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I’ve been reading speculation that Sen. Harry Reid will attach whatever Senate health care reform bill comes out to another bill that has already passed the House as an amendment, thereby giving cover (or so he thinks) to any Senators who vote to pass it. They’re voting for this OTHER bill, you see, not the Baucus mess.
Now satirist Scott Ott reveals the Trojan Horse bill the Senate is sure to vote for:
…The “vapor bill” would ban “concealed, or open, carry of any farm implement comprised of sequential, lateral, equidistant metal tines mounted on a wooden pole anywhere within the District of Columbia, or within 1,000 yards of any government office building in the United States.”
“Given the way this session of Congress has gone,” said Sen. Reid, “I feel confident that a pitchfork ban will enjoy wide, bipartisan support, and provide the ideal platform on which to affix our health care reform amendment.”..
More at the link.
Senate Democrats approved a “death panel by proxy” provision in the health care reform bill, even though one fears they may regret it. A Washington Times editorial, The haunting of Medicare clawbacks
…The provision requires that in any year in which a particular doctor’s average per-patient Medicare costs are in the top 10 percent in the nation, the federal government will force the doctor at year’s end to pay back to the government 5 percent of the Medicare fees already given to him. This provision makes no account for the results of care, its quality or even its efficiency. It just hangs a financial blunt ax over a doctor’s head, not-so-gently encouraging him to prescribe cheaper – even if less effective – care in order to avoid the penalties.
Doctors will labor knowing that far-away green-eyeshade number crunchers are doing calculations to identity from which doctors the feds will claw back fees already paid to them. Every doctor will feel at least some pressure to “race to the bottom” of allowable care in order to avoid the federal penalties. Clearly, the real losers in all this will be the Medicare patients whose care will be rationed, even unto death…
T shirt from Zazzle
…Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee, admitted that the provision is problematic and worried aloud: “As I try to put my feet in the shoes of a doctor, I don’t know how you separate out overutilization that is really overutilization. … There is no way of knowing when you go through the year, what you are going to do at the end of the year.” Mr. Conrad went on to acknowledge that the provision “really leaves me cold,” and that those who voted for it may well “regret” it when they “get down the road.” Yet he and his fellow Democrats all voted for it anyway.
More at the link.
Confirm Senator Conrad’s fears. Call your Senator today.
After weeks of secretive talks, three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee were edging closer to a compromise that excludes a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers. Nor would there be a provision for a government insurance option, despite Obama’s support for such a plan, officials said.
The Finance senators were considering a tax of as much as 35 percent on very high-cost insurance policies, part of an attempt to rein in rapid escalation of costs. Also likely to be included in any deal was creation of a commission charged with slowing the growth of Medicare.
…They said any legislation that emerges from the talks is expected to provide for a nonprofit cooperative to sell insurance in competition with private industry, rather than giving the federal government a role in the marketplace.
Much more at the link.
The Senate health committee cast a milestone vote Wednesday to approve legislation expanding insurance coverage to nearly all Americans, becoming the first congressional panel to act on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.
The 13-10 party line vote advanced a $600 billion measure that would require individuals to get health insurance and employers to contribute to the cost. Democratic leaders are driving for floor votes in the House and Senate before Congress goes on its August break.
The health committee bill calls for the government to provide financial assistance with premiums for individuals and families making up to four times the federal poverty level, or about $88,000 for a family of four, a broad cross-section of the middle class. The legislation is but one piece of a broader Senate bill still under development.
Much more at the link.
From Politico, Climate change punted deeper into fall
Senate Democrats have punted climate change deeper into the fall, a delay that underscores the steep climb the White House faces in convincing Congress — and the world — to dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions.
The decision came Thursday, a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with White House energy adviser Carol Browner and six Senate committee chairmen and the group realized it would need additional time to finesse a deal that could pass the Senate.
Southern and Midwestern Democrats have a long list of concerns about the bill’s electricity, agriculture, and cap and trade provisions. A version of the climate bill narrowly passed the House last month, after administration officials and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressured a group of skeptical Democrats to vote for the legislation.
In the Senate, it won’t be nearly as easy to twist arms, and floor time will remain a major problem.
…The decision to delay climate legislation in the Senate comes as the administration’s environmental agenda faces new obstacles abroad. China, India and other developing countries refused to commit to specific goals for cutting greenhouse gases by 2050 at the G-8 summit this week, despite heavy negotiating by President Barack Obama.
More at the link.
This is good news. Means there’s a lot more time for this.
The founder of the Arkansas Tea Party organization is taking a run at the U.S. Senate:
The Tea Party movement appears to have produced its first official candidate for national office.
Tom Cox, the founder and chairman of the Arkansas Tea Party organization, announced at a rally on Monday that he will seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Blanche Lincoln.
Cox, who owns Aloha Pontoon Boats in North Little Rock, has never sought elected office before. But after organizing a large Tea Party protest against the administration’s fiscal policies in April, Cox said a number of local activists approached him about entering the 2010 race.
“I just believe there is a growing movement across the United States to find candidates that are different, that are more business-minded and so forth because they are tired of our tax dollars beying wasted,” he told CNN in a phone interview.
The social tinkers in Washington have come up with another way to make you live a more environmentally-conscious life, and boost Obama Motors sales as well. Senate Poised to Pass ‘Cash for Clunkers’ Bill
Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced an amendment Tuesday that would set up a program that allows consumers with older, less fuel efficient vehicles to trade in their “clunker” for a voucher worth up to $4,500 toward the purchase of a new car that must get at least 22 miles per gallon or an SUV or pickup that gets at least 18 mpg — clearly a focus on U.S. manufacturers.
The one-year program is expected to help sell 1 million vehicles, according to Stabenow and Brownback.
The definition of “clunker” is a vehicle that gets 18 mpg or less, and the voucher size varies. Owners who purchase a new passenger car that gets at least 4 mpg higher than their old “clunker” get a $3,500 voucher. If the mileage difference is more than 10 mpg, the consumer gets the full $4,500.
Buyers of small trucks and SUV’s fare better. If the new vehicle gets at least 2 mpg more than the “clunker,” a $3,500 voucher is issued; for new trucks or SUV’s getting more than 2 mpg, the new car owner gets $4,500.
The Foundry has some thoughts on unintended consequences:
…Secondly, brand new cars aren’t even a consideration for most consumers. They go straight to the used car market, especially in a recessionary environment. This program would largely distort the used car market in a number of ways. If the idea is to get older cars off the road, the supply of used cars will be reduced at a time when demand has been increasing. Economics 101 suggests this will raise the sticker prices of used cars for people who can barely afford them in the first place. Driving up the cost of older cars may be an intended consequence for policymakers to encourage people to buy new, but it’s a bad deal for consumers.
Again, because the idea is to get older, “inefficient” cars off the road, cash for clunkers distorts the used car part market. In a good Q&A the USA Today about the cash for clunkers program, one question reads, “What will the dealer do with my old car?” The answer: “Gives it to a salvage operator. The engine, transmission and some other parts must be destroyed so they can’t be reused. The idea is to cull fuel-thirsty, polluting drivetrains. Operators can resell other parts, however.”
Back to Econ101. Reduced supply drives up the price of used auto parts and these engines and transmissions would probably be more efficient than the ones sitting in real clunkers at junkyards now.
Germany has this kind of program. What has the result been?
It was a mere footnote in the German government’s latest €50bn fiscal stimulus. But a scrapping bonus aimed at encouraging new car purchases has become such a success that it has left Berlin facing up to three times the measure’s initial €1.5bn price tag.
The popularity of the bonus is causing headaches for the government and raising questions about the merits of the state seeking to influence consumers’ spending agendas.
…But there are also problems in Germany. Retailers, for instance, say the bonus is shifting spending patterns rather than creating demand. Higher February car sales coincided with falling turnover at consumer electronics stores. Stefan Genth, managing director of the HDE retailers’ federation, slammed the bonus last week, saying it was “sucking out spending” from the retail sector.
Initial cost to taxpayers?
The plan wouldn’t add to the federal deficit because it uses funds already set aside for stimulating the economy, said Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican. Preliminary estimates put the cost of the legislation at $3 billion to $4 billion, Stabenow said.
U.S. automakers including Ford Motor Co. are pushing Congress to approve such a measure after the success of a similar program in Germany. France and Italy also provide payments to scrap older vehicles.
Only a lefty would call increased government intrusion into the market and higher spending a success.