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Friday, July 31, 2009

Dems win approval of health bill in committee


Dems win approval of health bill in committee

WASHINGTON – In a triumph for President Barack Obama, Democrats narrowly pushed sweeping health care legislation through a key congressional committee Friday night and cleared the way for a September showdown in the House.

The 31-28 vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, alongparty lines, was weeks later than either the White House orDemocratic leaders had hoped.

As part of a last-minute series of changes, the committee agreed to cap increases in the cost of insurance sold under the bill, and also to give the federal government authority to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices under Medicare.

The new provisions were part of an intensive effort Democrats made in recent days to satisfy the conflicting demands of liberals and conservatives on the panel, unity necessary to overcome a solid wall of Republican opposition.

"We have agreed we need to pull together," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the committee chairman who presided over hours of private negotiations and public committee meetings. Five Democrats opposed the bill.

The measure is designed to extend health insurance to millions who now lack it, at the same time it strives to slow the growth in medical costs nationwide — Obama's twin goals.

While the pace of action was slower than party leaders had hoped, it was speedier by far than the timetable in the Senate.

There, Democrats said a deadline of Sept. 15 had been imposed on marathon talks aimed at producing a bipartisan compromise. Several officials said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., had informed fellow senators he intends to convene his Finance Committee to begin voting by then.

Without a bipartisan bill, Baucus would presumably have to produce a measure tailored to Democratic specifications, a step he has said repeatedly he would rather avoid. It wasn't clear how much the deadline was Baucus' idea, and how much it reflected growing impatience at the White House and on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The Energy and Commerce Committee was the third of three House panels to act on the legislation, a measure that numerous lawmakers note would rearrange one-sixth of the nation's economy. A vote in the full House is expected in September, after lawmakers return from a monthlong vacation.

In the run-up to final approval, the panel handed the drug industry a victory, voting 47-11 to grant 12 years of market protection to high-tech drugs used to combat cancer, Parkinson's and other deadly diseases. The decision was a setback for the White House, which had hoped to give patients faster access to generic versions of costly biotech medicines like the blockbuster cancer drug Avastin.

Democrats also turned back a Republican bid to strip out a provision allowing the government to sell insurance in competition with private industry. The vote was 31-28, reflecting the shaky majority Democrats had on a 59-member committee they nominally controlled with 36 members.

The Democrats who opposed the final bill were Reps. John Barrow of Georgia; Rick Boucher of Virginia; Jim Matheson of Utah; Charlie Melancon of Louisiana and Bart Stupak of Michigan.

Under the bill, insurance companies would be required to sell coverage to all seeking it, without exclusions forpre-existing medical conditions. The federal government would provide subsidies for lower-income families to help them afford policies that would otherwise be out of their reach.

The bills would set up so-called exchanges, in effect national marketplaces where consumers both with and without subsidies could evaluate different policies and choose the one they wanted.

The main expansion of coverage would not come until 2013 — after the next presidential election.

Even so, the political stakes are enormous for Obama and the Democrats as they strive to pass legislation that has proven elusive for years. Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to the approach they chose, and outside groups on both sides of the issue arranged a heavy dose of television advertising over August.

"Let me assure you: There will be a health care reform bill passed and it will make a big difference in the lives of the American people," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview.

But the House Republican Leader, John Boehner of Ohio, countered that "Democrats are in for a long, hot summer once they return to their congressional districts, where Americans are lining up in opposition to a government takeover of health care. "

On a vote that crossed party lines, abortion opponents failed in an attempt to bar insurance plans that offer abortion services from accepting customers with government subsidies. The vote was 31-27.

On Thursday night, the panel agreed on a provision saying the government could neither require nor prohibit abortion services in insurance plans sold in the exchange.

Waxman's announcement of a series of last-minute changes capped a tumultuous period that began more than two weeks ago when conservative and moderate Democrats on the panel sought changes.

Needing their votes, Waxman began negotiations that grew to include Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. An agreement at midweek excluded more businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and reduced subsidies for lower-income uninsured.

It also swiftly triggered a counter-revolt among liberals, who demanded the subsidies be restored in full.

The final deal accommodated them without sacrificing the concessions made earlier to the conservatives, and included numerous other provisions.

Insurance plans sold in the exchange would need government approval before increasing premiums by more than one and half times medical inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that medical prices rose at an annual rate of 3.6 percent annually for the three months ending in June.

The provision giving the federal government the right to negotiate for better drug prices under Medicare has long been a goal of Democrats who say it could lower costs for seniors. Critics argue that is unlikely unless Congress also limits the drugs than can be sold, thereby giving the government the ability to play one company off against another.

That has long been viewed as politically unfeasible under Medicare, because it would limit the choice that seniors now enjoy.

But including restrictions in the government health insurance option would place it in line with Medicaid, the government program for the poor, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs and many private plans that limit drug choice.


Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

Rationalizing Racial Oppression

How the Right Distorts Crime Data to Justify Unequal Policing

Rationalizing Racial Oppression

Weekend Edition July 31 - August 2, 2009


It is understandable that honest and decent people may disagree about the circumstances surrounding the arrest last week of Henry Louis Gates Jr. in Cambridge. For some, Gates was to blame for what happened. He became belligerent with Sgt James Crowley, and thus precipitated his arrest on charges of disorderly conduct. Others point out that being belligerent to an officer does not meet the legal definition of the charge in question, according to the state's own written statute, and multiple court opinions, and to some, they suggest--as have I--that Crowley, though no overt racist, may have responded to Gates's anger in a way he would not have had Gates been white.

But however much honest people can disagree, some seem intent on using the incident--and President Obama's claim that the police acted "stupidly" in arresting Gates (a true statement, given the actual wording of the law, which Gates clearly did not violate)--to make the ultimate racist argument. And by that, I mean the kind of argument that can serve to justify widespread mistreatment of African American peoples, and is used by overt racists to justify their own hatreds, fears and contempt for black folks: namely, that since blacks have higher crime rates than whites, unequal treatment at the hands of cops is simply something to which black individuals--no matter their own criminality--will simply have to get used to.

This past week, the National Review online--the web version of a magazine started by pro-segregationist conservatives like William F. Buckley--ran two such columns: one by syndicated columnist, Mona Charen, and the other by Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute. According to Charen, while Obama's claim that blacks and Latinos have historically been subjected to unfair treatment at the hands of law enforcement is "not quite" a fact, she claims that to whatever extent it has happened occasionally, we must remember, "Blacks and Hispanics also commit a disproportionately high percentage of crimes." MacDonald goes ever further, trotting out statistics that she feels demonstrate the inherent fairness of police, given widespread black lawbreaking.

First, MacDonald notes, when it comes to racial profiling, it isn't happening. This she claims because, according to data from 2005, as reported by motorists themselves in a large national survey, virtually identical proportions of white, black, and Hispanic drivers report being stopped by the police. In other words, there can be no profiling unless blacks are being stopped at a higher rate than whites. But this claim is disingenuous on two levels. First, because it ignores the fact that according to the same report MacDonald cites, and those going back several years, police are much more likely--on the order of 2-3 times as likely--to physically search blacks, once stopped, than they are to search whites. And this is true, even though blacks, when searched, are less likely to actually have drugs or other contraband on them than whites are. Indeed, as for drugs, data show that usage rates are roughly equal between whites and blacks: in some years whites have slightly higher rates of usage, thus possession, while in other years, blacks have slightly higher rates (1). In any case, there is no logical reason for police to assume blacks are significantly more likely, if at all more likely, to have such items on them, given the evidence, and yet they apparently do.

Secondly, the fact that blacks and whites are stopped in roughly the same percentages by law enforcement, though it may seem to indicate parity of treatment, actually doesn't, for one very important reason: namely, because African Americans, on average, drive 2200 fewer miles per year, per capita, than whites. In other words, whites, collectively have millions more hours and miles on the road and thus, opportunities to be stopped than blacks (2). Thus, given the greater opportunity for whites to be stopped, and the lesser opportunity for blacks to be stopped, the fact that the two groups are stopped at the same rate--especially given the evidence that there is no substantial difference in driving behavior or moving violations which could justify the disparity (3)--suggests a substantial amount of unfair and unequal treatment meted out to black folks.

MacDonald then insists that whatever over-policing blacks may experience in urban areas is justified by black crime rates. In fact, she argues, if anything blacks are being under-policed, relative to their crime rates. To wit she claims:

"In the first three months of 2009, 52 percent of all people stopped for questioning by the police in New York City were black, though blacks are just 24 percent of the population. But according to the victims of and witnesses to crime, blacks commit about 68 percent of all violent crime in the city. Blacks commit 82 percent of all shootings and 72 percent of all robberies..."

Yet here too, MacDonald's argument is a textbook example of intellectual dishonesty. Let's examine why.

If New York police are stopping blacks and questioning them less often than violent crime data would seem to justify, why might this be? After all, there must be an explanation, right? So let's think about the possibilities. I can imagine only three. Here they are:

1. The NYPD are so stupid and inept at law enforcement that they go and question white folks, even after witnesses and victims make it quite clear that they were victimized by black people. I'm guessing MacDonald doesn't want to suggest this, and it seems pretty unlikely.

2. Police really want to question black people when told by victims and witnesses that it's black people doing most of the crime, but because of political correctness, or perhaps the fear of Al Sharpton, they set aside their professional responsibilities and duties and just go out and question whites anyway. Given MacDonald's respect for cops, I can't imagine she would like this one much either.

Which leaves us with only one other possibility, and it's one that completely eviscerates her bogus statistical inference above, Namely:

3. The violent crime rates are, and indeed violent crime itself is, totally unrelated to stop, frisk and question data. In other words, police are not investigating those serious crimes--the ones that blacks commit so disproportionately--by doing random stops and questionings. Thus, the fact that blacks are so much more likely to commit those kinds of crimes has no bearing on the stop data. The stops must be for other things--drug possession for instance--not for trying to solve already committed violent acts. Think about it: how likely is it that police would use random stops and questioning as a method for uncovering the identity of last night's convenience store hold up man? In those cases, they are going to have more precise information to go on. So if blacks are being stopped less than their rates of offending would "justify" this must be because the stops are for other crimes, while for crimes like robbery or shootings, police are using much more detailed methods than just stopping people on the street and asking them questions. The relevant question then, is merely this: are police stops of blacks proportionate, relative to things like drug or gun possession in New York—the kinds of crimes for which they are most likely being stopped in the first place?

Apparently the answer to this question is a clear and resounding, no. For instance, according to a study from just a few years ago, cops in New York stop and frisk blacks at a rate that is almost five times as high as for whites. Even when you factor in the generally higher black crime rates in New York, and the racial demographics of the neighborhoods where the stops were made (since, after all, blacks should be expected to be most of the people stopped in black neighborhoods), the study found that blacks were still being stopped twice as often as random chance would have predicted, relative to whites. And the blacks who get stopped are considerably less likely than the whites they stop to actually have committed a crime. For every 4.6 stops of whites, police are able to make an arrest, while they have to stop 7.3 blacks before finding evidence of criminality (4). What does this suggest? Nothing to Heather MacDonald, apparently, but to honest people it says this: police are more likely, on the basis of unjustifiable suspicion, to stop blacks than whites, and they are uniquely bad at predicting black criminality.

MacDonald then says that since "black males between the ages of 18 and 24 commit homicide at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined," it only stands to reason that blacks will suffer disproportionate stoppage rates. But this too doesn't follow: homicide is, statistically speaking, among the rarest of violent crimes, and hardly can be used to justify overall policing practices. The fact that blacks commit the offense at a much higher rate than whites (overall the rate differential is about 7:1), may sound scary, but with perhaps 7000 homicides committed by blacks each year, nationwide, and even if we assumed each murderer killed only one person (thus there would be about 7000 unique black murderers annually), this would still only represent about two-one-hundredths of one percent of the black population over the age of 12 (and thus eligible for consideration in crime data). How can such a small percentage of the black population be the basis for widespread over-policing, stops, searches and harassment? Not to mention, police do not investigate murder by simply stopping people randomly and frisking them in the hopes that they will stumble upon the perps. In homicide cases, they tend to narrow their searches considerably, meaning that the number of stops and searches that were part of homicide investigations (and therefore perhaps justified by disproportionate homicide rates among blacks) would, by necessity, be so low as to hardly budge the overall numbers suggesting over-policing of African Americans.

There are, of course, other problems inherent to Charen and MacDonald's argument. Among them, to suggest that higher black crime rates justify unequal policing is to say that black people do not have the right, moral or legal, to be treated as individuals. Rather, we are obligated to view them all as potential criminals because of the actions of others in their community. Thus, no black person can complain about their encounters with cops, so long as other blacks are thuggin.' This is essentially what Charen claimed a decade ago, when Amadou Diallo was murdered by members of the NYPD Street Crimes Unit. Though Diallo had been unarmed and had posed no threat to the officers, Charen claimed that he had ultimately died "for the sins" of his black brethren in New York, who because of their crime rates, cause cops to operate on a hair trigger. That such arguments violate the supposedly deep-seated conservative principles of individualism and personal responsibility matters not, it seems to those who would make these kinds of arguments. That such a position could be used to justify virtually any depredation against black people--the suspension of due process rights, draconian curfews imposed only in their communities, preventative detention of random black males, perhaps even forced sterilization of black women--apparently gives the Charens and MacDonalds of the world no moment for pause.

But I doubt they would actually like where the underlying logic of their position leads. Indeed, if we are to use data to justify disparate treatment of this kind, we would need to go further than Charen or MacDonald would likely approve. For instance, whites have much higher rates, in all years, of drunk driving (5): so by the logic of Charen and MacDonald, police should put all their roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints in the suburbs and white rural areas, in order to catch the folks most likely to be guilty of a DWI. Likewise, whites have rates of child sexual molestation almost twice as high as the rates for blacks, according to the available data (6), so perhaps these two will soon call for rational discrimination against whites seeking to adopt? Or what about the corporate misconduct in which whites seem clearly to predominate? Will conservatives now call for affirmative action as a form of crime control in corporate America? After all, white men are demonstrating their ineptitude and even criminality repeatedly at the highest levels. Of course, they will do none of these things.

It is one thing, in the end, to argue that Henry Louis Gates was in the wrong, or to defend Sgt. James Crowley from charges of racism. It is another thing altogether to do what these two reactionary writers have done: to smear blacks as a group and to say, in effect, that they can be treated however we choose to treat them, all because of the actions of about 3% of African Americans who will commit some kind of violent crime in a given year.

And still, people like Charen and MacDonald wonder why black folks disrespect law enforcement, never stopping to think that such disrespect is the natural result of the very over-policing that the right seeks to rationalize and to which they would give license.

Tim Wise is the author of: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (Soft Skull Press, 2005), Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White (Routledge: 2005) and "Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama." He can be reached at:timjwise@mac.com.


(1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Various Years, 1999-2008, Results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, previously called Summary of Findings from the National Household Survey on Drug Use (Office of Applied Studies, Rockville, MD).

(2) Raphael, S. and M.A. Stoll. (2001). "Can Boosting Minority Car Ownership Rates Narrow Inter-racial Employment Gaps?" in W.G. Gale and J. Rothenberg Pack, eds. The Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs, vol. 2. Washington DC: The Brookings Institution, 99-145.

(3) Harris, David. (2002). Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Can't Work. NY: New Press.

(4) Fagan, J. and G. Davies. (2000). "Street Stops and Broken Windows: Terry, Race and Disorder in New York City," Fordham Urban Law Journal, 28, 457.

(5) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2002). National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 50, no. 5, feb 12, also, CDC, 2002, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, "Unintentional Injuries/Violence, 2001, United States," Youth 2001 Online).

(6) Snyder, Howard N. and Melissa Sickmund. 1999. Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report. National Center for Juvenile Justice. September.

Rove admits being ‘conduit’ for voter fraud allegations

raw story

Published: July 31, 2009
Updated 8 hours ago

In a just-released interview conducted earlier this month with the New York Times and the Washington Post, former White House adviser Karl Rove appeared to be attempting to portray his involvement in the December 2006 firing of several US Attorneys as merely “peripheral” and not tied to any particular agenda.

The Times even headlined its story, “Rove Says His Role in Prosecutor Firings Was Small.”

However, all three of the US Attorney firings in which Rove has now admitted playing some role are linked by the common theme of allegations of voter fraud and by connections to a GOP front group known as the American Center for Voting Rights, which was formed in early 2005 to press the voter fraud issue. This suggests that Rove’s relationship to those three firings may not be as casual as he now claims.

The David Iglesias firing

“Yes, I was a recipient of complaints, and I passed them on to the counsel’s office to be passed onto Justice,” Rove told the Post, in reference to voter fraud complains which he had received from New Mexico. Rove further noted that the complaints “had the sound of authenticity to me. If what I’m told is accurate, it’s really troublesome.”

According to the Post, the complaints which Rove described himself as having merely passed on to the office of White House Counsel Harriet Miers began in 2005, when “then-Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), his chief of staff, Steve Bell, and GOP lawyers in the state lobbied aggressively to oust the prosecutor.”

However, testimony and analysis from the spring and summer of 2007, when the US Attorney scandal was first breaking, indicate a far deeper involvement on Rove’s part than merely transmitting the complaints of others. That June, for example, Rep. John Conyers wrote:

“The evidence gathered so far also shows significant White House involvement — including by Mr. Rove — in the decision to dismiss David Iglesias as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. We have learned from the testimony of the Attorney General and Mr. Sampson that Mr. Rove directly complained to the Attorney General about concerns that prosecutors were not aggressively pursuing voter fraud cases in districts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. One of these districts was that of Mr. Iglesias, who was added after that complaint to the list of U.S. Attorneys to be replaced.”

The role of Patrick Rogers

What may be a point of even greater interest, however, is that among those “GOP lawyers” mentioned so casually by the Post was “a well-connected Republican lawyer in Albuquerque” named Patrick Rogers. Rogers had invited Iglesias to a lunch meeting some weeks before the 2006 elections at which he raised the issue of voter fraud — as he had been doing periodically since 2004.

“I had a bad feeling about that lunch,” Iglesias told the Los Angeles Times the following spring, saying that he had replied to Rogers by saying that he had reviewed over a hundred complaints on the voter fraud issue without finding any that justified criminal charges.

“Unbeknownst to Iglesias,” the LATimes added, “a few months before that lunch, Rogers and another Republican attorney from New Mexico, Mickey Barnett, had complained about Iglesias at the Justice Department in Washington. The session was arranged with the assistance of the department’s then-White House liaison, Monica M. Goodling, and an aide to White House political strategist Karl Rove, according to e-mails released recently by congressional investigators. One of those they met with was Matthew Friedrich, a senior counselor to Gonzales. Friedrich would meet again with Rogers and Barnett in New Mexico, where, he told congressional investigators, the pair complained about Iglesias. They made it clear ‘that they did not want him to be the U.S. attorney.’”

This May 2007 LA Times story was quickly picked up by emptywheel at The Next Hurrah, who pointed out that Rogers’ name had also come up elsewhere, as someone who had both pressed for Iglesias to be fired and been suggested by Senator Domenici as a possible replacement.

The McClatchy Newspapers added more to the story a few weeks later, writing of Rogers that “a New Mexico lawyer who pressed to oust U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was an officer of a nonprofit group that aided Republican candidates in 2006 by pushing for tougher voter identification laws.”

According to McClatchy, Iglesias had described Rogers as “obsessed” with voter fraud but added that “he only recently learned of Rogers’ involvement as secretary of the non-profit American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund — an activist group that defended tighter voter identification requirements in court against charges that they were designed to hamper voting by poor minorities.”

“That strategy,” the McClatchy article explained, “which presidential adviser Karl Rove alluded to in an April 2006 speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, sought to scrutinize voter registration records, win passage of tougher ID laws and challenge the legitimacy of voters considered likely to vote Democratic.”

The clear implication of the article is that Iglesias was first pressured and then ousted as US Attorney as part of a concerted “voter fraud” strategy, intended to disenfranchise minorities, in which Karl Rove was a conscious participant.

Jim Dyke and Tim Griffin

The American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) was created in early 2005 as a supposedly independent organization dedicated to clean elections. One of its founders, however, was Jim Dyke, who had been communications director at the Republican National Committee in 2003-04. Dyke had claimed shortly before the 2004 election that the Democrats were attempting to facilitate “vote fraud,” and he resigned just a few weeks later in order to set up ACVR.

In 2003-04, Dyke’s second-in-command was the RNC deputy communications director, Tim Griffin, who worked with Dyke on stories to discredit Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and was also involved in the “caging” of minority voters.

In February 2004, Griffin was briefly considered a leading candidate to be named as a US Attorney in Arkansas, but he turned the offer down to continue working on the presidential campaign. After the election, however, Rove renewed the push for his appointment. In the newly-published interview, Rove told the New York Times, “I was totally for Tim Griffin. He’s a very smart and bright rising star.”

According to the Times, “Mr. Rove said he was unequivocal in expressing his desire for Timothy Griffin to be named as a top federal prosecutor in western Arkansas, but said he did so believing that H.E. Cummins, then the sitting United States attorney, was weighing a decision to step aside.”

The Post adds that “in a Feb. 11, 2005, e-mail, Rove wrote to deputy Sara Taylor: ‘Give him options. Keep pushing for Justice and let him decide. I want him on the team.’” And in a Feb. 24 email cited by the Times, Rove ordered Taylor, “Hire him.”

Cummins did not, in fact, oblige by stepping aside. Griffin instead joined the White House staff in April 2005 as a special assistant to the president, and by September 2005, he had become an assistant to Karl Rove. That was around the same time that his former boss, Jim Dyke, briefly worked in the White House to help promote the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers.

Not until December 2006 would Griffin receive his appointment as US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, following the abrupt firing of Cummins.

Thor Hearne and Missouri “voter fraud” allegations

Missouri is the third state where Rove has now acknowledged direct involvement in the replacement of a US Attorney, in that case, as noted by the Post, “Todd Graves, who had clashed with one of Rove’s former clients.”

Despite the Post’s seeming certainty as to the cause, there appear to be multiple theories as to the reason for for Graves’ firing, which occurred in March 2006, nine months before that of the other attorneys.

According to one version, it came at the request of staffers for Missouri Senator Kit Bond. Graves himself, however, told Talking Points Memo in 2007 that he he had been fired because “he refused to sign a letter outlining a civil case against the state of Missouri for failing to purge its voter rolls.”‘

Both of those explanations could be true. A 2007 story at Salon notes that Bond had a long-standing involvement in the “voter fraud” issue.

“In Missouri, Republicans have been accusing Democrats of fraud since the 2000 election,” Salon wrote. “That election was a controversial one in Missouri — polls remained open past the official closing time in St. Louis, a city dominated by African-American Democrats. This infuriated Republicans, especially Sen. Kit Bond, who delivered a podium-pounding denunciation of alleged voter fraud at the Missouri GOP’s victory party on election night. Bond later spearheaded calls for an investigation, pushing Republican lawyers to put together a dossier of allegations that was then delivered to the outgoing, Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.”

As it happens, the co-founder of ACVR was a GOP lawyer named Mark F. “Thor” Hearne, who had been national counsel to the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. Prior to that, Hearne had a long history of raising voter fraud allegations in his home state of Missouri, going back to 2000, when he represented the Bush campaign in a lawsuit involving the poll-closing dispute noted by Salon.

Missouri continued to be a particular target of voter fraud allegations by Dyke and Hearne’s ACVR. According to the same 2007 McClatchy story cited earlier:

“One target of the American Center was the liberal-leaning voter registration group called Project Vote, a GOP nemesis that registered 1.5 million voters in 2004 and 2006. The center trumpeted allegations that Project Vote’s main contractor, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), submitted phony registration forms to boost Democratic voting. In a controversial move, the interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City announced indictments against four ACORN workers five days before the 2006 election, despite the fact that Justice Department policy discourages such action close to an election.”

That interim US attorney in Kansas City was Bradley Schlozman, formerly the acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, who had been appointed the previous March after the firing of Todd Graves.

Schlozman gave up the US Attorney position just a few months later, in April 2007, to work at the Justice Department office that oversees all the US Attorneys. He soon become embroiled in the growing scandal, however, and was forced to resign in August, just two weeks before Rove himself left the White House..

Schlozman’s extreme politicization of the Civil Rights Division came under intense scrutiny at that time. According to Talking Points Memo, “Former employees say that, in tandem with Hans von Spakovsky, Schlozman gutted the voting rights division’s efforts to protect African-American voters and made sure that the group did not oppose voter ID laws. The two also punished lawyers and other employees who did not toe the line.”

Last winter, the US Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia — which at that time was still headed by Bush appointee Jeffrey A. Taylor, who had himself played a role in the US Attorney scandal — formally declined to prosecute Schlozman for perjury stemming from his denial during Senate testimony that he had politicized the Civil Rights Division. It was recently reported, however, that Attorney General Eric Holder is reconsidering the possibility of bringing charges.

Pay for Health Care Reform by Eliminating Insurance Industry Overhead


What's The Real Cost Of Health Care?

We can cover all Americans for less than one percent of GDP. The question is can we afford to do nothing? And I would argue absolutely not. Because if we don't start changing our health care system, we're gonna spend way more than that in excess cost over time.

by Deborah Franklin


"Trillion-dollar-price-tag" is misleading, some say /istockphoto.com

Words matter. As Congress tries to hammer out a deal to overhaul health care, the phrase of the day is "price tag." Most estimates put the cost of the plans under consideration at more than a trillion dollars.

But as NPR's Congressional Correspondent David Welna points out, it's important for reporters writing about the plans to put all those zeros in perspective. He writes:

These are estimates that cover a ten-year period. Better to say "the cost of the plan is a trillion dollars over the next ten years" than "the plan would cost a trillion dollars", which many people (I've asked) assume is the annual price tag of a healthcare revamping.
Averaged out over a decade, a trillion dollar healthcare scheme costs $100 billion a year. That's about a 4% increase over what's currently being spent on healthcare annually, whereas $1 trillion would be a 40% increase.

(Read past the jump for other ways to think of that cost)

NPR's Julie Rovner says Len Nichols, an economist with the New America Foundation, made the same point to her recently. Nichols puts the price tag at $1.6 trillion over ten years.

That's .8 percent of GDP over those 10 years. We can cover all Americans for less than one percent of GDP. The question is can we afford to do nothing? And I would argue absolutely not. Because if we don't start changing our health care system, we're gonna spend way more than that in excess cost over time.

Of course, not everyone finds comfort in that context.

John Goodman, an economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, oft described as the "father of health savings accounts,"said this in his a blog post yesterday:

When all is said and done, the cost is still going to be about $1.5 trillion. The only real question is: Who is going to pay that cost?

Words matter.

So, what do you think?

What *is* the best way to frame how much these plans will cost?

    Blue Dogs Very Cozy with Health Care Industry and it Pays Well

    Published on Friday, July 31, 2009 by The Washington Post

    Blue Dogs Receive More Health Industry Backing Than Other Democrats

    by Dan Eggen

    On June 19, Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas made clear that he and a group of other conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs were increasingly unhappy with the direction that health-care legislation was taking in the House.

    [Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., second from left, speaks to the media, as Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., listen after a Blue Dog Democrats meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 21, 2009. (Alex Brandon / AP)]Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., second from left, speaks to the media, as Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., listen after a Blue Dog Democrats meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 21, 2009. (Alex Brandon / AP)
    "The committees' draft falls short," the former pharmacy owner said in a statement that day, citing, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose.

    Five days later, Ross was the guest of honor at a special "health-care industry reception," one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.

    The roiling debate about health-care reform has been a boon to the political fortunes of Ross and 51 other members of the Blue Dog Coalition, who have become key brokers in shaping legislation in the House. Objections from the group resulted in a compromise bill announced this week that includes higher payments for rural providers and softens a public insurance option that industry groups object to. The deal also would allow states to set up nonprofit cooperatives to offer coverage, a Republican-generated idea that insurers favor as an alternative to a public insurance option.

    At the same time, the group has set a record pace for fundraising this year through its political action committee, surpassing other congressional leadership PACs in collecting more than $1.1 million through June. More than half the money came from the health-care, insurance and financial services industries, marking a notable surge in donations from those sectors compared with earlier years, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

    A look at career contribution patterns also shows that typical Blue Dogs receive significantly more money -- about 25 percent -- from the health-care and insurance sectors than other Democrats, putting them closer to Republicans in attracting industry support.

    Most of the major corporations and trade groups in those sectors are regular contributors to the Blue Dog PAC. They include drugmakers such as Pfizer and Novartis; insurers such as WellPoint and Northwestern Mutual Life; and industry organizations such as America's Health Insurance Plans. The American Medical Association also has been one of the top contributors to individual Blue Dog members over the past 20 years.

    Many liberal Democrats and advocates of health-care reform were angry about the compromise bill and view the Blue Dogs as being too cozy with drugmakers, hospitals and insurers, and they argue that the conservative Democrats should be more supportive of the agenda set by President Obama and Democratic leaders.

    "The Blue Dogs are carrying water for the industry instead of their constituents," said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, a liberal pro-reform group. "In effect, the Blue Dogs and the Republicans are taking positions that are closer all the time and further away from what most Americans want."

    Aides to Ross and several other key Blue Dogs did not respond this week to requests for comment about their campaign contributions. But the lawmakers have said in recent interviews that they are striving to represent the moderate views of their constituents, and that leaving reform to more liberal lawmakers such as Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) will imperil the party's future. Most of the Blue Dogs are from rural Southern and Midwestern districts that overwhelmingly voted for Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) over Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

    "I know there were some that thought we were trying to stop health-care reform," Ross said in an interview this week for The Washington Post's "Voices of Power" series. "Nothing could be further from the truth. We simply wanted to slow the process down and ensure that we were working toward the kind of health-care reform that the American people need and want."

    Ross has received nearly $1 million in contributions from the health-care sector and insurance industry during his five terms in Congress, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions. The lawmaker founded Ross Pharmacy of Prescott, Ark., which he and his wife sold in 2007. The couple received $100,000 to $1 million in dividends last year from the sale, according to House financial disclosure forms.

    Records of political fundraisers since 2008 compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based watchdog group, show a steady schedule of events for Ross sponsored by the health industry or lobbying firms that represent health-care companies. They include two "health-care lunches" at Capitol Hill restaurants in May 2008 and March 2009, as well as receptions sponsored by Patton Boggs and other major lobbying firms.

    Overall, the typical Blue Dog has received $63,000 more in campaign contributions from the health-care sector than other House Democrats over the past two decades, according to the CRP analysis. The top three recipients were Rep. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), with $1.5 million, and Tennessee Reps. Bart Gordon and John Tanner, both of whom collected over $1.2 million from the industry and its employees, according to the data.

    David Donnelly, national campaigns director for the Public Campaign Action Fund, which favors public financing of political races, said the heavy industry contributions cast doubt on the Blue Dogs' motives.

    "The public believes that campaign contributions shape or stop public policy," Donnelly said. "When we see significant fundraising to one segment of Congress, it raises serious questions about the campaign finance system and whether it works to the benefit of all Americans."

    But Charles W. Stenholm, a former congressman from Texas who was part of the original Blue Dog group in the mid-1990s, disagrees. "The idea behind giving to a group like the Blue Dogs is that you believe that they will agree with your positions most of the time," said Stenholm, who now lobbies on behalf of agricultural companies and some health-care firms. "The same is true for liberals or anyone else. It's normal in politics."

    Stenholm also argued that conservative Democrats are helping to save health-care reform from the extremes. "They have played a tremendously important role in keeping the process from getting out of control," he said. "This compromise is a perfect example of what being a Blue Dog is all about."

    Staff writer Lois Romano contributed to this report.

    Dem asks, ‘Why do we even need the Health insurance companies?’

    raw story

    Dem asks, ‘Why do we even need the insurance companies?’

    Published: July 31, 2009
    Updated 3 hours ago

    Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), hoping to force the GOP to put up or shut up on health reform, introduced an amendment Thursday night that would have repealed medicare, thereby forcing Republicans to show their support for the largest form of government-run healthcare in the U.S.

    Speaking to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Thursday broadcast, he took his point even further and wondered aloud why America even needs health insurance companies.

    “What we’ve learned is that government-administered healthcare works pretty darn well,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday. “It’s got low overhead and people like it. So, when my colleagues pound the drum and pound the podium about how they hate government-run healthcare, I guess they haven’t looked at what they get.”

    The congressman added that he believes medicare works so well and is so simple that America does not need the health insurance companies at all.

    “Why do we even need the insurance companies?” he asked. “What constructive role are they playing? They’re taking tens of billions of dollars each year and putting that into profits when that should have been going into healthcare.”

    He declared that only a “true single-payer system” will work and said he plans to introduce legislation that would accomplish those ends. “It’s simpler and we know it works,” he said.

    This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast July 30, 2009.

    Download video via RawReplay.com

    Bailed-Out US Banks Gave Employees Billions in Bonuses in 2008, Report Says

    Bailed-Out US Banks Gave Employees Billions in Bonuses in 2008, Report Says

    Citigroup, one of the biggest recipients of US government bailout money, gave employees $5.3bn in bonuses for 2008, New York's attorney general said today in a report detailing the payouts by nine big banks.

    [The Bank of America building in Washington, DC. Leading US banks are not lending as much as bankers and borrowers refrain from taking risks in the uncertain economy, The Wall Street Journal reported. (AFP/File/Karen Bleier)]The Bank of America building in Washington, DC. Leading US banks are not lending as much as bankers and borrowers refrain from taking risks in the uncertain economy, The Wall Street Journal reported. (AFP/File/Karen Bleier)
    The report from attorney general Andrew Cuomo's office focused on 2008 bonuses paid to the initial nine banks that received loans under the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (Tarp) last fall. Cuomo has joined other government officials in criticising the banks for paying out big bonuses while accepting US taxpayer money.

    Citigroup, which gave 738 of its employees bonuses of at least $1m, is now one-third owned by the US government as a result of its bailout. It paid bonuses of at least $3m to 124 of those employees, even after it lost $18.7bn during the year, Cuomo's office said.

    The New York-based bank received $45bn in government money and guarantees to protect it against hundreds of billions of dollars on potential losses from risky investments.

    Bank of America, which also received $45bn in Tarp money, paid $3.3bn in bonuses, with 172 employees receiving at least $1m. Of those, 28 received bonuses of more than $3m. Merrill Lynch, which Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America acquired during the credit crisis, paid out $3.6bn.

    Cuomo's office said Merrill Lynch doled out 696 bonuses of at least $1m for 2008, with 149 of those workers getting bonuses of at least $3 million.

    Bank of America has been sharply criticised for its acquisition of Merrill Lynch because of mounting losses at the Wall Street bank and the size of bonuses Merrill paid its employees.

    A spokesman for Citigroup was not immediately available to comment on the report. Bank of America did not immediately comment on the report.

    But the banks have said they needed to pay their top performing employees to prevent them from defecting to competitors. Companies that accepted Tarp money have had to comply with government restrictions on employee compensation, including bonuses.

    JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, which have already repaid Tarp funds they received, paid out the most bonuses of more than $1m, the report said. However, they were considered among the healthiest of the bailed-out companies.

    JPMorgan, which gave 1,626 employees of at least $1m, paid back the $25bn it received in Tarp money last month. Goldman, which repaid its $10bn in government money last month as well, gave 953 workers bonuses of at least $1m. The two banks each gave more than 200 employees bonuses of more than $3m.

    Top Ten Ways To Tell Your President & His Party Aren't Fighting For Health Care For Everybody

    Top Ten Ways To Tell Your President & His Party Aren't Fighting For Health Care For Everybody

    obama on health careby BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon

    With the corporate media relentlessly distorting the public discussion around health care reform, it time for some clear, bright lines to help us tell who is doing what to whom, and whether any of it leads to health care for all of us. Here are ten of them.

    Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate were swept into office on a promise they would deliver affordable and accessible health care for all Americans. But the corporate media journalism limits the national health care conversation to what insurance companies, drug companies, for-profit health care professionals, their executives, lobbyists and politicians of both parties and other hirelings have to say. So it isn't as easy as it ought to be to tell what the politicians are doing about accomplishing health care for everybody. Hence we offer these ten points. This is how you can tell whether your president and his party are fighting for the health care you deserve.

    1. Their plan doesn't cover the uninsured till at least 2013.

      2013 isn't "day one." It's not even after the midterm election. It's clear after the president's second term, if he gets one. Congress passed Medicare in 1965 and president Lyndon Johnson rolled out coverage for millions of seniors in eleven months, back in the days before they even had computers.

      22,000 Americans now perish each year because they can't get or can't afford medical care, and this year three quarter million personal bankruptcies will be triggered by unpayable medical bills. Why this president and these Democrats are in such a hurry to pass health care now that doesn't take effect till two elections down the road doesn't make sense in any kind of good way.

    2. Their "public option" isn't Medicare, won't bring costs down and will only cover about 10 million people.

      The "public option" was sold to the American people as Medicare-scale plan open to anybody who wants in that would compete with the private insurers and drive their costs downward. But in their haste not to bite the hands that feed them millions in campaign contributions each hear, the president and his party have scaled the public option back from a Medicare-sized 130 million to a maximum of 10 million, too small to put cost pressure in private insurers. Worse still, the president and his party are playing bait-and-witch, not telling the public they have reduced the public option, to nearly nothing.

      This remnant of a public option is not Medicare, as Howard Dean insists, and it will not lead to the sort of everybody-in-nobody-out health care system that most Americans, whenever they are surveyed say they want.

      Some Senate and House Democrats want to ditch even the pretense of a "public option" in favor of something they're calling a private insurance "co-op", which as near as anybody can tell has the same relationship to an actual cooperative that clean coal has to actual coal.

    3. The president and his party have already caved in to the drug companies on reimporting Canadian drugs, on negotiating drug prices downward and on generics.

      This explains why Big Pharma, the same people who ran the devastatin g series of anti-reform "Harry and Louise" ads to spike the Clinton-era drive to fix health care are spending $100 million to run Obama ads using the president's language about "bipartisan" solutions to health care reform.

    4. The president and his party have received more money from private insurers and the for-profit health care industry than even Republicans, with the president alone taking $19 million in the 2008 election cycle alone, more than all his Repubican, Democratic and independent rivals combined.

      Democratic senator Max Bacaus got $1.1 million in 2008. Democratic senators Harkin, Landreau and Rockerfeller each got over half a million, and Senator Durbin got just under half a million. Other Democratic senators got a little less. Four Democrats in the House, Rangel, Dinglell, Udall and Hoyer got over half a million apiece in 2008, with other Democrats not far behind.

      Is there any wonder that the insurance companies, like the drug companies are also running "bipartisan health care reform" commercials using the president's exact language?

    5. The president's plan, and those of Republicans and Democratic blue dogs too, will require families to purchase health insurance policies from private insurers.

      This is something the policy wonks call an 'individual mandate", under which Individuals will be "mandated" to purchase affordable insurance, though companies would not be required to offer it. In Massachusetts, the prototype state for the Obama plan, a family with an income of $33,000 can be required to spend $9,000 in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses before the insurance company is obligated to pay a dime. As in Massachusetts, public money is used to purchase private insurance for the very poorest citizens. With the revenues of insurance companies on the decline, individual mandate programs are a welcome bailout for the private insurance industry.

    6. The president's plan, and those of Republicans and Democratic blue dogs too, could force you to buy junk insurance.

      Think about an insurance policy that costs a lot, but is full of loopholes, exceptions and steep deductibles and co-payments. That's junk insurance, and for many it's the only insurance companies offer. Even more pernicious is the widespread practice among insurance companies of "recission" in which claimants are routinely investigated and disqualified in the event that they finally make a claim. Insurance companies admit they do this to half of one percent of policies per year. That means if you hold a health insurance policy twenty years, you don;t have insurance - you have a ninety percent chance of having insurance.

    7. The president's plan, as well as those of Democratic "blue dogs" and Republicans, are to be funded in part with cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

      Private insurance companies have always hated Medicare because it is far more efficient than they are. Medicare's administrative expenses are under five percent, as compared with the one third of every health care dollar taken by the for-profit insurance companies for their advertising, bad investments, billing and denial machinery, executive salaries and bonuses. Private insurers have, over the years, purchased enough influence in Congress and previous White Houses to restrict Medicare's payment rates and partially privatize it. But president Obama's plan, perhaps the most friendly to Medicare and Medicaid, calls for over $300 billion in cuts to the programs that now provide medical care to those with the fewest options, while failing to guarantee that care will come from elsewhere. In Massachusetts right now, hospitals are turning away poor people they used to be able to provide care for because funding that used to go to those institutions is now plowed into the state's "individual mandate" system.

    8. The president, with the cooperation of corporate media and the Republicans is trying to make the argument about himself instead of a discussion on the merits of his policy.

      The president and his critics are happy to talk about whether this will be "his Waterloo", or his Dien Bien Phu, as if that matters more than the 22,000 Americans who die each year from lack of medical care, or the three quarter million who will go bankrupt because of unpayable medical bills. The concentration on whether the president looks good or bad takes up air, ink, and coverage time that might otherwise be spent explaining what is and isn't in the various proposals, and why.

      If the president were not afraid of his own supporters publicly examining the merits and demerits of his proposals, he would mobilize those 13 million emails and phone numbers collected during the campaign. The reason he has not sone so already is that most of his own supporters favor a Medicare-For-All single payer health care system, HR 676.

    9. The president and his party, and the corporate media have spent more time and energy silencing and excluded the advocates of single payer health care, mostly the president's own supporters, than they have fighting blue dogs and Republicans.

      But no matter how diligently the spokespeople for single payer are excluded from media coverage and invitations to Obama's policy forums and round tables, no matter how many times the White House cuts their questions from transcripts and video of public events, the calls, emails and letters keep pouring into Congress and the White House demanding the creation of a publicly funded, everybody-in-nobody-out system, a Medicare-for-All kind of single payer health care plan.

    10. Despite the president's own admission that only a single payer health care system will deliver what Americans want, he and the leaders of his party insist that Medicare For All, HR 676, us utterly off the table.

      Before he became a presidential candidate, Barack Obama identified himself as a proponent of a single payer health care system. All we had to do, he told us, was elect a Democratic congress and senate, and a different president. Now that this has been done, he insists that "change" is just not possible, and we have to settle for less. The president continues to admit that only a single payer health care system will cover everybody, but insists that America just can't handle that much change.

      The truth is that Barack Obama campaigned as the candidate of change, and a health care system that covers everybody from day one with no exceptions is what people imagined they voted for when they swept him and an overwhelming number of Democrats into office.

      A single payer Medicare-For-All system will eliminate 500,000 insurance company jobs and replace them with 3.2 million new jobs in health care for a net gain of 2.6 million new jobs according to a study by the National Nurses Organization. That's as many jobs as the US economy lost in all of 2007. Single payer will create hundreds of billions in annual wages and local and state tax revenues for cash strapped cities and towns. It will lift the shadow of bankruptcy for medical reasons from two thirds of a million American families yearly. It's what we deserve.

      It's what we voted for, and we won't stop demanding it.

    Bruce Dixon is based in Atlanta GA and is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He can be reached at bruce.dixon@blackagendareport.com.

    Health Care Realities May Never Overcome Conservative Misinformation

    Health Care Realities

    by Paul Krugman

    At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”

    It’s a funny story — but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation. It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance.

    And that government involvement is the only reason our system works at all.

    The key thing you need to know about health care is that it depends crucially on insurance. You don’t know when or whether you’ll need treatment — but if you do, treatment can be extremely expensive, well beyond what most people can pay out of pocket. Triple coronary bypasses, not routine doctor’s visits, are where the real money is, so insurance is essential.

    Yet private markets for health insurance, left to their own devices, work very badly: insurers deny as many claims as possible, and they also try to avoid covering people who are likely to need care. Horror stories are legion: the insurance company that refused to pay for urgently needed cancer surgery because of questions about the patient’s acne treatment; the healthy young woman denied coverage because she briefly saw a psychologist after breaking up with her boyfriend.

    And in their efforts to avoid “medical losses,” the industry term for paying medical bills, insurers spend much of the money taken in through premiums not on medical treatment, but on “underwriting” — screening out people likely to make insurance claims. In the individual insurance market, where people buy insurance directly rather than getting it through their employers, so much money goes into underwriting and other expenses that only around 70 cents of each premium dollar actually goes to care.

    Still, most Americans do have health insurance, and are reasonably satisfied with it. How is that possible, when insurance markets work so badly? The answer is government intervention.

    Most obviously, the government directly provides insurance via Medicare and other programs. Before Medicare was established, more than 40 percent of elderly Americans lacked any kind of health insurance. Today, Medicare — which is, by the way, one of those “single payer” systems conservatives love to demonize — covers everyone 65 and older. And surveys show that Medicare recipients are much more satisfied with their coverage than Americans with private insurance.

    Still, most Americans under 65 do have some form of private insurance. The vast majority, however, don’t buy it directly: they get it through their employers. There’s a big tax advantage to doing it that way, since employer contributions to health care aren’t considered taxable income. But to get that tax advantage employers have to follow a number of rules; roughly speaking, they can’t discriminate based on pre-existing medical conditions or restrict benefits to highly paid employees.

    And it’s thanks to these rules that employment-based insurance more or less works, at least in the sense that horror stories are a lot less common than they are in the individual insurance market.

    So here’s the bottom line: if you currently have decent health insurance, thank the government. It’s true that if you’re young and healthy, with nothing in your medical history that could possibly have raised red flags with corporate accountants, you might have been able to get insurance without government intervention. But time and chance happen to us all, and the only reason you have a reasonable prospect of still having insurance coverage when you need it is the large role the government already plays.

    Which brings us to the current debate over reform.

    Right-wing opponents of reform would have you believe that President Obama is a wild-eyed socialist, attacking the free market. But unregulated markets don’t work for health care — never have, never will. To the extent we have a working health care system at all right now it’s only because the government covers the elderly, while a combination of regulation and tax subsidies makes it possible for many, but not all, nonelderly Americans to get decent private coverage.

    Now Mr. Obama basically proposes using additional regulation and subsidies to make decent insurance available to all of us. That’s not radical; it’s as American as, well, Medicare.

    Paul Krugman is professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and a regular columnist for The New York Times. Krugman was the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics. He is the author of numerous books, including The Conscience of A Liberal, and his most recent, The Return of Depression Economics.