Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Published on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 by The Washington Post

Cutting Medicaid Means Cutting Care for the Poor, Sick and Elderly

by Ezra Klein

The part of Paul Ryan’s budget that’s going to get the most attention is his proposal to privatize and voucherize Medicare. But the part that worries me the most is his effort to slash Medicaid, with no real theory as to how to make up the cuts.

Ryan’s op-ed introducing his budget lists Medicaid under “welfare reform,” reflecting the widespread belief that Medicaid is a program for the poor. That belief is wrong, or at least incomplete. A full two-thirds of Medicaid’s spending goes to seniors and people with disabilities — even though seniors and the disabled are only a quarter of Medicaid’s members. Sharply cutting Medicaid means sharply cutting their benefits, as that’s where the bulk of Medicaid’s money goes. This is not just about the free health care given to some hypothetical class of undeserving and unemployed Medicaid queens.

But perhaps cutting it wouldn’t be so bad if there were a lot of waste in Medicaid. But there isn’t. Medicaid is cheap. Arguably too cheap. Its reimbursements are so low many doctors won’t accept Medicaid patients. Its costs grew less quickly than those of private insurance over the past decade, and at this point, a Medicaid plan is about 20 percent cheaper than an equivalent private-insurance plan. As it happens, I don’t think Medicaid is a great program, and I’d be perfectly happy to see it moved onto the exchanges once health-care reform is up and running. But the reason that’s unlikely to happen isn’t ideology. It’s money. Giving Medicaid members private insurance would cost many billions of dollars.

That’s why it’s well understood that converting Medicaid into block grants means cutting people off from using it, or limiting what they can use it for. You can see CBO director Doug Elmendorf say exactly the same thing here. There’s just not another way to cut costs in the program. You can, of course, work to cut costs outside of the program, either by helping people avoid becoming disabled or making it cheaper to treat patients once they become disabled or sick, but those sorts of health-system reforms are beyond the ambitions of Ryan’s budget.

To get around some of this, Ryan’s op-ed talks about state flexibility, with the implication being that states have some secret Medicaid policies they’ve been dying to try but that the federal government simply hasn’t let them attempt. But the truth is there’s been a tremendous amount of experimentation in Medicaid over recent decades. Indiana converted its Medicaid program into health savings accounts. Tennessee based its program around managed care. Massachusetts folded its Medicaid money into Mitt Romney’s health-care reforms. Oregon tried to rank treatments by value. Some of these reforms have worked well and some haven’t worked at all, but none have solved the basic problem that covering the sick and disabled costs money, and you can’t get around that by trying to redesign their insurance packages. For that reason, block-granting Medicaid ultimately means cutting health-care coverage to the poor, the elderly and the disabled, even as it doesn’t actually address the factors driving costs throughout the health-care system.

Our Environment is assaulted ... while we claim dominion over the earth from Colorado Springs

TEPCO Implementing Massive Discharge of Nuclear Waste into Open Ocean

Friends of the Earth calls on U.S. government to intervene

WASHINGTON - April 4 - Friends of the Earth warned today that plans by the Japanese utility TEPCO to dump some 11,500 tons of radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean pose substantial threats to people and the environment.

Given U.S. government involvement in efforts to control the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Friends of the Earth called on the Obama administration to intervene to stop this dumping of nuclear waste.

“Dumping this nuclear waste directly into the Pacific is dangerous and unacceptable,” said Damon Moglen, Director of the Climate and Energy Project at Friends of the Earth. “It’s incredible that while an international treaty forbids the dumping of even a barrel of this nuclear waste from a ship, Japan intends to send thousands of tons of that waste into the ocean. This dumping poses a direct threat to humans and the environment, and fisheries and industries depending on a clean Pacific could be devastated.”

Politicizing contradictions to common knowledge, men who claim to be of truth, here is their truth
your poor because you live wrong, don't pray the right way or enough, believe or disbelieve or disagree or want the truth and not a numbing addendum the wealthy must be wealthy because of they are blessed, preaching what government should not do for you for your tax money. Casting in our laws draconian idealizations formed in imagination, no considerations to facts of life we all live now, needing the social programs on the chopping blocks of the republicans.
Killing the Mentally Ill

The Religious Right's Anti-Union Crusade

| Mon Apr. 4, 2011 3:17 AM PDT

Wisconsin's ongoing labor battle has officially become a holy war. The Family Research Council, the evangelical advocacy organization founded by James Dobson, has been dipping into its war chest to defend Republican Governor Scott Walker's efforts to curtail collective bargaining for public-sector unions. FRC president Tony Perkins interviewed backers of Walker's anti-union bill on his weekly radio program and has tweeted his support for the bill, directly linking social conservatism with an anti-union, pro-business agenda: "Pro-family voters should celebrate WI victory b/c public & private sector union bosses have marched lock-step w/liberal social agenda."

The FRC's new political action committee, the Faith, Family, Freedom Fund, is airing ads on 34 Wisconsin radio stations in an effort to influence the April 5 judicial election that could ultimately decide the fate of the law. The ads target Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, who's running against a conservative incumbent, David Prosser, for a seat on the state Supreme Court. If elected, Kloppenburg would alter the balance on the court in favor of Democrats, giving them the ability to invalidate the recently enacted ban on public-employee collective bargaining. "Liberals see her as their best hope to advance their political agenda and strike down laws passed by a legislature and governor elected by the people," say the ads. "A vote for Prosser is a vote to keep politics out of the Supreme Court."

The FRC's anti-labor campaign in Wisconsin is part of its larger agenda to meld fiscal conservatism with its family-values message. Its recent priorities have included fighting health care reform, new taxes on the wealthy, and President Obama's budget proposals. In recent weeks, Perkins has used his radio show to hash through small-government talking points with House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Tea Party caucus head Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who told him, "The bigger government gets, the smaller God gets." After exploring the value of union busting with Republican state Representative Robin Vos of Wisconsin last month, Perkins expressed "our thanks to you, as conservatives across the country."

Perkins typically doesn't discuss the Biblical justifications for his ideas. (FRC did not return calls from Mother Jones.) However, some of the speakers at the "FRC University" online lecture series provide a clearer idea of the Biblical justifications for opposing limits on corporations and the wealthy. One recent speaker was Jay Richards, who edits a magazine published by the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank that the FRC describes as its "sister organization." His book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem, is a free-market treatise aimed at the faithful. In his talk he maintains that the sanctity of private property is the preeminent Christian value: "You might call it an idea being made in the image of God."

"You get these funny quotes about people saying, well, 'Jesus was the first socialist,'" Richards explained. "If you read the Bible, this idea of private property is everywhere presupposed. There is not a 'Thou shalt believe in private property' sort of verse anywhere, but it's so fundamental that it's presupposed in two of the Ten Commandments. 'Thou shalt not steal' assumes that people have property that is legitimate and that should not be taken."

Another recent FRC lecturer offered a related interpretation of the Bible's calls for social justice. "Christ does not necessarily condemn the rich per se," said Mark Caleb Smith, the director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University. But, he added, the good book does at times condemn the poor: "The Old Testament, especially in the Book of Proverbs, ascribes poverty to oppression, but also to other things like laziness, the love of sleep, the love of pleasure, the love of food, the love of wine. And so even Proverbs says, you know, sometimes you may be poor because of your behavior."

"Government-imposed social justice is unjust," Smith concluded, adding that Christians who support that notion are heretical and un-American. "For the Christian left, America is part of the problem. The American system of capitalism is part of the problem. They seek a fundamental reconstruction."

This strain of private-property-centric Christianity has deep roots within America's fundamentalist movement. For an excellent rundown of that history, check out Peter Montgomery's recent article in Religion Dispatches, "Jesus Hates Taxes." Among other things, Montgomery highlights an early Christian Coalition manual that interprets a New Testament passage in support of slavery to conclude that "Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers, since they are designated as part of God's plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man."

Of course, exegetical disputes with liberal Christians aren't the only reasons why FRC opposes labor unions. Not only do unions' economic principles put them at odds with evangelicals, so do their social values. A recent press release from Dobson's Focus On The Family, which was once conjoined with the FRC, complains that most political donations from labor unions go to Democrats and liberal social causes. "Over the past several election cycles, unions and their members contributed millions to fight against core American values—especially on issues of life, religious freedom and marriage." Still, explains a spokeswoman, "There are many good, hard-working Americans who are union members, but they would do well to consider whether union support of same-sex marriage and the taxpayer funding of abortion in government health care represents their interests."


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