his business acumen and who, at every turn, sharply criticizes President Obama’s handling of the post-meltdown economy.

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