Posts Tagged ‘Roadmap For America’

Stumbling on The Path To Prosperity

Posted by politicalpartypooper on April 11, 2011

Call Paul Ryan’s budget the Path To Prosperity, The Roadmap for America’s Future, or whatever you want to.  Just don’t call it a plan that accomplishes anything, because it doesn’t, so far.

Studying his Roadmap, and his Path as I have, I am now armed with the facts I need to make an educated statement about his budget.  To use a pop-phrase, it’s wealth-redistribution.  It’s a plan that eliminates none of our debt, and none of our deficit, for the first ten years while cutting services for the Middle Class and giving the Upper Class another ten percent tax cut.  I call that wealth redistribution.  What do you call it?

The national media is calling his plan a serious attack on the deficit; yet his plan doesn’t balance the budget for twenty-nine years, according to Ryan’s beloved and non-partisan CBO.  Doesn’t any plan require that you actually balance the budget within a few years time before it gets the praise “serious!”?  And why is no one within the Republican party outraged that it takes so long to balance said budget?  Weren’t these the same people who won their elections in November on the strength of their “plans” to balance the budget and fix America’s fiscal mess?

There are several points of note within Ryan’s plan.  The first is the privatization of Medicare; yes, that same Medicare that Ryan and Republicans accused President Obama and Democrats of trying to cut or destroy two years ago.  Remember when they had Grandma’s and Grandpa’s go on TV and radio commercials?  Remember when Grandma’s and Grandpa’s went to Townhall meetings and begged Democrats to not touch their Medicare?  Remember how Republicans played upon our Senior’s fears?  Death Panels, anyone?  I don’t think ANYONE can forget that.  Yet here it is; Paul Ryan is going to privatize Medicare, literally change it from the Medicare that Seniors know…but not for ten years.  Anyone under 55 will not see Medicare as your elders knew it.  But you’ll get to pay for it as if you did; yours and theirs.  Instead, Ryan will give you under-55’s a “premium voucher”, so you can go out and get some of that great private health care insurance that Seniors love so much.  It’ll be great, because at a time of your life when you shouldn’t have to worry about your medical bills, that’s exactly what you’ll get to do under Ryan’s plan.  Private insurance companies are for-profit, and their bottom line contradicts yours.  That means whatever they can make you pay for, they will, and if they can’t, they are going to try anyway.  Seniors all over America are going to get busy answering claims letters, filling out claims forms, and making sure to send every form requested in on time in order to have their medical service paid.

The second major point is Ryan’s spending cuts.  He claims his budget will cut $6 Trillion in spending over the next ten years…from Obama’s proposed budget.  What that means is, his budget will be $600 Billion less than Obama’s budget, which is $1.6 Trillion more than the revenue we take in taxes.  In other words, Ryan’s serious budget, that seriously attacks the deficit, will leave us another $10 Trillion in debt after the first ten years.  But wait, that’s not all.

The third major point is Ryan’s 10% tax cut for the upper class, and Corporate America.  He aims to cap our top tax rate at twenty-five percent.  But he insists that revenues will be higher, because he will be eliminating “certain” tax loopholes.  To date, no specifics on which loopholes he will eliminate, but if Ryan’s history is any indication, he will be eliminating the standard deduction that every American who earns less than $100,ooo a year gets.  Okay, that was a joke, but considering his budget, is it possible that Ryan could propose just that?

With “certain” loopholes being cut, Ryan’s budget is at best Revenue neutral.  That means no new revenues will be gained to offset the massive tax cut for Corporate America and the Upper Class.  Not only that, but I expect his tax cut will actually add to the deficit, making Ryan’s overall budget neutral in eliminating any deficit whatsoever.  That’s the best case scenario for Ryan’s plan.

Here’s the worst case.

Let’s say his budgeted tax cuts pass, as well as his RyanCare plan.  But what happens if Republicans buck his “plan” to close loopholes?  What happens to our deficit then?  You can imagine, as can I.  America’s budget deficit would skyrocket completely out of control.  Can you envision a circumstance where Republicans and even some Democrats would fight against closing certain tax loopholes?

How can you not?  These loopholes exist because Corporate America is good at what it does.  They are good at making their case, and our Elected officials are just crooked enough to trade a few loopholes for a fistful of campaign dollars.  That’s how we got here, remember?  Indeed, in what universe would you have to live in order to not see both Parties fighting tooth and nail against closing those tax loopholes for their Sugardaddies?

Mr Ryan’s Path stumbles right out of the gate.  It is shortsighted, and gives way too much credit to our elected Party officials for making things harder on their largest campaign contributors.  Remember that this is a group of politicians that, even as the vast majority of Americans suffered and sacrificed time and again in this latest Great Recession, refused to even approach the subject of cutting their own wages and benefits in a show of solidarity with average Americans.  Not even Ryan’s Path to Prosperity suggests that our Lawmakers ought to share in the pain…even a little bit.  Since they have shown themselves to be above the rest of us, I see no redeeming hopes within them that they’ll actually do the right things in order to make Ryan’s plan “work”, however ineffectual that plan has proven to be.

Am I being too hard on our elected Party officials?  You be the judge.  America has a real fiscal nightmare.  We have an ever-growing debt problem.  In the course of the last thirty years, we have gone from being a lender nation to a debtor nation.  Thirty years has been enough time for both political parties to place their fingerprints all over our troubles.  And now Ryan wants Americans to believe he is serious about eliminating the deficit?  With this plan?

Is this the same Paul Ryan who voted for Medicare Part D, the largest unfunded entitlement in the last twenty years?  Is this the same Paul Ryan who scoffed at President Obama’s health care plan as destroying Medicare as we know it, and as being filled with smoke and mirrors?  (okay, he was right about the smoke and mirrors, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then)

Here’s your chance, Mr. Ryan.  I’m mailing this article to you.  You can respond as you see fit, but be wise and respond to it at all.  If you don’t, your lack of response will be all over the internet before you can say “achoo!”.

How would I and the rest of America like you to respond?

We want details.  We want you to name names.  We want you to literally name the loopholes you’ll be closing; each and every one of them.  We want details about how your plan will bring manufacturing jobs back to America.  We want details about how your plan will overcome the massive tax , wage, and regulatory advantages that American companies have overseas as opposed to here.  We want details about how your plan will increase tax revenue by cutting tax rates.  Then, we want to sign your name to it, and stand by it.

The election is over.  Broad strokes got us into this mess.  So far, all you’ve offered is more broad strokes.  America needs that kind of plan like we need another 9/11.  Name the loopholes you have promises from all of your colleagues to close, and have the CBO score that.  We don’t just want details, we want written promises from your colleageus that they will help you close every loophole.  It’s the only chance your plan has; and even then, you’re still deficit neutral, unless you break records in job-creation.  And the only way to do that is to bring all of our jobs back home.

Thank you.   Ω


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Paul Ryan’s Medicare Roadmap, and What It Means

Posted by politicalpartypooper on February 13, 2010

I have been having a bit of back and forth with some of the commenter’s at Charlie Sykes (Milwaukee Talk Radio Host on WTMJ Radio) blog, regarding Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R) Road Map for America.  Specifically, we got into a discussion about “killing Grandma”, when I accused them of hypocrisy for not responding to Ryan’s Medicare cuts the way they did to the Democrat’s Medicare cuts in what Republicans call “Obamacare”.  There have been other discussions, and to be certain, this “killing of Grandma” isn’t the only issue we have argued over.  But for the purposes of brevity, I am limiting this post to Paul Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare in his Roadmap.  This post will be long enough without a dissertation on his entire plan.

I have now read the sections pertaining to Health Care Reform and Medicare solvency in Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America.  You can find his entire Roadmap for America here:  http://www.roadmap.republicans.budget.house.gov/plan/#Appendix1

To sum up Ryan’s changes, it is his intention to eliminate Medicare in its current form, and change it into an insurance product for which tax-credits and vouchers are issued.  Taken directly from Ryan’s Roadmap:

Medicare Payment. For future Medicare beneficiaries who are now under 55 or younger (those who first become eligible on or after 1 January 2021), the proposal creates a standard Medicare payment to be used for the purchase of private health coverage. Currently enrolled Medicare beneficiaries and those becoming eligible in the next 10 years (i.e. turning 65 by 1 January 2021) will see no changes in the current structure of their Medicare benefits. The payment will be made directly to the health plan designated by the beneficiary (similar to the administration of the refundable health care tax credit), with the beneficiary receiving any leftover amount as a payment from the health plan, or assuming financial responsibility for any difference in the payment and the total cost of the premium. This allows the Medicare beneficiary to invest the leftover amount in a Medical Savings Account [MSA] to pay for other medical expenses, or to purchase long-term care insurance.

Each Medicare beneficiary becomes eligible for the payment by enrolling in a health insurance plan. Medicare will publish an annual list of plans that are “Medicare certified.” Medicare enrollees are able to use their payment to pay for one of the Medicare certified plans, or any other plan, such as those offered by former employers or available from the private market.

Using language as fairly as I can muster, what this plan does is change Medicare from its current Fee-for-Services structure into a Private Insurance program, like every American under the age of 65 currently pursues.  What we know of these private policies is that few, if any, do what Medicare does, which is to guarantee that after an initial, minimal premium, all costs for services are paid for by Medicare.  I admit, knowing Paul Ryan as I do, that he would never allow the younger version of health insurance as a complete substitute for what Medicare is today.  In other words, Ryan would never go for introducing huge deductibles for care and drugs into a Senior Citizen’s budget.  But he might be forced to do such a thing if, in the end, it is proven that private insurers cannot control administrative costs effectively enough to minimize the additional increase in costs that their services will impose on “Medicare”.  Let me explain.

We know that currently, Medicare administrative costs hover around three percent.  That means for every dollar spent in Medicare, three cents is dedicated to administrative costs.  Ninety-seven cents goes for services and goods.  In the private insurance industry, administrative costs account for anywhere between eighteen and thirty percent, dependent upon the insurer.  We also know that private insurance has never been a Fee-for-Service system, but rather a risk-based system, meaning a certain “premium” is paid in exchange for the promise of payment for services, and that this “premium” is based solely on the risk of that type of service ever being required.  The simplest way to explain it is to use Life Insurance as an example.

Life Insurance premiums are based solely on the insurers’ belief that you will not die this year.  In other words, based on your age, medical history, and family history, what are the chances that the Life Insurer will have to pay a death benefit on you this year?  They then base the premium that you pay on this assessed risk.  As you get older, the risk that you will die this year increases, and thus, your premiums increase.  While health insurance premiums are far more complicated than that, they use the same basic risk assessment system to determine the cost of their policies, with the caveat that their risk is much higher than any life insurer’s.

Returning, then, to the problem of profit and administrative costs in a private insurer system for Medicare, just knowing that the current Medicare system costs only three percent for administration, while private insurers costs as little as eighteen percent means an already significant increase in costs for the average senior citizen, and we haven’t even begun to discuss the cost differences between Fee-for-Service and Risk based health care.

Fee-for-Service is simple.  You pay for the services that are actually used.  Conservative arguments against this type of system are many, and in some cases, justified.  Such a system could be easy to manipulate and scam.  In truth, Medicare is already beset with these problems, and any discussion of changes to Medicare must necessarily include a plan on how to reduce or eliminate Medicare fraud, which some groups say already costs the Federal Government over $80 Billion per year.  That’s a lot of fraud.  Paul Ryan believes he accomplishes reducing fraud by putting the risk of fraud onto the private sector.  In other words, let the private insurers chase down the criminals, rather than the government.

Conservatives would also argue that a Fee-for-Services system means the government controls the discussion on what services will be paid for.  In all certainty, this is true, because it follows the golden rule; He who has the gold makes the rules.  But a private insurer system for Medicare would not at all change this dynamic; it simply shifts the role of rule maker from the Federal government to a for-profit private industry.  That private industry has the gold; they make the rules.  So much of the debate over the recent HCR proposals focused on “Death Panels”, and many Conservatives bought into the idea that if the government controlled a larger portion of health care, they would institute panels that would make decisions about certain procedures that could lead to a life and death decision for an individual. But the truth of the matter is that we find this type of decision making already present in for-profit private insurers.   I have to be honest here; if I were running an insurance company that was answerable to shareholders, I’d do everything I could do to ensure profit, too.  That would probably mean that, at some point, I have to make a decision that is going to kill someone.  You may not like that, but it is an inescapable truth of any type of health care system, no matter who makes the decisions.

So I find this accusation of Death Panels to be insincere at best, factually inaccurate, and tiring.  If you cannot see the truth of the fact that private insurers are already in the business of killing people for profit, then I have to say to you, that you are blind.  The very nature of their business demands that at some point, for profit’s sake, they must cut off the gravy train.  This is absolutely unavoidable, and will, and currently does lead to the death of individuals.  So to say that a “Government Takeover” of the health care industry will lead to “Death Panels” is to be altogether missing the fact that these “Death Panels” already exist in our current system.  If you are unwilling to yield to this very simple, and very evident truth, you probably should stop reading this post right now, because there will be no point at which we can agree on anything further.  I put it to you this way:  Both private insurers AND Government programs NECESSARILY make decisions that will lead to the deaths of individuals.  On that one point, we all should be agreed. There is simply no avoiding those kinds of decisions eventually.

What is arguable is which system will lead to more deaths.  I believe that a for-profit system will be the greater culprit, and I base that on the fact that in the end, that private company must do everything within its power to turn a profit over to its shareholders, or it will be bankrupt.  Profit is required for that insurer’s very existence, and the only place profit is available is in cuts to administrative costs, and cuts to payments for services.  Private insurers are not charities.  And it is for the reason that they must turn a profit that I also argue that such a system will by necessity be more costly to the individual AND the American taxpayer.

We can discuss competition and what it means to lowering costs within a certain sector, but no amount of competition is going to reduce administrative costs by eighteen to thirty percent and also eliminate the need for profit, two things that are already in our current form of Medicare’s favor.

And then there is the fact that as Americans get older, the risk of their need for certain types of services moves closer to certainty, which again, means that private insurers must jack up their rates to mitigate the risk that they will not collect enough premium payments to cover the costs of actual services.  Remember that the closer a risk-based system of healthcare moves to the certainty of services being needed, the more expensive the premiums for those services will become.  That’s not an ideological dissertation; it is simply a plain, unavoidable fact of risk-based pricing.  Going back to the life insurance example, the closer you get to the certainty of death, the more expensive your life insurance premium becomes.  That is the risk based system in a nutshell, and there is no changing these facts.

What Paul Ryan is proposing is a system that will line the pockets of private insurers, and increase the costs of health care for seniors, while paying for fewer services.  There is no way to avoid that eventuality.  What I see happening in such a system is the exact thing that is happening in the private insurance sector today; uncontrolled rising premiums (costs to Americans), rising deductibles, and reduced benefits.  Furthermore, I see Seniors being harassed by insurers for their services, offering products that are at best difficult to understand, and at worst, scams.  I see that, at a time when most Seniors want to simplify their lives, instead, they will be forced to make difficult decisions that will leave them uncertain of what they purchased. As a result, they will often be surprised by what is or is not “covered” in their policy, just as normal Americans everywhere already experience.  This is what Paul Ryan proposes.

I have read a decent portion of the rest of his Roadmap, and will finish it.  There are many ideas that he has that I agree with, and some of his health care proposal is just good, common sense that will save billions.  Likewise, his address of our nation’s debt goes a long way toward laying the groundwork for a workable system of reducing the budget, paying down the debt, and bringing America back to fiscal glory.  I see many areas in his Roadmap where Democrats and Republicans should agree, and where these areas are, Americans should demand that our elected officials work towards implementation.

At the very least, what we have in Paul Ryan is the Republican version of President Obama.  To be certain, you may not like the guy if you are a Democrat, and you won’t agree with everything, but these two guys are doing something that no other elected officials are doing; drawing up a plan, and dropping the ideology in order to do what is right for America.  If Liberals would stop attacking Ryan and just read his Roadmap open-mindedly, they would see that what I am saying is the truth.  And if Conservatives would stop attacking President Obama, and listen and read his plans, they would see that he is far more concerned with fixing the problems that America faces than with being tied to any, old ideology.

If you ask me where the evidence of that is, I would point to the fact that of old, President Obama is a Single-Payer Health Care advocate, and yet the bill he supports isn’t even close to single-payer.  In fact, it goes a long way toward perpetuating the private insurance sector.  President Obama stands somewhere between the lies of Democrats and the lies of Republicans; meaning he stands somewhere in the middle.

As an Independent, I can honestly say that I fully support a Single-Payer health care system, and I don’t care what you call me for believing that.  I believe I have made a strong case that no matter how you slice things up, a Risk-Based, for profit, private insurance system will ALWAYS cost more than a Fee-for-Service system, and it will ALWAYS provide fewer benefits to Americans, meaning Americans will ALWAYS get less bang for their buck.  In a Capitalistic society, the only thing that matters is VALUE; what you pay versus what you get for your money.  That’s why in certain, very rare cases, no matter how hard it is to swallow, a Government system will be less costly than a private system, and more reliable; a greater value to the American taxpayer.

The American Government isn’t about partisan ideologies, no matter how hard the two opposing parties try to make it so.  It’s about the Rights and Freedoms of individuals, and the best, most economical way to achieve and ensure those Freedoms and Rights.  Independents are now fond of saying, “We don’t give a shit about your ideology; just do the right thing.”  Our Elected Officials need to learn what that means, and we will continuously vote out of power any Party that refuses to learn.

I have argued with Conservatives and Liberals for a long time, and one of the most discouraging things about engaging with these people is their unwillingness to step away from Partisan talking-points and ideology.  I understand the necessity for them to be able to identify with a group of people and with a certain way of thinking that gives meaning to their beliefs.  But what I do not understand is their unwillingness to even consider different ideas and, as is often the case, their willingness to demonize those ideas and the people who bring them forth.

As an Independent, I realized long ago that no one way of thinking, no singular ideology is able to meet the demands of a changing nation and world.  That is why I stopped being a staunch conservative.  I realized that my ideology couldn’t address everything, and because it couldn’t, rather than facing those challenges, I ran away from them, leaving them unsolved.

Our current group of Partisan elected officials is repeatedly acting in the same manner.  And their Party faithful support them wholeheartedly in that endeavor, making my generation guilty of passing America’s unsolved problems onto future generations with the same, tired, black-and-white ideologies in place.  We need to change, become more flexible, or we will do greater harm to our children and grandchildren than we can even today imagine.  So I say, step away from that tired, old ideology, and at the very least, consider the other side’s ideas, and maybe we can build a place in the middle where problems get solved, and the States of America are more United.

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