Democratic Party Needs To Demand A Full AUDITING..

As I watched Bush this morning, I couldn't help but wonder, what is the real story behind all of this?

I keep being reminded of those shell games in which you try to guess where your money has gone.

With the GOP, WE lose EVERY time. They are just so sleazy. They are addicts feeding at a trough filled with our blood.

The Democratic party should not enable these addicts.

I am sure that there is much more than meets the eye. Bluntly, I hope that the Democrats especially realize that the GOP is desperate to postpone any financial meltdown until after the election. That is the man goal. If they can, they would love to then blame it on Democrats. They also want to preserve the ill-gotten gains of their pals. I think that there is a good chance that this is just the beginning - that is the way these bubbles work.

The Dems need to do the work to AUDIT ANY BAILOUT THOROUGHLY.. Of course many of these loans were made on property that was not worth the money they were for. They knew this. They should not be rewarded for stealing.

There is a very real chance that there are many more weak segments of the economy that are hidden. Given that the GOP may be desperate to postpone, and, if the weakness is larger than they admit (it always is!) and may not be able to actually avert a meltdown - the Dems need to demand and oversee full audits of all banking entities and not agree to any plan - instead, they should only agree to small incremental steps with a tight feedback loop to ensure that everything remains visible.

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Hillary's Health Plan is How Obama Could Win- and Unify America

It strikes me that Obama has still not made the inroads into the swing states that he needs to to overcome the inevitable GOP tricks. Unfortunately, I think there is a very good reason for this, healthcare. Many people can't afford either candidate's healthcare plan, because both avoid explaining how those with chronic diseases (20% of all Americans) won't lose out under their healthcare plans (McCain's is particularly bad, - see the ref below, because he will eliminate tax subsidies that encourage businesses to insure their less highly paid workers, meaning that 16% of those currently insured through their jobs, -millions of people, will lose coverage. Both candidates focus their energy on improving the statistic short term, but when it comes to protecting families from the huge, uncovered costs of illness, both fall flat. And those uncovered costs can and often do bankrupt "insured" families. (see ref below) Both candidates also focus their energy on the healthy employed, particularly those employed with large, corporate employers. Those with chronic conditions who are thrown into shopping for increasingly inadequate (or expensive) individual policies will not be able to afford adequate or often, any- coverage either, as it will be priced by risk. The so called Uninsurables- those with chronic illnesses like diabetes, athsma, heart disease, millions of people- most of whom can ony be insured under large group plans affordably (as they spread the risk) are out of luck. Those who don't have corporate employers with group plans also lose out under Obama's plan, see below. (Without the averaging power of a group plan to lower the cost, Obama's so called "fair price" will be too high for THEM to afford.) McCain is worse. He will also lock us into WTO by internationalizing healthcare, making the cost increases impossible to change- see citizen.org report on candidates proposals and trade agreements.)

What it all adds up to for Obama is a lukewarm response from many when experience should have taught us that Obama needs much more to WIN. Many people still don't feel that Obama is offering a credible solution on healthcare (don't tell me that McCain "is worse" I know, but that wont energize voters, picking somebody because they are not the worst.) Also, he has not committed to work hard to implement this goal rapidly.

(Between now and 2012, millions of American families will be bankrupted by healthcare costs which are now over 50% of bankruptcies see:

Illness And Injury As
Contributors To Bankruptcy
http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/con tent/full/hlthaff.w5.63/DC1

)

I have a simple proposal. Obama picks Hillary to manage an immediate implementation of her healthcare plan in his new administration. Starting January 20, 2009.

(not "starting by 2012")

That would energize almost all Americans, especially the middle class, swing state voters many of whom are currently on the fence.

Then, he WOULD win. By a landslide.  

Is that SO hard? What is he afraid of? Everybody knows that this is what he needs to do.

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Roe vs. Wade: Responsible for national drop in crime rate?

Several years ago, John Donohue, a Stanford Law School professor and Steven Levitt, a University of Chicago economist, wondering why the crime rate dropped so sharply, so widely, so quickly, in the 1990's, did a detailed state by state statistical analysis of the crime rates in the years following individual states legalization of abortion and then, Roe vs. Wade.

What they found was astounding and MAY account for at least some of the REAL - and ugly - reason the GOP has recently declared it is against a woman's right to choose.

It deprives them of a key wedge issue, crime.

Money may also be involved. Keeping wages down.

I have seen studies showing that the unplanned for costs of having an unexpected baby, often due to rape, is the #1 reason poor women turn to prostitution.

I would also guess that the imperative of supporting a child measurably lowers wages in countries where abortion is not available. This imperative forces wages down.

Full paper at:
http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/P apers/DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2 001.pdf

abstract follows

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Lose your House, Lose Your Vote?

A news article I just saw about the GOP in Michigan planning to challenge the votes of people who have been evicted from their homes made me think.

Lose your house, lose your vote
http://www.michiganmessenger.com/4076/lo se-your-house-lose-your-vote

Is our right to vote contingent on our having a physical address?

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Many "Uninsurables" Marrying, Divorcing, for Healthcare Coverage, NYT says

There is an interesting article in today's New York Times that explores the wave of Americans who are finding that they cannot afford the "fair" prices charged them for individual insurance by private insurers, even in states where "no one can be turned away". (there, typically, individual coverage for those with any kind of illness is particularly expensive)

Many are now marrying or divorcing others (because their spouses have affordable group coverage, or because their spouses make enough to disqualify them from being able to get subsidized low-cost insurance and the cost would bankrupt the ex-couple, respectively).

I have also heard of families putting chronically ill children up for adoption.

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Democrats should reconsider Hillary Clinton as Presidential Candidate

Many Democrats, now disgusted with the long-predicted rightward swing of Sen. Obama, his dishonesty, and depressed that neither he nor Sen. McCain are the kind of person they wish to see in the White House after our long national nightmare, are calling for the Democratic Party to change its mind and select Hillary Clinton, an almost guaranteed winner among the PEOPLE, WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME.

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Why Relying On High Risk Pools To Cover Sickest 20% Of Us Won't Work - Candidates Should Take Notice

The New York Times
has an article today
about the anemic approaches to covering the sickest Americans, those with chronic medical conditions who are often 'uninsurable' outside of group plans (generally corporate employers) - It shows why relying on high risk pools wont work.. (they are too expensive and such huge money-losers for the ststes that most don't have them, they also dramatically raise rates for the healthy in states that require that 'nobody be turned away'.) Also, the high risk pools are often limited in size (some have waiting lists that stretch on for years or even decades) or by income, leaving uninsured poor and middle class people who make more than two to four times the poverty level with nowhere to turn until they have 'spent down' all their assets, sold homes and cars, etc. to pay medical bills.

Medical bills are the largest cause of bankruptcies.

"The heart attack left Mr. Benamor with a $17,000 hospital bill, $400 in monthly prescription costs and a desperate need for insurance.  After being rejected by a number of commercial carriers, he turned to the Maryland Health Insurance Plan, one of 35 state programs for high-risk applicants whom no private company is willing to insure."

These programs are very expensive, so only the very richest of the very sick can afford them.

"He decided that the annual premium -- $4,572 for a plan with heavy deductibles -- was more than he could handle on an income of about $35,000.  Yet his earnings were too high for him to qualify for state subsidies.

"I'd like to get it, but what do you pay first?" Mr. Benamor asked at his dining room table.  "Do you pay the mortgage?  Do you pay your child support?  Do you pay your car insurance?  Do you pay for your medicine?""

Good question. I think I would pay rent first (if you don't have a home, your life is in danger) then food, then medicine, then child support.. There easily might not be any money left over for insurance.

"
In late April, Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, announced that if elected president he would seek to insure people like Mr. Benamor by vastly expanding federal support for state high-risk pools like Maryland's, or by creating a structure modeled after them.  But as Mr. Benamor's case demonstrates, even well-regarded pools have served more as a stopgap than a solution."

"Though high-risk pools have existed for three decades, they cover only 207,000 people in a country with 47 million uninsured, according to the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans.  Premiums typically are high, as much as twice the standard rate in some states, but are still not nearly enough to pay claims.  That has left states to cover about 40 percent of the cost, usually through assessments on insurance premiums that are often passed on to consumers."

"Health economists say it could take untold billions to transform the patchwork of programs into a viable federal safety net.  The McCain campaign has made only a rough calculation of how many billions would be needed and has not identified a source for the fi-nancing beyond savings from existing programs.  Finding the money will only get more difficult now that Mr. McCain has pledged to balance the federal budget by 2013, which already requires a significant reduction in the growth of spending."

So, my guess is that given the cost, which equals at least 5% of Pentagon spending, McCain will postpone even starting to look at the problem till 2012 as Obama has done. Otherwise, he might need to reduce our spending on our thousands of overseas military bases and the black budget.

"Mr. McCain's proposal stands in sharp relief to that of his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who wants to require insurers to accept all applicants, regardless of their health.  That is now the law in five states, including New York and New Jersey."

And in those states, insurance is very expensive. To many, its unaffordable.

"For those who can afford the premiums, or who qualify for subsidies in the 13 states that provide them, the high-risk programs can be a godsend."

"Richard and Susan Logan, both of whom have battled cancer this decade, said they were grateful to have coverage for themselves and their daughter through the Maryland plan, even though it will cost $22,232 this year."
(This is Obama's solution for those not in group plans, i.e. "nobody can be turned away" For thse who can afford the money, its great, because otherwise, their costs would be still higher. But it will increase the costs for the healthy dramatically. No wonder he doesn't want to attack this problem till his second term.)  

"They had been rejected by 25 commercial insurers, said Mrs.  Logan, 57, a part-time billing clerk for a physician."

"A fifth of the 14,000 participants in the Maryland plan receive subsidies that drop their premiums below the market rates charged to healthy people, said Richard A.  Popper, the plan's director.  But many in the middle find the policies both unaffordable and intolerably restrictive, and Mr. Popper estimates that two-thirds of those eligible have not enrolled."

"Almost all of the state pools impose waiting periods of up to a year before covering the health conditions that initially made it impossible to obtain insurance.  In some states, fiscal pressures have forced heavy restrictions in coverage and enrollment.  Florida, which has 3.8 million uninsured people, closed its pool to new applicants in 1991, and the membership has dwindled to 313."


Ouch...

"There is no census of the medically uninsurable.  But in 2006, insurers turned down 11 percent of all individual applicants for medical reasons, including 22 percent of those 50 or older, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group."

"Finding a way to cover the sickest of the uninsured is critically important because 15 percent of the population is responsible for three-fourths of health care spending.  Many wind up in emergency rooms, which cannot legally reject them, leaving hospitals with more than $30 billion in unpaid bills each year."

"With the goal of making the insurance marketplace more equitable and competitive, Mr. McCain would end the longstanding exclusion from income taxes of health benefits paid by employers.  The 17 million nonelderly people covered by directly purchased insurance do not enjoy that advantage."

"Currently, those who buy insurance individually often face higher costs because their risks are not spread across broad groups of workers.  Though insurers cannot discriminate against participants in group plans, they evaluate consumers seeking individual coverage case by case to determine if they are worth the risk of coverage, and at what price. Insurers contend that if they had to charge the same rates to all comers, many would wait until they were sick to buy policies."

That is Obama's poison pill..  Most healthy Americans wont vote to make their insurance two or three or even four times more expensive.. so the proposal will die.

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White House to Take North Korea Off 'Terror List' - However, SERIOUS Human Rights Problems Remain

The White House
announced today
that it is taking North Korea off the list of countries that 'directly support terrorism'.

This may be true. As far as we know, North Korea only supports counterfeiting, drug manufacture, and mass enslavement of its people, not manufacturing nuclear bombs for sale. (although they have been known to sell complete missile making kits to Middle Eastern and African nations)

So -this can be misleading! They are not on the right path, yet.

Shouldn't one of the major reasons for placing North Korea in the category of pariah nations be their horrible treatment of their own people?

In that respect, little has changed.

From the Bush administration statement:

""This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea," said President Bush, announcing the declaration at the White House. "If it continues to make the right choices it can repair its relationship with the international community."

I would ask Mr. Bush to make a stronger effort to force North Korea to open up its borders and release the millions of people held in its huge network of slave labor camps, where human rights conditions are among the worst in the world.

Also, economic conditions in the parts of North Korea that are reserved for those from 'bad' 'family background' are so bad that cannibalism is not unknown (although it is punishable by death) For that reason, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled the only way possible, into China, where they are hunted down like animals, sold or kept in slavery as illegal immigrants.

This is a terrible situation. Surely, the United States has it in our hearts to provide some kind of help to North Koreans living as refugees in China.

North Korea pays China a bounty of around $300 for each North Korean caught and returned to North Korea. Returned escapees will typically be prosecuted, then imprisoned, or, if it is their third attempt, summarily executed, for the crime of betraying the fatherland by leaving.

Surely the US could match that $300 and provide a new start for North Korean refugees somewhere in the US, where they would be happy to get a new start. Many have led terrible lives and they are also discriminated against in South Korea (Still, around 3000 have finally made it there, often having had to traverse all around Asia to finally reach South Korea, since travel through the DMZ, and indeed, travel through the DPRK, since one needs a permit for any inter-county travel, is impossible.)

Several North Korean refugees live in the US. Many others live in South Korea. Their stories are heartbreaking, but they are also interesting because they show in graphic detail what life is like under totalitarianism. They will make you count your blessings.
The escapees accounts can be read on a number of websites that support North Korean human rights. This is an issue that transcends politics. Hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees hide in northeast China.

Their plight is also of crucial importance. They need a safe place they can go and live in peace.

I am linking to some web pages where you can learn more about human rights in North Korea after the link.

Please write your elected representatives and ask that the US put more pressure on North Korea to end the prison camps and open up to the rest of the world, regardless of the scrutiny that a legacy of 60 years of mass murder on a gargantuan scale would reveal.

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Rapid Rise In Fuel Prices Lead Many To Abandon Distant Suburbs For New Inner City Homes

The New York Times today has another article
"Fuel Prices Shift Math for Life in Far Suburbs"

about the housing shifts due to increases in gas prices, this time its about how the rise in gas prices is driving many to abandon life in distant exurbs and more back into the cities, where warehouses and former slums are being renovated, and new condominium housing is being built to address this rapidly rising need. They use Denver as an example, but these changes are occurring in many American communities.

Many are selling or even giving away old or even fairly new (sometimes large) fuel-inefficient homes and larger gas guzzling cars in the distant, low density exurbs, and moving in, closer to jobs and public transport, displacing the traditional residents of inner cities.

If gas prices stay high, this trend may accelerate.

Its simple economics, supply and demand.

"Many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and '70s -- slums characterized by poverty, crime and decay," declared Christopher B. Leinberger, an urban land use expert, in a recent essay in The Atlantic Monthly.

Most experts do not share such apocalyptic visions, seeing instead a gradual reordering.

"It's like an ebbing of this suburban tide," said Joe Cortright, an economist at the consulting group Impresa Inc. in Portland, Ore. "There's going to be this kind of reversal of desirability. Typically, Americans have felt the periphery was most desirable, and now there's going to be a reversion to the center."

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Technology Companies Won't Hire/Train Workers Over 40, Says NYT, One Big Reason, Healthcare Costs,

What do people think about this non-unsurprising revelation?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/weekin review/22lohr.html

Decoupling health care from jobs by instituting a Hillary-style, real universal healthcare plan would take a huge burden off of employers, which would be good at a time when many companies are weighing the benefits of office automation. Lowering the age at which people can receive Medicare to 50 or 45 might be another solution, because it would allow Medicare to be the first insurer for workers over those ages, in effect providing a subsidy which can account for up to 22% of the cost of hiring an older worker.

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