Tag Archives: Medicaid

Cognitive Weppner Dissonance

1 Oct

The big news Tuesday afternoon was that the first case of Ebola was diagnosed Stateside, down in Texas. By the late afternoon, we knew that the afflicted man had flown from Liberia (a former American colony) to Texas to visit relatives. 

Around 4:45 pm, walking, talking insult to your intelligence Kathy Weppner tweeted and posted this to the Bookface

I enjoy the anti-vaxxer weighing in with his idiot opinion, but I actually can’t fault Weppner here. We should deal with it medically and not politicize a disease, and we should be ensuring that the disease is not spread. The CDC worked last night to remind people that you can only catch Ebola by coming into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the disease. 

Yet just 30 minutes later – at 5:16 pm – Weppner asked this question on social media: 

Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute. I thought we were supposed to deal with this medically, not politically! But here we are, worrying not about containing the spread of this virus, but how much it’s going to cost and whether the person is here “illegally”.  

I’m guessing the fact that the person had traveled to a place other than Ireland, they must be – according to Klownshoes Kathy – likely illegals. Of course, when someone flies to the United States from Liberia, they need to apply for a visa, their passport is checked prior to departure and their identity transmitted to the US authorities to ensure that they’re not on any list. Upon arrival, the traveler must go through passport control at the port of entry, as well as a customs check. Just like any of the other millions of travelers who come to the U.S. annually from non-visa-waiver countries. 

But, you know, all brown people are probably illegals.

Weppner also inadvertently makes the case for Obamacare or some other universal coverage construct – who’s going to pay?! Who knows? Who the hell cares? Who paid for the American volunteers in Africa who caught Ebola and were flown on private jets back to the States to get treatment? I don’t give a crap, and neither should you.  I’m just glad they’re ok. Likewise, I hope our Liberian visitor gets the medical care he needs so that he can enjoy his family and go home healthy and safe. One Ebola Liberian isn’t going to bankrupt the Republic. 

If the person was Texan and didn’t have insurance, that means they’re either in violation of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage mandate, and possibly that they fell into the gap left by indictee-cum-Texas Governor Rick Perry’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the U.S. State with the lowest rate of people with health insurance. Texas refused federal money to ensure that people who make too much for Medicaid, but too much for Obamacare subsidies to render private insurance affordable for their incomes. It was a deliberate, political choice to do harm to the most vulnerable people in Texas society. Perry is the person who was feted last night by local thug Carl Paladino and the tone-deaf Erie County Republicans and fusion Conservatives. 

So, yes, Kathy – we should treat the Ebola patient with medical care, and not politicize it at all. 

It’s high time you asked Thug Paladino and the local Republicans and fusion Conservatives why they’re backing this abhorrent, repulsive candidate. 

Collins vs. Poloncarz: Final Weekend

4 Nov

1. The Siena Poll will be releasing updated numbers on Saturday. The hot rumor is that it will find Mark Poloncarz ahead of Chris Collins, likely by about 3 points. This would represent a 6-point swing in Poloncarz’s favor in just less than a month. Undecideds are deciding, and they’re breaking in favor of the Democrat.

2. Poloncarz’s final pre-election day fundraiser in Lackawanna Thursday night had a huge turnout of regular folks looking to elect only the second Democratic County Executive in Erie County history.

3. Governor Cuomo and Senator Schumer will be in town today, holding a GOTV rally with Poloncarz at the UAW hall on Wehrle. Look for Mayor Byron Brown to stun everyone and endorse Poloncarz over his ally Chris Collins for County Executive. Sure, it’ll be under duress but it’ll be good nonetheless.

4. In keeping with this week’s general theme of highlighting Poloncarz on the issues, you really need to read his comprehensive and informative look at Medicaid. While Collins heaps scorn and derision on the destitute, the working poor, and threatening to take away optical or hearing coverage for the most vulnerable in our society, most Medicaid expenditures go to pay for nursing home care for the elderly. Whereas Collins shuttered clinics for the poor, they cost $2.3 million per year to operate, yet brought in $3 million in revenue.

Aside from relying on recent changes in the ways in which counties can administer Medicaid, Poloncarz proposes doing something the Collins Administration hasn’t bothered with – aggressively going after Medicaid fraud.

…as County Executive Mark Poloncarz will implement a two-part plan to reduce the cost of Medicaid: (1) expose provider fraud contained in the system by using current County Social Service resources to create a new Erie County Medicaid Inspector General division to work with our partners in government and the private sector to identify the fraud and recover said fraudulent payments; and (2) reduce the cost of providing basic health care services to Medicaid recipients, especially women and children, through the creation of the Erie Community Healthcare Office

We pay $1.4 billion per year on Medicaid in Erie County. There is no reason why our efforts to find and end waste, fraud, and abuse shouldn’t be systematic and aggressive. Poloncarz plans to do just that. As for the healthcare office, it would be something like a managed care plan with an emphasis on preventative care.

In his first term, Mark will work toward the creation of the Erie Community Healthcare Office, which will serve as a point of entry for Medicaid patients. Such a clinic could be placed in the former premises of one of the previously closed health clinics, thereby saving taxpayers money by using currently owned County facilities. Instead of Medicaid recipients going to a hospital emergency room for basic health care services, recipients will go to the clinic. Instead of Medicaid patients ignoring basic checkups and preventative care, the County will monitor recipients‘ health care for better disease management, thereby leading to decreased costs. In the end, such a center would reduce program misuse, fraud and overuse while providing quality care, and, as was the case with the clinics which were previously closed, make money for the people of Erie
County. Moreover, as it has in Chemung County, it will save millions of dollars per year
by controlling costs presently beyond the control of county government.

Collins’ plan? More of the same, status quo thinking, and demonizing the poor. Not looking at solutions, but looking for people to blame and curse.

5. ArtVoice’s Geoff Kelly provides a comprehensive look at Collins’ four years – the ups, the downs, and the mehs. It’s a great trip down memory lane.

6. The right wing have been freaking out because the NY/NJ Port Authority Police Benevolent Association gave Poloncarz a $20,000 donation. Collins and his mouthpieces have been sounding ignorant dogwhistles,

“He’s a pawn of Jersey union bosses who are giving him tens of thousands of dollars in a last-minute push to take our government away from taxpayers,” Collins said. “They know he will give the special interests anything they want, regardless of the cost to taxpayers.”

The Police Benevolent Association is the union representing rank & file police officers working for a massive interstate port authority apparatus. It has no employees, control, influence, or business in Erie County. This is a case of a downstate union helping out an upstate Democrat in a tight race against a self-funded millionaire. Poloncarz would never be in a position to “give” this union anything at all, much less “anything they want”. Collins here looks like a petulant infant.

But it gets better.

The same guy who told a Montante family member to give him a “lapdance”, and referred to Sheldon Silver as the “anti-Christ”, has this to say about our great state of New York:

“Downstate is not a friend of upstate”

Speak for yourself, dummy. What kind of political “leader” governs through division like that? What good is it to score a cheap political point against Poloncarz by denigrating a very wealthy and influential part of the state?

On top of this – does Collins realize whom the Port Authority of NY/NJ PBA represent?

The heroes of September 11th. The cops who policed the Port Authority-owned World Trade Center, many of whom died valiantly trying to save their fellow citizens from death by terrorism.

The right wing freak-out over a donation from a union representing heroes is appalling, but not surprising – they only think of cops as heroes when convenient.

7. Lastly, check out today’s Buffalo News story about the travails of Dan Neaverth, Jr. Collins is accused of eliminating his county emergency services position – a job that was fully funded with federal dollars for post-9/11 emergency response – in order to placate Rural/Metro, a generous Collins supporter. Collins plays politics with everything, including your family’s health and safety.

The Buffalo Tea Party: Blame the Poor

10 Oct
  • John Q Taxpayer <garjanb@msn.com> Oct 09 09:16AM -0700 ^
  • Erie County / Buffalo New York 2011 the party for the poor is over.
  • Here we are; after 134 years of taxpayer subsidized “life’ for the
  • poor, we have reached the end. Erie County New York where welfare
  • started in 1877, today 100% of property taxes collected are required
  • to pay for Medicaid (health care for the poor). The county now runs
  • all other services on sales tax revenue. The poor have run this county
  • into the abyss. Erie County once the proud home of a steel industry,
  • thousands of blue collar jobs, and most notable the genesis of the
  • electric power generation industry, sits upon the trash heap of
  • failed civilizations of the past.
  • We watched as the political fools of all stripes steered this once
  • great, beacon of light, into the darkness of socialism. Under the
  • euphoria of compassion Erie County political fools chanted, the
  • Marxist voodoo poison of “From each according to his ability, to each
  • according to his needs” Then these collective political fools invited
  • every feeble, lazy, ignorant, breeder from all over the world to come
  • here for some of that other people’s money.
  • We the taxpayers watched in terror while our hard earned money was
  • wasted on the lowest that society had to offer. “Why didn’t you
  • people speak up” an outsider says, “why this was robbery”. Yes it is
  • but,,, in the beginning it was such a small amount, we were so rich,
  • prosperous, and they said “be your brother’s keeper” the poor would
  • starve without your money, how could you wealthy taxpayers be so
  • cruel, it’s for the children, you know the children defenseless
  • children………….oh the poor say, is it that simple, I just hide my
  • laziness behind the children…… really that simple… just have more
  • babies and you will give me more money…… “From each (taxpayer you big
  • governmental fools will take the fruits of their labor) according to
  • his ability, to each, (me the poor) according to my (children’s)
  • needs.
  • I guess it is fitting that where the social welfare state started it
  • should find its demise. The taxpayers who had vision in the future are
  • long gone, to anywhere else, who could blame them. They now sit with
  • the conformation that the decision to flee Erie County was an
  • excellent choice. They visit friends and family here and behold the
  • decay caused by political fools past and present.
  • As political fools of today try to “fix’ the problem and balance the
  • budget, do they remember the Paul Revere’s of the past, saying “this
  • is not going to end well”, “the ship of Erie County is sinking, pull
  • in the gang planks and don’t let anymore on the boat or we will all
  • sink in the sea of red ink”, “we cannot afford to take care of all the
  • poor in the world”, but it is for the children……
  • So reader which path do we take? Soon the poor will consume 100% of
  • all tax revenues. More people will leave; housing values will fall
  • because taxes are too high, property taxes will fall because of the
  • falling house values. Taxes will have to be raised to keep the poor in
  • their demanded lifestyles, children will be born, the children…….
  • Or do the deaf political fools do what was called for decades ago and
  • reduce the burden on the taxpayers by cutting alms to the poor? After
  • all it is time the poor who created this mess, let them help fix it.
  • Will the current political fools have the strength to hold their
  • ground when the poor riot in the streets? Oh did I say a bad word? It
  • is a four letter word. SHHHHHHHHH JQT, do not say that word. What
  • readers are you still hiding from that word, isn’t that word the
  • reason we have been paying all those taxes to the poor? Like the
  • mafia protection money. The 1960’s when welfare exploded, riots in the
  • streets, pay us or die? Remember? If not look it up.
  • Am I making you uncomfortable, are you squirming in your chair?
  • OH John shut up.
  • Tax the rich more, take their money give it to the poor so I will be
  • safe…… just say it is for the children
  • John Q Taxpayer

Three Thoughts

19 Jul

1. It’s great to see that James O’Keefe has set up another entrapment video, this time attacking Medicaid, (well, more specifically a county employee in Ohio), by reinforcing the most rank, ignorant stereotypes of people in need of government services – this time, posing as Russian mobsters with “gold plated” engines. Also good to see that he’s preying on Americans’ inherent politeness, even in the face of rank obnoxiousness, and trying to turn that into a scandal.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/SpeakerBoehner/status/90913667398385664″%5D

2. If Speaker Boehner is really serious about “stopping the spending binge” in Washington, when can we expect him to call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya?

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/SpeakerBoehner/status/93018233585664000″%5D

Really? Neither will Republicans – and they’re the ones pushing for a balanced budget amendment. So, that’s sorted.

3. Let’s say that a handful of Mayor Byron Brown’s City Hall operatives went out of their way to circulate Conservative Party petitions for Chris Collins, and let’s say they did so in the wake of that big Cuomo-brokered peace treaty, which has been carefully followed by the Higgins, Grassroots, and ECDC/Hoyt camps since being agreed-to.  What would the political calculus be for the Mayor of the state’s second-largest city to buck the express wishes of the most popular governor in the United States?

Worst. Surrogate. Ever.

18 May

Last night, local email enthusiast and perennial picker of fights Carl Paladino appeared on The Ed Show on MSNBC to defend Jane Corwin, attack Jack Davis, and to defend the privatization and elimination of Medicare as we know it that Jane Corwin supports.  He appeared basically as Jane Corwin’s campaign surrogate.

He didn’t do so well.

He tried oh, so desperately to clear up misconceptions about Jack Davis, calling him “more progressive” than even Kathy Hochul – that’s pretty false, as any Democrat will tell you. When Paladino whined that Hochul might win but not with a “majority”, Ed quite rightly replied, “well, it is what it is.”  Indeed.

Next, Paladino tried to sound a tried and true Republican dog whistle, but seemed to get Medicaid and Medicare mixed up. He alleged that Obama refuses to go after “waste, fraud, and abuse” in Medicare because “those are his constituents”.  Actually, Mr. Paladino, every American is President Obama’s “constituent”, but more importantly, no one is complaining about rooting out waste in Medicare. What people are complaining about is replacing a massively popular Medicare system with private insurance and a voucher system.  Because everyone knows the one thing seniors need to add to their myriad worries is “dealing with asshole insurance companies” and “can I afford this medical care I need”.

Schultz asks Paladino, who was appearing on the program purporting to be a Corwin surrogate (Christ, how embarrassing for Corwin), yet couldn’t/wouldn’t answer a simple question: would Jane have voted in favor of the Ryan budget bill?  I.e., would she have voted in Congress to pass a law privatizing and voucherizing Medicare? Paladino fumfered and tried to wiggle out of the answer, but Schultz pressed him on it. The answer, of course, is that Corwin would have voted in favor of that bill. Only four Republicans voted against it. Wouldn’t Jane be proud of having cast that vote, given her vigorous defense of the Ryan Medicare privatization proposal?

There’s lots of back and forth where Paladino digs himself a hole and then tries to claw out with what really comes down to a superficial handle on the issues.

Asks Carl: What taxpayer would not want a private health insurer with a voucher?

I don’t understand why Paladino goes on these shows and tries to pretend he knows what he’s talking about. I don’t understand why he goes into a debate with only a superficial grasp of what’s being talked about.  I don’t understand why he continues to subject himself to tough questioning from reporters who aren’t in the tank or sufficiently submissive to him, because I wouldn’t be surprised if Carl’s got a billboard on the side of a dilapidated building with Schultz’s name on it.

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They Couldn’t Get Debby?

6 May

It was supposed to be another coronation of another million-heir; she was going to be a less trannyphile version of Chris Lee, whisked into office by an apathetic Republican-leaning voting population.

It’s not going that well. The wunderkinds behind the Collins and Lee victories seem to be having some difficulties revisiting their “run ____ like a business” mojo.

And it’s not just the fact that Corwin is so spooked by Hochul that she’s run a relentlessly negative campaign of lies against her, nor is it just the fact that Corwin is so spooked by Davis that she’s running negative TV spots against him and trying to tie him to Nancy Pelosi (of all people!)

It’s because she and her campaign have either solicited, or are otherwise proud to publicize the endorsement of this guy:

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Legendary entertainer Pat Boone, national spokesman for a non-partisan senior citizen group, announced today that Jane Corwin has won the 60 Plus Association’s Honorary Guardian of Seniors’ Rights award. Corwin is a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York’s 26th District.

Boone, still performing at concerts, was a recording, movie and TV star with over 45 million records sold and 38 top 10 hits during his career. In the 1950’s he was second only to Elvis Presley in record sales. Now the national spokesman for 60 Plus, Boone labeled Corwin a “fighter for the elderly.”

The Association’s Guardian Award is presented to Democrats and Republicans in Congress based on their “senior friendly” voting records. The Honorary Award is given to those running for office and is based on their views on seniors’ issues.

“I’m still singing at concerts,” Boone said in a prepared statement, “but today I’m singing the praises of Jane Corwin who can always be counted on to protect Social Security and Medicare while also working to reduce the federal budget deficit. Jane Corwin will be a tax cutter, protecting the pocket books of senior citizens. 60 Plus calls on nearly 7.5 million seniors nationally for support and so I believe I can speak on behalf of seniors when I say that they can count on Jane Corwin. Clearly, seniors will have no finer friend in the U.S. House of Representatives than Jane Corwin.”

Previous recipients of the award from New York include Representatives Peter King (R-3), Ann Marie Buerkle (R-25), and former Representative Tom Reynolds of the 26th District. 60 Plus presents pro-seniors awards on a bi-partisan basis. Past recipients include U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and U.S. Representative and Congressional Black Caucus member William Lacy Clay (D-MO).

The 60 Plus Association is a 19-year-old nonpartisan organization working for death tax repeal, saving Social Security, affordable prescription drugs, lowering energy costs and other issues featuring a less government, less taxes approach as well as a strict adherence to the Constitution.  60 Plus calls on support from over 7 million activists.  60 Plus publishes a newsletter, SENIOR VOICE, and a Scorecard, bestowing awards on lawmakers of both parties who vote “pro-senior.”   60 Plus has been called, “an increasingly influential senior citizen’s group” and since 1992 “the conservative alternative to the AARP.”

HE’S STILL SINGING AT CONCERTS, OK?!

I mean, at least Debby Boone had a hit in 1977 with her love song to God. Pat Boone hasn’t had a hit since 1961.

That’s the best she can do in terms of walking back her vocal support of the Paul Ryan Medicare-killing Republican budget. That’s the best she can do to try and reverse the fact that she stuck her neck out to back a piece of idiotic political suicide – a proposal to abolish Medicare as we know it, thus breaching the social contract with tens of millions of Americans under 55 – and just this week Eric Cantor and John Boehner both acknowledged that it’s a non-starter and that they won’t be pursuing it.  (Cantor and Boehner’s weak and clumsy “leadership” is striking, given the way in which their caucus has relentlessly accused the Obama administration for being wishy-washy).

The endorsement of Pat Boone – right-wing fan of abolishing Medicare – isn’t really going to resonate with seniors, I think, and every senior on the campaign trail should be relentlessly pressing Corwin on why exactly she thinks voucherizing one of the most popular, efficient, and successful social programs in the country is a good idea.

It’s almost axiomatic that politicians shouldn’t mess with seniors, because they vote. Smart Republicans would be targeting Medicaid, because the people it serves have much less political juice. Because that’s what they do.

Perhaps there’s a voucher that can fix Corwin’s feckless campaign for a weak and formulaic candidate.

Bullets or Deficits?

22 Apr

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll demonstrates how “the american people™” want to address the deficit.

Cut Medicare?  Support: 21% Oppose:  78%

Cut Medicaid?  Support: 30% Oppose:  69%

Raise taxes on incomes of $250K and higher?  Support: 72% Oppose: 27%

Cut military spending?  Support: 42% Oppose: 56%

These figures are in line with traditional polling results, yet the entire national discussion about deficit reduction is built on privatizing Medicare, drastic cuts in Medicaid, and another 10% tax cut for the wealthy.

One way to look at those numbers is that when given a choice to cut one of the three biggest costs centers in the American Government, the people pick the military over their government healthcare by a wide margin.  And why shouldn’t they?  Our defense budget is absolutely out of control.  The USA is responsible for 46.5 per cent of the world total of defense expenditures, distantly followed by China (6.6% of world share), France (4.2%), UK (3.8%), and Russia (3.5%):

Current basing numbers and force deployments are hard to come by, so we’ll go with Wikipedia for the sake of a roundabout number.

As of 31 March 2008, U.S. Armed Forces were stationed at more than 820 installations in at least 135 countries. Some of the largest contingents are the 50,000 military personnel deployed in Iraq, the 71,000 (101,000 as of 3/2011) in Afghanistan, the 52,440 in Germany, the 35,688 in Japan (USFJ), the 28,500 in Republic of Korea (USFK), and the 9,660 in Italy and the 9,015 in the United Kingdom respectively. These numbers change frequently due to the regular recall and deployment of units.

So, why are we not having a national discussion about drawing down those numbers, bringing our troops home and cutting off development for useless Pentagon projects like the F-22 or Osprey?  Why are we so focused on making sure old people have to use coupons for healthcare rather than demanding a drawdown of deployed military forces?  Once upon a time a retiring Republican President warned us about this.

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In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed – Dwight D. Eisenhower

If only we had listened…

On Reversing 30 Years of Falsity

14 Apr

Memo to Barry: Fight!!The President, yesterday, commenting on Representative Paul Ryan’s “deficit reduction” 2012 budget plan, which is just shorthand for “ending Medicare, Medicaid, and the social safety net as we know it, plunging the United States backwards into the 19th century”:

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

The Republicans have doubled down on their obeisance to the superwealthy and powerful corporate interests. They have been quite adept at hiding their preference for oligarchy behind appeals to God, patriotism, and Reagan.  But abolishing the social safety net so that the very rich can pay de minimis taxes, so corporations can relocate freely to the Caymans, or game an system that is advantageous to the hyperwealthy to avoid all taxes, and paying for those tax cuts on the backs of the middle class and wage earners is the real class warfare being waged.

The Ryan plan, aside from directly benefiting do-nothing middleman health insurers – those feckless David Brents of the health delivery industry – promises to not touch Medicare for those now over 55.  So for those of us who have lived, say hypothetically, 42 years in a country with an expectation that at least some of our health care expenses in old age will be covered by a generous and well-run government single-payer health plan, we’d have been deceived. This is fundamentally unfair and unacceptable – simple pandering to the massive baby boomer vote at the expense of “everyone under 55”.  The Ryan plan completely avoid making any cuts to military spending – an unbelievable joke to presume that not even a dollar’s worth of savings might be siphoned off from the military-industrial complex.

Most Americans are politically middle-of-the-road, and economically middle class. The Republicans have spent the last 30 years duping regular folks that it’s critically important to make sure the superwealthy don’t pay a lot in taxes. I don’t quite know why that steaming, fetid pile of lies is still accepted as truth, or reasonable policy.

I know a lot of liberals, progressives, and others who supported Obama are disappointed at a lot of what he’s done, and more at what he hasn’t done. It’s been an intensely complicated three years, to put it mildly. I’m mildly disillusioned, but I’m not ready to abandon the guy yet.  Not when he can so succinctly make the case that the opposition has essentially abandoned regular folks.

Asking billionaires to pay 37% of their income versus 35% isn’t class warfare. It’s reverting back to the Clinton era, when the economy was booming and the government ran a surplus.

Gov. Cuomo on Budget “Sham” and “Permanent Law”

1 Feb

This editorial piece penned by Governor Cuomo was published yesterday by several newspapers statewide.  It could very well be the most important and informative pieces every written about the Albany budget process, and how broken the system has become.  Cuomo’s aggressive efforts procedurally and substantively to bring genuine change to Albany are something that makes me proud to have supported for him and voted for him.  Even Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo released a statement yesterday saying that, although he “can’t stand” Cuomo,

I must admit the Governor’s early fiscal moves are conservative, responsible and absolutely necessary.

…I am a die-hard Republican who fought in the trenches for Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Carl Paladino. I’m as conservative as you can get, and last year I spent most of my time criticizing Andrew Cuomo.”

It is starting to look like I may end up eating a few of my words. But I would happily sit for that meal if the Governor delivers real fiscal reform. In fact, I am writing to tell you I will work to push Cuomo’s fiscal agenda.

Right away, I will contact my legislators and ask them to vote for the two percent property tax cap, but only if it includes mandate relief for local governments. I’ll ask them to cut spending, not raise taxes, to balance the budget. And I am writing to encourage you to do the same.

Caputo’s message was sent to the email list of Paladino supporters, and was accompanied by a form letter recipients could use to contact their legislators.  – BP

By Gov. Andrew Cuomo

As attorney general, I uncovered schemes by lenders to exploit students, plots by insurance companies to defraud patients and attempts by Wall Street to deceive homebuyers. In the past 30 days, as I have prepared the state’s budget, I was shocked to learn that the state’s budget process is a sham that mirrors the deceptive practices I fought to change in the private sector.

The budget process is a metaphor of Albany dysfunction: special interests dominate the process with little transparency; programs continue with no accountability and the taxpayers get the exorbitant bills. The greatest challenge — and opportunity — in this year’s difficult budget is to expose this chronic problem and reform it once and for all. Here’s how it works.

This year it is widely accepted and often reported that the state has a $10 billion “deficit” (I myself have often repeated this number). What does that mean? It is the difference between state revenues and the state’s growth in spending in next year’s budget. The next question is: Who is responsible for setting the growth in the state’s budget? The answer is, shockingly, no one.

It is dictatedby hundreds of rates and formulas that are marbleized throughout New York state laws that govern different programs — formulas that have been built into the law over decades, without regard to fiscal realities, performance or accountability. The formulas operate year after year, generating liabilities that when totaled define the state’s budget growth. The one thing the rates do well is increase year after year. These formulas (predominantly in education and Medicaid funding) are often inserted into the law by pressure from well-connected special interests and lobbyists. When a governor takes office, in many ways the die has already been cast.

Unbelievably, this year these rates and formulas in total call for a 13 percent increase in Medicaid and a 13 percent increase in education funding next year. A 13 percent increase, in this economic climate, is wholly unrealistic. Wouldn’t you like your salary or savings account to be based on a formula that gave you a 13 percent increase even though inflation was under 2 percent? The world doesn’t work that way — except in Albany.

Besides dictating numbers, this process frames the dialogue around the budget and biases the political discourse. First, the rate of increase is rarely discussed. The 13 percent increase this year is close to a state secret. I spoke with numerous experienced Albany hands who had no idea the programs increased 13 percent.

In Albanyspeak, “deficit” means the amount needed to fund the 13 percent increase (as opposed to a normal rate of increase). For example, if one assumed these programs would increase at the rate of inflation (instead of 13 percent) the $10 billion deficit is really a $1 billion deficit. A “cut” is then defined as anything less than a 13 percent increase. By forcing the debate to start with such a large hike — the final budget ends up spending much more than the year before — even after the governor attempts “cuts.” For example, what is called a 7 percent cut in spending is actually a 6 percent increase over the prior year.

The expression used to explain this budget process is that the rates are in “permanent law,” and thus, cannot be changed. “Permanent law” is a term to suggest differentiation from the state’s annual budget bills, which are “temporary” as they only exist for one year. This “permanent law” is really the way the “permanent government” of lobbyists, special interests and political friends manipulates the entire system and misleads the public in the process.

This is the system that has brought New York to the brink, and it is why we are the highest “spending-and-taxing” state in the nation with programs that fail to perform for the people.

This all must end. We need fundamental reform in the budget system that allows us to recalibrate spending this year to a sustainable level and replace “the special interest protection program” of automatic, unrealistic increases. There is no such thing as “permanent” laws and they must all be reviewed and replaced or modified when necessary. The state budget should increase based on objective, fair criteria such as the rate of inflation, enrollment, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or personal income growth. Programs should be reviewed for effectiveness and terminated if they are not working well. Reimbursement rates should be negotiated to get the best bargain. Performance should be measured.

Albany must give up its insistence on pleasing the special interests rather than serving the people. This is the real budget battle that I will wage this year. We must balance this year’s budget, but we must also reform the process so that the cycle finally stops. This year’s budget is not merely about the numbers. It’s about our values and our future.

Deficits and Politics

23 Feb


Yes, Karl Rove once said, “Deficits don’t matter” in an interview with Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic.  Of course, he readily leaves that historical point out of the deficit hawk ramblings he pens each week for The Wall Street Journal.  The intellectual dishonesty and political games of the right are so mind numbingly tedious and obvious that it is beyond the pale that anyone buys any of the bullshit these guys are selling nowadays.  It seems as if the the sum total of the Republican platform is to make demonstrably untrue statements in public and then call everyone a partisan for pointing out that the original statement was untrue, call it “Palin Politics”.  Let’s try and get back to some actual facts, shall we?

Take a look at a recently released report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities based upon data from the Congressional Budget Office.

Just two policies dating from the Bush Administration — tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounted for over $500 billion of the deficit in 2009 and will account for almost $7 trillion in deficits in 2009 through 2019, including the associated debt-service costs. [6] (The prescription drug benefit enacted in 2003 accounts for further substantial increases in deficits and debt, which we are unable to quantify due to data limitations.) These impacts easily dwarf the stimulus and financial rescues. Furthermore, unlike those temporary costs, these inherited policies (especially the tax cuts and the drug benefit) do not fade away as the economy recovers.

Yeah, damn that commie pinko big spending liberal Obama for loading up the deficit!  Things were much more constrained and responsible under Republican stewardship!

The reality is that chart matters politically and should be shown as often as possible by Democrats leading up to the mid-term elections.  However, there is a bigger picture here.  We need to start having some realistic and honest discussions about Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and our national priorities if we are to really control our long term spending.  Shame is, not many elected officials aside from the President and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin seem interested in having that intellectually honest discussion.

Hell, we can barely get Democrats and Republicans in the same room to discuss healthcare without everyone thinking a “trap” is being set.

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One last resource to take a look at is this report, which I have been skimming over the past week.  It’s fascinating if you’re interested in the blocking and tackling of deficits, government spending and general policy wonkiness.  I found it sourced on The Atlantic and the interview and summary are absolutely worth a read, especially if you don’t have the stamina for the full report.

President Obama secured the support of Republican leaders for his bipartisan commission to look at ways to reduce our long term debt, but the GOP insists that any solutions with tax increases will be dead on arrival. So what would a sensible budget reform plan look like if we refused to raise taxes? Or, for that matter, if we refused to cut spending, and only raised taxes?

Rudolph Penner, former director of the Congressional Budget Office under President Reagan, has answers. With a team of academics, business people and public administrators, he answered those two questions in a monster report from the National Academies Committee on the Fiscal Future of the United States.

A key takeaway?

“The thought of actually cutting the tax burden is really quite implausible.”