“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection aof editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Amitai Etzioni: Cut Medicare? Cut Fraud!
There is reason to believe that if the GOP will agree to raise the taxes on the super rich, President Obama will agree to cuts in Medicare. It is morally abhorrent to cut benefits to any current or future seniors before much greater efforts are made to stop large scale raids on the Medicare coffers by nefarious corporations. [..]
Bilking Medicare is much easier and the risk of being caught and punished is much smaller than selling controlled substances. Crooks buy patient lists and bill the government for expensive items ranging from scooters to prostheses, all to the tune of some $60 billion a year. Because Medicare is required by law to pay all bills within 15 to 30 days and has a small accounting staff, it often cannot vet claims before the checks go out. By the time Medicare authorities do find out a storefront’s bills are phonies, the crooks close it and open one next door under a different name. [..]
I say do not cut anyone’s benefits until the government triples its accounting staff, quadruples the number of corporate crooks in jail, and reduces Medicare shortfall by cutting fraud at least by half.
New York Times Editorial: Taking Aim at Michigan’s Middle Class
The decline of the middle class in this country has paralleled that of the labor movement, which has been battered by the relentless efforts of business groups and Republicans to drive down wages, boost corporate profits and inflate executive salaries and bonuses. Now that campaign is on the verge of a devastating victory in Michigan, home of the labor movement, which could transform the state’s economy for the worse. [..]
These measures are misleadingly known as “right to work” laws, and their purpose is no less deceptive. Business leaders say workers should not be forced to join a union against their will, but, in fact, workers in Michigan can already opt out of a union. If they benefit from the better wages and benefits negotiated by a union, however, they are required to pay dues or fees, preventing the free riders that would inevitably leave unions without resources.
House Speaker John Boehner has grown increasingly belligerent in his “fiscal-cliff” fight with the Obama administration. Struggling to hold together a caucus that never really respected his “leadership,” Boehner is trying to rally his troops by ripping President Obama’s supposed disregard for Republican control of the House of Representatives. [..]
It is true, of course, that Boehner and his caucus control the majority of seats. While their numbers are diminished from where they were in 2010, the Republicans still maintain a 234-201 advantage in the chamber. But that advantage in not based on the popular will; it is based on the manipulated maps created by the redrawing of congressional districts following the 2010 Census, and on the fact that Democratic votes are concentrated in urban and college-town districts, as well as those with substantial minority populations.
Richard (RJ) Eskow: 4 Republican Medicare Secrets … and a $600 Billion Funeral
The Republicans are demanding $600 billion in Medicare cuts over the next ten years. Their only concrete proposal is to deny Medicare coverage to Americans during what is now their first two years of eligibility, at ages 65 and 66. But their official offer isn’t even that specific. It just throws out that figure: $600 billion. But you can’t get there from here. [..]
In fact, there are only two paths to $600 billion in savings. One’s macabre and morbid, and is offered here only to make as a Swiftian “modest proposal.” The other would take a chunk out of corporate profits.
Which path do you think the GOP would prefer?
This entire Medicare debate’s being held under false pretenses. Here are four multibillion-dollar Medicare secrets they don’t want you to know – along with that funereal “modest proposal”: [..]
Ari Berman: The GOP’s New Voter Suppression Strategy: Gerrymander the Electoral College
For a brief time in the fall of 2011, Pennsylvania GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi unveiled a plan to deliver the bulk of his state’s electoral votes to Mitt Romney. Pileggi wanted Pennsylvania to award its electoral votes not via the winner-take-all system in place in forty-eight states but instead based on the winner of each Congressional district. Republicans, by virtue of controlling the redistricting process, held thirteen of eighteen congressional seats in Pennsylvania following the 2012 election. If Pileggi’s plan would have been in place on November 6, 2012, Romney would’ve captured thirteen of Pennsylvania’s twenty Electoral College votes, even though Obama carried the state with 52 percent of the vote. [..]
Will the GOP’s bid to gerrymander the Electoral College be more successful now than it was last election cycle? Let’s hope not. Pileggi’s plan divided Pennsylvania Republicans and ultimately went nowhere. Husted had to quickly backtrack from his statements due to the national uproar. Here’s an idea for Republicans: instead of diluting the votes of your opposition, how about supporting policies-like immigration reform and a more equitable distribution of taxes-that will win you more votes from a growing chunk of the electorate?
Wendell Potter: Congress Needs to Close Loopholes in Obamacare Insurers Are Using to Boost Profits
I’ve often said that the Affordable Care Act is the end of the beginning of health reform. It addresses many problems associated with health insurance, but more must be done to control costs and access real universal coverage. And flaws in the law need to be fixed.
However, the reform law will end some of the most abusive insurance industry practices, such as blackballing folks with pre-existing conditions and cancelling policyholders’ coverage when they get sick.
And health insurance companies now have to spend at least 80 percent of our premiums on actual health care. If they devote more than 20 percent to administrative overhead and profits, they are supposed to send rebate checks to their policyholders. Since that 80/20 rule went into effect last year, consumers have saved almost $1.5 billion, mostly in the form of those rebates, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund.