Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, David Axelrod, Medicare, meet the press, Mitt Romney, News media, Obamacare, Paul Ryan, Politics, Reporters, Scott Walker, Todd Akin on August 21, 2012 |
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One other point about the salutary role of the press in exposing Representative Todd Akin’s ignorant views about rape and women: the press can only fill that role if reporters actually act like reporters.
Unfortunately, the situation that produced Akin’s Waterloo — where one public figure sits down with one reporter to answer questions — happens all too rarely these days. How often do political figures even appear on shows like Meet The Press? Rather than a Senator, foreign leader, or some other actual public servant, the guest often is a campaign manager or other unelected individual who is there to voice the talking points of a particular candidate, campaign, or party. Moreover, much of such shows is devoted to “roundtable discussions” where celebrity journalists who never have done much real reporting express their opinions about the “issues of the day.” No doubt the producers of those Sunday morning shows think the arguments that ensue make for “better television” than the Meet The Press format of the ’60s, where a panel of three serious, gray-suited reporters respectfully fired questions at that week’s guest.
To illustrate the point, consider the first Meet The Press that aired after Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. The two “newsmaker” guests were Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Obama campaign guru David Axelrod, followed by a panel of journalists arguing about the impact of “Obamacare” and Ryan’s proposed budget on Medicare. Does anyone really expect much in the way of “news” (or enlightenment, for that matter) from such a lineup? Given the focus on Medicare, rather than featuring an ever-present hired gun like Axelrod or a tiresome panel of TV personalities, how about bringing in the chief actuary of the Medicare program, or one of the Medicare trustees, and have knowledgeable reporters who cover Medicare ask them some meaningful questions about the programs, its condition, and the expected impact of the competing proposals?
The important role of the press in our democracy means that the news media must actually be willing to play that role: as the skeptical, neutral questioner interested in ferreting out the truth, rather than the point-of-view advocate for one position or another. We can celebrate the role of the press in showing something important and disturbing about Congressman Akin, but we can also regret that the press — due to disinterest, or laziness, or a concern for ratings — doesn’t play that role as often as it should, or could.
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Posted in America, crime, tagged Affordable Care Act, America, Confidential Information, crime, FTC, Health Care Law, Obamacare, Privacy, Scams, Supreme Court on July 15, 2012 |
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It turns out that the “President Obama wants to pay your utility bills” scam isn’t the only government-related scam making the rounds these days.
Now, crooks are taking advantage of the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in a ruse to try to get our personal information. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the scammers are calling people, saying they are from the government, and asking for personal information — Social Security numbers, Medicare ID numbers, and credit card and bank account numbers — that they say is needed to implement the law. The FTC says that if someone from the government calls and asks for your personal information, you should recognize it as a scam and hang up.
Of course, it’s not exactly far-fetched that the government would contact you about your personal information. We routinely provide such information whenever we file tax returns or complete other forms that the federal government requires from us. And since the Affordable Care Act says the government will be paying even more attention to our economic activities — such as whether we have appropriate health care insurance — and our health care usage, it’s not implausible that the feds might need our bank account or credit card information.
The FTC says with confidence that the government won’t be making unsolicited requests for information by phone — but isn’t it going to need to collect such information at some point, in order for the law to work? What happens when an official-looking letter to your home address that purports to come from the federal government asks you fill out a form that provides your confidential financial and personal information, including where you current have your health insurance, and instructs you to mail it to some random P.O. Box in Kansas City, Missouri? Should we just crumple it up and throw it away?
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged 2012 Presidential Election, America, Congress, Healthcare Reform Act, Mitt Romney, News, Obamacare, Politics, President Obama, United States Supreme Court on June 29, 2012 |
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I haven’t yet read the Supreme Court opinions issued on the constitutionality of the “health care reform” act. From news reports, I understand that the 5-4 majority characterized the individual mandate as a tax and therefore within Congress’ constitutional power.
Because I haven’t read the opinions, I can’t comment on their merits. One result of the Court’s action, however, is that the stakes for the upcoming election will be both heightened and sharpened. Almost immediately after the ruling, I received emails from the Democratic Party and its candidates lauding the decision and the act it upheld. From the Republican side of the aisle came commitments to repeal the statute and expressions of concern about the increasing role of government.
Since the days of the Revolutionary War, American history is full of debates about fundamental questions that were resolved through the political process and at the ballot box. I’d rather have the focus of this year’s election be on the role of the federal government and the merits of the “health care reform” statute than on ginned-up issues like the investments made by Bain Capital when Mitt Romney worked there.
Voters now know far more about the “health care reform” statute than we did when it was being pushed through Congress in a process characterized by hastily written language, backroom deals, and votes cast by members who hadn’t even read the bill before them. We’ve seen actual actions taken by the federal government pursuant to the statute — including the regulations that have upset the Catholic church and other religious groups — and we know the funding mechanism for the statute is properly viewed as a broad tax.
As a result, the debate to come will be far more concrete than the debate that occurred several years ago — and the voters will decide who wins that debate. That is a good thing.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Health Care Law, Healthcare Reform Act, law, Mitt Romney, News, Obamacare, Politics, President Obama, United States Constitution, United States Supreme Court on June 11, 2012 |
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Deep in the marbled chambers of the majestic Supreme Court building, members of the High Court and their clerks are hard at work on the opinion — or more likely, opinions — to be published when the Court decides the constitutionality of the “health care reform” legislation. The opinion(s) will be issued within the next week or two as the Court wraps up its work for the year.
The issues swirling around President Obama’s signature legislative achievement have dropped off the public’s radar screen recently, but you can bet that they remain front and center at the White House, the Romney campaign headquarters, and on Capitol Hill. Whether the Supreme Court upholds the statute, or strikes it down in whole or in part, its decision will be like a bomb going off in the middle of the presidential campaign. I can’t remember another situation like this, where the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of major, controversial legislation — and do so only a few months before a presidential election in which the Court’s decision itself will almost certainly be an issue.
The timing of the Court’s decision will be interesting for two reasons. First, both carefully scripted campaigns will be knocked off message, for a few days at least, and will be required to respond on the fly to the Court’s decision and the stated rationale for that decision. The unpredictability of the Supreme Court’s decision means we might just get an honest, candid reaction from a candidate or a Congressman for a change — before the talking points get drafted and everyone adheres to the accepted party line for their side.
Second, and more important, Supreme Court opinions are serious documents written by serious people. The Justices know their opinions will be carefully read and critiqued, for their intellectual and legal merit, immediately and for decades to come. They will be working to make those opinions as persuasive and carefully reasoned as possible. The opinions will address fundamental issues about the structure of our government and the extent of federal power, taking into account the language of the Constitution, the history of our republic, and the decisions of prior Courts. They will grapple with those issues in a sober, respectful manner, with the majority and dissenting opinions acknowledging, and responding to, each other. What a refreshing change from the shouting, bullet point blather that passes for political discourse these days!
This will be an exciting time for our country and our Constitution. It’s another reason for us to step back, admire the foresight of the Framers, and see that our 225-year-old Constitution still works, and works well.
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Posted in America, Healthcare Reform, Politics, tagged America, Department of Health and Human Services, Health care, Health Care Reform, Health Insurance, Healthcare, Healthcare Reform, Kathleen Sebelius, Obamacare, Politics on January 18, 2011 |
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Today Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, released a report that concludes that up to half of all Americans below age 65 — 129 million in all — have some kind of “pre-existing condition” that might otherwise cause them to be denied health insurance coverage. The report, which was released on the day the House of Representatives began debate on a bill to repeal the “health care reform” legislation, notes that under that legislation those individuals with “pre-existing conditions” cannot otherwise be denied coverage, or be charged significantly higher premiums.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
As is the case so often these days, this report seems to be motivated almost entirely by political concerns — in this case, trying to make a case for retaining the “health care reform” legislation. Consider the study itself. It concludes that “50 to 129 million (19 to 50 percent of) non-elderly Americans have some type of pre-existing health condition.” Can’t we expect a bit more precision from our governmental studies than a margin for error of 79 million Americans? No doubt the political manueverers at HHS realized that the news media would report the higher number — which is exactly what has happened. The headline on the ABC News website report on the study, for example, is: “Half of Americans Have Pre-Existing Health Conditions”.
And consider, too, the fact that the report itself notes that “as many as 82 million Americans with employer-based coverage have a pre-existing condition.” In other words, those conditions — if they exist at all — have not stopped those 82 million Americans from getting and keeping insurance through their employers. If the insurance companies were really as evil as Secretary Sebelius and the supporters of “health care reform” legislation argue, how could that have happened? Why didn’t the greedy insurance companies immediately eliminate coverage for those 82 million Americans? The fact that, according to the government, as many as 82 million Americans are maintaining health insurance notwithstanding their purported “pre-existing conditions” refutes one of the basic arguments for having “health care reform” legislation in the first place.
Finally, the report shows, I think, that our federal government really doesn’t have much respect for the common sense of Americans. Does anyone honestly think that if half of all Americans under 65 really had pre-existing conditions that made it impossible for them to get private health insurance we would see the kind of vigorous opposition to the “health care reform” legislation that has continued, unabated, despite the best efforts of the news media and the federal government to quash it?
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