Morning Briefing for August 20, 2009

FOR AUGUST 20, 2009

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1. I think MSNBC is trying to get the President shot at.

OK, remember last weekend, when there were a bunch of reports of armed people at the Arizona town hall? Lots of stories of bemused reporters trying to get their heads around the notion that in Arizona you can wander around with an AR-15 –

Which is not a fully automatic weapon, by the way. You can’t buy fully automatic weapons in the USA. I mention this because this is apparently news to our journalistic class.

– anyway, lots of bemused reporters, not least because of the picture of the man, who happens to be African American.

MSNBC cropped the video to obscure this guy’s ethnicity. Because it didn’t fit their narrative, which was that they think somebody – somebody white – was going to try to hurt the President.

I usually don’t say this sort of thing all that often, but this is one of those times: this is inexcusable. THIS. WAS. DELIBERATE. They had the clip. They knew that the guy was a peaceful protester making a point about the Second Amendment. They knew that – by definition – he was not a crazy white right-winger itching to take a shot at the President. But they altered his appearance so that it matched their argument that there is an active risk of crazy right-wingers itching to take a shot at the President.

This was an insanely stupid move on MSNBC’s part – and one that was dangerous to the safety of the President of the United States of America, not to mention his security staff. I am appalled that a supposedly reputable news agency would do this.

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2. Cash For Clunkers: EPIC FAIL

Remember how cash for clunkers was so successful that Congress was forced to triple the size of the program in a hurry? Well, those billions of dollars will go further now that hundreds of New York auto dealers have decided the program is too badly managed to keep participating in.

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3. Bipartisanship Is Dead, Say Top Democrats

President Barack Obama, who campaigned on the promise of changing the rigidly-partisan climate in Washington, has resigned from the prospect of bipartisan comprehensive health care reform, according to top White House aides.

Declaring war on Republicans critical of the president’s proposal, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel offers a far less rosy picture of Obama’s success in fostering bipartisanship than the image the Obama campaign created last November.

“The Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day,” Emanuel said.

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4. ‘Public Option’ Was Created to Lead to Single Payer

Patrick Ruffini points to this helpful history of the ‘public option:’

“One key player was Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future. Hickey took UC Berkley health care expert Jacob Hacker’s idea for “a new public insurance pool modeled after Medicare” and went around to the community of single-payer advocates, making the case that this limited “public option” was the best they could hope for. Ideally, it would someday magically turn into single-payer. And then Hickey went to all the presidential candidates, acknowledging that politically, they couldn’t support single-payer, but that the “public option” would attract a real progressive constituency.”

Once Hickey sold the idea to candidate John Edwards, he was off to the races. It wasn’t long before almost every Democrat lined up in support of the ‘public option.’ And many liberals have been willing to admit that it’s because this is the best way to get to single-payer care.

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5. Henry Waxman Goes Ballistic On Health Insurers

Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) have issued a letter to fifty of the nations largest health insurance providers asking for all manner of financial data. Allegedly, this information request was made in a fit of picque, something Waxman is famous for in addition to his nasal foliage, because the health insurance companies have been actively lobbying against a bill designed to put them out of business.

Anyone who is surprised that Henry Waxman would do this simply hasn’t been paying attention for a couple of decades. And yes, I should be expressing shock and outrage over this totalitarian use of a very nebulous power to intimidate American companies. But in this particular case I’m going to make an exception.

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6. Where Are The Cost Cuts Going To Come From?

One of the central selling points used by President Obama to push the Democrats’ health care plan is the notion that a comprehensive overhaul of the health care system will reduce costs. But costs to who, and how? Let’s step back a minute and try to figure out how Obama’s cost-cutting argument could possibly be so.

. . . .

The elephant in the waiting room is the other big cost driver of intermediaries besides the scope of coverage and the cost of having shareholders and executives: lawsuits. Precise figures are again a subject of intense dispute, but a goodly chunk of what drives the amount of ‘unnecessary’ care provided, the cost of providing services and the cost of intermediaries is the need to protect against and pay for the cost of medical malpractice and denial of coverage litigation. None of the Democratic proposals, however, seek to make any practical inroads against this source of costs. Replacing a private system with a public one could arguably do so if the trial bar is effectively precluded from bringing against the government many of the kinds of lawsuits now used against private insurers – but aren’t liberals in favor of keeping those kinds of suits viable? And how likely is it that in the long run they won’t provide other mechanisms to keep one of their vital constituencies in business?

We have pretty much exhausted the options for cost-cutting: less care (at a steep political price, at the cost of giving frightening power to the government, and at odds with the goal of providing care where none is now given); less money to caregivers, which would amount to the same thing; less use of intermediaries (which is likewise contrary to the whole thrust of the project); or less cost in using intermediaries (which is impractical and unlikely to pan out).

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7. How to (legally*) personally profit from your position as a Presidential Senior Advisor.

Just follow these easy steps!

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