Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Food Court XMAS Carol Celebration

Ladies and Gentlemen:

This is probably a befitting way to end the blog for the year. Enjoy every minute of it and see you next year!

Kindest Regards.
Christopher Adekoya

Double Click on the title of today's entry and enjoy the carol courtesy of You Tube

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Extension of the Bush Tax Cut: Why measurement is important on the trade-offs with the Republicans

Many Republicans and their rich friends are celebrating the loot from the taxpayers from the extension of the Bush Era Tax Cut; with one of their rich friends thanking Republicans for the opportunity to fly first class, rather than second class, on vacation trips. Many Democrats who were apprehensive of the huge trade-off when the Whitehouse was informing us of the need to compromise for the sake of the middle class and the economy, are asking: what next? As one of the rich friends of Republicans indicated, the extension of the tax cut offers numerous opportunities to enjoy my wealth and play around with some entertainment dollars, courtesy of Uncle Sam!

Since the windfall for the rich, Republicans have agreed to a number of bills that have once languished in congressional committees for months with one or two of them considered initially moribund. Three of such bills have now been signed into the law of the land by President Obama, in a matter of three weeks; that is an average of one law a week! From the extension of the Unemployment Insurance Payment for additional thirteen weeks for the unemployed, to Food Safety law to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and then, the START II Treaty Law, and probably another one! We must not forget those men and women who responded to the darkest of times in the history of the union, the 9/11 disaster. They deserve better health care provision than what is in place for them today.

Except for the unfortunate Dream Act, the current congressional lame duck session has been as productive as any one can get. For the past two weeks, the lame duck congressional session has become so accomplished that you wonder why all of a sudden the bi-partisanship fervor in congress since the signing of the extension of Bush Tax cut? If you were new to the country, or been away in the past two years, you would have wondered what a miracle bi-partisanship exist in American Congress? To appreciate the current follies of the bipartisan successes that the Obama’s Administration have been accomplishing lately, you’ve got to understand the name of the political game: “Rub my back, I rub your back.” This is why Washington DC will remain what it is: a wheel and deal enterprise. That is why, anytime you hear a new congressional office seeker tell you he or she is going to go to Washington DC and change the way things are done, you must tell him or her to tell that to the marines!

For the sake of accountability, one thing Republicans are known to often tout, but hardly adhere to, a few of us want to know, if the trade-off was actually worth it. We know that 850 Billion dollars of innocent tax payer’s money and loan was committed to the very difficult compromise, which I once referred to as an inconvenient compromise. While we defer to the President on the argument of support for the negotiated plan with the Republicans on the extension of the Bush Era Tax Cut, many of us are still apprehensive regarding what we got for our sweat and money; and, are interested in measuring the contribution of the trade-off for job creations, poverty alleviation and quality of life enhancements for the middle class; including what added benefits that are measurable or readily identifiable with respect to giving Republicans what they want during the negotiations for probably the worst deal for plain old folks. We are further interested in why this Whitehouse, rapidly succumbed to what may be considered, a Russian Roulette for the middle and poor classes in America, courtesy of the Republicans’ aggression.

Some in the Whitehouse and a few on the Capitol Hill must now educate us or inform us of the true cost of extending that Bush Era Tax Cut. They must inform us if the expectation for job creations by the wealthy, from investing some of their windfall in the economy, will materialize; and, whether the negotiated trade-off, was worth anything. Many of us would like to know if the extension can really change what has happened to the economy in the past decade. We will want to be educated about how many jobs the more than 500 billion dollars that went to the rich men and women brought some hope to the dimming times of our lives?.

Further, we will like to determine, whether a negative or positive experience is expected by the taxpayers from the negotiated plan with the Republicans. The tax payers consider the exhaustive eight hundred and fifty billion dollars cost of the negotiated plan, as investment in the economy and would want someone in the Republican Party and or this Whitehouse to tell us about the actual returns, not the expected returns, from the huge investment trade off? What did the ordinary American get for incurring huge debt on the nation, apart from the flimsy unemployment insurance payment, mortgage interest write-off and one other lousy benefit that is touted as new and worthy of appreciation by the middle and lower class Americans.

Some of us, who are unrepentant leftist, who are vehemently against the extension of the Bush Era’s Tax Cut to the Wealthy among us, will want to know the actual benefit(s) that will default to the middle class from this arrangement. We will also like to know how the extension will contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for the poor. We understand that a few Republicans and their chummy rich folks may be worried or in fear of finding out the possible results from measuring the contribution of the tax cut to job creation and quality of life for the masses. This group of privileged Americans are asking that the left and others who are apprehensive of rosy projection of the Whitehouse-Republican plan, to get over it, as they cart their loot to the bank and set on the sail in the yachts to the various sunny and pleasant destination, while millions of Americans wallow in poverty or the frustration of not finding a job. You may recall that this pronouncement is similar to the argument for bailing out the big banks and the insurance companies, like AIG. Till date, the billions committed to those enterprises have not yielded the jobs and better chancing for a performing economy.

Valuable measurements of the contribution of this huge investment of 850 billion dollars are everything, if we are to get a feedback from our investments in the rich class. First, we invested in the corporate entities, now we are investing in the huge fat human entities, many of whom are laughing behind our back and taking our money on vacations or storing them in their over bloated bank accounts. The fact is, and will always be, a rich man would seek the greatest returns to his dollars, if he has to invest it in an economy. Those, who have the illusion that the rich will re-invest in this economy, need to rethink again. This is the same ploy, Supply-side economics, President Reagan wroth on the nation, over three decades ago when I just got out of undergraduate school and there was the failure of the savings and loans.

The rich and Republicans, who are benefiting tremendously from the extension of the Bush tax cut, know it is going to be difficult to force the millionaires among us to invest in an economy they can hardly make maximum profit from, especially when the economic performance indicators are in the dumps. They would rather put their money elsewhere for now. America has moved away from the business of creating manufactured goods and are more into creating money for the sake of money. We are now a nation more interested in fashioning out dubious investment instruments that can hardly create wealth. We will like China, India and anyone else to manufacture the goods, while we determine how the goods are to be moved around the globe, while we undermine our own citizens in the name of creating money. We have totally forgotten that creating money is different from creating wealth. Money is just an instrument of exchange, wealth, is the development of the people, psychologically, sociologically, mentally and physically, while still recouping some profit and enjoying peaceful happiness. Creating paper in the name of money, is not the same as creating goods and services. We must figure out why the rich do not want to get back to what America has always known to be good at, innovation in the creation of manufactured goods and services. Until we realize this, no monetary policy or tax instrument will alleviate our current economic challenges. No tax write-offs waiver will save the old glory!

The nation must view the current initiative for the Bush era tax cut extension as a potential failure. The experience with the bail out of the big companies and buying up government bonds by the Federal Reserve are good indicators of this assessment. We must take on the task of reshaping our economy to benefit our citizens. We must perceive the process of change as essential to revolutionizing the economy. We must see the needed change to create jobs in the economy as a process and not a single event. We must model the needed intervention to turn around our economy not only on the basis of monetary policies but also on an approach that give access to Americans once again, creating innovative goods and services, within our borders. We must consider our economy as a work in process that requires innovation in jobs and goods creation. To do less, to pin our hopes on the rich to reinvest in this economy, is to be committing gradual economic suicide. We cannot rely on assumptions that the rich will reinvest once we give them a tax cut. History has shown and taught us that they hardly do. It is time to get on the business of the people, just as we have expended our fortunes on tax reliefs for the millionaires among us. It is a sad fact, but this is true!

One final word, can someone provide us a quarterly measurement of the investments in the economy in the next four quarters, so we can at least determine, if we are going to be in a hole in perpetuity; or, we are going to get out of the hole with the help of the huge money given to the millionaires among us; and or, have the unemployed enjoy a less stressful XMAS celebration? With the millionaires hiding some of their ill-gotten wealth in tax shelters, as the Republicans continue to bid their work, is there ever going to be a silver lining at the end of the tunnel, with the stagnant unemployment rate among the masses?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Acting up: When Democrats go AWOL on their Leader in the bid to stop Republicans’ Aggression

In politics, a leader is better feared than loved. Democrats challenged the President’s choice of using hard power to move compliance on his negotiated arrangement with the Republicans. Incidentally, the Democrats are fighting back. Democratic lawmakers were all on the talk show circuits this weekend, CBS face the nation, ABC this week and others, trying to place their position in proper context with respect to the extension of Bush’s tax cut and the difficulty of accepting that the President’s negotiated arrangement is the best deal out there for Americans. A few Democratic lawmakers insist they would be making some significant changes, if ever the bill is brought before congress. Late Friday, a group of Democrats had attempted to railroad the arrangement or bill with the Republican from coming to the floor for consideration. While Republicans were busy supporting their negotiations with the President and the President seeking the support and receiving the blessing of probably the most successful Democratic President in the 90’s, Bill Clinton, it was becoming clear that the challenge to the President’s authority may not be totally consummated in light of the benefits that former President Clinton was adducing to the arrangement with Republicans by President Obama. The blog today looks at a comparison of soft versus hard power in moving a very controversial proposal in the US congress with respect to the extension of the Bush Era Tax cut.

Using hard power, the ability to coerce others, whether through force or other means, to achieve your objectives in governance, is skewed towards achieving results at all cost. This type of power is effective when people you are leading presumably share some implicit interest in seeing that your leadership style or negotiated plan succeeds. The Democratic Lawmakers hardly seem to share an implicit interest or consent in the totality of the President’s negotiated arrangement with Republicans. Although they share an implicit interest in the success of his leadership on other issues, his plan in their behalf with Republicans, are questioned on the basis of principle, a principle some of the disagreeable Democratic Lawmakers insist is at the heart of being a Democrat or member of the Democratic Political Party in America.

The carrot and sticks tools of effecting the use of hard power in governance become hardly effective when the implicit consent of the led, is absent. The unique contribution of debates on whether to allow the President’s arrangement with the Republicans to go ahead comes out of probably emotional precepts and sometimes, objective conviction in the principle of being a Democrat. The Democratic Lawmakers find it challenging to swallow an arrangement that calls for barely 35% tax threshold after 5 million dollars inheritance estate valuation. Many of the Democrats would rather shoot for between 50 and 75%, which they consider is a better threshold than what is being offered under President Obama’s plan with Republicans. Democrats, who are aware of their strengths in Congress of today, that is, in which they are in the majority in both chambers, insist that if they are unable to achieve their principle and their goal while still in the majority, it is going to be difficult to achieve same come January, when they will loose their majority in the house of representatives; handicapped to rapidly move legislative bills through committee; and, unable to muster 60 senatorial votes with ease to over-ride potential filibustering.

Soft power in politics offers the leader the opportunity to influence and inspire the led, without necessarily coercing them to do the leader’s bidding. A President or congressional leader using soft power is able to shape preferences of their party members or lawmakers through example and assimilation of what as a leader, you consider most important or urgent. The ultimate results from using the soft power in politics is borne out by the hard results, a difficult achievement in an era of fragmented geopolitical relations, economy, states’ budgets, and media outlets. President Obama probably intended to drive hard results or bargain with Democrats Lawmakers, when he offered that his negotiated arrangement with the Republicans is the best option available under the geopolitical arrangement in the congress since the last elections. However, the Democrats are wavering, insisting that the bottom line results of the negotiated arrangement with Republicans is hardly anything to write home about in an era of huge national deficits and debts. With the current debate, it is not surprising that the available internal party arrangements within the Democratic Party will hardly suffice to motivate all Democrats in congress to vote for the President’s arrangement with Republicans; neither is the external leadership factors such as charisma, promises and conviction in good faith of negotiations of Republicans assuage Democrats along. Democrats who are going AWOL on the President are convinced that more can still be achieved or negotiated away from the republicans to better position the middle and poor classes in our nation.

The possibility of using hard power to bring the dissenting Democrats around to the President’s position on his arrangement with Republicans is practically unachievable in this instance, as the legislatures are dually answerable to their constituent and Democratic philosophical conviction; and, while they are prone to seeing the President succeed in his work, they are also asking themselves, at what price are we throwing in the towel. While some legislators are able to truncate their position and share commitment to a tax cut for the middle and lower income, they have some questions on the planned arrangement with the Republicans regarding the extension of the tax cut for the wealthy. This latter group do not object to affording an across the board Bush era’s tax cut extension, but they would appreciate that some elements of the tax cut are not treated in equity between the rich and the poor, as this just adds to the nation’s deficits. Frankly with respect to the concerns of the last group, there are some Republicans who are asking similar questions: can the nation really afford a tax cut with a ballooning deficit?

There are many Democrats who believe that if the President had adopted a combination of soft and hard power in effecting support from the rank and file of the party, who form his base, he will have been able to easily push through his negotiation with them. They insist if the President had maintained effective communication, having a give and take dialogue with most Democrats, if not all Democrats in congress, he would have been able to disengage opposition to the arrangement with Republicans from his party members. They further argue that because the President did not seek their input prior and during the negotiations, there was no clear expectation set and a concrete understanding of where the President was going with the negotiation or proposal articulated with the base of his party. It is hard to achieve the President's objective on his arrangement with Republicans, because appropriate collaboration was hardly sought within the Democratic Party at the negotiation stage. Had the President solicit broad based input from lawmakers and the party’s base, he would have faced such acrimony when the arrangement with the Republicans was announced as the next stage in his public policy management. Using a combination of hard and soft power affords for effective management, prevents interruption of processes and portrays the President not as heavy-handed or authoritarian. To some aggrieved democrats with the arrangement with republicans in the extension of the Bush’s era tax cut, the president seem authoritarian by insinuating that under the geopolitical arrangement in congress, this arrangement is the best deal for the nation, including Democrats. For many Democrats who are still not convinced, the president has failed to take ownership of the responsibility of communicating to the led, especially, the Democrats, the position of the Whitehouse on the issue of the elapsing Bush era tax cut come December 30th, 2010.

The President has the responsibility of getting structure into his communication with the party’s base. On more than two occasions, moving bills and public policy agenda through congress by the democrats have suffered from inefficient communication of the Whitehouse on which direction it was going. Passing of the affordable health care law 2010, suffered similar faith. In the middle of the debate, the President had to recalibrate relationship within his party and between Republicans. The necessary regular and real conversation with lawmakers which would have made the sailing of the bill, much easier were at first absent. It was only at the heat of the debate when republicans became very recalcitrant did the President open up his cards to the Democrats and insisted on constant communication with Democratic leaders in congress; at that time, everyone in the Public were beginning to be suspicious that Democrats were going to ram through a bill, which on its own merits was going to do a lot of good for Americans. It was only after there were open communications in a give and take Whitehouse summit with Republicans, the first of its kind with a President, over a bill that was being debated on the floor of the congress, was trust restored or seemed to be built. Even at that, the Republicans did not still vote in support of the bill in Senate and only one of them in the House, supported the passing of the law.

The President must spend time in constructing and reconfiguring communication with lawmakers in both parties. The lapses of the past two years must now yield; especially, since the President knows that managing the legislative process is essential for effective governance, although he is not expected to directly do this, but it is essential that he is working behind the scene, probably with an ombudsman on legislative process on whatever bills that are impending on the floor of congress, if he wants to get a bang for his buck. The President needs to own the responsibility of knowing that he has power in his relationship with congress, both political parties and the people, in moving bills through congress. Without an understanding of this responsibility, it will be difficult to build trust and develop appropriate collaborations even with members of his party, regarding a debate over a bill coming to the floor of congress. He must also solicit inputs prior to any negotiation, pre-floor debate and not wait until an impending deliberation in congress, before announcing that he has reached a negotiation with the opposition, over an issue that many members of his party have a deep inhibitions.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Inconvenient Compromise on the Millionaire's Tax Relief: Negotiating out of perceived weakness of Democrats?

Someone is about to give taxpayers' money to the millionaires among us and well meaning Democrats and patriots of this nation are saying: H*ll No! Democrats are raising hell because it is absolutely necessary. If the President does not know how to negotiate with bullies, how to deconstruct aggression, and how to hold tight against all odds, some well meaning Democrats are ready to stand up and be counted.

It is not enough to assume that Americans are unwilling to allow the Bush’s Tax cut to elapse at the end of the year because they do not want to take home a smaller check. If taking home a smaller check will make us be classified as purist, idealist or boneheads, so be it. Many of us in the poor and middle classes are hardly taking home anything as of now; by my last count, close to fifteen million Americans, except you consider the pittance unemployment insurance compensation, a huge check! Notice I used the term, compensation, not transfer payments. The huge tax break that the millionaires are about to receive through the negotiated agreement with the President, is probably going to be one of the hugest transfer payment of all time, considering that the wealth of the rich has increased in astronomical terms and values; and the multiplier effect of huge tax savings for the rich would quadruple with an improving commerce. Trading meager unemployment compensation for billions of dollars that the rich will continue to write off, if the Obama’s negotiated deal with Republicans is allowed to hold, does more disservice to the national debts and deficits than whatever contribution or job creation to the economy that is being touted by this Whitehouse. The impending doom from this negotiation can only be described in three words: an inconvenient compromise.

Too many times in the past two years, we have watched Republicans stand up as obstructionists to all that is in the interest of the middle- and low--income Americans. We virtually fought them for the health care reform law, we had to hose them down for the financial reform law, we had to bring them to their senses on the pollution impact of the BP’s oil spill; now, they want to arm string us and delude the public that compromising on the millionaire’s tax relief is good for us and the nation’s deficit. They want us to believe that Republicans have our welfare at heart and that if in the future, they ask for more, the President will use his veto power, a power he has refused to use at this time, when it is very crucial and expedient. This is about to lead to a Democratic Lawmaker mutiny in the house; a mutiny against the tyranny of unrepentant bullies. The Republicans are involved in blackmails and threats to get their way; and, many of us in the left are saying: Not this time, Jose! It is wise to halt the mould before it spreads over your roof!

The frustration with the negotiated arrangements with the Republicans on the extension of the Bush Tax cut comes out of the perception gap between what the President and Democrats in congress perceives to be in the best interest of the nation. Many Democrats appreciate that there is need for income mobility; however, the negotiation with Republicans on the extension of the Bush’s tax cut is not the way to go at this time. The Perception gap between some Democrats, majority in the left, and the President on the extension of the Bush’s Tax cut suggests that the President and his advisers are incensed and probably overstating the perceived contribution to job creation and the economy from extending the tax cut to the wealthy for two years or permanently.

The nation is hugely in debt and the negotiation or the framework for extending the Bush’s tax cut is about to add, another 700 billion dollars to the debt. Are we serious about the deficit and debt reduction as is being proclaimed by Republicans? Are Republicans actually seeing what this arrangement is going to net for the nation? It seems plausible that the negotiated deal will offer some reprieves for the unemployed in the short-term; but at what expense: billions of dollars to the rich? Wow, what is America turning out to be? Is our Democracy about to turn to a heartless and debt-ridden inconsiderate nation of 1% billionaires, with fat bank accounts, luxurious yachts, and 95% pauper homes or colonies, seeking the crumbs from the rich men and women tables, courtesy of Uncle Sam?

Besides the extension of unemployment benefits, real estate tax write-offs, paltry earned income credit, what else is in this negotiated arrangement for the middle and poor classes? There is no reason to believe that when the rich take their largesse from the continued tax cut from the Bush era, they will reinvest their loot or money in this economy. Rich people invest in enterprises that will give them the maximum yield or returns for their money. If the nation goes bankrupt from giving off money to the rich, the banks, the insurance companies and other foreign countries, except the majority of Americans, who is being hurt?

It is wise to understand the extent of the problem that this negotiated arrangement is about to bring on America. There should be a procedure for the ordinary man to measure the impact of the current arrangement on jobs creation, future taxes, social security and Medicare taxes, vis-à-vis, the survival of the welfare state, vis-à-vis, social security program reduced benefit payments to the elderly and the Republicans avowed intention to privatize the social security benefit program. To believe that Republicans mean well in their negotiations, is to believe the sky is purple! How on earth, can anyone guarantee how a rich man will spend his money in the future? This looks more like the misery of the thirteenth kind! Are we just to assume that the rich will do the right thing by reinvesting in America? Who can stand by this pronouncement? This is why the arrangement with Republicans by the President highlights the distributional and possible volatility effect on the welfare of the lower and middle class; and this is why many Democrats are against it.

The imposition of the President’s negotiated deal with the Republicans, either through a cautious deference to the office of the Presidency by the Democratic lawmakers in the coming days, may help a few middle and low income Americans in the short-run. However, in the long run, the rich will benefit far more than the two earlier income classes; either through higher returns from investment in human capital in a weak labor market, if in fact they end up putting money in job creation, or through political investments in politicians willing to extend the tax cut permanently, i.e., beyond the two- year time frame being touted as the arrangement with President Obama. The value of the arrangement with the Republicans seems very spooky. This is the same group of lawmakers who vehemently fought against reform to the financial system that nearly brought the economy down?

If I could leave you with one thought today it will be this: Even though the President of the United State meant well in negotiating this deal with the Republicans, it is the duty of free men and women in this Democracy to stand up against the blackmail from the Republicans. We cannot always depend on the President to hold brief for us in all cases; the elapsing Bush tax cut maybe one of those cases. Ordinary men and women fought against the King of England and won their independence in the dark ages; the rich, who have replaced the tyranny of the monarch in a representative Democracy, are doing the same obnoxious things that made us fight for independence: seek wealth from the poor, shift it to the rich and their cohorts, while attempting to convince the poor that they are getting a better deal than is possible come January; simply because the Republicans are going to be in the majority in the congressional house of representatives hardly justifies rolling over for them umpteenth time. The current arrangement with Republicans by President Obama is hardly palatable or tenable in this time of austerity.

So as those Republicans celebrate on winning some for their rich folks, it may be wise they realize that America belongs to us all; it hardly belongs solely to the rich. If the economy continues to tank, there wouldn’t be further wealth creation or taxes paid by the underclass so we can feed the greed of the rich; the human behavioral instincts for survival will set in and for those who have read the history books, you understand what went on with the tenant Uprisings in 1766, Shay's Rebellion in 1786 and the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s. These are events in American History and those who are familiar with the 1894 Coxey’s Army of unemployed workers and the Workingmen’s movement of 1830 probably appreciates the benefits of listening to the deprived and underclass at this time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Petitioning the left and Obama’s Threshold for Change in the face of Republican aggressions: Is there a compromise?

One crucial aspect of the embodiment of Republican’s aggression and the disaffection with President Obama’s decision to negotiate away the extension of the Bush Tax cuts from the left is the lack of the actualization of the power of the Presidency. The frustration of the left with President Obama is deeper and broader than is actualized by today’s Press Conference. Over the past two years, Republicans have stood in the way of this presidency, some of their positions being construed in the context of race, although they vehemently deny this. The President's announcement of the new tax cuts for Americans is associated with some undue chastisement of the left; a decision that hardly sits well with majority in the left. The challenge of borrowing money to feed our fiscal recklessness is what is making the left say, wait a minute Mr. President, is this what we need to be doing to prevent further humiliation of the poor and middle classes?

President Obama has pushed a foray of bills, passed a number of ground breaking laws that are probably the envy of many US Presidents that have served in that office, the past half a century. The President has continued to bend over so much on a number of legislative issues that many in the left are disillusioned with his position on a number of legislative arrangements, most especially the current negotiation on giving a tax cut to millionaires in the name of saving the middle class from decapitation. It is no longer news that we are in a depression: more Americans are unemployed, more Americans have lost their health insurance, more kids are hungrier, more families are out in the streets, more homes are in disarray and more retirement savings have been lost forever, due to the excesses of the past Republican Presidency. We need to start making some very effective choices and not kicking the can down the road. The Republicans always want to eat their cake and still have it! The President has to draw a line in the sand and dare the Republicans; anything less is yielding away the power of the office.

The President attempts to position himself as hardly interested in back-stabbing wars of politics, putting himself above board regarding the politicization of the legislative process. However, the reality is, true governance is politics and politics involves the wielding of power, occasionally with some tough love. The constant aggression from Republicans on many legislative fronts is designed to counter well-intentioned public policies from this Whitehouse. The traditional argument against the increasing national debt from Republicans has been seen as hypocritical and disingenuous. Going a borrowing from foreign countries to feed the insatiable greed of the Republicans and the obnoxiously rich among us, is astoundingly ridiculous. Yielding to the Republicans on any ground after what they did to our economy is unacceptable to the left.

The burden of excessive debt is one that is espoused by national economic advisers; however, Republicans hardly listen to the associated challenge, often pointing fingers at Democrats as the real problem. Republicans want to fight two wars at astronomical costs and still expect the nation to be financially healthy. Republicans want to portray themselves as against the nation taking on more debts, but they are often ready to commit the nation to policies that compounds the problem of the deficits. Giving tax cut to the rich while many Americans are losing their homes and livelihood is absolutely wrong; and, this is why many in the left are against negotiating with Republicans on the Bush tax cut legislation. If Republicans want a fight so be it, it is better the President exerts his authority rather than allow Republicans to have their way.

In American politics, interest groups fight for what they believe in and share the pain and sufferings of their decisions. In America of today, there is more wealth concentrated in the hands of 5% of the population than the reminder 95%. There are more billionaires in America today, holding down more wealth, eight times more than when Republican Reagan first gave the rich a tax cut in the 80’s. The second Bush Presidency extended further tax cut to the rich, deregulated the economy to the extent that fraud began to be considered as commerce. The middle-class have been so marginalized to the extent that many in the left are effectually saying the distribution of wealth in America of today is an abomination for a representative Democracy. To counter the aggression from Republicans, the left are saying, the President needs to curtail their excesses, else they become an unruly and unwinding power broker come January, 2011; a powerful position that can unravel the rest of Obama’s Presidency.

A second argument against the President’s attempt to negotiate with Republicans on the Bush’s Tax Cut extension, is the impact that a decision to default on Republicans’ wishes for extension of the tax cut to the Billionaires will have on the whole economy and the nation’s deficits. Many of the Billionaires being extended tax cut benefits, have more wealth and are in better financial health than some States in the Union. If States in the union are contemplating cutting basic health care insurance to the poor because of tightening budget deficits, how can any Republican or blue dog Democrats justify giving money to the rich who do not need it? According to many respected economists, the rich are not going to re-invest their newly acquired wealth from the nation’s confers through the tax cut extension. The poor and middle class who need this tax cut, will out of necessity for survival spend whatever tax cut that ends up with them, thereby invigorating commerce and the economy.

In the context of a declining economy that needs to create millions of jobs, the tax cut to the poor and middle class would do the nation better than any of the mammoth millions that will end up in the pockets of the rich. Further, the argument that if the Presidency had not gone into negotiations with Republicans to get the amiable agreement that has been touted by the President as serving the middle class better, while carting away millions in estate tax reprieve for the rich, is hardly tenable. The added argument that Republicans would just go ahead and pass themselves a tax cut in January when they are in the majority, is also disputable. Frankly, except no lawmaker is aware, Americans are getting better literate about their democracy than twenty years ago. The terrain for fight for the hearts and souls of this country is fast changing; and, if the Republicans believe they can bamboozled the public as in the past, they are about to receive a rude shock. If the government is bailing out automobile makers, banks, insurance companies, some foreign countries and the rich, leaving out the majority of the populace, the government is preparing a beautiful bed for a class war. This is not sounding alarmist, all you need is to look around your neighborhood, poverty is here, real poverty is here and no Republican, no matter how blind he or she wants to be, can deny this. Republicans can continue to delude themselves that they have been able to arm twist a Democratic President. Can they do same to all the voters and citizens? Probably not!

The third argument against negotiating with Republicans comes out of the deleterious impact of the President jettisoning his promise to the middle-class and allowing Republicans to take advantage of the power of legislating to derail doing the greatest good to the greatest number of Americans. A President that announces an amoral decision to extend tax cut to the rich at the expense of the millions of the unemployed, homeless and hungry middle-class, who allows Republicans to derail his intention of facilitating the greatest good to the greatest number of Americans, has probably failed in his duty. This is why many of us in the left do not see eye-to-eye on this negotiation with the Republicans. If Republicans really want a fight, lets them bring it on. It is not the first time they have promised to hold the nation to ransom and this will not be their last.

Finally, the constant fear of election results and its implications may be doing this President less good, if he continues to capitulate to the wishes of Republicans, just because they will be in the majority come January or because they could pull a joker, is probably not wise and realistic. If the Presidency reduces the power of its office, Republicans will take advantage of this and ask for more. They will use the legislative process to kill more bills or policies, because they realize a weakness in the Presidency. Just as Republicans are able to negotiate down the bargaining power of the Presidency on the extension of the Bush’s tax cut, they are more likely to do the same for other bills, including the climate change bill. President Obama must step up his grandiose bully-pulpit power and use it effectively, without fear or favor. This argument is consistent with the wishes in the left and why it seems we are disillusioned with the decision to negotiate with Republicans on the extension of the Bush’s tax cut for the wealthy among us. Call it discrimination against the rich, but it’s a discrimination that hardly disadvantages the affected. If in doubt, we would be more than agreeable to switching places with the millionaires on this one.

The blog today attempts to draw out the implication of the Presidency shying away from a fight with Republicans, on an issue that many people in the country agree is out of line with the real essence of being an American. The President went against the grain of the wishes of the people who elected him. Democrats live by Principle not by wishes of a few bully. You cannot take John Boehner's word for it as is espoused by the President. You simply cannot take a politician's word for it! Republicans are bullies and they have effectively used their stance to change the course of history. It seems that the President failed to realize that if you do not take a fight to the bully, the bully will rise again. The implication of his position on negotiation with the Republicans has for all intense and purpose makes winning for the Americans, now and in the future, even more difficult. The measure of a man is in living up to his words. The President failed by not living up to his promise to the left by rewarding Republicans' obstructionism. The President is probably deluding himself by assuming that he has done the middle-class some good by agreeing to the position of the Republicans. Americans are on the side of the Presidency, if it is not extending tax cut to the rich or extending high end tax cut to billionaires. The President would hardly get the support of the left if he continues to accept position of weakness to his Presidency or negotiating away the baby and the bath!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tough Choices: Working with a new Republican Congressional Majority Come 2011?

While it seems unreasonable to assume that the Republican Congressional Majority would be amendable to the goals of a Democratic President come January, the lame dock experience, including issues as the Extension of the Bush Era Tax Cut, START II Treaty, Extension of Unemployment Insurance Payment, and Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislation, bears this position out. The experience of the current negotiations and voting on one of these important goals of governance and bills of importance to this presidency over the weekend, have shown that the President is up for an uphill battle when the new congress is sworn in January. Our blog today discusses how to work with the Republican majority to achieve the objective of the Obama’s Presidency. The faith of important issues and bills that look moribund because of the results of the November elections can very much been impacted by astute Political brinkmanship and accuracy of understanding of congressional behavior. This essentially is our goal today.

1. A Little Background
The United States Congress convenes to deliberate a wide range of national policy issues after the swearing in of a new congressional session, some of them urgent and important, others sometimes not so urgent. For our blog, all things health care and the environment, the affordable health care law of 2010 and the issue of climate change, pollution controls and remediation, including air and water quality, are much more important. Barring any political gymnastics by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Health Care Law 2010, it is very possible that the Republicans would not subscribe to the climate change bill that has been working its ways through the congressional committees in the past eighteen months. What must Climate Change enthusiast expect come the new session of congress? Delays, redirection, filibustering, and probably mud sling? A few of these has been going on since the November 8th election results and we do not believe it will subside come January, 2011. It is also possible that Republicans will seek some amendments to the Health Care Bill, especially in some areas that hardly sit very well with them. We do not foresee them being able to repeal the whole health care bill; there are just too many good in the law to let it slip away.

Some unique combination of factors may give the Republicans an upper hand in what bill gets moved faster on the congressional house’s schedule and which is left to die in committee. With Republicans making up to 60% of the 435 representatives and close to 42% of the senators, their influence may be felt more at both house committees’ and open floor debates. With more than 21 House Committees and 22 Senate Committees, and probably five joint committees, the wave of Republican influence may have a considerable impact on many bills. Unfortunately, the unique nature of the composition of congress come January further means that Republicans may exert more undue influence to the extent of doing more mischief than if they had maintained similar minority status as in the outgoing congress. This is why the mantra, election results have implications, has a resounding agreement with many voters. In fact, the influence of Republicans would be felt more during house committee leadership deliberations as they will constitute a higher ratio; and probably lesser in senate committees as they constitute a smaller ratio representation in that chamber of congress. While it may be more challenging to move some essential bills through congress, especially a bill like the climate change and pollution controls, no one should rule out that Democrats can achieve other successes in the coming legislative session as they have done in the outgoing congress; and, as they contemplate the remaining work of this presidency.

2. Preparing for Change
So what should voters expect; or, what should President Obama's strategy be in working with a Republican majority in the house? Voters must now familiarize themselves better with the Web sites: (http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov). These sites would not only allow them to get to know the profiles of their representative, it will give them an idea of what bill and issues is coming on in congress and the position of their representatives on the bill. And, if there are issues that voters believe should be addressed or moved on, the voters will find their representative’s email box to flood. There is no room for slacking or jumping the gun on an issue just for the reason that one party, is not known to hold brief on a particular national issue or political bill; or, either because Republicans are not known to subscribe to defense cutting to help balance the budget or democrats would hardly want to torch Social Security benefits. The general online access that these WEB sites offer the voters also prepares them for opportunities to verify allegation of bias against a bill of interest from their representative. The main faction of the Republican Party, popularly referred to as the Tea Party, has an opportunity to ensure that their so-committed conservative values are exemplified in the deliberations at the committee stage of bills until the full floor; just as the compassionate approach to public policy, known with the Democrats, are hardly allowed to slip off with Democrats watching.

3.Tackling Meaningful Goals of the Obama’s Presidency
President Obama must prepare the ground to gain the confidence of Republicans, even on issues that he has an unyielding commitment or that he offered as a ‘must-do’ during his administration during the 2008 election campaign. He may chose to have a high-impact communication expert designating to outreach work with Republicans, permanently attached to the Whitehouse. His goal must be to guide Republicans to see issues more objectively as the Whitehouse, sees them. Once you know where Republicans and Democrats stand on an issue, the communication expert’s job is to move reconciliation of both parties’ representatives closer to what the Obama’s administration envisages as its goal. The communication expert must be able to assess the strength and the weaknesses of both parties’ representative position and based on number of support or antagonism for an upcoming bill or committee deliberation, build a relationship profile and help advance the objectives and cause of this Whitehouse.

Several years ago, 1994, President Clinton was able to build a coalition of foot soldiers in congress to achieve his goal; and, when he found out that Republicans were not going to play ball, he used his inside knowledge of the republican political arrangement to force his position, including closing down the government for some days, because Republicans were not yielding to his Whitehouse objectives. President Obama must do his home-work before yield some of his best bargaining chips to the Republicans. His inability to articulate this aspect of political negotiations in congress in this past weeks, probably led him to yielding the federal employees wage freeze pronouncement he made, a pronouncement that got his Whitehouse nowhere with the tax cut objective for middle income earners and the deficit reduction commission’s voting last week. Further, his less than affirmative stance on some of his Presidency objective during the lame duck session, afforded non-subscription by Republicans to extending unemployment insurance payment this weekend. Republicans early support for the START II Treaty and a bunch of other nuances withered out as Republicans re-asserted their unyielding attitude towards many bills in the past two years as they quickly realize how weak the Presidency was getting during the lame duck session. In addition, the Republicans rejected the proposal to extend tax cut to the middle class, even at a higher threshold of 1 million dollars income, a threshold higher than the President promised during the 2008 election.

4. The Way Forward
President Obama must consider two additional political strong-arming techniques. One is Democratic Leader’s feedback, on what works with Republicans and what essentially does not. We have a hunch that the President is probably not reading the Republican’s position right, because he does not have the full picture of what essentially is, Republicans bravado, and what is their threshold of assimilation of Democrat party’s position on issues. The second is an assessment of the new Tea Party Republican representatives’ political weight in an environment of changing fortunes of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is no-longer monolithic as their leaders would like us to believe. Many of us outside the government, sense some cracks and intimidation in the Republican Party, now than ever before. If in doubt, you may want to ask the question: why did Senate Republicans send a letter to Harry Reid, Senate majority leader on all the dice or nothing on the extension of the Bush Era Taxes last week. This sounds more of a grand standing than the real status of the unity within their party’s representatives in congress. While there may be some unity of purpose in the era of Republican minority in the house of representatives, there is going to be some fratricide when the Tea Party members start to exert their little influence come January when they are sworn in as part of the freshmen class. Republican lawmakers will be in majority in the house at that time and they would have to convince the American Public that they are up-to the task of governing and not just retorting no to every bill out there.

When the President allows his objectives to be railroaded, he becomes more vulnerable. The President has to better assess his chances on all bills before congress, develop his in-house strategies to cajole Republicans to see issues his own way, and if they renounce his position, he must be willing to use the full weight of the office of the Presidency to accomplish his objectives. It is somewhat truthful, that the President would no longer be in a secure environment as in the past two years where experienced democrats were able to secure enough votes for his objectives without much direct involvement from the Whitehouse. Politics is a game of number and Democrats don’t have that number come January in congress. The better option then, is to look elsewhere, where and when to compromise to still achieve the objective of governance. The opportunity to win over some Republicans, who have not been polluted is there and the freshman class is one group to achieve that extra political power and number to accomplish the goal of his Presidency.

5. Advancing the Climate Change Bill
Tackling the issue of climate change and the environment is still feasible. In Politics, never say never! For example, sometimes a bill that hardly receives empathy from an outgoing congress, later on rebounds after some unforeseen events, even at the time of initial deliberation at the committee level. It is not every time that you imagine that things would not work out, that they actually never work out. Drawing out empathy and sympathy for positions that looked at variance with the objective of a political Party have sometimes win out after some very outrageous events occurring. Can anyone imagine how the events of September 11 galvanized the people’s support for the Bush’s Presidency after the voting chad debacle in the State of Florida? Can anyone imagine at the time President Reagan was cutting taxes for the rich in 1981 that he would end up being one of the Presidents that grew the size of government at an astronomical way?. Yes, Reagan cut taxes to the wealthy but spent gazillions on Defense and some social programs that probably made Democrats blush! That is the reality of politics and President Obama can take a cue from that. If the President’s goal is still to cut greenhouse emissions and introduce the carbon-tax regime, it is still do-able!

6. Conclusion
There is always an opportunity to feel the impulse of your opponents by getting closer and warmer to understand what make him or her tick. Getting upset and refusing to get engaged with the Republicans may have a damaging influence on governance. Redefining the turf by listening to the interests of the Republicans diminishes the chances that Republicans will be able to always marginalize the interest of the Whitehouse in congress. Time spent in cultivating the empathy of the opponents is often useful in getting to the impulses of the opponent and redefining the political turf. Learning to understand the values and the motivational variables for a new group of Republicans in the House of Representatives may help address the new challenges of the political turf and defining the motivational variables necessary for bringing the Republicans around to the objectives of the Whitehouse. The Whitehouse must continue to plug away on those factors that make it seem that both parties can work together on bills, if it wants to change the tone of support for his policies. A well-done outreach relationship building with men and women in congress from the White house can actually do the magic; and, reposition this Presidency for prioritizing which bill to move in congress and which to let steam off for a while until the opportune moment.

In addition to feeling the impulses of the Republicans and cultivating the congressional freshmen of 2011, it may well be necessary to change the deeply ingrained characteristics of Democratic Party negotiating strategies in congress. This is not to say, dropping the values and ethos of the Democrats; or, challenging the style of the outgoing Democratic Leaders in Congress. Upping the game of Nancy Pelosi must not be seen as necessarily unworkable in a House Republican majority. Ms. Pelosi has been one of the most skillful leaders in the United States Congress. The fact that many bills were passed during the time of her leadership as speaker says a billion about her negotiating skills and leadership style. The fact that she is retuning as a minority leader hardly shrinks her influence, even among conservative Democrats and probably, some new Republican Lawmakers! What you can do, is to give her the tool needed to make things happen again just as she has done in the outgoing congress without the huge funfair of a roaring lion!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Environment for Offshore Drilling: What the new Obama Administration Plan does not mean?

The blog today takes on the debate that the new plan ushered in by the Obama’s administration, denying off-shore drilling in the eastern gulf, will lead to America’s dependence on foreign oil or energy sources. It is almost an aberration that America’s Energy Source debate takes on a new turn every time the government makes a conscious effort to correct for failures of participants in the energy industry. And, in many cases than not, the politicization of the process of reform often comes from those who know better; but, are determined to fool the public or downgrade honest effort by this administration. Off-shore oil drilling reform has explicitly begged to be attended to after the British Petroleum oil spill.

Many oil industry experts and insiders knew a change was coming after the beleaguered multinational corporation poured over 178 million gallons of oil into the Gulf Coast waters. Had the present administration not examined the status of the nation’s demand for oil from offshore sources and weighed it against the current nightmare of environment pollution and contamination, maybe it wouldn’t have rolled out the current plan of the administration to roll back offshore drilling in the eastern gulf. For those who are keen on the truth, there are million miles of this country, where on- and off-shore oil exploration activities are still continuing under already issued licenses to drill by the government. Except for some Federal land and ocean zones, the exploration of oil and gas can still continue till the hearts of oil source marauders contend.

While this new plan does not expressly forbid offshore drilling in other parts of the country where known exploration had continued, even with the associated risk of environmental pollution, it does include a number of restrictions and guidelines that make the oil industry evaluate the activities of its members, especially with off-shore drilling in a place as the Gulf of Mexico. Under the new plan from the off-shore five-year plan of the administration, oil companies are allowed to develop existing leases, but restrained from expanding into new areas for now. Under the old presumptive plan that was rolled out nine months ago, Obama’s Administration supported the exploration of oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The reality of the experience of the British Petroleum disaster had made the administration back track.

According to the Secretary of Interior Salazar, result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have thought us some lesson, most important of which is the need to proceed with caution and focus on creating a more stringent regulatory regime. All other undeveloped leases in the Gulf of Mexico, with lease licenses already issued can still proceed under the current plan. Now if there are politicians who have problems with corrective policy regime to allow for some sanity in offshore drilling, it may be wise for them to read the interim report of the Presidential Commission looking into the havoc caused by BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

As might be expected, initial reactions from Republican politicians holding brief for the oil industry, this new plan from the administration is irresponsible and short-sighted. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is going to seek legislative fixes and from my state, Republican Representative Doc Hasting does not want the BP oil pollution experience to disrupt the long-term need for existing energy plan that includes the responsible development of our nation’s oil and gas resources. Can you see the talking point among Republicans: we will fix it and continue at all cost, even if those costs destroy our environment, pollute our waters, poison our seafood source and damage our lands. To this group of politicians, anything for the oil and gas! These two politicians have not experienced the pain and sorrow of the largest oil spill in the history of North America and could hardly careless about the challenges that those who have experienced the nightmare went through. In short, Republicans are sending a clear message that they are going to fight a prudent and wise public policy that makes correction for excesses in an industry that makes billions of dollars at the expense of America’s environment.

The oil industry has responded in different ways to the new plan and has provided different reactions to the new plan. While some in the industry are concerned about the role their members has participated in contributing to the change in course by the Obama’s administration over offshore drilling, others believe that the new plan is a worthy stop gap, until the industry is able to put its act together and prevent future disaster as the one in the Gulf of Mexico. Can restriction on drilling in the eastern gulf, prevent the oil industry from expanding operations in already issues releases – including on land and in many areas in North America where alternative source to oil as energy source has already been identified? The answer to that question is, No!

Production data from oil exploration hinterland shows that there are huge opportunities to expand production levels to accommodate for the seven year restriction in the eastern gulf oil exploration and prospecting. The opportunities for oil and gas companies to make money in alternative sources of energy is huge, even if they do not make as much as they usually do. Unfortunately, this is underrating the oil and gas industry. This is a growth industry that is expanding in mammoth quadruple order. have you heard of their quarterly profits, lately? Even, BP that suffered some setbacks due to the accident in the Gulf of Mexico, still made billions of dollars in profits. If the industry wants to expand production, there are alternative sources of energy to the black gold that the oil companies can put their money; and, these sources are right here in America.

So, when you hear a politician say that the new oil and gas exploration plan is going to cost us money, jobs and independence from foreign energy sources, tell him or her to tell that to the marines!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Everyone Carries his own burden, but there are many who still bend over to give a helping hand;
To all helpers, we give thanks;

There are those who feed from the trough of politics, and each tries to catch others unaware of the tariffs;
To all taxpayers, they give thanks;

S/He who talks much about foolish things also crave much;
To all who give them audience, we give thanks;

For those who bear the burden of taxation and tariffs;
Let them know that the weight of governance rests on their shoulders and the state is forever thankful.
To these, let us be grateful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Medical Loss Ratio and the Promise of Republicans to kill the Affordable Health Care Reform Law

The new health care reform law failed to receive the blessing of Republicans at its passage. If the issue of the medical loss ratio is now being debated, it is probably in hindsight for the Republicans who abstained from contributing any vote after the initial open floor congressional debate. The denial of commitment of the Republicans to the law is well known. The enormous potential payoff of the law for consumers is what is being challenged, if Republicans are able to repeal the law. History has shown that it takes more than verbal bravado to derail a good and well-intentioned law. Lawmakers who voted to pass the Health Care Reform Law and who are still in congress owe themselves the latitude to continue to stand tall for their beliefs. Democrats owe the nation an obligation to twat any effort of the Republicans to repeal or upstage well-intentioned provisions in the law.

Beginning in January 2011, insurance companies will be required to spend 80 to 85 percent of their premiums on health services and on activities aimed at improving the quality of care of individuals’ health. There are some questions regarding whether Health Insurance companies will exploit the ‘green washing’ loophole by counting marketing cost and ill-defined wellness programs as part of the 80-85% threshold of spending on medical care. Such debates are probably in line considering that insurance companies often attempt to exploit weaknesses in laws to their financial advantage. Health Insurance companies must expect to be challenged, if they delve into the gray area of 'MLR Shifting'; this is one loophole in the Affordable Health Care Law that needs to be filled. As written, the law expects any insurance company to spend premium amount of what they take in to improve the quality of health care. The blog today addresses the implication of Republicans’ repeal of the law in the context of the Medical Loss Ratio Provision of the Affordable Health Care Reform Law of 2010.

If Republicans are able to overturn the Health Reform Law of 2010, the public would not only be denied the commitment of a greater percentage of their premium in their personal care, a huge number of Americans will return to the status where they are prevented from getting more value for their health insurance spending. The premiums of medical subscribers may not decrease and yet insurance company will continue to deny justifiable claims just because the Republicans want to remain: “Mr. and Mrs. NO!” There is no more disservice that Republican can do to American Health Care System than to repeal the health care reform law. Health Insurance companies will continue to reclassify frivolous administrative expense as health care expenses and increase their fly-by-night magic to frustrate any investigation into their books with respect to fraud along the line of administrative costs in health care premiums.

To a large extent, insurance companies are not interested in Republicans repealing the law as many of them have spent millions in implementing part of the law that has gone into effect. Some have even created glossy handbooks informing customers of how they are going to implement some provisions of the law. What the insurance companies are interested in, are how to exploit loopholes in the law to their financial benefit. Contrarily, what consumers are interested in are acceptable health insurance business practices regarding the implementation of the provisions of the law, not the Republican's bandwagon of repealing the law. The law is here to stay, what we want is the rule of the road for acceptable insurance companies behavior regarding the implementation of the law. Consumers are essentially tired of double billing that continues to erode the ratio spent on patients' care relative to the premiums doled out to health insurance companies.

The provisions of the Medical Loss Ratio is designed to encourage health insurance companies to use existing premium outlay and capabilities to meet health care needs of patients who suffer recidivism in health care quality. Through various schemes of administrative costs management, insurance companies often divert higher ratio of premiums into administrative overhead; money that should have gone into improving quality of care for patients.

Before the passing of the Affordable Health Care Reform Law, doctors and patients complained about the abuse by insurance companies of patient's premiums without anyone listening to them. A higher than usual ratio of patients' premiums were allotted by Insurance companies to administrative costs, some of them very dubiously. Premiums continued to escalate without patients benefiting from the added costs. The higher premiums that insurance companies continued to charge hardly led to improvement in care for patients, instead they fattened the pockets of the insurance companies as they continued to deny genuine claim. The new health care reform law puts a break to this abuse and asks the insurance companies to justify the medical loss ratio distribution. This essentially is one of the best provisions in American Health Care Reform Law that Republicans want to revert, when they threaten to repeal the health care reform law.

The Medical Loss Ratio provision provides the foundation for discussion with health insurance companies on how they develop the sliding scale for administrative as against actual health care delivery costs from patient premiums. The provision calls for insurance executives to examine the following questions: 1) how much of patients' premiums is actually going into their care; 2) Where are insurance companies exceeding targets, and where are they falling short of expectations; 3) What are the main drivers of the rising administrative costs in health care and what are insurance companies doing to pull back the ever increasing ratio of premiums going into administrative costs; 4) what are the current and future critical challenges to quality of health care delivery as insurance companies and health delivery agencies attempt to meet the provisions of the new law; 5) what are the most critical concerns that doctors and specialists have regarding how they are being paid and how the health care needs of their patients are being met; 6) What should be insurance companies' short-term and long term Strategies in developing humane business goals that address the concerns of patients and their doctors regarding the care they deserve and offer; and 7)what has been the obstacles to achieving health insurance business goals as they attempt to manage a healthy medical loss ratio consequent to provisions of the Affordable Health Care Reform Law of 2010. Whether insurance companies are using a four box or another tool to remain pragmatic and responsive to the needs of the law is better left for time to tell. What consumers are looking forward to is an opportunity for the insurance companies to self-police their operations before the law courts are invited in for a more objective assessments of their efforts.

The effort to repeal the Affordable Health Care Reform Law of 2010 threatens not only the stability of the American Health Care System, but also, insurance companies' ability or arrangement to implement the current provisions of the law that has gone into effect. The insistent cries from Republicans that the US government has taken over the health care system is not only a disservice to the public, it is tantamount to a crocodile cry, specifically designed to derail and confuse insurance companies that are currently grappling with the issue of managing the provisions of the medical loss ratio dynamics. Imagine for a moment that Republicans are able to repeal the law, what would consumers who have questioned the huge ratio of their premiums that insurance companies have repeatedly diverted to administrative costs, benefit from this Republican's Shenanigan?

How would Republicans convince the public that their effort is being made in good faith, especially when some of the insurance companies' frivolous schemes and programs classified as administrative costs have been determined as frivolous and downright ridiculous by consumers and the courts? Would Republicans like to be on record for being the stumbling block before the quality of health care that Americans receive in hospitals? A repeal of the law will demonstrate once again what one of the congressman from Florida, Alan Grayson (D), once said in the heat of the debate over the health care reform bill, the Republicans Health Care Plan is: Don‘t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Congressional Hearing on Climate Change: Do we now have to negotiate with Republican majority come January?

The argument against climate change is hardly convincing: Republicans want us to believe that it makes little difference and are working hard to bring before congress men who will take up their position or do their dirty job. As congress goes into hearing this week, there are evidence that information to be shared with committees will only bolster the argument that there is nothing like climate change; and, if there is, the cost to change direction is too high at this time for the nation. Talks of the health of the economy being impacted by solutions to correct climate change influences are disconcerting as some well known politicians are advancing the argument: do no harm in a period of economic slump!

Climate change is real and there is preponderance of scientific evidence to prove that, even though there is this acrimony regarding tainted data from University of East Anglia, England. Ocean seafarer will inform you of the dwindling marine fisheries and other ocean resources due to changes in Ocean current, a problem that can only occur from changes in currents and climatic imbalance or inconsistencies. The changes in the climate have impacted marine biodiversity, species of animals and plants that were easily harvested in the past; the fishes and shrimps are no longer here. Until recent decades, it was still possible to harvest huge tonnage of seafood at depths that are not as high as what fishermen have to contend with nowadays. Given the complicated issue of environmental pollution from oil spill and its probable impact on the ocean currents, it is still possible to convince many people in the marine business, that the movement of offshore waters and current is due largely to the problem of climate change. Justifying every nit-picky argument from skeptics of climate change may not be entirely possible, but it is safe to say that from what mariners and seafarers are experiencing at sea, it is not just the same as in the past; and, hardly can you convince these marine gofers that other reasons may be adduced to the new experience. Mariners know the sea and understand the climate and how it can impact their operations and exploits!

No one should under estimate the challenges that climate change is already creating and will continue to create in the future on the balance of sea, ocean, land, air and ozone layer stability. The uniqueness of the Arctic Circle and ocean floor currents have shown some convincing evidence that the challenge that climate change may create will be more costly, if we do nothing. We cannot wait for the doomsday before reacting. Mariners and gofers want something done, even if the public are still dragging their feet. Take it this way: if indeed there is no need for alarm, or to worry about the impact of climate change, and the nation still puts in place some corrective measures, we have very little to lose. Now, if we disregard the scientific evidence showing there is cost to bear for doing nothing about climate change, and we actually refuse to do something, then there is probably hell to be paid.

Since Republicans are now in the majority, we understand where the direction of the debate over climate change is heading. The Republicans maintain an askance attitude towards the argument of evidence of climate change. Leading scientists in the field of climatology have indicated that there is evidence there is climate change and the nation needs to address this concern. Some scientists are apprehensive of giving in to the argument that climate change is generally not good for the economy, the environment and weather. The latter group argues that nature takes its course to make corrections during imbalances and data collected over the years indicate that there are some corrective measures that set in whenever there is an imbalance in the whole world climate. The problem with that argument though, is that, in the absence of mans effort to chart its future, nature will automatically take control, and accommodate the zillions of industrial and chemical pollution that is being pumped into the air through human activities. Sadly enough, the advanced economies of the world, contribute more to the ozone layer pollution than the developing countries. Thus, to refrain from taking action is tantamount to accepting failure or that man cannot correct for his errors or mistakes.

When it comes to designing public policies to correct for the problems of climate change, there is clear disconnect between what Republicans profess and what they actually do. While a few of them are open to conviction that there are real problems with climate change, many are rigid, totally against any effort to correct for probable problems that climate change may wroth on the people and the economy. The rigidity of not accepting that there is need to work on corrective measure(s)to address climate change effect has prevented any movement in public policy to explore the “what ifs” dimension in the argument of climate change. If still apprehensive, take it from a mariner, the global ocean space is changing, ocean resources aren’t where they used to be and we aren’t waiting for no politician to tell us what experience has shown to be true!

How can those of us convinced that there is need to address the problem of climate change at this time, rather than wait any longer? How can Democrats in congress advance argument un-behalf of convicted climate change gurus? The integrity of scientists presenting data in support of climate change is hardly in doubt; what is in doubt, is the conviction of Republicans who are skeptical about the whole idea of climate change and would rather gloss over its impending problems. The task this morning is how, do we negotiate with Republicans in congress, assuming negotiations are appropriate to afford for inching steps in congress to put in place public policies that will begin to address problems that many scientists agree is a potential nightmare for the nation’s weather and economy and probably, the world.

The first and the most obvious question for the congressional hearings this week on climate change is whether there is a need to address the potential impact of climate change on the nation's economy; and, if it is appropriate to start looking at workable solutions during an economic slump? Scientists want us to set aside our political affiliations or nuances and take decisive steps to address the potential problems of climate change and the difficulty it may create, even for the economy as we speak. Mariners want congress to take steps to critically evaluate what is being said. The distinction between what is supposedly to be true and what is beholden to Republican majority are not the same. If it appears that the current argument that climate change is now on us and it is impacting many things around us, including the ocean current, weather systems and other known issues at sea, it appears rational that something has to be done to implement corrective measures, else the doubts will precipitates into fears surrounding what climate change can wroth on our seafood source. The difference between political ideology and the reality around us may be difficult to decipher, but men and women at sea, see things that inhabitant of land try to rationalize away!

Rather than debating climate change on the basis of ideology and political affiliation or the fear of what corrective actions may have on the slow economy, why don’t we let thinkers and scientists lead us in the right path on what obviously many politicians are ignorant about. After all, it is science and scientific thinkers that have brought our nation this far and will do in the future. There have been very few politicians that are scientists; and vice versa. Moreover, many scientists shy away from politics because they often see things, including the issue of climate change, objectively from what concrete data is telling them. Many scientists and the public at large are frustrated from the ideological argument from politicians that we must not do anything now regarding climate change. No one is contending that our economy is still in the dumps; however, solution to climate change from the heavy pollution and destruction of the environment, including untenable ideological fights by Republicans are generally not in the interest of the nation.

Thus as congress debate the issue of climate change this week, may representation not be ideologically inspired! Please let those scientists who understand what they are saying lead the nation in finding solution to climate change. The multifaceted argument that climate change is hardly an issue when our economy is tethering is radically inspired. Let the real world data, experiences from seafarers and demonstrated changes at sea that many mariners can attest to, help the politicians see the light. Although politicians tend to portray themselves as knowing what is good for the public in public policy formation, with respect to climate change mariners are saying: something ain’t right at sea and we know our waters are warmer than in the past; and, we want our representatives to do something about it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Unmasking the lies in Republican's Promise to repeal the health care reform law?

Republicans are in the majority in congress come January 2011 and are determined to repeal the Affordable Health Care Reform Law of 2010. The tea party faction of the Republicans party has played a critical role in allowing Republicans to gain more representatives in the house of congress. In 1994, a similar wave of unconscious determination to shift the power structure from Democrats to Republicans took place. If I can recall, it was a similar mid-term congressional election results in favor of Republicans that embolden the party stalwarts to foster their crescendo of the contract with America.

After a short romance with victory, the Republican majority found out that it was easier said than done, when it comes to legislating with purported mandate. New congressmen eventually find out that, all the assumption about how Washington works and how best to wield power, get tempered by the reality of the arrangement in congressional committees and the influence of lobbyists. So, while the Tea party is a darling of the Republican Party, their new membership can hardly confer the right to make or shake the status quo the way they envisaged during election, except those long-time Republicans, who have been in the house, allow them. What does this actually mean? This blog today will attempt to shed some light on the true arrangement of power politics in American congress.

Newcomer Republicans in the House come 2011, who are promising to repeal the Affordable Health Care Reform Law, will eventually realize that lobbyists and government officials, including the senior Republican lawmakers who are beholding to a thousand and one interest groups, are not always distinct population. Today’s unseated centrist Republicans and Blue dog Democrats are tomorrow’s lobbyists. The revolving door-transformation of government officials and dethroned lawmakers into lobbyists and lobbyists into government officials and future lawmakers, make it practically impossible to repeal many laws once passed, including the Health Care Reform law. Here is a recipe of what the bravado of the new Republican lawmakers, especially those tea party favorites, have stacked against them as documented by Marion Nestlé’s 2003 award winning book on food politics:

In 1968, for example, at least 23 former senators and 90 former representatives had registered as lobbyist for private organizations. More recently, among congressional representatives defeated in 1992 election, 40% became lobbyists. So did their staff; from 1988 to 1993, 42% of Senate committee staff directors and 34% of those on the House side became lobbyists. By 1998, 128 former members of Congress were listed as lobbyist – 12% of all senators and representatives who had left office since 1970 (pp. 99-100)

What does this observation mean? Well, if you are in doubt, lobbyists and former congressional staffers and lawmakers fashion bills that are passed into laws. Before a bill appears before a congressional committee, lobbyists and former lawmakers have sliced and diced it and by the time it gets to the desk of the President, nearly all and sundry would have had some input. This is why the initial laws in all instances are a hodge-podge of ideas and recommendations that has to be amended or straightened out by supplementary amendments. Hardly are theses laws repealed; and when they are, not usually in the totality that the old timing Republicans have been pronouncing and encouraging the new tea party rank and file to believe. Guaranteeing the repeal of the health care reform law is an illusion, one that no new lawmaker must romanticized with, unless he or she wants to be disappointed.

The Revolving door issue has practically crippled the process of lawmaking in American Congress. I can mention a litany of names, past and present in today’s politics that have benefitted from the revolving door syndrome and who will vehemently tell you, it is just impossible to eradicate. The lobbyist groups, think tanks and Non-profit organizations in Washington DC determine which laws are made, signed into law, amended or repealed; not the new tea party faction republican lawmaker that is dreaming to bring about change to congress! When new lawmakers go to Washington promising to make a change, they are either frustrated out or discouraged from making a difference by the existing parameters of exchange of expertise between industry representatives and tax-payers’ financed public officials.

The dilemma posed by the revolving door issue has often made that change sought by new lawmakers impractical. Lobbyists exert so much influence over public policies and legislation and make it difficult for the people’s representatives to triumph in the first few years they go to congress. It often takes more than three terms of return to congress before new lawmakers can rise in rank to be able to have some influence on laws passed, or bills in the pipe line for amendment. Republicans can lay groundwork for gridlock until 2012 Presidential election, hoping to defeat President Obama and then moving forward to repeal the health care law, but this is a long shot! They may use parliamentary oversight to cut money from implementing the remaining parts of the law; however, it is a gamble that can easily backfire in light of the provisions in the law: 1) creation of 20,000 Primary Health care Physicians training and jobs; 2) provisions to help low income pregnant women quit smoking; 3) raised threshold for itemized medical expense deduction of adjusted gross income from 7.5 to 10% for regular income tax purposes; 4) enhances incentives for adopting children with special needs and creates avenues for adoption assistance exclusions with adoption refundable credits in yearly tax filing through 2011; 5) require that non-profit hospitals conduct periodic community health needs assessments and adopt a written financial assistance policies; 6) creates a new two-year temporary tax-credit to encourage investments in new health care therapies for tax years beginning in 2009 and 2010; 6) eliminates the deduction for subsidy for employers that maintain prescription drug coverage for retirees who are eligible for Medicare Part D, starting in 2013; and 7) codifies the economic substance doctrine, among others. Can anyone imagine that these and more are what Republicans are clamoring to repeal?

Never mind Republican John Boehner’s promise of a common-sense health care reform that he is touting to 1) let families and businesses buy insurance across state lines; 2) all individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do; 3) give states the tools to create their innovative reforms that lower health care costs; and 4) end junk lawsuits that contribute to higher care costs by increasing the test and procedures that physicians sometimes order not because they thinks it’s good medicine, but because they are afraid of being sued. All these are gimmicks designed to play to the Tea Party state’s right bandwagon. All of these promises had been deliberated over in the past three decades and Republicans had even attempted to craft some of these provisions under a Republican majority in congress that never went anywhere or far. These promises from Boehner are the worst lies and improbable that is being sold to novices who hardly understand the wait game in American politics.

Americans cannot wait for a reformed health care system and the 2010 Affordable Health Care Law is the first step towards this goal. The Republicans want to take us back to where we were in the past that has hardly made health care delivery efficient or people centric. To defer to these lulitunes is to take the country backwards and keep our health care system in the destructive limbo it has been over the years. That is why we must, all concerned Americans, stand up for our health rights. No more promises, no more gimmicks, no more delayed service deliveries and no more Medicare fraud in favor of Republican’s financiers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Making the Health Care Reform Legislation Work for all of us!

When you look at the best health care legislation passed in this country in the last half a century, you're probably looking at the result of hours of hard work and debate from the two aisle of congress. Never mind the bandwagon of 'born-again' Republicans bent on undoing the Affordable Health Care Legislation of 2010. The process of developing and passing the legislation went through groundwork and feedback by both Republicans and Democrats in the past congressional sessions; even though Republicans will continue to complain they were completely shut-out in the deliberations. The fact that Republicans abstained from supporting the health care reform legislation in the current congressional session has very little to do with the quality of the provisions of the legislation.

One of the real reasons why Republicans are at war with the legislation has very little to do with the cost, although Republicans want the whole nation to believe so. If you ask me, it has to do with pure politics. This nation and past congressional sessions with Republican majority have spent triple the amount set aside for implementing the health care reform package on wars. Despite the fact that the new law is going to help raise over twenty-eight billion dollars over a ten year scoring period, a targeted revenue to help offset the overall cost of the reform package. Republicans are still not satisfied; however, in consonant and collaboration with the military industrial complex they are willing to sacrifice or kill human beings with tax payers’ money.

Republicans are hardly interested in healing the sick and underprivileged amongst us, but are very ready to send them to war without the necessary ammunition to protect life. Republicans are unwilling to subscribe to a law that asks everyone to sacrifice a little to allow many to be covered under a health care insurance package that is paid for within the huge costs cuts that have been worked into the provision. Republicans have supported supplementary funding for the continuation of two wars that have mostly benefited their sponsors and supporters financially; yet, they are unwilling to subscribe to a law that extends the employer provided health insurance coverage to adult children of taxpayers under the age of 27 or dependent children up to the age of 26.

Now here is the part that makes you wonder why on earth are Republicans so disinterested in legislation that once, their senior members, mostly drafted in sessions that Republicans were in the congressional majority? The truth is Republicans are pretty smart in not wanting to give credit where credit is due. Democrats, under a majority in both congressional chambers and White house saw it fit to work proactively in the interest of ordinary Americans, to pass the health care law. Republicans abstained from ensuring that their voices are heard in the debates leading to the passing of the law. What Republicans offered as their contribution was the usual criticisms that gave no life to the legislation nor constructively offered reasonable changes that could make it palatable to their critical interests: their political war chest contributors.

One of the common criticisms of the legislation is that it compels Americans to buy health care insurance. As creative as this criticism is, Republican forgot that there is a trade-off to bring 44 million people into the fold of the insured. If we had failed in this trade-off, this same group would have continued seeking emergency care in the already overtaxed hospital emergency rooms all over the country. Americans, who do not carry health care insurance, continue to overburden hospital emergency rooms at the expense of everyone, including Republicans who criticize the new health care reform package. Short of covering the total cost of many of these free loaders on the system, the new health care law ensures that at least many of these Americans are able to buy a health care insurance policy, even though at a subsidy, and are able to share in part of the cost of care they have sought at no cost over the years. This does not seem to be a financial give away. When you hear Republicans label the Affordable health care reform law of 2010 as 'Socialistic Medicine' or 'Obama care', they are obviously engaging in deception or mischief. Who of those millionaires populating the Republican Party has offered to pay for the care of the millions that obviously could not pay for their health care cost, but overburden hospital emergency rooms? You are probably going to hear, the American Capitalism is everyone for himself or herself and God for us all. In one short sentence: who cares?

Well, in a representative Democracy, one which America has vowed to pursue and one that this nation has committed innocent lives and trillions of dollars in spreading all over the world, there is the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The last word in that maitre is happiness! How can anyone be happy with a health care system with a lopsided cost and burden to the public, yet denies access to 44 million Americans who will inform you that they had no alternative, but to seek emergency room care, that by law cannot be denied due to the nature of health care as a product. Many of the past customers of the hospital emergency rooms are documented as carrying no health insurance policy at the point of demand for health care service. The new law just allows these groups of people to participate and still pay some, unlike in the past.

If there are parts of the Affordable Health care Law that are imperfect; yes, let’s work on amending or improving them to be fairer to all, but not junking the whole law. If the objective of Republicans is to repeal the law as they have announced since their newly found majority, they sure got some new things coming. In Republicans new quest to discredit Democrats and the first African American President, the Republicans want to use the unfair political arrangement, one that is heavily stacked against minorities and the underprivileged, to advance their selfish interest of overturning a legitimate law. If this new pronouncement from Republicans is allowed unchecked, then we do not have a democracy. What we have is a killing field for the poor and underprivileged and a caviar table of all assortment of care that the rich can afford without batting an eye. What a Democracy this will be!

To create a health care system that is not wasteful and discriminatory against the poor and underprivileged, we cannot abrogate the 2010 Affordable Health Care Law. We can work to improve its provisions by amending or reordering some of its mandates; but, we cannot throw the baby with the bath away and think we are doing anyone any good. Yes, Republicans have been able to improve their fortunes in terms of representation in congress through the mercy of the extreme right in our society, however; that hardly gives them the right to destroy probably the best thing that has ever happened to America's Health Care System since Medicare.

The litany of the provisions of the health care package is indisputable. The Health Care Reform Law provides coverage for many Americans in high risk professions: $11,840 for individual and $30,950 for family coverage; with Non Medicare retires in the age group of 55+ being offered a policy at a higher premium threshold. The latter group being amongst the category of America's emergency room repeat visitors, because of their vulnerability, including the inability to pay for insurance coverage and institutional racism or class-ism. If we return back to the old status quo as fanned over the airwaves by Republicans since the November election victory, we are saying these groups of high risk under-insured or uninsured are not worthy of any coverage and should be excluded. If we exclude them and these people continue not to carry health insurance, they will still continue to overwhelm our limited hospital emergency rooms.

The health care reform law provides adjustments to policy with higher premium costs based on participants’ age and or gender. When a 45 year old is covered under an employer provided policy covering major medical service in excess of say a value of $40,000, there are some tax benefits for the employer. The $40,000 family insurance coverage is subject to excise tax in the amount of $10,270.28; a threshold that is hardly overburdening to the employer or employee. The employer is able to report $10,270.28 as taxable to the insurer on the W2 form and the money is paid to the IRS. Since Republicans are first to fight against taxation and their benefactor in the last election are so 'taxed enough already' obviously, there is a room here for their bro-ha-ha! This complaint however does not prevent Americans in need of health care, flocking to the emergency rooms to seek care. In addition, this arrangement makes a mockery of all the effort Obama's Presidency has devoted its time in the past two years.

The 2010 Affordable Health Care Law demands that businesses report general transactions greater than six hundred dollars to the IRS during a year to corporate and non-corporate providers. This seems very logical as we are all attempting to go paperless; therefore the complaint that this requirement will overburden providers and business with paperwork is hardly tenable. Computer use generate less paper work and no business will deny in this age that it has not made payment online or received payment from same source likewise.

For the 'tea party' faction in the Republican party, who are so much against any more taxes, anymore government in our business, and any more regulation to allow for a level playing field for all, the reporting of employer-provided health insurance on W2 is not just acceptable; neither is the annual nondeductible fees on pharmaceutical manufactures and importers plus health insurance providers, tenable. However, none of them will ever deny that they had no clue as to what to do when the economy tanked at the latter end of Bush's Administration. For them, the delayed implementation of excise tax from 2013 to 2018 in the health care reform package, to give time for implementation and realization of cost savings, is a tongue in the chick. Hardly will they appreciate the redistribution of annual fees for pharmaceutical and drug importing firms; or the imposition of 10% on qualified indoor tanning services, being part of the necessary reform to the health care system. What these people must however realize is that we are all in this huge boat and it is leaking good people into the ocean of grief because they cannot afford to carry health care insurance; a convoluted misfortune that we will have to pay for in the long run.