Conservative Senators introduce a bill to enrich health insurers and screw over the consumers

This figures: Senate Republicans and two DINOs have introduced a bill to take away money that was designated to go to consumers as part of the Affordable Care Act, in the 80 / 20 ratio:

New Legislation Would Pad Health Insurance Coffers While Screwing Over Consumers

As part of the Affordable Care Act, health insurers must spend at least 80% of the money they earn from premiums on actually providing health care, with the remaining cash used to cover all administrative, advertising and payroll costs. Those insurers with plans that don’t follow this ratio are soon supposed to start giving the extra money back in refunds and discounts. But new legislation introduced in the Senate this week could jeopardize this, while giving insurance companies even more money to stick in their dog pillows.

The bill, introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (DINO) of Louisiana and co-sponsored by John Isakson (R) of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson (DINO), is intended “to preserve consumer and employer access to licensed independent insurance producers” by eliminating insurance broker commissions from the administrative overhead.

Does that “intent” sound like bullshit to you? Does to me. Broker commissions not coming out of insurance companies’ overhead helps WHO exactly? That’s right. It helps insurance companies and those who receive commissions.

So under the current rules, an insurer that takes in $100 million dollars in premiums must spend $80 million on paying for health care and those broker commissions are included in the remaining $20 million.

But if this bill becomes law, those commissions — let’s just put a number of $3 million on them for this example — would no longer be part of the equation. That would mean the insurer would only have to spend $77.6 million on health care but would now have $22.4 million to use for its own purposes.

The National Association of Insurance found that altering the rule to remove broker compensation will result in a loss of more than 60% of forthcoming rebates for consumers.

Conservatives in Congress like Landrieu, Isakson, Murkowski, and Nelson just can’t stop themselves from fighting for the best interests of the corporations and the one percent.

And, by the way, this is part of Obamacare, part of health care reform, so would all the Republican base voters who hate, hate, hate Obama and the Democratic Party, and pay for health insurance, please explain how this new conservative trick bill will work out better for them personally? I’d like to hear that argument.

Meanwhile, in Antarctica

A team of Russian scientists from Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) has been drilling into two miles of Antarctic ice for 20 years to reach a buried, ancient Antarctic lake. They were to reach the surface of that lake any day. But they’ve been out of contact with American colleagues for five days now.

GlobalPost | Fears held for Russian scientists exploring “alien” Antarctic lake, Vostok  

Russian scientists preparing to explore the “most alien lake on Earth,” Lake Vostok, have reportedly not been in touch with American colleagues in over five days.

[...] Meanwhile, Dr. John Priscu, professor of Ecology at Montana State University, told FoxNews.com via email that he had no way to contact the team and the already cold weather was set to plunge, as Antarctica’s summer season was ending.

“Temps are dropping below [minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit] and they have only a week or so left before they have to winterize the station,” he told Fox. “I can only imagine what things must be like at Vostok Station this week.”

Daily Mail | Riddle of the Russian scientists drilling into ‘alien’ Antarctic lake buried under ice for 20 million years who have been out of radio contact for five days:

A team of Russian scientists has mysteriously lost contact with colleagues in the U.S. as they drill into a lake buried beneath the Antarctic ice for 20 million years.

The scientists had been battling conditions of minus 66C at Lake Vostok, as they raced to drill into a lake buried two miles beneath the ice before the weather closed in. The scientists hope the lake’s untouched water will reveal more about life on our planet 20 million years ago.

The lake, in the most inhospitable region of the planet, is kept liquid by geothermal heat under the ice and its conditions are often described as ‘alien’ because they are thought to be akin to the subterranean lakes on Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Base of operations: The Russians are operating out of the Vostok Station, pictured here, which opened in December 1957
Base of operations: The Russians are operating out of the Vostok Station, pictured here, which opened in December 1957

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Graph: tax burden by income

Exactly who’s supposed to be freeloading off the system in this country again?

According to the WSJ, “U.S. companies are booking higher profits than ever… [while] corporate tax receipts as a share of profits are at their lowest level in at least 40 years. Total corporate federal taxes paid fell to 12.1% of profits earned from activities within the U.S. in fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s the lowest level since at least 1972.”  And take a look at this:

Soaking the Poor, State by State

You have heard, perhaps, that rich people in America are egregiously overtaxed. And the poor? They’re the lucky duckies! Why, 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes at all!

(This is not true, of course. Many poor and elderly Americans pay no federal income tax, but they pay plenty of other taxes.)

Still and all, it’s true that the federal income tax is indeed progressive. Conservatives are right about that—though it’s not as progressive as it used to be, back before top marginal rates were lowered and capital gains taxes were slashed in half. But conservatives are a little less excited to talk about other kinds of taxes. Payroll taxes aren’t progressive, for example. In fact, they’re actively regressive, with the poor and middle classes paying higher rates than the rich.

And then there are state taxes. Those include state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and fees of various kinds. How progressive are state taxes?

Answer: They aren’t. 

According to this tax rate data, in the median state (Mississippi, as it turns out) the poorest 20 percent pay twice the tax rate of the top 1 percent. In the worst states, the poorest 20 percent pay five to six times the rate of the richest 1 percent.

See the rest of the chart here.

No wonder Mitt Romney isn’t concerned about the ‘very rich’ — but why isn’t he concerned about the ‘very poor’ or this bottom to top income redistribution scheme, which is currently known as our tax system?

Wars and the self-interest of the “generals on the ground”

Our top military brass really do have a personal financial stake in creating and / or continuing wars around the world. Ka-ching!

Some top military brass making more in pension than pay

The new pension rules were part of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act to address concerns that the military would lose too many experienced generals and admirals during wartime.

Previously , the maximum annual pension was based on an officer’s pay at 26 years of service. Now, a four-star officer retiring in 2011 with 38 years’ experience would get a yearly pension of about $219,600, a jump of $84,000, or 63% beyond what was once allowed. A three-star officer with 35 years’ experience would get about $169,200 a year, up about $39,000, or 30%.

Can you see why the following attitudes about “listening to the generals on the ground” might be a problem?

“I think we are drifting to a very, very dangerous situation. None of the generals recommended the speed of the drawdown the president wants. [...] And if you watch what is happening there’s a steady drift from the United States at a time when the president is signaling his desire to get out as fast as he can and potentially faster than the generals think is safe. … You should go to the White House and ask the president why did he overrule all his generals?” – Newt Gingrich on Obama’s earlier announced plan to withdraw the “surge” troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer

Romney echos President Obama’s right-wing critics who say that the president should’ve deferred his troop withdrawal decision to the commanders on the ground (thereby essentially abdicating his role as commander-in-chief). “It’s time for the troops of Afghanistan to take on that responsibility according to…the time table established and communicated by the generals in the field,” Romney then says. – Mitt Romney Backs Off Letting Generals Decide Course In Afghanistan

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) listens to the generals — so much so that he has advocated on numerous occasions that President Obama defer his powers as commander-in-chief to American military commanders fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. – John McCain Only Listens To Generals He Agrees With

Meanwhile,

[U]nemployment rate for post-Sept. 11 military veterans… stood at 13.1 percent in December. The government estimates that 250,000 post-Sept. 11 veterans are unemployed. – Obama to announce Veterans Job Corps

More good ideas for the GOP Congress to shoot down this year

The GOP-led House will definitely say “no” if this would help anyone but the one percent (“Veterans Job Corps? Where are the tax cuts for the wealthy in this idea?”). Plus, also, too, JOB #1: make Obama a one term president! 

President Obama will announce details Friday for a $1 billion Veterans Job Corps that the White House says will put up to 20,000 veterans to work over the next five years on projects to preserve and restore national parks and other federal, state and local lands.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki on Thursday described the program as “a bold new effort” to lower the high unemployment rate for post-Sept. 11 military veterans, which stood at 13.1 percent in December. The government estimates that 250,000 post-Sept. 11 veterans are unemployed.

– Obama to announce Veterans Job Corps

And although this really did happen (via: manicchill):

Aiming to restore voters’ faith in Congress, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday that makes clear it’s illegal for members of Congress, their staffs and many executive-branch employees to trade stocks and other securities based on inside information learned on the job.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which President Barack Obama has urged Congress to approve, passed 96-3.

Senate passes insider-trading bill

It’s interesting to see which amendments did not pass:

  • A bipartisan proposal to permanently ban earmarks as well as an amendment to require lawmakers and senior staff to divest of stocks or put their stock holdings in blind trusts.
  • An amendment sponsored by [Sen.] Paul to prohibit executive branch appointees and staff from having oversight, rule-making, and loan- or grant-making authority over companies in which they or their spouses have significant financial interest.
  • The amendment sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jeff Merkley(D-OR) requiring lawmakers and senior staff to divest of stocks lost 26 to 73.
  • Leaders also denied a vote on an amendment sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mo.) to permanently bar lawmakers from becoming lobbyists and restrict former staff from lobbying their old bosses in Congress for a period of six years.

Breaking: Komen is reversing its decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood

Komen is reversing its decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood

After dealing with a backlash from the public, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity says they will restore its partnership with Planned Parenthood.

More to come.

Related: 

  • Susan G. Komen’s Founder Is Major GOP Donor, Ex-Bush Ambassador - Brinker is also a major Republican donor, and has given more than $175,000 to Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee since 1990, according to donor data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Her late husband, Norman Brinker, was the chairman of Brinker International Restaurants, which owns the chains Chili’s, Maggiano’s, and Macaroni Grill. Norman Brinker gave more than $440,000 to Republicans between 1990 and his death in 2009.
  • Charities Working to Prevent and Cure Breast Cancer - At Charity Navigator we’ve done the work for you. We’ve reviewed the financial health of over 20 of the largest charities working to fight and prevent breast cancer in America. Although these charities have been very successful at generating support, together raising nearly $1.7 billion annually in contributions, the disparity in their financial health is enormous. (via WWJD)

8.3% Unemployment: the very best jobs report since the recession began FOUR years ago

“Do not slow down the recovery that we’re on. Don’t muck it up.” – President Obama, speaking directly to Congress during a speech centered on jobs and the economy on Friday in Arlington, Virginia. The economy added 243,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, much better than analysts expected. (tpmmedia)

8.3% Unemployment In Context — or how can the GOP turn this around to make it worse before November? (Source: politicalwire.com)

Steve Benen: “After years of jobs reports that were only considered encouraging when compared to where we’ve been, January’s totals is objectively good news. Indeed, this is one of the best — if not the very best — jobs reports since the recession began four years ago.”

Ezra Klein: “The bottom line is that this isn’t just a good jobs report. It’s a recovery jobs report. It’s showing the sort of numbers that win elections.”

More Steve Benen: And with that, here’s the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction — red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.

Science: Alzheimer’s spreads through the brain like an infection

Right now if you were to be tested for the Alzheimer’s ‘gene,’ it would feel like a ticking time bomb, a death sentence. I’m glad to see research is progressing because currently, as the article below says, “The disease cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed, but some treatments can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms.” Maybe one day diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s will be researched and treated as quickly as erectile dysfunction?

Study finds Alzheimer’s spreads like infection - “The most effective approach may be to treat Alzheimer’s the way we treat cancer — through early detection and treatment, before it has a chance to spread,” said study co-author and neurology professor Scott Small. “The best way to cure Alzheimer’s may be to identify and treat it when it is just beginning, to halt progression. It is during this early stage that the disease will be most amenable to treatment. “That is the exciting clinical promise down the road.”


Advanced Alzheimers Brain (left) | Normal Healthy Brain (right) — (image: milesian)

Video: Daily Show — Rich Man, Richer Man: Jon Stewart on Trump and Romney

Jon says,

So Donald Trump and Mitt Romney join forces, showing Americans that if two Ivy League educated, successful business tycoons from wealthy families can find common ground — even when one is a billionaire and the other only a multi, multi, multi millionaire — maybe there’s hope that this country isn’t so divided after all.

10 interesting things: TGIF

1) Alabama Republican Senator says low teacher pay is mandated by God - A Republican State Senator from Alabama claimed this week that keeping teacher salaries low is actually an order from the Christian deity figure, imparted in ancient texts written by Jewish tribesmen thousands of years ago. Speaking at a prayer breakfast recently, Alabama state Senator Shadrack McGill praised giving pay raises to politicians, saying that it helps to prevent bribery.

2) Senate approves bill banning insider trading by lawmakers, 96-3 - The Senate voted 96 to 3 Thursday to prohibit members of Congress from using non-public information for personal financial gain but beat back a slew of amendments to further limit congressional perks.

3) Susan G. Komen’s Founder Is Major GOP Donor, Ex-Bush Ambassador - Brinker is also a major Republican donor, and has given more than $175,000 to Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee since 1990, according to donor data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Her late husband, Norman Brinker, was the chairman of Brinker International Restaurants, which owns the chains Chili’s, Maggiano’s, and Macaroni Grill. Norman Brinker gave more than $440,000 to Republicans between 1990 and his death in 2009.

Charities Working to Prevent and Cure Breast Cancer - At Charity Navigator we’ve done the work for you. We’ve reviewed the financial health of over 20 of the largest charities working to fight and prevent breast cancer in America. Although these charities have been very successful at generating support, together raising nearly $1.7 billion annually in contributions, the disparity in their financial health is enormous. (via WWJD)

4) With tax break, corporate rate is lowest in decades - U.S. companies are booking higher profits than ever. But the number crunchers in Washington are puzzling over a phenomenon that has just come into view: Corporate tax receipts as a share of profits are at their lowest level in at least 40 years. Total corporate federal taxes paid fell to 12.1% of profits earned from activities within the U.S. in fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s the lowest level since at least 1972.

image5)  Pope Is No Tea Partier: Benedict Backs Guaranteed Health Care For All - As newly empowered Republicans prepare a congressional agenda topped by a promise to repeal health care reform, Pope Benedict XVI has strongly reiterated Catholic teaching that universal health care is an “inalienable right” that must be guaranteed by every nation and society. (via: peachsss)

6) Senate Republicans call for two-year pay freeze extension - Senate Republicans on Thursday introduced a bill that would freeze federal pay for another two years and reduce the size of the government by 5 percent through attrition. The legislation is designed to stave off cuts to the Defense Department budget if sequestration takes effect in 2013, and is the latest attempt by lawmakers to reduce federal compensation and shrink the government workforce in the name of deficit reduction.

 7) GOP senators unveil bill to spare Pentagon from automatic defense cuts - The White House and Democrats swiftly rejected the piecemeal approach, arguing that President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans backed the long-term, deficit-cutting plan last August and can’t suddenly abandon it when faced with the dire consequences. [...] The failure of the so-called supercommittee to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in cuts last November will trigger another round of cuts in January 2013 in defense and domestic spending, with the Pentagon facing an additional $492 billion reduction over a decade.

8) Anti-Gay Group Tells JCPenney To Fire New Spokeswoman Ellen DeGeneres - Conservative group OneMillionMoms.com, an offshoot of the American Family Association, doesn’t like that JCPenney has hired Ellen DeGeneres as their new spokeswoman. Not because of her dance moves or jokes on her talk show, but because she’s gay.

9) A quarter of Mitt Romney’s campaign funds come from 41 people - Mitt Romney is just an ordinary man of the people running for president as a voice for the middle class, and if you look at his campaign filings, you’ll see that very clearly: A quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign and an allied super PAC has come from just 41 people, each of whom has given more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors have contributed $1 million or more.

10) Three times as many voters consider a Trump endorsement negatively - An endorsement by Donald Trump would draw a mixed reaction among Republican and Republican-leaning voters: 20% say they would be less likely to support a candidate backed by Trump, 13% more likely and 64% say it would make no difference. Among all voters, however, more than three times as many would view a Trump endorsement negatively than positively (28% vs. 8%). That is little changed from 2007.

See reactions to the endorsement: Continue reading

Morning: Solar Loops

Solar Loops – Image courtesy: SDO/NASA

Huge loops of plasma—superheated, charged gas—rise from an active region on the sun in a newly released picture from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Each loop is as tall as several Earths stacked on top of each other.

via: ikenbot

Watch video: