Monday, April 23, 2012

Quick Hits - April 23, 2012

Trustees overseeing Medicare and Social Security released their annual financial reports today.

Both of these major government entitlement programs remain on the path to insolvency in the coming decades unless Congress and the President act to reform and modernize them.  This will make this issue an even larger political football in this Presidential election year.

Medicare is on a path to exhaust its surplus funds by 2024 - which is unchanged from last year's report.  Beyond demographics of an aging and longer living population placing stress on the system, the continued economic challenges and high employment levels are also limited the revenues that Medicare gains from taxation.
“Today’s report reminds us that Medicare must be reformed and strengthened or it will soon collapse,” Romney’s policy director, Lanhee Chen, said in a statement. “It also reminds us that President Obama continues to play shell games with the healthcare of our seniors, taking hundreds of billions from Medicare to spend on ObamaCare and now using a bogus experiment to conceal the damage until after the election.”

Administration officials like the Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, note that Obamacare's steps to 'reform' Medicare payments to Doctors - ie reducing Medicare reimbursements to Doctors, is generating savings that are helping the viability of the entitlement program.

The challenge with the HHS Secretary's statement is that the report from the trustee defines the program as unviable - that it will be effectively bankrupt in 2024 unless measures are taken (sooner rather than later) to address the fundamental problems with the program around both benefits, costs, and reimbursements to healthcare providers.

Yet, when Representative Paul Ryan, in the GOP Budget proposal for FY2013, laid out one possible path for the reform of Medicare to address this problem - the effort was immediately attacked and demonized by Democrats - with some like the vapid former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, even denying the fact that the program will exhaust its reserves in 2024 is a problem....
“Despite the repeated efforts of Republicans to privatize Social Security and end the Medicare guarantee, these vital initiatives remain strong,” she said. “Today’s trustees’ report affirms that Social Security and Medicare will continue to provide critical benefits to seniors and other Americans.”
Social Security will exhaust its 'reserves' in 2033 - 3 years earlier than last year's report as the gap between the program's revenues and payments continue to grow.  Revenues remain impacted by the third year of the President's temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction of 2% - which is the basis of the President's regular claim to 'have cut taxes for 95% of Americans' - and effects only working Americans providing them with an average $40 per month benefit.

Changes are needed in both of these programs.  Social Security was created as part of FDR's New Deal over 7 decades ago.  Medicare is one of the creation's of LBJ's 'Great Society' nearly a half century ago.  The demographics of this country has changed considerably - and both programs are also impacted by other changes in our society - including our becoming a far more litigious society.  

Kicking the can on both of these programs further down the road results in far more drastic and challenging steps that would need to be taken to address the program challenges than if we did these steps earlier.  Moving now also permits us the opportunity to provide the current recipients of these programs little or no changes while we adjust the program for those still under the age of 45 or 50.

In a related story, Government auditors are calling for an end to Obama's $8 billion plus Medicare bonus program...
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says in a report to be released Monday that the $8.3 billion the administration has earmarked for quality bonuses to Medicare Advantage insurance plans would postpone the pain of cuts to the plans under the new health care law. Most of the money would go to plans rated merely average.


The administration is defending the program, saying that without the bonuses many plans wouldn't have an incentive to improve quality.


But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says the GAO report suggests that the administration abused its authority, pumping money to the plans to avoid more criticism over unpopular cuts.

This is indicative of some of the fundamental challenges with the Obama Administration and its progressive supporters. While we are spending over $1.3 trillion more than we have this fiscal year, billions are being allocated towards those who have Medicare Advantage plans to delay or mask the real effect of the Administration's policies - and to reward 'average' solutions as an incentive to make them better?

Exactly where is that incentive if average plans get the benefit now?

This Administration is almost tying itself up with its efforts of doublespeak, hypocrisy, and other shenanigans to delay the appearances of their poor decisions and malfeasance which is driven purely by politics. As Victor Davis Hanson notes in his weekly column....
II. The Year 4
We are in the year four of our lord, when darkness was made light, the seas gently receded, and the planet cooled. In the space of 24 hours in January 2009 the world was turned upside down: massive deficits were no longer “unpatriotic”; 5% (heck, even 9%) unemployment was no longer to be seen as a “jobless recovery”; $4 plus gasoline no longer would become “intolerable.” Filibusters suddenly became ossified obstructionism. Recess appointments were now quite legitimate; lecturing the media about the myth of objective fairness was salutary. Pay-for-play time with the president was consulting; attacking the “unelected” courts was progressive. Voter fraud was not thugs eyeing polling monitors with clubs, but officials asking voters to present a picture ID—and mentioning any of these inconsistencies or writing about the Trostkyzation of American life was either racism or Palinism.


Around March 2008, the Ministry of Truth had issued new edicts about campaign financing, big Wall Street money, and the supposedly pernicious role of contributions: all bad if Bush trumped Kerry, all now good if Obama trumped McCain. So when Obama became the first candidate in the history of the law to renounce public campaign financing in order to shake down $1 billion, there was silence. The Left never really worried about Big Money, but only if more Big Money went to conservatives than to themselves. (Consider the current shameless money grubbing of Jon Corzine to raise cash for Obama after Corzine’s looting of thousands of individuals’ lifetime investments, or the shrillness over Mitt Romney’s supposed mansion in La Jolla juxtaposed to the prior silence about the Kerry mansions, the multiple Gore residences, or “John’s room,” as in the huge and crass Edwards estate.) What was interesting about Hilary Rosen was not her stupid thoughts on Ann Romney, but her cursus honorum that led to hired-gun riches by parlaying political contacts into commerce.

Or with the doublestandard around the current President / Messiah...


...and his predecessor...
III. Tongue-tied Presidents
We can play this Orwellian game with almost everything these days. Take presidential cosmopolitanism and the Bush-as-oaf trope. The disdain was not for an inept president, but rather a simple means to destroy an ideological opponent. Why again the cynicism? Because the Left cares little that Barack Obama has no clue where particular islands in the news are and cannot even do political correctness right when he wishes to ingratiate himself to his South American hosts by wanting to trill the “Maldives.” We have a president who can say Tal√™ban, drop the g’s in a black patois, and trill his Spanish words in front of Latin American hosts, but is off 8,000 miles in his geography.


Ditto “corpse-man,” the Austrian language, 57 states, and all the other parochialism and gaffes that remind us not only that it is hard being a president without making gaffes, but that it is especially hard as a conservative president when each gaffe is cited as proof of ignorance.
I continue to be amazed by the arrogance of the elitist progressives demonstrated towards 'middle America'.  They - the political class, academia, and the media class - seem to believe that 'middle America' is so caught up watching 'American Idol' and 'Glee' that they are not spending any time watching the double standards, the hypocrisy, the malfeasance, OccupyWallStreet, and the never ending push for 'War on....' which are doing little other than getting not only the GOP base excited about Mitt Romney - but reminding middle America that 'Hope and Change' of 2008 has morphed into today's condition.  This is a condition where reality clashes with 'Hope and Change', where 'fundamental change' has been enacted for 40 months and despite their desire to avoid it - accountability and responsibility is a burden that the left will have to assume as they did in 2010.

Which leads us to this must watch video that is becoming viral on the center-right blogosphere....

If I Wanted America To Fail....


On ABC New's Sunday program, This Week, Columnist George Will delivered a well timed riposte to ABC Contributor and Democrat strategist Donna Brazile highlighting the double standard that the left often tries to run around the Obama Presidency...


DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, you put forward a proposal and you say, look, I'm trying to lower gas prices. I've come up with a proposal that will end all of this speculation, that will put more feds to ensure that people are not driving up the gas prices because of capital investments.


The truth is, is that the president can't control gas prices. I come from a petroleum-producing state, and we can drill all day, we can pump all day, and, by the way, it's two-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and I'm still worried about marine life in the gulf.


But the fact is, is that this is out of his control, but he has to show the American people that he's doing everything possible to manage gas prices.


GEORGE WILL: But there's something about our obsession with the imperial presidency -- it's true in both parties -- that says nothing's out of our control. After all, Mr. Obama, the night he clinched the nomination, said this will be the moment when the rise of the seas stop. Well, if he can stop the seas from rising, why can't he bring down gas prices?

Does this make you feel any better?

President Obama's White House legal team has cleared the White House staff of any wrong doing in the Cartagena, Columbia prostitution scandal which continues to hammer the Secret Service. Are you more assured with this being disclosed by WH Press flack Jay Carney?

Perhaps not - since Jay Carney also stressed today when asked about the latest GOP efforts to force President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to bring Canadian oil to the US market said that construction of the pipeline from Canada to the US would 'sacrifice American sovereignty'.

Stunning. Just stunning.

The far right candidate, Marine Le Pen's strong 3rd place finish in yesterday's French Presidential election appears to have elevated Le Pen to the position of 'kingmaker' when it comes to the run-off election on May 6th.  With virtually all of the extreme left's Jean Luc-Melenchon's supporters lining up to support the winner of yesterday's vote, Francois Hollande, current French President Nicolas Sarkozy is going to need the bulk of the nearly 20% of Le Pen supporters if he is to gain reelection.

Le Pen's key platforms were based on immigration and security concerns - and Sarkozy will need to move to the right if he wants to gain their support - lessening his own focus on the Eurocrisis and France's stagnating economy.

Hollande is embracing an Obama-like message for the French people - promising to address France's economic challenges not via austerity measure and encouraging the private sector - but with more government expansion, higher taxes (on the wealthy, he claims), and a return to the 'good ole days' of 35 hour maximum work weeks and expanded goverment.

This Day in History

1564 - William Shakespeare is believed to have been born on this day.

1616 - William Shakespeare died on this day.

1969 - Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, is sentenced to death for the crime.  In 1972, the sentence was commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty.

1975 - At a speech at Tulane University, President Gerald Ford announced that the Vietnam War was finished as far as America is concerned.  This was the formal announcement to South Vietnam that the US would not be honoring its promises and commitments to that nation.  South Vietnam was on its own with North Vietnamese army units closing in on Saigon.

2005 - The first video was uploaded to YouTube.com

2009 - Apple's iTunes Music Store reached 1 billion applications downloaded

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