The Democrat Party and the complicit legacy media are bending over backwards to find, and totally distort, a couple of failings that occurred while Mitt Romney was at Bain Capital.
Today I’d like to share some of their successes… via video:
Bain Capital allowed entrepreneurs, like those at Steel Dynamics, to create businesses and jobs for Americans all across the country.
Through its partnership with Bain Capital, GT Bicycles grew into an incredibly successful company that was able to create twice as many jobs.
Under Mitt’s leadership, Bain Capital helped turn Wesley Jessen from almost bankrupt into a profitable business. This allowed people, like Ray Fernandez, to build their own businesses.
Under Mitt’s leadership, Bain turned Brookstone from almost bankrupt into a world class brand, which created opportunity and jobs all across the country.
Bain Capital helped Alliance Laundry save and build their business.
Bain & Co
Bain & Co. found itself in financial trouble and facing an uncertain future. Employees were left scared, not knowing what to expect. Then Mitt Romney stepped back in and got Bain & Co. back on track. Saving jobs. Creating jobs. Fixing businesses. That’s what Mitt Romney knows how to do.
Mitt’s Time at Staples:
When Mitt came to Staples, he made it clear that he valued Staples employees and each employee was critical to the company’s success.
Mitt’s bold and decisive leadership helped to build Staples into the successful business it is today.
“Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well spent,” said Kentucky Senator Rand Paul while addressing the Republican National Convention floor on day 3 of the event.
After Paul’s speech, which mostly stuck to the GOP’s “We Built It” theme but occasionally touched on libertarian themes such as the need for reduction of military spending or the importance of civil liberties, Reason TV was on the scene to ask Romney and Paul supporters alike what they thought of the speech and whether or not Rand and/or Ron Paul-style Republicanism has a future in the party.
About 3:30 minutes.
Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Tracy Oppenheimer.
Go to http://reason.com/reasontv for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV’s YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new material goes live.
Looking for the facts on premium support? Here’s a summary of the most common arguments against premium support and why they don’t hold up against facts:
- “Premium support would destroy traditional Medicare.” Under all of the major premium-support proposals, traditional Medicare is still an option for seniors. Seniors would be given a choice between the fee-for-service Medicare of today or private plans. Medicare would be forced to compete with private plans that have the potential to offer greater benefits at a lower cost.
- “Premium support would ‘privatize’ Medicare.” Medicare is highly privatized already. In a recent paper, Bob Moffit points out that almost all of Medicare is comprised of private agents or institutions that are financed by the public and have to follow public rules. In addition, Medicare Advantage (MA), which currently enrolls 27 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, is comprised of private health plans that compete against each other, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit is provided through private plans as well.
- “Premium support would leave Medicare patients at the mercy of rapacious insurance companies.” Moffit writes that “every major premium-support proposal would retain or reinforce insurance rules that prevent ‘cherry picking’ or coverage denials based on health status.”
- “Premium support would increase beneficiary premiums.” Moffit explains, “A transition from a defined benefit to a defined contribution would not necessarily increase premiums over current projections.” The government contribution toward premiums would be based on competitive bidding among health plans in the market, tying it to real health spending trends.
Premium support is the only reform option that will ensure that Medicare is still around for future generations. It also has the added advantage of a long history of bipartisan support.
By Robert Moffit, Ph.D.
August 7, 2012
Abstract: Medicare patients today face reduced access to care, which will inevitably be rationed through the Affordable Care Act’s relentless payment cuts. On paper, Medicare will continue to appear as a model of administrative cost control, but real administrative costs—borne by doctors, hospitals, and clinics—will continue to soar, and medical professionals will struggle to comply with the numerous rules and reporting requirements governing care delivery. Medicare premium support, long a bipartisan proposal, is the best alternative to this unhappy scenario. It would guarantee better choices and broader access to quality care, faster innovation in care delivery, and less waste and fraud in medical transactions. It would also deliver superior cost control. For the next generation of taxpayers and retirees alike, there is no better future.
Certain Congressmen keep telling seniors that they will keep “Medicare as we know it.” They are talking nonsense. In fact, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA)—with 165 provisions amending or affecting the program—has already ended Medicare “as we know it.” Nostalgia for the 1960s notwithstanding, change is inevitable. The need for change is confirmed by expert testimony. Just consider three propositions.
- Medicare reform is not an option; it is a necessity. In his September 8, 2011, address to Congress, almost 18 months after enactment of the ACA, President Obama said: “[H]ere’s the truth: Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future…. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don’t gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won’t be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it.” Correct.
- No possible scenario—particularly the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act—protects seniors from Medicare cuts. Writing in the August 22, 2011, edition of The New York Times, former Obama presidential adviser Ezekiel Emmanuel and his colleague Jeff Liebman declare, “Medicare is going to be cut. That is inevitable. There is no way to solve the nation’s long-term debt problem without reducing the growth rate of federal health spending. The only question is whether the cuts will be smart ones.” Exactly.
- The phrase “Medicare benefit guarantee” is oxymoronic. Guaranteed benefits? Congressmen can not only change benefits at any time; they can also set Medicare payments and fix the conditions of provider reimbursement at artificially low levels. The result: They can render access to those benefits a dead letter for millions of Americans.
Senator Ron Wyden (D–OR) put it neatly: “Absent a bipartisan effort to fix Medicare and protect this guarantee—if nothing is done—what the years ahead ensure is that seniors and health care providers will be getting a steady diet of cost-shifting and arbitrary cuts until the Medicare guarantee is kaput.” Bet on it.
As early as 2019, courtesy of the ACA, Medicare payment for Part A benefits is already on track to dip into the nether regions of Medicaid reimbursement. The result: a progressively larger number of Medicare providers running into the red and thus unable to deliver benefits and services at the scheduled reimbursement levels. The Medicare actuary says 15 percent by 2019, 25 percent by 2030, and 40 percent by 2050.
Physicians, under current law, also face Medicare payment cuts that are so draconian—31 percent in 2013—that Congress once again will likely stop them from going into effect. Yet the prospects remain profoundly unfavorable for physicians. More seniors plus fewer providers does not—and cannot—equal “guaranteed” benefits.
Those who disagree with Senator Wyden must pine for an alternative universe. In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice, finding herself in such a state, declares plaintively that she simply cannot believe impossible things. Irritated, the White Queen insists on persistent practice: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Faith in congressionally “guaranteed benefits,” based on polticians’ promises just takes practice.
Premium Support: A Better Medicare Future
The Heritage Foundation has developed a detailed prescription for Medicare “premium support” in Saving the American Dream, a comprehensive program of fiscal and budgetary reform. There are several other major premium-support proposals.
The core concept is simple: The government makes a defined contribution (premium support) to the health plan of a beneficiary’s choice. The per capita contribution, a fixed dollar amount, is based on a process of competitive bidding among insurers to provide Medicare benefits. The beneficiary may buy richer coverage by paying more or may buy less expensive coverage by paying less and pocket the savings. Insurance plans would compete directly for enrollees’ dollars and market share. This approach reflects a broad bipartisan tradition.
Decentralized Decision-Making. While current payment centralizes control over provider reimbursement on a fee-for-service (FFS) basis, premium support would decentralize financial decision-making through the personal preferences of enrollees. Dollars would go directly to the plans that enrollees decide, and plans and providers would compete to deliver what enrollees want, need, and value. Intense plan competition for market share, with plans and doctors and hospitals working cooperatively together to provide the best product for the lowest price, would drive innovation in benefit design, encourage superior productivity in care delivery, and enhance patient satisfaction.
Defined-contribution financing, however it is characterized by its critics, is already operable in funding benefits for the vast majority of Medicare enrollees. About 60 percent of Medicare’s population is enrolled in private drug plans (PDPs) in Medicare Part D, the drug program, which is a working model of premium support. Also, 27 percent of all seniors are enrolled in private plans offered under Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage (MA). MA, however, is hobbled by a flawed payment formula that increases Medicare costs.
While some critics see this approach as radical and disruptive, in fact, it would largely import Medicare Part C and D financing—vital parts of Medicare as we do know it—into the provision of benefits in Parts A and B. There would, of course, be some crucial modifications, but the result would be much better than the status quo: All enrollees would have integrated insurance products, competitively priced, that would provide an array of medical services plus guaranteed catastrophic protection.
The federal government also uses this defined-contribution approach in health coverage of its own employees and retirees through the popular and successful Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Between 1960 and 1983, before federal annuitants were eligible for Medicare, it was the main form of health care financing for all government retirees.
All Medicare reform proposals differ in details. While details are vitally important, they are less important than the economic incentives at the core of the reform: a fixed dollar payment with enrollee freedom to purchase above or below that amount in an intensely competitive environment. This would create a program that is sustainable for seniors and taxpayers.
Points of Progress. Such a reform would secure progress in many areas, but three are worth noting.
First, beneficiaries could keep the plans they have today and get a better plan if they wish tomorrow, securing them a wide range of benefits and providers. Historically, Americans have been highly satisfied with their health insurance options, including seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare, Medicare private plans, or employer-sponsored plans that provide Medicare-subsidized drug coverage. Under the Heritage proposal, for example, persons satisfied with employer coverage could have the option of taking it with them into retirement.
No one on traditional Medicare today will be worse off. The reason: All major premium-support proposals continue traditional Medicare as an option and also require private plans to offer a benefits package that is the same as or at least actuarially equivalent to that provided by traditional Medicare. It’s hard to imagine how any enrollee would not be better off. Most reform proposals, such as that offered by Heritage, require offering benefits richer than traditional Medicare, including drugs and catastrophic coverage. Experience with Medicare Parts C and D, as well as the FEHBP, shows that continual benefit improvements are a regular feature of these programs.
Second, it would slow the growth of Medicare spending, securing savings for both beneficiaries and taxpayers rather than merely shifting those costs to seniors in reduced access and to the private insured through higher premiums. Former Senator John Breaux (D–LA) recalls that the 1999 proposal endorsed by the majority of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, which he co-chaired with former Representative Bill Thomas (R–CA), would have reduced Medicare spending growth by 12 percent.
Third, it would reduce the politicization and the costly micromanagement that today burden the program. The politicization of health care decisions, fueled by powerful special interests, undercuts efficiency, stops innovation, and kills even worthwhile demonstration projects.
Premium support offers a way out. Because health care decision-making is radically decentralized among millions of enrollees and thousands of plans and providers, the impact of special-interest lobbying is thus limited. Traditional FEHBP governance in particular is an excellent model and demonstrates how federal officials can avoid costly micromanagement and sideline special interests that can block or hinder improvements in benefit design and patient care.
Premium support, its critics notwithstanding, would indeed be much less disruptive and wrenching than the pending impositions on patients and medical professionals under the Affordable Care Act plus the additional Medicare payment cuts (the sequestration) mandated by the Budget Control Act. It would also be less onerous than an even deeper set of Medicare payment reductions prescribed by President Obama, reinforced by his even sterner budgetary targets. Obama’s harsh prescription invites demoralization among medical professionals and guarantees access problems for Medicare patients.
Because there is no other serious alternative to this unhappy scenario, former Medicare Administrator Thomas Scully says that premium support is inevitable. Though strongly critical of Representative Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) budget proposal, which he deems “deeply flawed,” Matt Miller, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, nonetheless writes, “Even so, Democrats should want the flexibility after 2012 to include ideas like premium support in their own agenda. It was invented by Democratic economists, after all.”
Missing the Mark: Where the Critics Go Wrong
Various Members of Congress, as well as certain prominent policy analysts, strongly oppose Medicare premium support. Some analysts who once favored it have even switched sides. Among the critics, certain themes have emerged.
1. Premium support would destroy traditional Medicare.
In response to the Wyden–Ryan proposal, for example, the White House declared, “The Wyden–Ryan scheme could, over time, cause the traditional Medicare program to ‘wither on the vine’ because it would raise premiums, forcing many seniors to leave traditional Medicare and join private plans. And it would shift costs from the government to seniors.”
As noted, changes enforced by the Affordable Care Act would indeed “end” traditional Medicare FFS as enrollees have known it. Under all major premium-support reform proposals, however, Medicare FFS would be offered as a readily available alternative to private health plans. Any beneficiary who wanted to remain in traditional Medicare FFS would be able to do so.
In some markets, reflecting regional health care costs, FFS may be the low bidder with premiums economically attractive to beneficiaries, and in others, it may not be. Just as every beneficiary would have the right to stay in the plan in which he or she is enrolled, every beneficiary would also have the right to get a better plan. Consumer choice would tell the tale. As Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute notes, “Indeed, the point of the proposal is to give seniors a good deal through competition, not to drive out traditional Medicare and not to dictate what plan seniors must choose.”
If champions of traditional Medicare believe that the fee-for-service option can survive the competition, then they should have no problem putting their faith to the market test. A “doomsday scenario” for FFS must otherwise tacitly assume its inability to compete on a level playing field with private plans. Curiously, this is a reversal of so-called progressives’ vehement insistence that a “robust public option” was essential to health reform in 2010, keeping private health plans “honest” while emerging triumphant.
2. Premium support would “privatize” Medicare.
In response to the Ryan 2013 budget proposal, Senator Richard Durbin (D–IL) charged that “Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare.” In fact, the critics’ privatization charge is meaningless. Medicare’s entire delivery system—doctors, hospitals, home health agencies, hospice care, and skilled nursing facilities—is almost entirely composed of private agents or institutions. The small number of exceptions would be public hospitals that are reimbursed for treating Medicare patients. Nine out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in supplemental insurance, mostly private and employer-sponsored plans. So Medicare is already heavily “privatized.”
Since the 1980s, private health plans have served as an alternative to traditional Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans now enroll more than one out of four beneficiaries, and Medicare drug plans enroll roughly six out of 10 beneficiaries. Even the Medicare bureaucracy, as powerful as it is, does not directly administer Medicare: It is administered through private contractors, usually large private insurance carriers like the Blues, who process Medicare claims. In all cases, the financing of care provided by these agencies and institutions is public financing. In all cases, the rules governing these agencies and institutions are public rules.
3. Premium support would leave Medicare patients at the mercy of rapacious insurance companies.
In an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D–FL) insisted that Ryan’s FY 2012 Medicare proposal would “allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions.” While Politifact flatly declared Wasserman Schultz’s statement false, she has left a vivid impression of hapless seniors cast adrift on wild, open “free market” seas, fending off insurance industry sharks. It’s a recurrent theme among opponents of reform.
In fact, every major premium-support proposal would retain or reinforce insurance rules that prevent “cherry picking” or coverage denials based on health status. Every such proposal would also authorize a federal agency to ensure a level playing field for market competition among diverse health plans and enforce uniform rules for health insurance and consumer protection, such as marketing rules and fiscal solvency requirements.
4. Premium support would increase beneficiary premiums.
In response to the Ryan budget and the Wyden–Ryan proposals, critics often assert that premium support would raise beneficiary premiums to unacceptably high levels. But Medicare premiums are already scheduled to increase substantially under current law. A transition from a defined benefit to a defined contribution would not necessarily increase premiums over current projections. Indeed, with premium support, premiums could increase at a slower rate than current-law projections or even decline.
Under premium support, the government’s contribution would be based on an annual process of regional or national competitive bidding among health plans; a market-based contribution, whether set at an average or a low-cost bid, would thus be tied to real health spending trends.
This market-based bidding process, designed to yield a real market payment, could reduce initial costs for enrollees and taxpayers alike. Whatever the market-based contribution, enrollees would be free to buy plans above or below the government’s specified amount, paying more if they wish or paying less and securing the savings.
Unlike Medicare premium support, not all competitive bidding programs encompass consumer choice, such as market bidding for goods and services in government contracts or procurement programs. Even so, the process of competitive bidding itself yields a market payment and savings. In the initial round of Medicare’s competitive bidding for durable medical equipment, for example, Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress reports, “Not surprisingly, the benefits to seniors and taxpayers were substantial; the average price savings was 35 percent. The program is now projected to save $17 billion for taxpayers and $11 billion for beneficiaries through lower coinsurance and monthly premiums over ten years.”
Intense competition among plans would also greatly contribute to a downward pressure on premiums. In Medicare Part C, average monthly premiums for Medicare Advantage plans declined from $39 in 2011 to $35 in 2012, with the lowest premiums in HMOs and regional PPO plans.
In Medicare Part D, plan premiums have been impressively stable. The monthly average premium was approximately $31 in 2011 and fell to $30 in 2012. From the inception of the program, beneficiaries have enjoyed a positive experience with drug plan premiums. In 2006, the average premium was $23; in 2007, it fell to $22; in 2008, it increased to $24; in 2009, it rose to $28; and in 2010, it increased to $30. As the Medicare Trustees report, the patent expiration of popular brand-name drugs and generic substitution contributed to this downward pressure on premiums, but as Antos has also noted, seniors’ price sensitivity plus the health plan marketing of generics also encouraged seniors’ choice of lower-cost drugs.
The most extensive empirical analysis of premium support was conducted in 1999 by the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, the special panel created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The commission concluded that Medicare beneficiaries’ premiums would decline by 20 percent after 10 years as Medicare patients were able to share in the projected savings of the commission’s premium-support proposal.
5. Traditional Medicare does a better job of controlling costs than Medicare Advantage.
Paul Krugman, a professor of economics at Princeton University, writes, “Privatizing and voucherizing Medicare does nothing whatsoever to control costs. We’ve seen that from the sorry history of Medicare Advantage.”
In fact, Medicare Advantage has no such “sorry” history. MA has a broader range of benefits than FFS, including care coordination, disease management, and specialized care for patients with chronic illnesses and disabilities, as well as preventive care. Preliminary evidence shows that MA enrollees also receive higher-quality care than those enrolled in traditional Medicare.
The MA payment system is indeed flawed because it is tied to traditional Medicare’s administrative payment system, but the additional costs of the program largely reflect the richer benefits. Overwhelmingly, MA plan bids to provide the standard Medicare benefits come in at or below the government’s benchmark for plan payment, and slightly more than half of enrollees pay no premium.
Current law requires that 75 percent of the difference between the lower MA bids and the government benchmark be rebated to enrollees in the form of richer benefits or lower premiums. This increases Medicare spending. Not one of the major premium-support proposals, however, replicates the Medicare Advantage payment formula.
6. Premium support would end Medicare’s guaranteed benefits.
Writing in The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn emphasizes the risk: “Remember, Medicare is a guarantee—a compact, really. In exchange for paying into the system during their working years, all Americans receive a promise of comprehensive health benefits once they turn 65.”
One imagines a “guarantee” as something rock solid, but a politician’s “promise”—which is essentially what an entitlement “guarantee” is—can range from the merely aspirational to the downright deceptive. Cohn elides the distinction. If a political guarantee is to be the standard, for the sake of argument, then all major versions of premium support guarantee beneficiaries at least the Medicare benefits or the level of benefits they get today with access to new plans with even higher levels of coverage at competitive prices tomorrow. In the Heritage proposal, for example, market bidding would be based on the provision of Medicare benefits in Parts A, B, and D, or their actuarial equivalent, plus catastrophic coverage.
As for the wealthiest Americans, the Heritage proposal would build upon today’s legal requirement that upper-income beneficiaries pay more for their benefits. Such retirees today must pay between 35 percent and 80 percent of their Part B and D premiums. Under the Heritage proposal, these upper-income Americans would continue to have guaranteed access to Medicare’s benefits under Medicare’s insurance rules, but the highest-income beneficiaries—about 3.5 percent of all Medicare enrollees—would not get taxpayer subsidies for their coverage.
By insisting on current policies, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the level of federal debt could reach 200 percent of America’s gross domestic product (GDP) as early as 2037. Because America is seriously threatened with dangerous debt, all federal spending must be reduced, and continued taxpayer subsidies for the wealthiest recipients are no longer sound policy. In the face of an oncoming fiscal catastrophe, the old ’60s model of universal entitlements is an extravagant antique.
Often, critics of “privatization” conveniently overlook another salient fact: Traditional Medicare does not provide anything close to “comprehensive” benefits. There are big gaps in coverage. In fact, traditional Medicare has been eroding as the primary payer of seniors’ medical bills as private payment, mostly through supplemental insurance, progressively picks up the growing tab. To illustrate, traditional Medicare’s share of total spending for seniors declined from 72.2 percent in 1997 to just 50.8 percent in 2005.
7. Lower-income seniors would be vulnerable to higher out-of-pocket costs.
In reference to Ryan’s FY 2013 budget proposal, for example, Paul Van de Water, a Senior Fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says, “The Ryan budget thus would significantly raise the out-of-pocket health costs that Medicare beneficiaries with modest incomes face, even as it proposes tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”
In fact, all of the major premium-support proposals, including the Heritage plan, would establish limits on out-of-pocket expenses and retain or enhance current income-based protections for low-income beneficiaries. The Ryan budget proposal is explicit in its protection of low-income persons from higher out-of-pocket costs:
If costs rose faster than this established limit, those low income individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid (also known as “dual-eligible”) would continue to have Medicaid pay for their out of pocket expenses. Other lower income seniors (those who don’t qualify for Medicaid but are still under a certain income threshold) would receive fully funded accounts to help offset any increased out-of-pocket costs.
8. Seniors would be confused and unable to choose health insurance policies.
Imagine…the attraction to scam artists of people in their declining years having to select among a variety of plans—assuming, of course, that any such plans were available in the first place, and assuming that millions of senior citizens will [pore] over competing plans and be able to choose the one best suited to themselves.
Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution doubts most Americans are very good at making health insurance choices for themselves: “Considerable research suggests that most people, to say nothing of a population that includes the frail elderly and the disabled, are not very good at evaluating insurance plans and choosing the one that is in their best interest.”
In fact, today millions of seniors make all kinds of health care choices, ranging from the kinds of physicians and specialists they engage to treat them to the kind and level of insurance coverage they enjoy. Roughly 90 percent of seniors in traditional Medicare enroll in supplemental health insurance to close gaps in coverage, including private plans sponsored by AARP.
Retirees enroll in Medicare in their mid–60s, and fewer than one out of 10 of all Medicare beneficiaries report poor health. Millions of baby boomers starting to enroll in the program are often tech-savvy, many of them retiring from jobs in an information-driven work environment. Compared to previous generations of retirees, they have enjoyed a broader range of health options and a wider range of experience with managed care arrangements in their employment-based insurance.
During 2011, in Medicare Part D, seniors chose among more than 1,100 prescription drug plans nationwide in 34 market regions. Likewise, roughly one out of four Medicare beneficiaries were able to choose from among almost two dozen Medicare Advantage plans on average in 26 market regions throughout the country. Their choices included HMOs, PPOs, and private fee-for-service plans (PFFSs). Seniors can also enroll in special-needs plans (SNPs), targeted to “dual eligible” seniors and those institutionalized or suffering from chronic medical conditions: in other words, the very old, the frail, and disabled.
Individuals like their choices. Survey research sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund and the Kaiser Family Foundation established the strong relationship between plan choice and enrollee satisfaction. In Medicare Parts C and D, research replicates these findings. In the case of Medicare’s drug program, according to one recent survey, more than nine out of 10 enrollees said they were satisfied, and the highest rate of satisfaction (95 percent) was among those with disabilities.
In a government program without choice, there is only official direction. While there may indeed be “considerable research” that indicates that individuals are not good at determining what plan is best for them, there is no evidence that government officials can make wiser choices to meet individual wants and needs.
9. Premium support will not work because risk-adjustment mechanisms are imperfect.
After years of experiment, Aaron, for example, says it is unclear “whether adequate risk adjustment is feasible.” Van de Water agrees, notes that the process is “imperfect” and argues that it “still leaves insurers with a financial incentive to attract healthier people and discourage sicker ones from signing up; and the resulting overpayments to some plans inflate Medicare’s overall costs.”
[R]isk adjustment techniques improved substantially as relevant data and experience accumulated in MA and other programs, and can be expected to improve more. Moreover, some health plans are developing effective techniques for managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and are now actively trying to attract patients with these risks.
Domenici–Rivlin and Wyden–Ryan, for example, have proposed a “back end” risk adjustment that would negate plans’ efforts at “creaming” of healthy enrollees and would redistribute common risk pool funding to “make whole” plans that enrolled disproportionately high risks. Heritage has endorsed both prospective and retrospective risk-adjustment measures to guarantee market stability.
An Uncommon Consensus: A Medicare Spending Cap
Intense competition will control costs. Experience with premium-support programs, such as the FEHBP and Medicare Part D, does show significant savings. It is impossible to predict with certainty the dynamics of a new competitive market. As former CBO Director Rivlin observes:
If you asked the Congressional Budget Office to “score” the effect of market competition on the prices the government must pay over the next ten years to buy computers or automobiles, CBO would tell you that they could not do so. CBO’s response to scoring the effects of competition on health care would be precisely the same, for precisely the same reason.
So Rivlin (like Ryan and Wyden and Heritage) proposes that Congress adopt some form of a Medicare spending cap to guarantee savings if competition falls short, with the added advantage of securing a CBO score. The cap would thus operate as a fallback. Such caps would indeed lock in big reductions in the growth of Medicare spending and would restrain rather than accommodate medical inflation. In all such proposals, Congress would, of course, retain the authority to adjust Medicare spending to accommodate changing circumstances.
Looking Backwards. Our vision of the future is blurry, but looking backwards, we have a pretty clear picture. Over the period 2002–2010, Medicare’s average annual growth rate was 8.79 percent. If we applied the fully implemented ACA’s spending cap of GDP plus 1 percent, over the 2002–2010 period, Medicare’s average annual growth rate would have been reduced to slightly more than 2.4 percent. Over the period 2005–2010, it would have been 3.3 percent.
If one were to retrofit Medicare with President Obama’s recently proposed budget cap (GDP plus 0.5 percent), Medicare’s average annual spending growth would have fallen to 1.94 percent over the 2002–2010 period. If one compressed that cap over the period 2005–2010, the results would have been an even more draconian Medicare reduction: an average annual growth rate of 1.7 percent.
Using the Heritage spending cap of Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1 percent over the period 2002–2010, Medicare’s average annual growth rate would have been slightly more than 3.4 percent. Over the period 2005–2010, the Heritage cap would have yielded an average annual growth of 3.7 percent.
Future projections are perilous. Whether tying Medicare spending growth to price changes or economic growth works best would only be revealed by the unfolding of events. One can expect different impacts under different conditions. A raging inflation combined with slow economic growth—a replay of the terrible state of the economy in the late ’70s—would obviously make the Heritage proposal far more attractive than the others. Based on trends of the recent past, the Heritage proposal would have been much more generous in providing Medicare dollars to America’s retirees than President Obama’s prescriptions.
If, as a matter of policy, a Medicare spending cap is undesirable under premium support, then the caps in the Affordable Care Act or the President’s stricter budget proposal are even more objectionable. In fact, a cap in premium support would impose fewer problems for beneficiaries than the Independent Payment Advisory Board’s colder and more distant decision-making; it gives them options that rigid administrative pricing does not. Notes Heritage Distinguished Fellow Stuart Butler, “Seniors ultimately get to decide which plans or providers will get their money and how much, as opposed to an IPAB determining what their providers will be paid.”
Representative Pete Stark (D–CA), no fan of market-based reform, perhaps summarized it best: “In theory, at least, you could set the vouchers at an adequate level. But, in its effort to limit the growth of Medicare spending, the board is likely to set inadequate payment rates for health care providers, which could endanger patient care.”
Medicare patients today face reduced access to care, which will inevitably be rationed through the Affordable Care Act’s relentless payment cuts. Despite advertisements to the contrary, IPAB deliberations will surely evolve into a highly politicized process of Medicare payment redistribution fueled by special-interest lobbying.
On paper, Medicare will continue to appear as a model of administrative cost control. The reality will be different. Real administrative costs—borne by doctors, hospitals, and clinics—will continue to soar. The Federal Register will fatten, and medical professionals will struggle to comply with the numerous rules and reporting requirements governing care delivery.
Medicare premium support, long a bipartisan proposal, is the best alternative to this unhappy scenario. It would improve the environment for medical practice, guarantee retirees better choices and broader access to quality care, encourage faster innovation in care delivery, and discourage waste and fraud in medical transactions. It would also deliver superior cost control. For the next generation of taxpayers and retirees alike, there is no better future.
—Robert E. Moffit, PhD, is a Senior Fellow in the Center for Policy Innovation at The Heritage Foundation. This lecture is based on his presentation to a meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists in Atlanta, Georgia.
From the Houston Chronicle:
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal court on Thursday rejected a Texas law that would require voters to present photo IDs to election officials before being allowed to cast ballots in November.
A three-judge panel in Washington unanimously ruled that the law imposes “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.
The decision involves an increasingly contentious political issue: a push, largely by Republican-controlled legislatures and governors’ offices, to impose strict identification requirements on voters. Texas’ voter ID rules, approved in 2011, had been widely cheered by conservatives statewide.
Republicans around the country are aggressively seeking similar requirements in the name of stamping out voter fraud. Democrats, with support from a number of studies, say fraud at the polls is largely non-existent and that Republicans are simply trying to disenfranchise minorities, poor people and college students — all groups that tend to back Democrats.
ICYMI: The Distractions Aren’t Working
Gretchen Hamel, executive director of Public Notice, editorializes on FoxNews.com, “Can we be honest? Let’s cut through the spin and the rhetoric and look at what the American public have to say about their concerns as voters. Every day you hear about another random issue or gaffe that is completely unrelated to what’s really on the minds of families and small businesses across the nation. But the distractions aren’t working. A recent Public Notice poll, conducted by the Tarrance Group from August 19-23, 2012, found that after more than a year of campaigning the top issues for voters are still jobs and the economy, followed by debt and government spending. … Not only are Americans concerned about the debt, but an overwhelming majority understand the impact it has on the economy and their families. It doesn’t take an economist to recognize that $16 trillion in debt is holding back the economy. … Both parties would do well to drop the distractions and keep the last two months of the campaign focused on the issues that matter. We can’t afford to put this conversation off any longer.”
Shadow of Debt Looms Large at the RNC
Hamel also writes in BlogHer, “It won’t be easy to reduce the debt, but the solutions are simple. Lawmakers must reduce government spending and enact policies that will truly encourage economic growth. After all, why would we give Washington another dollar until it can show us it can spend them wisely? It’s like a teen with a bad shopping habit. A parent wouldn’t support the habit by continuing to give the teen more money, so why would we as Americans willingly give our government more money when history showsit will just squander it?”
WSJ: A Downgrade for Illinois
The Wall Street Journal notes that Illinois is second only to California with the worst credit rating in the U.S. In the editorial, “A Downgrade for Illinois,” the WSJ writes, “In recent years a wave of new reform Governors has washed over the Midwest, but it did skip a few states. Among them is Illinois, which now has the worst credit rating of any state besides California. Voters may want to pay attention. On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Illinois bonds to A from A-plus, with a continuing negative outlook. The credit rating agency singled out five years of budget deficits ranging from bad to worse to way worse. It now stands at $44 billion—another national record.”
Second Quarter Growth Revised Up, Outlook Still Uncertain
Reuters reports, “The economy fared slightly better than initially thought in the second quarter, but the pace of growth remained too slow to shut the door on further monetary easing from the Federal Reserve. Gross domestic product expanded at a 1.7 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday, as stronger export growth offset a pull-back in restocking by businesses wary of sluggish domestic demand. While that was an improvement on the government’s first estimate of 1.5 percent published last month and the composition of growth was fairly favorable, it was insufficient to cut into an unemployment rate that ticked up to 8.3 percent in July. The lack of stronger job growth, along with the uncertainty stemming from Europe’s debt crisis and fears of big U.S. government spending cuts and tax hikes in 2013, could compel the U.S. central bank to offer additional stimulus by year end.”
“Time to Get Serious on Medicare”
In a column in the Wall Street Journal, David Wessel writes, “Can we talk seriously about Medicare? … Any lasting deficit fix requires restraining health spending. On that there is bipartisan agreement. But Medicare will cost more than it does today no matter what: The ranks of Americans over age 65 will grow by one-third over the next decade. Health costs will climb faster than other expenses. The issue is how much more. … By CBO estimates, budgets crafted by Mr. Obama and by Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), would spend 3.5% of GDP on Medicare 10 years from now. That’s half a percentage point less than it would take to maintain the status quo. … But neither side argues that Medicare is on sustainable trajectory; both would ‘cut’ it. The debate that the candidates ought to be having is the best way to spend less on Medicare, rather than hurling accusations at each other.”
Economic Confidence Falls in Euro Area
Bloomberg reports, “Economic confidence in the euro area fell more than economists forecast in August as leaders struggled to rein in the sovereign debt crisis and the region’s slump deepened. An index of executive and consumer sentiment in the 17- nation euro area dropped to 86.1 from 87.9 in July, the European Commission in Brussels said today. That’s the lowest since August 2009. Economists had forecast a decline to 87.5, the median of 26 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed. … European consumers and executives are growing more pessimistic about the outlook as officials try to contain the debt turmoil that’s showing little sign of abating. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy meets with French President Francois Hollande today as he considers seeking a second European bailout.”
Americans Paying Down Debt (Too Bad Washington Isn’t Doing the Same)
The Wall Street Journal reports, “Americans continued to whittle down their debt during the second quarter, a process that has weighed on the recovery but could free it to gain momentum in the future. Total U.S. household debt fell by 0.5% in the April-to-June period from the previous quarter to $11.38 trillion, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Wednesday. … Household debt peaked in the fall of 2008 and has fallen nearly every quarter since, by a total tally of almost $1.3 trillion.This reduction in household debt leaves consumers with less cash to buy houses, cars as well as other goods and services, putting a damper on immediate economic growth. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported that the economy expanded at a meager 1.7% annual rate during the second quarter, barely better than the government’s earlier 1.5% estimate. The debt-reduction process, however, could fuel more robust growth in the future by putting consumers on a sounder financial footing.”
Refuses to Vote Against Party Line Even When it Hurts Rural Nevada
(Las Vegas, NV) – Shelley Berkley continues her assault on rural Nevada, passing big-government regulations at every opportunity. Dean Heller, on the other hand, has consistently fought to protect Nevadans from Washington bureaucrats looking to make decisions for them, a difference he will highlight while visiting Ely and Elko today.
“Seven-term Congresswoman Shelley Berkley continues to cling to big-government regulations even when they have real, significant consequences on rural Nevada’s economic recovery. In the past few months alone, she has chosen to make it harder for Nevada’s ranchers to plan for the future and protected regulations on renewable energy development. She keeps voting over and over again to dampen progress in rural Nevada, which is just what we’ve come to expect from someone who votes with Nancy Pelosi 90% of the time,” said Chandler Smith, Heller for Senate spokeswoman.
Just a few examples of how Shelley Berkley has protected big government regulations in rural Nevada in the past year alone:
On July 26, 2012 Shelley Berkley voted against the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act. This legislation was comprised of seven measures that would ease federal regulations. These regulations would impact energy prices for Nevada families, as well important industries in Nevada like mining, ranching, and energy production.
On June 19, 2012, Berkley voted against the Grazing Improvement Act, which meant she chose to protect federal regulations over Nevada’s family businesses. The Grazing Improvement Act would give grazers greater certainty about their permit renewal. Without this bill, permit holders are forced to rely on year-to-year appropriations bill.
Berkley voted against streamlining regulations to help promote renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal on federal lands: Berkley voted against the Hastings Amendment to the PIONEERS Act (H.R. 3408, February 16, 2012). This amendment would promote renewable energy on federal lands by streamlining federal regulations and bureaucratic impediments.
Berkley voted to preserve a burdensome regulatory process: Voted NO on the Labrador Amendment to the PIONEERS Act (H.R. 3408, February 16, 2012). This amendment would minimize requirements for a geothermal exploration test project so a project can quickly move forward if resources are found.
A poll conducted by Gallup showed that 46 percent of small business owners are not hiring because they are worried about new government regulations. As many as 48 percent say they are worried about the potential costs of health care. (“Health Costs, Gov’t Regulations Curb Small Business Hiring,” Gallup, February 15, 2012)
Following Nancy Pelosi and President Obama, Shelley Berkley has consistently towed the party-line and forced federal regulations to skyrocket.
- The Obama administration adopted 106 major regulations in its first three years (Tray Smith, “Economically Significant Regulations On the Rise Under Obama,” Heritage.org, July 2012)
- Total cost of regulatory burdens since 2012 is $48.9 billion.
- Pages of regulations in the Federal Register so far this year: 36,114.
(Red Tape Review, Republican Policy Committee, June 15, 2012)
Driving The Discussion….
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell tells USA Today that he believes Republicans can take control of the U.S. Senate. McConnell said he is optimistic about the party’s chances in states such as Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New Mexico and Wisconsin — as well as “deep-blue” Hawaii, where President Obama was born. … “Races have yet to be won,” McConnell told USA TODAY and Gannett, blaming the “dysfunctional Senate” on Democrats who are in charge. “The Senate Democratic majority is an embarrassment and should be replaced.” He also said President Obama deserves some of the blame for the inability of Congress to pass a budget and spending bills – two items that lawmakers are charged with doing every year.
Meanwhile, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn penned an op-ed for the Washington Times where he says the GOP is on offense in states Democrats won in 2006. As our nation enters the final two months of another spirited election, Republican Senate candidates are on offense in states Democrats won in 2006. A record of broken promises coupled with an unprecedented attempt to push through an extreme liberal agenda has put Democrats in the unenviable position of being forced to play defense and facing daunting odds in areas where just a few short years ago they cruised to victory. Democrats including Jon Tester of Montana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Sherrod Brown of Ohio find themselves on defense because they promised to be independent voices for their constituents while committing to support a balanced approach to managing our country’s finances.
Happening In Key States Today….
In Massachusetts, WFB-TV in Boston reports that Elizabeth Warren’s driver refused to discuss why he assaulted a GOP tracker in Martha’s Vineyard.
In Florida, Connie Mack tells the Daily Caller that after 40 years in office, liberal Democrat Bill Nelson doesn’t have a vision for America. Florida Senate hopeful and Congressman Connie Mack IV said Wednesday that the negative ads his Democratic opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, is running against him are insulting to Florida voters and show an inability to talk about real issues. … “I think people are interested in having a conversation about the future of America and what the hopes and dreams are for their children — not running ads that, frankly, I think dismiss the Florida voters. … He’s a forty year career politician and that’s the best he can do? That’s sad,” Mack said.
- Meanwhile, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the GOP’s Convention could help Connie Mack defeat Nelson and his failed policies. Having the Republican National Convention in his home state could be a boost to GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Rep. Connie Mack, who is still struggling to convince leaders in his own party that he can beat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. … After easily winning the Republican primary, Mack is starting to pick up momentum. The Fort Myers congressman is in position to leave Tampa this week with a solid fundraising haul and, depending on his performance in a prime speaking slot tonight, buzz among grass-roots activists.
- Finally, the Tampa Tribune reports that Connie Mack reiterated that he opposes President Obama and Senator Nelson’s job-killing regulations. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, his wife, U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, and Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater came out swinging Tuesday against government regulation and overspending. … They hurled much of their scorn at financial regulations, such as the Dodd-Frank act. Community banks can’t make loans because new regulations restrict the amount of capital they can lend, said Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, who is running for U.S. Senate. Instead, they sit on the sidelines, he said.
In Arizona, Tucson Weekly reports that Jeff Flake unveiled a new web video reminding voters that Richard “Rubberstamp” Carmona was personally recruited by President Barack Obama. Republican Senate candidate Jeff Flake is out this morning with a new web video linking Democratic opponent to President Barack Obama.
In Virginia, the News Virginia reports that George Allen toured a food facility plant in Stuarts Draft. Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen has said jobs are the number one issue in his race against Democrat Tim Kaine, and on Wednesday, Allen visited an Augusta County manufacturer that is adding jobs. Allen spent an hour touring the McKee Foods facility in Stuarts Draft, and held a town hall meeting with McKee employees.
In Ohio, WHIZ-TV in Zanesville reports that Josh Mandel visited the Y-Bridge City and reiterated that he’ll go to Washington to fight for the people. The race for the United States Senate made a stop in the Y-Bridge City Wednesday. … Mandel blames partisan politics for the gridlock in congress and said if elected he will not be pushed around. “I’ll look that political boss in the eye, I’ll look that lobbyist in the eye and tell them, I don’t work for them,” said Mandel. “My boss is the 11.5 million people in the state of Ohio. No one in Washington is going to push me around, because I’ve been through tougher stuff than this.”
- Meanwhile, WTAP News reports that Mandel also brought his pro-jobs campaign to Marietta. Mandel says with local companies, like Caron, he believes Marietta and the entire county can lead economic recovery for Ohio and the entire country. “A lot of politicians in Washington think the federal government is the answer, I happen to think that Washington is the problem. As a United State Senator I’m going to get Washington out of the way so that blue collar workers, small business owners, manufacturers can release their own ingenuity, intelligence, hard work to create and grow jobs here throughout the Marietta area,” says Treasurer Mandel.
In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is echoing how Tommy Thompson is going to help Republicans up and down the ticket in the Badger State. “I think probably the single most important thing that helps Romney in Wisconsin is Tommy Thompson,” said Van Hollen, referring to the former governor running for U.S. Senate. “You talk about substance, someone who can show you when he was in office he got things done, someone who is a byword in Wisconsin. He will bring a lot of voters to Republicans who otherwise wouldn’t be there. And it doesn’t take too many of them to stay over there in the presidential race to make a difference.”
In Indiana, the Brazil Times reports that Richard Mourdock met with the Clay County Chamber of Commerce to discuss ways to get America’s economy moving. Mourdock said the “Indiana Way” was the clear way to get out of the economic doldrums facing the nation. Mourdock then discussed items he believed could help the nation claw its way out of the economic hardship, stressing taking the “Indiana Way” to Washington, D.C., creating long term, consistent policy, reducing regulation on business and repealing the Affordable Health Care Act. He said the federal government must learn to live “within its means.” In addition, he said small business owners are unaware of what their tax rates will be Jan. 1, 2013. Because of this, business owners, he said, are unlikely to invest. “These uncertainties are the heart of why we are seeing no economic recovery,” he said. He added repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly referred to as “ObamaCare,” is vital, suggesting it must be replaced with “job friendly, market oriented reforms,” which would reduce the cost of health care while giving people more choices.
In Michigan, the Midland Daily News reports that Pete Hoekstra has launched a “We Did Build This Tour” and is traveling the state meeting with small business owners. Visiting small businesses as he launched the “We Did Build This Tour,” Hoekstra spent an hour listening as Computers to Go owner John Levy shared concerns about small business…”The lifeblood of the economy is these small and medium size businesses and we’ve made it so hard and so expensive for these folks, in many ways, to realize their dreams,” he said. “There are barriers, that government, at all levels, puts in place to keep people from being successful. (Gov. Rick Snyder) and I have talked about how do we streamline the process between the feds and the state?” To help small businesses, Hoekstra would like to ease banking rules and regulations… Hoekstra believes that the regulations are affecting small, local banks.
In Nevada, Senator Dean Heller continued his rural tour by visiting Yerington, Fallon and Fernley. Dean Heller is moving across Nevada this week, and today he stopped in Yerington, Fallon and Fernley. All along the campaign trail, Dean Heller has met Nevadans who want to hear actual solutions to Nevada’s struggling economy, which is why he has consistently focused on the issues that matter most – creating jobs, keeping families in their homes and the pressing need to stop out-of-control spending in Washington.
In Nebraska, KTIV-TV in Sioux City reports that Republican State Senator Deb Fischer promises that if elected, she’ll change Washington. Nebraska U.S. Senate candidate Deb Fischer has introduced herself to convention-goers, at the RNC in Tampa, Florida. The state senator described herself as “not the usual” politician … a wife, mother and a rancher. Fischer said becoming a U.S. Senator was never an ambition of hers. But, Fischer says, the last four years have changed her mind. Deb Fischer, (R) U.S. Senate Candidate says, “I’ve become very dismayed with the record spending, the record debt, and the record unemployment. The Obama administration has been out of touch with the American people. And, they’ve driven the country towards the edge of a fiscal cliff.”
- Meanwhile, Fischer tells Don Walton at the Lincoln Journal-Star that she’ll debate Bob Kerrey and his liberal ideas two more times in September. Republican Senate nominee Deb Fischer said Wednesday she’d like to schedule two more debates with former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey in September and call it good. “There’s early voting in Nebraska,” she said during a telephone interview. “It’s important for voters to be informed by October when it begins.”
In Hawaii, Hawaii News reports that physicians in the Aloha State are backing former Governor Linda Lingle. The Political Action Committee of the Hawai`i Medical Association has endorsed former Governor Linda Lingle’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. HMA is a local organization representing over 1,100 physicians, resident physicians, and medical students in the state of Hawaii. It is dedicated to serving physicians, their patients, and the community through representation, advocacy, and public service. HAMPAC representative Dr. Don Parsa said in announcing the groups endorsement of Lingle “she is clearly committed to advancing affordable, quality health care for all the people of Hawai`i and the nation.
In Connecticut, the Connecticut Post reports that absentee Congressman Chris Murphy’s lackadaisical campaign could force National Democrats to ship money to the Nutmeg State. Summer’s over for U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and Connecticut Democrats. Their blue-state dreams got a red-state wake-up call Tuesday. As Labor Day looms and with it the traditional election stretch drive, the Quinnipiac University Poll shows Republican Linda McMahon has made huge inroads among women and independent voters — once her vulnerability — and pulled ahead of the third-term congressman in the race for the U.S. Senate. … And what was already a contentious race may become even more so, as Democrats could be forced to pour money into Murphy’s campaign to help him compete with McMahon’s personal fortune. The poll showed McMahon with a 49-to-46 percent edge. Back in March, Murphy enjoyed a 52-to-37 percent lead in what was then a theoretical matchup with McMahon, the former pro-wrestling executive.
In New Jersey, the Newark Star-Ledger reports that Joe Kyrillos will host the Garden State’s farewell breakfast in Tampa. Today he’ll host a farewell breakfast for the state delegation, at which he plans to speak. Kyrillos has a long friendship with Christie that began when they worked on President George H.W. Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign. And it was during the same campaign that he became acquainted with Mitt Romney, this year’s Republican presidential nominee whom he also backed in 2008.
Eighteen months ago, at the beginning of the so-called “Arab Spring,” Brigitte Gabriel, ACT! for America president, issued loud and clear warnings about who would rise out of the ashes of Hosni Mubarek—the Muslim Brotherhood.
This has exactly what has come to pass (see a recent commentary from The Jerusalem Post below).
There were other voices—in the Obama administration, Congress, academia, the media—who dismissed such concerns.
These were usually the same people who have dismissed concerns about the threat of radical Islam to America.
They were wrong about what would happen in Egypt.
They’re just as wrong about what’s happening in America.
Analysis: Brotherhood taking total control of Egypt
By ZVI MAZEL
With rise of Morsy, a new dictatorship may be replacing the old while world persists in looking for signs of pragmatism.
PHOTO: MOHAMED ABD EL-GHANY/REUTERS
While the world persists in looking for signs of pragmatism in the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsy is quietly taking over all the power bases in the country.
Having gotten rid of the army old guard, he replaced them with his own men – officers belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood or known sympathizers. Then he turned his attention to the media, replacing 50 editors working for the government’s extensive and influential press empire – including Al- Ahram, Al-Akhbar, Al-Gomhuria. He is now busy appointing new governors to the 27 regions of the country.
Hosni Mubarak used to choose retired generals he could depend on for these sensitive posts; Morsy is hand picking party faithful. At the same time upper echelons in government ministries and economic and cultural organizations are methodically being replaced. The Muslim Brotherhood is fast assuming total control. For many observers, the deployment of army units in Sinai is more about proclaiming Egyptian sovereignty in the face of Israel than actually fighting Islamic terrorism.
Drafting the new constitution is their next objective. Brothers and Salafis make up an absolute majority in the Constituent Assembly. Liberal and secular forces are boycotting its sessions, and the Supreme Constitutional Court is examining a request to have it dissolved since it does not conform to the constitution because of its overly Islamic composition; a decision is expected in September.
The assembly, however, is not waiting. According to various leaks it is putting the final touch to a constitution where all laws have to conform to the Shari’a and special committees will supervise the media and forbid any criticism of Islam and of the Prophet. In the wings is the creation of a Committee of Islamic Sages supervising the law-making process and in effect voiding of substance the parliament elected by the people, though it is not clear yet if, when and how it will work. What is clear is that a parliament made of flesh and blood individuals is against the very nature of the Shari’a, where all laws are based on the Koran and the hadiths. This is a far cry from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Morsy has been careful to speak about creating “a civil society”; it is now obvious that what he meant was a society not ruled by the army, and not a secular society. Indeed he had promised to appoint a woman and a Copt as vice presidents, but chose Mohamed Maki, a Sunni known for his sympathy for the Brotherhood and incidentally or not the brother of the new minister of justice, Prof. Ahmed Maki, known for his independent stands and opposition to Mubarak, but who had carefully concealed his support for the Brothers.
It is worth stressing that the Brotherhood is still operating under conditions of utmost secrecy, as it had been doing during the decades of persecution. How it is getting its funds, who are its members and how they are recruited is not known, nor is its decision-taking process. The movement has no legal existence since Gamal Abdel Nasser officially disbanded it in 1954.
That state of affairs was not changed while the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruled the country, since apparently the movement did not apply for recognition, fearing perhaps it would have to reveal some of its secrets. Now that it has created its own political party, that the members of that party make up nearly 50 percent of the parliament and that one of their own has been elected president, can the movement remain in the shadows?
Morsy did announce that he was resigning from the Brotherhood, but there is no doubt that he will remain true to the tenets and the commands of its leaders. This is making people increasingly uneasy. They had other expectations of the revolution.
Opposition to an Islamic regime is growing, though it is far from being united. The three small liberal parties that had had very little success in the parliamentary elections have now set up a new front, The Third Way, to fight the Brotherhood’s takeover. Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the nationalistic Karama (Dignity) Party, who had garnered 18% of the votes in the first round of the presidential election, has launched “The Popular Current” promoting the old Nasserist pan-Arab ideology.
Some of the nongovernmental media are vocal in their criticism of Morsy, though it can be costly: Private television station Al- Pharaein – “the Pharaohs” – was shut down after it called to get rid of Morsy; its owner, Tawfik Okasha, well known for his hostility to the Brothers (and to Israel) and who called for a massive demonstration this Friday, was put under house arrest, as was the editor of the daily Al-Dostour that had criticized the president. The editors of two other dailies – Al-Fajer and Saut el-Umma – were questioned. Other papers such as Al-Akhbar stopped publishing opinion pieces from their regular collaborators known for their opposition to the Brothers; well-known publicists left their page blank in a gesture of solidarity for their colleagues.
Morsy knows that his takeover will strengthen the opposition. He has not forgotten that he barely mustered 25% of the votes in the first round of the presidential election – down from the nearly 50% who voted for his party’s candidates in the parliamentary elections. He also knows that the people are no longer afraid to take to the streets to protest – and that it is now said that a new dictatorship is replacing the old – the only difference being that the new ruler has a beard….
However, for now he is devoting all his energy to his fight with the judiciary, long known for its independent stands. The Supreme Constitutional Court is being asked to rule the Brotherhood Movement illegal, and therefore to proclaim that the Liberty and Justice party it created – and which won 50% of the seats in the parliament – is illegal as well, and therefore to invalidate the election of Morsy, candidate of a movement and a party that are both illegal. Morsy sent his new justice minister to browbeat the court, but the judges refused to back down. The president is now working to limit the prerogatives of the court in the new constitution and will start “retiring” senior justices appointed by Mubarak.
Friday’s demonstration will be the first real test for the Brotherhood. It is taking no chances and security forces will be deployed around its institutions throughout the country. A cleric at Al-Azhar issued a fatwa calling for the killing of whoever protests against the rule of the Brotherhood; the resulting uproar was such that he was disavowed by some of the leaders of the movement. However, whatever happens Friday will not deter them from their goal – a thoroughly Islamist Egypt.
The writer is a former ambassador to Egypt.
By Chuck Muth
So who’s ultimately responsible for the terminally angry and generally unhinged Wayne Terhune being in charge of the Nevada delegation in the first place? Turns out it’s two establishment Republican leaders with an ax to grind against the Nevada Republican Central Committee.
Click here to read all about it.
As for the more “enthusiastic” Ron Paul fans who have written (usually angrily, as is their wont) in response to my column yesterday about the Nevada delegates violating the rules established long ago by the Nevada Republican Party with regard to “binding” delegates: Even if the RNC did violate and/or change its own rules related to how to nominate someone from the floor, every one of us with a loving, caring mother KNOWS that two wrongs don’t make a right.
The Paul delegates went to Tampa with the complete understanding that they were elected and chosen to represent all Nevada Republicans and cast 20 votes for Mitt Romney on the first ballot. There was no misunderstanding about this. No confusion. No questions. No debate.
Those delegates who were duly elected and bound to vote for Romney but nevertheless, in a hissy fit, voted for Paul instead, were wrong. It’s just that simple. Not saying they didn’t have a right to be angry; they just didn’t have the right to use that anger as an excuse for not fulfilling their obligation on behalf of those Nevada Republicans who sent them to Tampa.
SANDOVAL’S MOMENT ON THE NATIONAL STAGE
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval took the national stage Tuesday night in Tampa, Florida at the Republican National Convention and delivered some 7 minutes worth of remarks that were, shall we say, less than scintillating. Here’s the review by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post:
“In the run-up to tonight’s slate of speakers, a number of Republican strategists flagged the Nevada governor’s address for us as one to pay attention to. Sandoval, after all, is a Hispanic Republican with a terrific resume (former state Attorney general, former federal judge). But his speech felt thin and he was clearly quite nervous. It was decidedly forgettable for someone who is seen as a future face of the party.”
No, the speech surely didn’t send a tingle up Chris Matthews’ leg, but what struck me was the governor’s claim in his remarks that, “like Republican governors all across this nation, I chose to make the tough decisions.”
While Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich made the tough decisions to stand up and go toe to toe with the government employee unions that were bankrupting their states, Gov. Sandoval ducked any such fight in Nevada.
And while so many other Republican governors such as Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida have made the tough decisions to fight the implementation of ObamaCare in their states, especially the expansion of Medicaid, Gov. Sandoval has been quietly and incrementally laying track for it here in Nevada.
And while Republican governors such as Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have made the tough decisions to take on the teachers unions and fight for vouchers to break up the public school monopoly over education, Gov. Sandoval has given parental school choice mere lip service. He didn’t even fight for a HEARING on his own voucher bill last session.
But worst of all, of course, is the fact that Gov. Sandoval is the ONLY Republican governor who resorted to raising taxes rather than making the tough decisions to dramatically cut government spending in 2011…and promises to do it again next year!
I guess it all depends on your definition of “tough decisions.”
And while I didn’t notice it, political pundit Jon Ralston caught another reference in Gov. Sandoval’s speech that doesn’t appear to comport with the historical record. Here’s what the governor said about his decision to step down as a federal judge and run for governor in 2010:
“Like so many, I looked around for help. And what did I find? A president who promised change, but turned instead to the same tired strategy of ever larger government. A president who abandoned hope and embraced only blame. So I stepped down from a lifetime appointment to make a difference.”
To which Mr. Ralston wrote:
“Really? Not once when he left the bench in 2009 did Sandoval mention he did so out of disgust with the (Obama) administration’s policies. And I doubt it had anything to do with that at all. It was a fairly silly stretch for the man who left a lifetime appointment to help the GOP oust Jim Gibbons and preserve a Republican in the governorship. That is it. Period.”
Ralston concluded, seconding Cillizza’s emotion: “The speech will not be long remembered.”
The problem with delivering a speech 2,766 miles away from home in this day of the Internet is that folks back home who know and remember the facts can watch a speech and correct the record even if the speech isn’t carried by the TV networks.
Why can’t politicians, from both parties, simply tell the truth about their records instead of trying to embellish them and change history when it’s inevitable that they’re going to get caught and called on it?
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.” – GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan at the GOP convention Wednesday night
“A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America – her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant – but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter – she can be President of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State.” – Condi Rice at the GOP convention Wednesday night
“Growing up, I never imagined a girl from a border town could one day become a governor. But this is America. Y, en America todo es posible.” – New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez at the GOP convention Wednesday night
“When the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, the first words out of my mouth were: I still think it is unconstitutional! The left-wing blogs were merciless. Even my wife said – can’t you pleeeease count to 10 before you speak? So, I’ve had time now to count to 10 and, you know what? I still think it’s unconstitutional!” – Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at the GOP convention Wednesday night
“Ask the rising stars of the GOP about their party’s future and two names repeatedly come up. One of them, Ronald Reagan, was born in 1911; the other, Paul Ryan, in 1970. … The next generation of Republican leaders, most of them born in the 1970s, see themselves as the heirs to an upbeat, Reagan-style conservatism and believe Ryan’s free-market orthodoxy is the platform upon which they’ll return to national majority status.” – Morning Score, 8/29/12
Check out my latest at Liberty News Network
If you believe the LapDogMedia and those on the Left, you would think that those of us on the right want to have women barefoot in the kitchen, popping out babies left and right. Hence the left’s #WaronWomen meme. But really who has the #WaronWomen?