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September 04, 2009

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Bill: I think that the audience was Congress, and he tried (perhaps successfully) to give the Blue Dogs enough comfort that they would be doing the right thing and be forgiven by their voters if they vote for it. As for the "special interests", the American public is against it 49% to 34%, per ABC, and virtually all of the interest groups have been bought off and are for it. The public understands that it will cost a fortune that we don't have - and after the past year's financial mess, people are not in the mood for a trillion dollar gamble.

Bill

The speech is over. I listened carefully with an open mind. I was actually unimpressed even with his delivery which is usually flawless because I felt it was too bitter and negative. Unlike Reagan. Obama does not lift people up. He does not inspire cooperation and working together to solve problems. Instead he mixes criticism, bitterness and tokenism to try to sell his policies already decided. Maybe I was looking for the details that never came. Like how do we pay for it? Only the naive amoung us would believe we can get it all out of efficiency improvements.

And then the lies:

1. Perhaps the "death panel" words of Sarah Palin are too strong but there is little doubt that the House version of the bill contains language that indicates that senior citizens will be counselled on end of life issues. He could have acknowledged that those words should be better crafted to describe what that means rather than call Sarah Palin and others liars and political exploiters.

2. Illegal immigrants will not be included in this plan. Perhaps not directly but the plan will allow for them to keep coming for treatment at emergency rooms. This in effect keeps their costs in the plan. And, reduces the ability to gain any cost saving by removing them. In essence the emergency rooms of the US hospitals are the critical care units for Mexicans with enough energy to illegally get to America and enter the emergency room system. And we pay for it. So closing the borders is a part of reducing healthcare costs.

3. We will do all this without adding anything to the deficit. Then everyone else is wrong? No, what you have to read between the lines is that we have to raise taxes on someone to pay for the $900-1,200B shortfall. And that was clear when he referred to the tax break for the wealthy that Bush gave them. It's always Bush not Congress. He will likely tax the wealthy, tax the employees who receive employer healthcare benefits, tax the employers who don't give benefits and tax the invincibles who don't carry health insurance. It goes unsaid that there are taxes on those insurance companies' "dirty" profits. I'm sure he'll want those.

4. He seemed to imply that their exists unfair competition and excess profits by the healthcare companies exploiting preexisting conditions, denying claims and raising rates. In America excess profits create an environment where more companies enter the market and create competiton, better delivery systems and services and result in lower prices. Do you see that happening?. In short if there is a problem it is that risk is greater than rewards and competition shrinks in a situation like that. Putting in a public option which operates subsidized by the taxpayer at no profit merely increases the risk for insurance companies that they will make less profit and drives them out of the market. What is needed is to end the noncompetative restrictions created by state and local laws regulating who can offer services in the region. What is needed is to end the unlimited awards by juries for errors by Doctors and hospital staff. However, the untold story is the effect on insurance rates of removing their ability to deny coverage of preexisitng conditions. This simple change in the law is going to increase the premiums.

5. Obama has already imposed a tax on America to pay the premiums of the current COBRA recipients by passing their premiums through their former employers and into the payroll taxes. This was done in an earlier bill passed by congress. Nothing was said of that move to help the recently unemployed. And, the cost to administer this plan was passed on to the American businesses.

In the end I figure the polls will show he gained a little with his smoke and mirrors speech. But in the end the Americans are not likely to buy the "we can have it for nothing" pitch in the face of huge deficits. If he passes it then it will be hard to change later and my guess is that whatever they pass will not look anything like what we will see when it is deployed. But, I also believe he will pay a price in the next election.

Here is an interesting prospective on the Administration:

Yesterday, to his credit, my old friend of 50 years Harry Reid called me. For 30 minutes or so we discussed several of the issues we regularly debate on this site. Let's give healthcare a rest until after the President speaks tonight. Among the issues we discussed was the irresponsibilty of the banks to help the owners of properties that are either under water in value to mortgage ratio or the owner cannot make the surrent payment or the ARM is up. I suggested that rather than trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to let the banks of the hook they simply call their marker on the banks after the bailout and tell them to extend the ARM 2-5 years or restructure the loans on 30 year terms with payments the owners can afford. Harry immediately jumped on the idea as "we don't even need 5 years--2 will do." I told him of the experience of two of my friends who owned small businesses who tried to get their banks to do that and were flatly rejected with "why should we when the government will give us the money?" and took the keys to the house immediately listing $1M houses for $500k. They still haven't sold many months later. But the banks are safe because the government will make up the difference. Menawhile my friends are in smaller rentals down the street. Idiotic? Now I'm just a businessman and Harry is the leader of the Senate but evidently I have a better handle on potential solutions than these guys with all due respect. Why? I suspect it is because Harry can quote me all kinds of stats like there are 3 Trilion dollars worth of Commercial properties ready to foreclose next another nice vision for us. (I already knew that from my developer clients by the way.)
But in a way it is left up to the "experts" like Bernake to come up with the unread solutions and the legislators simply pass them.

Now today you read with disgust that the banks have only restructured 9% of the distressed properties in America. Was the bailout a suggestion to restructure loans or was it mandatory? If it is accompanied with a guaranteed protection policy then which would the banks choose? Get protection from the inflated loss immediately or restructure the loans and wait for the home owner to get in better shape? Who's a better home owner the one in the house fighting to save it or a speculator looking for a distress sale? What's more frightening is the fact that there are 6,000,000 more houses to be forclosed on in the next 3 years if the banks aren't forced to restructure the loans. If we bail out the banks on all those then it will be TEN Trillion more dollars. And 2,000,000 more distressed properties on the market further weakening housing values. Ok so we bailed out the banks but the banks didn't bail out America. You see, just as Barney Frank and Chris Dodd motivated Fannie and Freddie to give loans to under qualified buyers and then failed to watch the results to make sure the system didn't fail, we now have bailed out the banks and not required them to do their job: loan out the money. And more incredible is that they don't even have to loan it to home owners--it's already loaned out just restructure the terms. Now that might require some work by legislators to make it ok for home value to loan ratios to be underwater for existing loans for a while but so be it--do it. Unfortunately, there is no one looking for ways to solve these problems without spending money.
Anyone like the new credit card laws passed to help us?? read the letters and new terms coming to you. I mentioned that to Harry as well. He could not believe what I told him. HELP.
Harry invited me to come talk with him and I will. As I've said many times, Harry is a true American. He is nothing like his TV image. When he called the first thing he talked about was my father and my home town. I know we will have another good dialogue. I was heartened when I saw him on TV with Pelosi a few hours later and he declined to comment after Pelosi went on and on about all her support for the public option for healthcare. Maybe, just maybe, he thought about some things I have said to him. He knows he ehard it from a reasonable man and not a right wing aggitator. All this said he is a liberal and he does have some valid points. I also detected a sense of long term frustration in him as he told me of one of his projects that added jobs to the economy and then closed by saying " you can't win--despite it's success it was still criticized and that's the way it goes in this business." He sounded weary of serving and that was tough to hear. Maybe I'll give the loyal opposition a pep talk next time. Enjoy the speech tonight and watch it with an open mind. You might read Palin's op ed peice in the NY Times before hand and see if you think she is right.

And, so it goes as the first Czar falls to the truth revealed in his past videos and signature on a petition. Rack one up for Fox and the other side. If only the Congressional opposition could do as well then perhaps we could rest easier at night.

Well said! Your article and comments are right on the mark. It's good to see intelligent analysis and discussion of the Obama threat. I, often, feel very alone.

Two brief unrelated thoughts:

First, Obama et al have promised universal health care, with net costs being reduced through unidentified "reforms". Criticisms about Fed rationing health care (i.e., making life and death decisions) have been ridiculed as having no basis. Question----How are expensive organ transplant decisions going to be determined when there are not enough donors to satisfy the demand (as is already the case)? Even if the Democrats provide enough $$ to underwrite organ transplants for everyone, they cannot waive a wand and make organs appear. It is blatently disingenuous for Obama to say there would be no "rationing". Is matching scarce donors with a sea of donees something different that rationing? If so, the nuance excapes me.

Second, I heard some commentary on NPR yesterday that really bothered me. Don't know the program, but it was immediately before Car Talk. An author was being interviewed about his book concerning a provision of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation requiring schools to provide data to the Department of Defense. The author was decrying a travesty whereby military recruiters have access to data (including phone numbers) of high school students, and could use that data as a recruiting tool by touting "matches" between their interests and military opportunities. The example cited was a recruiter approaching a high school senior interested in cars and "selling" him to enlist in an equipment maintenance specialty. This was viewed as being a travesty--the interviewer agreed. Don't know whether this was a hypothetical, but in my naive view it is a good idea to have a military populated by young men and women learning skills translatable to civilian life, or earning money for a college education. Maybe my "problem" is that I view the USA as being more secure having a strong military? Which leads to a third question:

What is Obama going to do about Afghanistan? The British and Russians failed, and even local tribes never have created a "unified" country. It appears that Obama grabbed onto Afghanistan during the campaign as a "good war" (while things were quiet there), in contrast to the "bad war" created by Bush (and Republicans in general). Thus, he argued, he is not a whimp on security questions. Are Reid/Pelosi et al going to give Obama a pass on Afghanistan?

Al Bowen

Where has the news gone? I observed legendary INVESTIGATIVE reporter Carl Bernstein who's investigative work brought down President Nixon emotionally dismissing Sarah Palin as a light weight, underqualified candidate for President. So now he's a political commentator? The news media has transitioned fully into the entertainment business. ABC,NBC,CNN and MSNBC are now political allies of the liberal Democratic Party while FOX has lined up on the other side. Much of the debate in the News/media shows is about who is more biased the lefties or Fox? Meanwhile the fixation with the political leanings of the media is inhibiting the actual discussion and honest debate of the events we are witnessing. SO America is watching a war of the political spin from both sides and the politicians are getting away with whatever they want. They cheat on their taxes, they fund their interest groups/political supporters with earmarks, they jet about the world in Military planes, they have their own retirement program, they have their own healthcare program, they vote for a war then deny it and so it goes uninhibited by journalistic scrutiny and reporting. Once again the Dan Rather story of falsly documenting a story that GWB avoided going to Vietnam has come up with even more devastating evidence against Rather. So what was Rather doing for Americans? Reporting or deceiving? Did he hope to be the next Bernstein?
Cronkite died. I used to like to listen to him tell me the news. I remember then getting to interpret it myself based on the presentation of the facts. I was a strong Nixon fan. I hated what Bernstein found out but I respected and appreciated the job he did. Now I find it disgusting that he spends time trying to dismiss Palin with his opinions.
So is it any wonder that we went through what felt like the longest Presidential campaign in history without the News media unanimously vetting Obama and linking him to radicals? Instead, the media came to his defense and created the veil that Bo so cleaverly uses to describe the preelection Obama. First, Hillary tried to warn us and the press ignored her. Biden briefly tried to warn us and was ignored. Then in blistering fashion Palin tried to warn us while McCain played the nice guy. And she was belittled by the press and the late night media shows. Then savagedly attacked by the onslaught of the so called "investigative" news people who were absent on the calls on Obama. Only Fox kept up the investigations and continued to sound the alarm through it all. Some were threatened and called racists for speaking out against a minority candidate but as we are seeing today they were right. The veil is falling. Unfortunately, because only Fox pursued the stories there has evolved the new role for the others to defend Obama, Ried, Pelosi and gang not because Fox is wrong but because they were asleep at the switch when Obama pulled it off. And now Fox has to be careful that with the incredible ratings gain they are experiencing that they do not go overboard in their interpretation of what this means. Beck, Van Susteren and O'Reilly seem to be doing pretty solid stuff. Hannity the other hand is more likely to simply push his views as if he were still debating Colmes. And, all of Fox people like to invite Democrats on and then not listen to their views. It's rather like the Roman entertainment with the Gladiators and the Christians. The Christians are likable guys but they have no chance. Onsided debates are shouting matches and boring.
The American people are seeing through it all somewhat slowly but eventually they will prevail. And Obama's veil will fall and he will continue to reveal himself. Although the master of illusion will likely make us all hope we're wrong one more time Wednesday night. He may just buy enough time for Reid and Pelosi to get something past the public who wanted to believe. Perhaps Van Jones now linked to the 9/11 conspiracy believers will be the first prop in Obama's "oh my gosh I didn't know" act and be dismissed in order to further the illusion. But it won't work for long. There are too many props to dismiss.

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