Monday, February 24, 2014

Five Lessons from Ukraine's Revolution Another view by scholars from the Atlantic Council that have less than kind words for Pres. Obama's role.  No analysis I have seen mention Obama's conversation with Pres. Putin the night before the end of the revolution .

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Obama's velvet foreign policy in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere

In the wake of the end of the cold war, the rise of radical Islam, and  the Arab Spring, the world and US foreign policy  are still sorting themselves  out.   Voices in the US range from Sen. John McCain’s speak loudly and carry an imaginary big stick to others  who want us to speak loudly and carry a threatening, but small  stick. They criticize Obama’s policy which has become speak softly and carry a  flexible willow switch  wrapped  in diplomatic velvet   that prods and pokes and occasionally stings with economic and drone weaponry.
 The proponents of “loud” need a reality check. Most  US voters  realize  that  bluster can lead to  blunder. After the Iraq invasion and the Afghanistan frustrations, how else could the US public conclude? Wielding big sticks is not popular in a nation weary of war and wanting to turn inward to resolve its own domestic problems . The small stick approach in time  is viewed  by those at whom  it is shaken as  bully  bluster not to be taken seriously.
 President Obama’s    foreign policy has evolved  based on his pledge to end the wars and later shaped  by   experience, while   ignoring charges from the right  that he leads from behind or has weakened US influence.  Besides,  budget deals have not restored the military’s former glory  as both wings of the political parties try to shoehorn their priorities into budgets constrained by fears of bankrupting the country.
After  the Arab Spring, the  uprisings in Egypt and  abortive attempts to establish a western style democracy, Syria and Ukraine are the newest tests of  Obama’s   US foreign  policy.
Military Intervention in Syria risks an outcome  similar to Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s. A diplomatic end  to the deadly civil war will depend upon Russia .  Stepping up aid to  refugees internally and externally is in both Russia’s and US interests since it reduces  pressure  to increase  US intervention  to end a humanitarian disaster, probably explaining Russia’s UN Security Council “yes” vote Saturday. Neither country  wishes to see Syria dominated by militant Islam.  These  common goals could lead to  wider  cooperation.   
Resurrecting cold war emotions on either side is very unhelpful, as much as  US proponents of “loud” promote it  and Russia  views the West as engaged in a power struggle with them.  In spite of that,  the Ukraine resolution contains hope for  beginning  even  better   relations with Russia that could lead to cooperation elsewhere  and will have an impact beyond borders.   Western Europe who brokered the Ukraine compromise and Russia  fear violence  on their doorsteps.     Pres. Obama simply picked up the telephone and called Russia’s President Putin,  peace returned to the square,  Ukraine’s besieged pro Russian president retreated from Kiev to friendlier parts, and the demonstrators took over the national government .  The final solution of how to govern a country split between pro Russian and a pro Western  population is not resolved but  kudos to Obama for getting  the ball rolling in his velvet way.

There are other countries such as Bosnia with significant numbers of their  population  seething in anger at non-responsive,  corrupt, and  ineffective, divided  governments,  who will be watching the  Ukraine situation as a template for a strategy for change.  What happens in the Ukraine will influence how  other  such  conflicts will play out.  


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Boehner and McConnell fall on swords to stop Tea Party bitten by amnesia bug

This past  week, John Boehner, House Speaker  and 27 of his fellow Republicans, fell on their swords to aid their party  when they joined with Democrats   to raise   the debt ceiling  with no strings attached and to block  Tea Party  threats to shut down the government again. The Senate then passed the legislation on a party line vote, though  enough Republicans led by  minority leader Mitch McConnell,  voted to break  the filibuster rule requirement of 60 votes. The GOP leaders realized the Tea Party must have been bitten by the amnesia try to repeat their last fiasco and other failed strategies.   
Last fall,  Boehner let the Tea Party have their way and the GOP did shut down the government. The  political backlash   was so severe , Republicans  even feared they would lose seats in the 2014 midterms and set up another Democratic win for the White House in 2016.   The GOP was  saved by   the bungled roll out of Obamacare, charges the President’s” lied” about keeping insurance,   and a budget deal.
That Boehner’s action risked  his  speakership and Mitch McConnell gave fuel to Tea Party opponents in his upcoming primary  shows that the Tea Party has   nearly   completed their takeover  of the Republican party.   In Colorado,  traditional  business oriented Republicans are only bystanders in a battle between the Tea Party Express and local ultra conservatives   to see who can endorse the most conservative candidate to take on Democrat Sen.  Mark Udall in November.  Similar battles elsewhere   guarantee that Democratic candidates for state houses and  Congress in blue and purple states will have an advantage in facing  the most extreme opponents who will have problems  pivoting to the center to  appeal  to moderate middles in the general election.  
This year the situation is different . The web site works. As of February 1 nearly 14  million are already covered by Obamacare (3.3 million through the exchanges; 7 million through Medicaid expansion and  3 million young adults on parents’ policies).  An estimated 60% of the  5 million losing individual insurance have found other insurance policies or qualified for cheaper ones.. By the 2014 mid terms, the administration  projects    six  million will have signed up through Obamacare  exchanges. .  The Tea Party still is adamantly advocating  total repeal and no replacement. All those  benefiting  by November 2014  will not look kindly on candidates wanting to take away their newly acquired affordable  insurance coverage.
The Tea Party’s domination of the GOP will also help  Democrat’s chances of holding onto the Senate since key states with large Hispanic populations swung  blue in 2012  by their  disaffection with the GOP’s perceived hostility, Colorado included..   Thanks to Tea Party fanatics in Congress, Boehner was forced to back down from any compromise or even a piecemeal approach to immigration reform this year.
The Tea Party  continues to  alienate  unmarried women, a must win voting block.   Anti choice platforms and  Insults  continue, the latest by former  Gov. Mike Huckabee who opined   women wanted the pill  because they could not keep their “libido” under control.   The GOP ‘s repeal  of  Obamacare would   eliminate  Obamacare  standards  that prohibit  higher  premiums  for women  or covering  mammograms  and birth control pills sans  co-pays. Since women comprise much of the minimum wage workforce, GOP opposition to raising it is one more  turnoff.

Obama's most recent delay in ACA implementation for small businesses will have little impact

Analyses from industry and Kaiser Health indicate little impact on the ACA financial reported in the Boulder Daily Camera    
My observations of article's conclusions:
Very few will be affected...especially companies with over 100 employees, because most already provide insurance. It may affect those with with 50 to 99 employees who may have been planning to keep as many employees as they can under 30 hours. The delay is only to 2016 and large businesses have a delay until 2015. Since so many of these delays affect so few, the impact on the implementation of the Obamacare financing is minimal. That is not true for individual mandates, where the impact of a delay would have major consequences because so many would be affected. The ACA's financial security depends upon getting younger, healthy into the pool to spread the risk of covering pre-existing conditions around and fining businesses and individuals for not participating.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The GOP should apologize for its sins of commission and omission in its war against Obamacare

Even after the web site was fixed and Pres. Obama apologized for misspeaking, , the GOP’s war against Obamacare (ACA)  rages on blithely spreading misinformation.  While the GOP gleefully called the President a liar for promising those individually insured  could keep their insurance if they liked it, the current Republican  campaign against Obamacare  is full of sins of omission  and commission. It is the GOP’s turn to apologize.
 Mitch McConnell, GOP Senate Minority Leader, flat fibbed  when he  misrepresented  a report from the Congressional Budget Office(CBO). He wrongfully claimed  it  meant that 2.5 million jobs would be lost thanks to Obamacare.  Jobs would  not disappear, but the CBO estimated that  2.5 million who had jobs    would leave  of their own choice, but not by  employers killing job positions. GOP ads are already promoting  their twisted version of the   CBO report.
 Prior to Obamacare  some were locked into their jobs because they needed employer provided insurance  since  that was the only way to get pre-existing conditions covered or to be able to afford coverage for their families. Obamacare frees them to retire early, start their own business, go part time,  or stay home to care for their parents  or young children.
 The GOP  countered  that such  choice is bad because  it would encourage people to stop working, reduce the workforce, and  thus harm the economy. The CBO report indeed predicted   there would  be workforce reduction by 2024 by 2.5 million.  That  is about 1.5% of the total workforce, not exactly earthshaking and not because Obamacare killed jobs.
A recent anti ACA ad omits so much information, it  borders on  deceptive advertising. Five million individually insured got letters from insurers discontinuing their substandard policies. To continue beating war drums  that the President lied about their  keeping insurance, an outside conservative group is running a commercial in our market that  features a lupus sufferer who complains her  $50 per month insurance now is $325, her  deductibles are too  high,   she has to take on a second job, and she has to change doctors.  She  should be asked some hard questions.  Did she apply for a  subsidized health policy in the ACA exchanges ? Was her annual income too high to qualify for a subsidy? .What was her prior deductible with such low ball coverage of her old policy? The health care exchanges include a wide variety of insurance providers. Was her current physician participating in any of them? An estimated 60% of those receiving  the letters can qualify for premium  subsidies in the exchanges,  or hardship exemptions,  with access to better catastrophic insurance.    
Some  GOP senators are  pitching   a replacement   to Obamacare  that buries a critical downside in small print. Their proposal would relieve  employers, health care and device providers, individuals, and insurers  from mandates and  being taxed or getting fines  for not providing or getting insurance.  Good for them but bad for most everyone else.  It  would replace the  funding to  subsidize premiums  with raising taxes on  the 60 % of Americans who get insurance through employers. The plan would  declare most  health insurance benefits taxable income,  Forbes  estimated that would be a tax increase of $1345 a year  for a family of four in the 25% bracket.   Families making between 300%-400% above  the poverty line would lose Obamacare insurance subsidies.
Version of above at  Feb. 15, 2014
What the CBO reported: “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking, but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).”

Monday, February 3, 2014

Michael Barone,  in a column published in the Wall Street Journal Feb. 2 2014 and on line, chides the elite in Washington who designed Obamacare for misreading America. His thesis is that sign up is slow and limited because not everyone wants health insurance, particularly those in lower income levels, because they are "disconnected " from society and others do not want all of the various services Obamacare requires in all insurance policies.
This is an amazing column that ignores a basic piece of Obamacare... There was not one reference to mandates and fines which were specifically designed to "encourage" free riders to sign up for insurance. In fact, the originators of that approach did recognize that human behavior would try to free ride the system...and that approach was designed by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, that did not misread the American public. Now, of course, it is the crusade of the right to do away with mandates and leave us all stuck with the free rider costs shifted to our premiums when those that use the system cannot pay their bills.
Amazingly, not mentioned in the column too is the deadline period for sign up is still two months away, the fines this first year are minimal and will increase significantly over the next two years. This is another case of those opposing Obamacare to declare it dead before it is totally implemented.. The fines for free riders increase dramatically in the two upcoming years. In addition, those in lower income brackets get subsidies and maybe Medicaid if they are fortunate not to live in the red states which did not expand Medicaid eligibility, leaving  those "socially disconnected" with no choice but to free to ride again because they cannot afford either the exchanges or they are left out of the expansion.

What is even more contradictory  is that the conservative wing is the one fighting Medicaid expansion, and recent GOP proposals would give  us all the option of being free riders.  That would mean eventually the total demise of health care insurance reform since either all participate and expand the pool to make it possible for all with varieties of health conditions to  pay something in or, failing that, taxpayers would have to make up the difference to make health care insurance affordable for those who need subsidized  premiums.  Current proposal from 3 GOP senators: the latter is what they plan: to make those who get their insurance from employers pay by making their health insurance benefits taxable income. ...a virtual tax increase for all who get insurance from employers increase to make insurance affordable .