Another Day, Another Snow Job

Yesterday some weather forecasters said we’d get snow while others said we wouldn’t. Of those calling for snow, one was correct. We got exactly as much as he said we would, and that’s why I pay attention to Glen Burns at WSB-TV. After 13 years of watching (and listening to) him, he’s right more often than anyone else.

 

I took the video fairly early in the day. We ended up with about 3 inches total here at our house, but at one point it was melting as quick as it was falling.

It was pretty to watch, but it was a heavy, wet snow and the kids didn’t find much interest in it. Amazing really, because we rarely get snow, so you would think they would want to be out there all day.

With all the snow falling outside, I couldn’t help but wonder if hell had frozen over. After reading the news today, I’m still not sure.

House Ways and Means Committee Charlie Rangel was on the verge of losing his gavel Tuesday night as a trickle of Democratic defections turned into a flood.

It wasn’t clear how Rangel would go – voluntarily, by force, temporarily or permanently – but the tide had clearly turned against him by the time he walked into a closed-door meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff Tuesday night.

“The dam broke today,” said a senior Democratic aide.

Charlie Rangel has been in the House of Representatives for 39 years. House members are elected every two years. That’s one election and 17 re-elections so far for those of you keeping track. By now, Mr. Rangel is pretty settled into his job as a career politician, but it looks like his days are finally numbered.

Sure, it’s only a leadership role, but a very influential one at that, so if hell is freezing over, I’m hoping his days as a Congressman could be coming to an end as well.

Another interesting development today was the sudden “switch” by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY).

For days now he has blocked a bill extending unemployment benefits, highway funding, and other government programs because the bill was unfunded.

Tonight, however, he switched his position because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promised him a vote on his amendment forcing the $10 billion bill to be offset by closing a tax loophole, as well as a chance to offer amendments on the next Senate jobs bill which will cost $150 billion.

Just moments after he agreed to Scary Harry’s terms, the extension bill passed 78 – 19 and his amendment failed with only 43 Senators voting for it.

So what did Bunning gain out of this? Nothing. Nothing at all. He folded under the pressure when he should have stood his ground. How much longer can we write checks with nothing to pay them with? Here’s Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) speaking on the Senate floor today before Sen. Bunning caved.

 

The one bright side was seeing which 19 GOP members voted against the measure. Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Bennett (UT), Bunning, Burr, Coburn, Corker, Cornyn, Crapo, DeMint, Ensign, Enzi, Gregg, Hatch, Johanns, McConnell, Risch, Sessions, and Thune all voted against a bill that will cost $10 billion with no money allocated to pay for it.

Even though he voted against the bill itself, by dropping his opposition to the bill Jim Bunning helped increase our national debt by $10 billion in just a matter of minutes. Thanks, Jim!

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Two Thousand Seventy Four Pages

Scary Harry Reid released the brand new Senate health care reform bill. I’ve added it to the source document list to the left, and I will begin reading it sometime tomorrow. According to early reports, the bill will cost $849 billion over 10 years, and will reduce the deficit by $127 billion over that same 10 years.

$127 billion dollars sounds like an awful lot, except it’s not. Not really. The federal deficit for October 2009 alone, was $176 billion. Think about it. The Senate version of health care reform will reduce the deficit by $1.058 billion per month for 10 years. If we have more months like October 2009, the deficit will still rise by more than $174 billion every month.

The next time you hear someone brag about this bill “reducing the deficit” just slap them in the face with the facts and watch the blood drain from their face.

The Senate health care bill is being introduced as an amendment, in the form of a substitution, for House Resolution 3590. HR 3590 had absolutely nothing to do with health care before this substitution.

Early reports indicate that this substitute HR3590 contains a 40% excise tax on health care plans which are in excess of $8,500, an additional 0.5% Medicare tax on wages in excess of $106,800, and additional fees for manufacturers of certain drugs and medical devices. The bill also raises taxes by $370 billion over 10 years, and it doesn’t stop there. The Senate health care reform bill allows for taxpayer-funded abortions through the public health insurance plan and the health insurance “exchange”.

In short, the Senate bill will raise premiums, raise taxes, and cut benefits. You can read the Congressional Budget Office score of the bill (PDF), for more information on the costs of this version of health care reform but remember one thing. The bill they scored for this report (HR 3590) will not be the same bill (therefore their score of the bill will no longer be valid) once it passes. It is sure to “evolve” before any final vote comes to the Senate floor.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I will begin my review of the substitute to HR3590 tomorrow evening. Until then, get reading. Don’t make me do it alone.

Anwering A Question From A Reader

I received a question via email today and I thought I would share my response in case other people may have had the same question, or one very similar. Pat asked,

“I was on a conference call with Michelle Bachmann. She stated that under the provisions of the health care bill, the payments from people would begin in 2010, but the benefits would not be seen until four years later, or 2013, is this true?”

The first time I read the health care bill I did so at a “quick review” type pace. The second time I read it, I analyzed it to point out all of the sections which would affect people the most. While I quoted many costs and amounts, I never really double checked the years of collection versus the years of implementation.

While analyzing Division A and doing a search for the years in question, I found a couple references.

Section 100 defines Y1 (or year 1) of the health benefits plan as 2013 which seems to support Michelle Bachmann’s claim that people would not see any benefits until 2013. People cannot benefit from a health benefits plan before 2013 if it is not implemented until 2013.

Further review of Division A shows that the small business employee health coverage credit which will be implemented right away, will be phased out beginning in 2013. President Obama and House leaders are quick to state that the health care bill will not affect most small business owners, but that is just not true. You can read more about this “phase out” of the credit in Division A, Subtitle B, Section 421.

There could be more hidden in Division A, but in the interest of just answering the question presented, I moved on to Division B to perform the same search.

Reporting requirements for the quality of outcomes for people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans are not required to be implemented until 2013, so any treatments or outcomes will not be subject to reporting until then. This is mentioned in Division B, section 1162.

Division B, Section 1703 also sets a deadline of 2013 for any benchmark benefit package. These packages must meet the minimum benefits and cost-sharing standards of a basic plan by this time.

Section 1802 of Division B sets the amount of funds to be transferred to the Trust Fund by year. $90 million in 2010, $100 million by 2011, and $110 million by 2012. These funds obiviously come from somewhere so, again, Michelle Bachmann was correct. We will be paying ($300 million in this section alone) beginning in 2010 while the health benefits plan will not go into effect until Y1, or 2013, as stated in Division A, Section 100.

Section 1802 also sets a “fair share per capita amount” beginning in 2013, which will be computed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for each fiscal year which is projected to be $375 million for the 2013 fiscal year alone.

According to this same section we will be paying another $26 million for the Comparative Effectiveness Research Commission from 2010 through 2012.

Section 1904 defines applicable percentages of expenditures, itemized by year for 2010-2014, and appropriates another $300 million for the implementation of that section before 2013.

Things get much more interesting in Division C, where Section 2002 defines the establishment of funds for the Public Health Investment Fund.

For fiscal years 2010 – 2012 a total of $17,100,000,000 (yes, that’s billion, not million) shall be directed into the fund from “general revenues of the Treasury”.

Section 2101 allocates an addition $5 billion in funding for community health centers. Section 2202 authorizes appropriations in the amount of $798 million for the National Health Service Corps. $758 million will be allocated for primary care and dentistry. All of these appropriation amounts are for the fiscal years 2010 – 2012, prior to the establishment of the Public Health Benefit Plan in Y1, or 2013 and Division C goes on to authorize and allocate a lot more money from the general fund of the Treasury.

So, Pat, I hope this post helped answer the questions you had following the conference call with Michelle Bachmann. It does appear we will be shoveling a lot of money towards all of the programs defined in the health care bill for three years before any public health benefit is implemented.