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Mike Hall – Health Insurers Raised Premiums at Staggering Pace in Past Decade

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the AFL-CIO Now Blog:

Health Insurers Raised Premiums at Staggering Pace in Past Decade

by Mike Hall, Dec 15, 2010

Here’s more evidence that the past decade has been very, very good for the health insurance industry and more insight into why Big Insurance fought so hard to derail health care reform, especially the new law’s requirement that companies actually spend premium dollars on health care.

Family health insurance premiums more than doubled between 1999 and 2009, far outpacing the growth in workers’ earnings and overall inflation, reports the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Those premium dollars fueled nearly annual levels of record profits along with outrageous CEO salaries and extravagant executive perks and bonuses.

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Conway Twitty – Okie from muskogee

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Steely Dan – Black Friday

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Columbia Journalism Review

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From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Skeptical To a Fault: CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, says Sharon Terlep’s story in the WSJ on GM trying to pay down its debt is a great indicator of how the leverage-is-good meme simply refuses to die, even after the financial crisis. The main reason for GM to carry debt is the tax advantages it gets, but the carmaker already has all the tax advantages it will be able to use for the foreseeable future, thanks to all the losses it made in previous years. Meanwhile, as GM vividly remembers, carrying a large debt load can be devastating in a cyclical downturn. But Terlep just can’t seem to believe it’s as simple as that.

Googlopoly?: Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum lauds The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein for an excellent column taking up the Google monopoly case.  If you want to know why there’s a problem with what Google’s doing, this is about the best place to start.

Flyover News: Iowa’s credible attorney general, Tom Miller, recently said he will bring criminal charges over the foreclosure scandal. But, as Chittum points out, most of the press didn’t have that significant news. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism picked up on this story, as did The Huffington Post and HousingWire. But the only mainstream media coverage it got was in the Des Moines Register and Reuters.

More, Please: In Audit Notes, Chittum says The New York Times reported that The Atlantic magazine, a longtime money loser, is in the black. The Times credits the mag’s focus on the Web, but in fact most of the magazine’s revenue gains game from elsewhere. We’d like to know more.

Meme Watch (cont’d.): Chittum says the Journal went page one this week with a story on our mangled tax code, which is oviously inefficient and causes uncertainty for businesses and individuals. But it seems to him that the Journal overplays the case somewhat that such “uncertainty” is what’s keeping businesses from hiring. And, in doing so, the paper channels the business lobby’s political agenda.

Fred Schulte – Wall Street Quietly Creates a New Way to Profit From Homeowner Distress

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From The Center for Public Integrity:

Is nothing sacred? Bank of America and hedge fund Fortress Investment Group have spotted a fresh money-making opportunity – collecting the tax debts of regular citizens. The investigation, by reporter Fred Shulte, shows how the bank and hedge fund can add interest charges and fees and bundle the debts as securities for investors. In late May and early June, proxies for the corporate duo quietly bought hundreds of millions of dollars in homeowners’ property tax debts in Florida by bidding at a series of online auctions held by county tax collectors. (Shulte is joining the Center as a result of our merger with the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.)

Pat Garofalo – Republicans Lay Out Plan To Slow Walk Derivatives Reform

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Wonk Room:

Republicans Lay Out Plan To Slow Walk Derivatives Reform

By Pat Garofalo

Incoming House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) told the Birmingham News this week that “in Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” And Bachus plans to provide that service by trying to slow down a whole host of measures being implemented under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

One of the targets that Bachus has in his sights is derivatives reform, the title of the Dodd-Frank law that aims to bring some prudent regulation to the currently unregulated derivatives market, which played a significant role in the 2008 financial meltdown. During the debate over Dodd-Frank, Bachus had an utterly incoherent position on derivatives reform, but that hasn’t stopped him from saying that derivatives reform is “one of the job-killing provisions of Dodd-Frank that needs to be addressed.”

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Igor Volsky – TX Attorney General: Health Law Infringes On The Freedoms Of ‘People Who Are Worth Billions’

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Wonk Room:

TX Attorney General: Health Law Infringes On The Freedoms Of ‘People Who Are Worth Billions’

By Igor Volsky

This afternoon, following oral arguments in the Florida-based multi-state challenge to the Affordable Care Act, Attorneys General Greg Abbot (TX) and Bill McCollum (FL) held a press conference on the steps of the court house, in which the pair made two very peculiar arguments against the health care law. McCollum bragged that if the mandate is declared unconstitutional, the insurance companies will again be allowed to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. Abbott complained that the requirement to purchase coverage hindered the freedoms of billionaires:

ABBOTT: There are so many, perhaps millions, who are in their 20s who don’t need access to health care, who may not go get any health care….On the other hand, there are people who are worth billions of dollars who may choose to pay the high end of costs for health care, more than what the average American would have paid and not have any kind of health insurance. They should have the freedom to pursue that path also.

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Ben Armbruster – Warning: ‘Greater Exposure’ To Fox News Will Lead To ‘Increased Misinformation’ On Policy Issues

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From Think Progress:

Warning: ‘Greater Exposure’ To Fox News Will Lead To ‘Increased Misinformation’ On Policy Issues

By Ben Armbruster

Last week, World Public Opinion (WPO) released a poll exploring political information in a post-Citizens United national election and found that 90 percent of voters “said that in the 2010 election they encountered information they believed was misleading or false, with 56% saying this occurred frequently.” More troubling, the poll also found “strong evidence that voters were substantially misinformed on many of the key issues of the campaign.” WPO said that voter misinformation contained beliefs about current issues such as TARP, the Recovery Act, health care reform, the economy, and climate change that were “at odds with the conclusions of government agencies, generally regarded as non-partisan, consisting of professional economists and scientists.”

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US in Afghan quagmire

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Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – Federal TANF Funding Shrinking While Need Remains High

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Federal TANF Funding Shrinking While Need Remains High

By Liz Schott and LaDonna Pavetti, Ph.D.

“With unemployment high and millions of families in need, for the first time since 1996 when President Clinton and Congress created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant as part of welfare reform, no additional TANF funds are available from the federal government to help states respond to the large increases in the number of impoverished families as a result of a recession.”

States Will Have Less TANF Funding in FY 2011 Than in FY 2009-FY2010

Among the states hit hardest are those that have faced higher-than-average unemployment rates and significant state budget shortfalls.

For example:

  • South Carolina and Oregon will both receive 16 percent less in federal TANF funding in 2011 than in 2009 and 2010. Oregon is facing an unemployment rate of 10.6 percent and had a biennial budget gap equal to 34 percent of its 2009-2011 budget. South Carolina has an unemployment rate of 11.0 percent and had a budget gap equal to 25.6 percent of its 2011 budget.
  • Nevada, which is facing 14.4 percent unemployment and had a 2011 budget gap equal to 54 percent of its budget, will receive 17 percent less in federal TANF funding in 2011 than its average annual level for 2009 and 2010.

View the full report:
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3345
http://www.cbpp.org/files/12-16-10tanf.pdf 13pp.

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Democracy Now! Headlines for 12/16/2010

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Reps Rush Holt and Raúl Grijalva on House Democratic Opposition to Obama’s Tax Deal with GOP

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The 10 Most Dangerous Toys of 2010

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New York City Consultants Charged in $80M Waste, Fraud Scheme

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Former Guyanese Politician Convicted of Terror Plot in Latest Case of Alleged Gov’t Entrapment

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US Child Labor

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Julian Assange has walked out of the High Court in London after being freed on bail

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Chris Floyd – Death of a Courtier, and Other Vile Follies

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From Chris Floyd:

Death of a Courtier, and Other Vile Follies

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 12:31 PM PST

The career of the late imperial courtier par excellence Richard Holbrooke is summed up well here by Diane Johnstone. As she notes:

The Dayton Peace Accords were presented as a heroic victory for peace extracted by the brilliant Holbrooke from a reluctant Milosevic, who had to be “bombed to the negotiating table” by the United States. In reality, the U.S. government was fully aware that Milosevic was eager for peace in Bosnia to free Serbia from crippling economic sanctions. It was the Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic who wanted to keep the war going, with U.S. military help.

In reality, the U.S. bombed the Serbs in order to get Izetbegovic to the negotiating table. And the agreement reached in the autumn of 1995 was not very different from the agreement reached in March 1992 by the three ethnic groups under European Community auspices, which could have prevented the entire civil war, if it had not been sabotaged by Izetbegovic, who withdrew his agreement with the encouragement of the then U.S. ambassador Warren Zimmermann. In short, far from being the great peacemaker in the Balkans, the United States first encouraged the Muslim side to fight for its goal of a centralized Bosnia, and then sponsored a weakened federated Bosnia – after nearly four years of bloodshed which left the populations bereft and embittered.

The real purpose of all this, as Holbrooke made quite clear in To End a War, was to demonstrate that Europeans could not manage their own vital affairs and that the United States remained the “indispensable nation”. … His victory was a defeat for diplomacy. The spectacle of bombing plus Dayton was designed to show that only the threat or application of U.S. military might could end conflicts.

Holbrooke’s death this week was capped by sinister, cynical comedy from the White House, which sought to turn his dying refutation of the murderous Af-Pak policy he pushed so assiduously into a bit of manly joshing with doctors before going under the knife. Well, maybe that’s how it was; maybe he stayed in character, the eager, hearty, shallow courtier, even as death was staring him in the face. In any case, whether Holbrooke saw the light — or rather, saw the darkness he had served his whole life — before he died or not, his demise brings to mind a point we were making here just a few days ago.

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Talking Points Memo – Coal Interests Fueling Gingrich’s Cash-Burning 527

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From Talking Points Memo:

Coal Interests Fueling Gingrich’s Cash-Burning 527

The recently released IRS filings of Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future makes a few things clear: the coal industry loves him; he’s a fan of private planes; and for a self proclaimed fiscal conservative, he’s getting a measly return on the millions he’s throwing at a Christian telemarketing company that raises cash for the 527 group. Read more »

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AMERICAblog – Broadband prices dropping around the world except the US

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From AMERICAblog:

Broadband prices dropping around the world except the US

by Chris in Paris on 12/16/2010 11:45:00 AM

Even worse, the companies that are gouging US consumers are probably going to get their wish as the Democrats appear to be folding on Net Neutrality. Each day it’s more and more of a challenge to find reasons to support Democrats. The differences between the two parties when it comes to engaging the corporate world is so small.

Obama’s meeting with American CEO’s had to be one of the most naive moments of his term as president. As I said the other day, it is often not in the financial interest of these executives to add jobs in the US. We all know how they worship at the altar of the almighty dollar so there is more incentive to either cut jobs or move them offshore. Doing either (or both) helps show a better bottom line which often drives the stock price. One of them (Boeing’s CEO) even talked about building more jobs offshore in India following the meeting. Brace yourself for a lot more of that. (To be fair to Boeing, they also said they may hire four to five thousand workers in the US due to exports in 2011. That is still thousands fewer than they fired recently.)

Whatever happened to Democrats that fight for the middle class? We must be fools to support a party that supports this garbage.

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Merry Christmas

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Santa Capitalism 226x300 The Hypocrisy of Christmas‏‏ in America

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Slashdot – EPA Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Bees

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From Slashdot:

EPA Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Bees on Tuesday December 14, @12:02AM

Posted by Soulskill on Tuesday December 14, @12:02AM
from the how-could-that-bee dept.

hether writes “The mystery of the disappearing bees has been baffling scientists for years and now we get another big piece in the puzzle. From Fast Company: ‘A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined — electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.’ Now environmentalists and bee keepers are calling for an immediate ban of the pesticide clothianidin, sold by Bayer Crop Science under the brand name Poncho.”

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John Pilger – The War You Don’t See (Video Documentary – 10 part playlist)

December 16, 2010 1 comment
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Democracy Now! Headlines for 12/15/2010

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Attorney: Swedish Case is a “Holding Charge” to Get WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Extradited to U.S.

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John Pilger: Global Support for WikiLeaks is “Rebellion” Against U.S. Militarism, Secrecy

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Remembering Richard Holbrooke’s Overlooked Diplomatic Record in East Timor, Iraq, and Balkans

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McClatchy – Justice Department sues BP, others over Gulf oil spill

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From McClatchy:

Justice Department sues BP, others over Gulf oil spill

By Erika Bolstad and Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — BP and other companies not only ignored important safety and operating regulations, the Justice Department said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, but it also failed to take necessary precautions to keep its Gulf of Mexico well under control before the April 20 blowout that killed 11 people.

While the full scope of the disaster isn’t yet known, the Justice Department wrote in its suit, “the consequences include lost lives, destroyed livelihoods, and grave harm to natural resources across several states and related waters.”

The lawsuit, the first phase in punishing the parties responsible for the spill, could wrest billions of dollars in civil penalties from nine companies the Justice Department blames, including BP, for allowing an estimated 4.1 million barrels of oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico over three months. Because each barrel spilled carries a fine of as much as $4,300, those flow-rate estimates — derived by a government team and already disputed by BP — will be at the heart of the multi-billion dollar case.

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Tax Compromise Will Affect Social Security

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Washington’s Blog – Reagan’s OMB Director: Bush Tax Cuts “The Biggest Fiscal Mistake in History” … Extending Them Won’t Stimulate the Economy

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From Washington’s Blog:

Reagan’s OMB Director: Bush Tax Cuts “The Biggest Fiscal Mistake in History” … Extending Them Won’t Stimulate the Economy

Ronald Reagan gave big tax cuts to the wealthy.

So it is dramatic that Reagan’s director of Office of Management and Budget – David Stockman – calls the Bush tax cuts “the biggest fiscal mistake in history”.

Specifically, Stockman told Dylan Ratigan that Bush’s advisers forecast a $5 trillion surplus over 10 years. But “two unfunded wars and a Fed engineered housing bubble later”, we’re in a $ 5 trillion cumulative deficit. So Bush made a $10 trillion mistake.

Stockman said extending the Bush tax cuts won’t stimulate the economy, the fact that the tax cut extensions will expire on the eve of the 2012 elections will panic politicians and force them to renew them yet again, and that “we’re destroying the economy on Uncle Sam’s credit card.

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