The Land of Exceptionalism: who needs health care reform?

Health care laws leave hospitals overwhelmed by ‘permanent patients’ 

Under federal law, hospitals must treat any patient who needs emergency medical attention even if they have no way to pay. Nursing and rehab facilities are not required by law to do so. At the same time, hospitals cannot discharge a patient without a plan in place for his or her ongoing care.

The result is patients stuck in the hospital in need of long-term care but with nowhere to go, large medical bills, and no way to pay – a cost that is usually covered at the hospital’s expense.

A cost passed on to the rest of us eventually. Even teabaggers who are against Obamacare have no problem with filing bankruptcy on their unpaid medical bills, letting the rest of us absorb the costs. Boom! Who needs reform now, Nobama?

Or recall the simple solution for people who need medical care but don’t have health insurance, suggested by the very serious DOCTOR Ron Paul (and his cheering supporters) during an early GOP debate:


And here’s something new and cool happening in the Land of Exceptionalism:

Debt Collectors Take Places Alongside Hospital Staffs – NYTimes.com

This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country.

The tactics, like embedding debt collectors as employees in emergency rooms and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, were outlined in hundreds of company documents released by the attorney general. And they cast a spotlight on the increasingly desperate strategies among hospitals to recoup payments as their unpaid debts mount.

To patients, the debt collectors may look indistinguishable from hospital employees, may demand they pay outstanding bills and may discourage them from seeking emergency care at all, even using scripts like those in collection boiler rooms, according to the documents and employees interviewed by The New York Times.

In some cases, the company’s workers had access to health information while persuading patients to pay overdue bills, possibly in violation of federal privacy laws, the documents indicate.

The attorney general, Lori Swanson, also said that Accretive employees may have broken the law by not clearly identifying themselves as debt collectors.

Accretive Health has contracts not only with two hospitals cited in Minnesota but also with some of the largest hospital systems in the country, including Henry Ford Health System in Michigan and Intermountain Healthcare in Utah. Company executives declined to comment on Tuesday.

As comparison, a dispatch from an American in Korea:

Morning Bunker Report: Tuesday 4.17.2012

————————————-WHAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY STANDS FOR TODAY

What is Mitt Romney’s real tax plan? Apparently we got a rare glimpse of this when reporters overheard a private conversation Sunday night with supporters at a fundraising party: “I’m going to probably eliminate for high income people the second home mortgage deduction,” Romney said, adding that he would also likely eliminate deductions for state income and property taxes as well. “By virtue of doing that, we’ll get the same tax revenue, but we’ll have lower rates.” Okey dokey. If Romney could actually get Congress to agree to this, I figure it would bring in roughly $100 billion in revenue. That’s assuming a complete elimination of the deduction for all state, local, and property taxes. In return, this would allow tax rates to go down across the board by about one percentage point. Maybe one and a half. Or, alternatively, it might allow tax rates on the rich to go down by five or ten points. I wonder which he has in mind? [Kevin Drum]

What’s Mitt Romney hiding? A lot, for someone asking for our votes — Mitt Romney has a secret plan to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Mitt Romney is filing for an extension on his taxes, a move that, not coincidentally, prevents him from having to release them. This all makes sense from a guy who thinks that the inequality from which he benefits so enormously should only be discussed in quiet rooms. But it’s not exactly the stuff with which he’s likely to convince a majority of voters that he can be trusted with the governance of their country. After all, Romney doesn’t even want to tell us what policies he’s running on, let alone how his personal conduct has measured up.


FROM ROMNEY’S BOOK: “Welfare without work erodes the spirit and the sense of self-worth of the recipient. And it conditions the children of nonworking parents to an indolent and unproductive life. Hardworking parents raise hardworking kids; we should recognize that the opposite is also true. The influence of the work habits of our parents and other adults around us as we grow up has lasting impact.” Does this mean Romney’s children became indolent and unproductive because their mother stayed at home and their father sat in a conference room and fired people for a living? I don’t know, but they do fit the equation Mitt Romney has laid out. Given what we now know of the Romneys, I believe a better title for Romney’s book would be — No Apology, The Case for Being a Privileged White Man. [Indolent and Unproductive | Bob Cesca]

Anti-Mormon pastor endorses Romney because Obama ‘opposes’ the Bible — Fox News host Clayton Morris noted that Jeffress was quoted in October as saying, “Evangelical Christians should not vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, therefore not a real Christian.” “Critics would argue that President Obama is a real Christian,” Morris continued. “By that metric then, why wouldn’t you support Barack Obama?” “Well, again, I never said that quote that you attributed to me,” Jeffress argued. “There was a spurious article in one magazine that just completely fabricated that quote. I’ve never said don’t vote for Mitt Romney because he’s not a Christian. But in my book that you were so kind to reference, I said, given the choice between a Christian like Barack Obama who embraces non-biblical principles like abortion and a Mormon like Mitt Romney who embraces Bible principles, there’s every reason to support Mitt Romney in this election. I’ve been consistent in that.” Jeffress added that he expected evangelicals across the nation to put Romney in the White House because Obama “opposes biblical principles.” [image: mittfitts.com]

Dick Cheney, unapologetic war criminal and second in command to an administration which almost completely trashed this country, calls Obama an ‘unmitigated disaster’ — in a moment of unmitigated density and stunning lack of self-awareness:He has been an unmitigated disaster to the country. I can’t think of a time when I felt it was more important for us to defeat an incumbent president today with respect to Barack Obama. I think he has been an unmitigated disaster to the country. I think to be in a position where he gets four more years in the White House to continue the policies he has, both with respect to the economy, and tax policy, and defense and some other areas would be a huge, huge disappointment.” — DICK Cheney, speaking at the Wyoming Republican Party state convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming on Saturday, about the President.

Republicans to slash food stamps – The White House deliberately increased monthly benefits in 2009 by about $20 per person as a way to pump stimulus dollars into the economy. And in this post welfare-reform crisis, hard-strapped governors have sought to maximize food stamp dollars as a cheap way to help families without tapping state funds. The higher costs and visibility—especially as more businesses advertise that they will honor the electronic benefit cards introduced in the 1980’s—are what’s driving the Republican push. The Recovery Act boost in benefits is already phasing out and will be gone entirely by November 2013. But the package now, to be taken up by the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday, would end this abruptly summer, impacting families Sept. 1, and saving about $5.9 billion in 2012 and 2013. [...] the severity of the proposed House cuts could be an over reach for two reasons. First they are all coming from the Agriculture panel in a context where rich farm subsidies continue to be protected at a time of record income for producers. Even in the commodity lobby, there is broad consensus that the current system of cash payments to growers at a time of high farm profits can no longer be politically defended. And by not striking more of a balance, the committee risks real damage to the coalition that has supported farm and food programs together for decades.

———————————————————–——PRESIDENT OBAMA / DEMOCRATS

Tonight, Senate Republicans voted to block the Buffett Rule, choosing once again to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest few Americans at the expense of the middle class. The Buffett Rule is common sense. At a time when we have significant deficits to close and serious investments to make to strengthen our economy, we simply cannot afford to keep spending money on tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and didn’t ask for. But it’s also about basic fairness—it’s just plain wrong that millions of middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires. One of the fundamental challenges of our time is building an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. And I will continue to push Congress to take steps to not only restore economic security for the middle class and those trying to reach the middle class, but also to create an economy that’s built to last.” — President Obama in a statement on Monday’s vote

Henry Paul Monaghan, a professor of constitutional law at Columbia Law School and prominent conservative legal scholar, urges the Supreme Court to uphold health care reform — “Moreover, the market for health care is distinctive (if not entirely unique) in several key respects. Virtually all of us will need and obtain health care at some point, but we often cannot predict when or in what ways we will need it. And for the vast majority of us, direct payment for the health care services we obtain would be prohibitively expensive. Yet not obtaining needed medical care can be the difference between life and death. These features help explain why, unlike many other markets, insurance is the overwhelmingly dominant means of payment in the health care market. They also explain why Congress has required that individuals be given emergency care without regard to their ability to pay. As a result, and again unlike other markets, uninsured individuals who are unable to pay directly for needed medical services necessarily shift the cost of those services to others — to health care providers, the government, individuals with insurance, and taxpayers. In that way, Congress is not creating a market which it then seeks to regulate. The insurance-based structure of the health care market is already firmly in place. That is why it was well within Congress’s discretion to design legislation to operate within, and to address problems posed by, this vast market.”

“The ESCHATON DECADE has been a pretty fucked up decade, a time when this country stopped even bothering to pretend to live up to many of its supposed ideals. We go to war and kill lots of people for no good reason, elites have eliminated any accountability for themselves for criminal wrongdoing, we’ve tortured and assassinated people, and the response to massive economic suffering and related criminal fraud has been to give lots of free money to the people who caused it all.” – Duncan Black

LOL ‘free choice’ issues


via: paxamericana

Morning Bunker Report: TGIF 4.13.2012

————————————-WHAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY STANDS FOR TODAY

Remember, ladies: this whole ‘war on women’ thing is just in your silly, little heads. In an exchange caught on camera, Virginia House Speaker William Howell (R) berates the group’s executive director Anna Scholl, mocking the group’s website and her. Howell criticizes the Washington Post’s article about the group’s as “full of half-truths or un-truths.” In a failed attempt to back up his accusation, Howell notes that while the Commonwealth paid about $230,000 on ALEC-related expenses, it spent even more on travel for the same and other legislators to attend conferences by the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislators. When by Scholl pressed as to how omission of that irrelevant detail constituted an inaccuracy, Howell berated her: “I guess I’m not speaking in little enough words for you to understand.” When Scholl responded to the slight, telling him “I’m a smart girl, actually I went to the University of Virginia,” more than capable of understanding polysyllabic words. Howell curtly replied, “We’ll good for you.” [ThinkProgress]

Congratulations, Arizona Women- Every Single One of You Is Now Officially Pregnant — According to Jan Brewer and the deep thinkers in the Arizona legislature: Life starts earliest in Arizona, which now defines gestational age as beginning on the first day of a woman’s last period, rather than at fertilization. In practice, that means the state has banned abortions after about 18 weeks (20 weeks from the last menstruation) except in the case of medical emergencies. [...] Now that Arizona has decided to separate being pregnant from when you actually become pregnant, every single woman is, according to the law, pregnant the moment they begin their last period, and will remain officially pregnant until the beginning of your very next period. There will apparently be a 1 day window in between these two events in which you are not officially pregnant.

Karl Rove’s Pro-Millionaire Facebook Campaign — The latest brainstorm from Karl Rove & Co. is on the right: a Facebook petition opposing the “Buffett Rule,” which would ensure that millionaires pay a minimum 30% tax rate. “Really,” says Greg Sargent, “it continues to amaze that people in positions of real influence could venture something this idiotic with no evident sense of embarrassment.” Lack of gall has never been one of Karl Rove’s weaknesses, so his lack of embarrassment probably isn’t really all that surprising. But what’s this all about? It is kind of dumb, after all. My guess: it’s just part of a “mud against the wall” strategy. It’s not likely to gain much traction, but it’s cheap and it might produce some useful feedback.

  • The problem Obama and Buffett are trying to address isn’t that each of them personally can’t pay more in taxes if he so chooses… Rather, they are trying to solve a society wide problem that threatens the future of a country of over 300 million people — one that, in their telling, requires a bit more sacrifice from high earners as a whole class if we are to have any hope of solving it…. The silly implication that there’s something hypocritical about calling for higher taxes on the wealthy when you are wealthy yourself and could just write a check if you really wanted to is about nothing more than sowing confusion about who is really looking out for whose interests. [Greg Sargent]

U.S. priests accused in 700 sex cases in 2011: report — Sixty-eight percent of the complaints relate to events that took place between 1960 and 1984 — the majority from 1975 to 1979, the report says. Many of the clergy members accused have since died, or been relieved of their church duties. More than 280 of them had been accused in the past, it said. Of the 21 accusations made by minors, seven were considered credible by the police and three were determined to be false, the report said. Three other cases were still under investigation. The Church spent $144 million dealing with the scandal in the United States in 2011 — including attorneys’ fees, settlements, and support for offenders — a decrease from $150 million in 2010. [...] The publication of the report comes several weeks after the start of the first trial of an American bishop who sheltered pedophile priests.

  • WHY ARE CHURCHES TAX-EXEMPT AGAIN? Catholic Bishops are urging every diocese to hold a “Fortnight for Freedom” during the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, for parishioners to study, pray and take public action to fight what they see as the government’s attempts to curtail religious freedom. [...] Several states have denied financing to Catholic agencies that refused to place foster children with gay parents. And the federal government refused to reauthorize a grant to a Catholic immigration organization that served victims of sex trafficking because as a Catholic group, it would not provide or refer women to services for abortion and birth control… the bishops say that unjust laws should be either changed or resisted. In this passage, the bishops seem to refer to the recent attempt by President Obama to accommodate their objection to the health care mandate, by ordering the insurance companies, and not the Catholic institutions, to pay for birth control coverage. [NYTimes]

———————————————————–——PRESIDENT OBAMA / DEMOCRATS

Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night said the Republican-led “war on women” was real, claiming their view on birth control would take the United States back to the 1950s. “I think the war on women is real,” he told MSNBC host Ed Schultz. “And look, I’ll tell you when it’s going to intensify. The next president of the United States is going to get to name one, possibly two or more, members to the Supreme Court.” Biden said it was an “outrageous assertion” for CNN contributor Hillary Rosen to claim that Ann Romney, a mother of five, had not worked a day in her life. “My entire career as a senator and the vice president is to get to one point, when my daughter is able to make whatever choice she wants and no one question it,” he explained. [Raw Story]


Biden to Attack “Romney Rule” on Taxes – Biden will coin a new phrase — “the Romney Rule” — to illustrate his case, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the Obama campaign. “The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do,” Biden will say. “The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year.” Biden refers to the so-called Bush tax cuts on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. Romney wants to extend and expand the cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year; Obama wants to let them lapse. “Look, these are tax cuts to people who didn’t ask for them, who don’t need them, and who know the nation can’t afford them,” Biden will say. “And it matters. There’s a stark choice we have to make.” [image: Joe Biden Unleashed | Mother Jones]

Whitney Tilson, a millionaire hedge fund manager, wants President Obama to raise his taxes. Despite the fact that the Buffett Rule, the proposed minimum tax on the wealthiest Americans, would have made his federal tax bill 40 percent higher, Tilson was one of four millionaires standing with Obama yesterday at an appearance touting the rule. Tilson also penned an editorial in the Washington Post calling for the Buffett Rule’s passage, saying, “It’s okay to raise my taxes” because “simple math and basic fairness” demand it: It’s not class warfare to say that people like me — who aren’t suffering at all in these tough economic times, who are in many cases doing the best we’ve ever done and who can easily afford to pay more in taxes with no impact on our lifestyle — should be the first to step up and make a small sacrifice. [...] Think of it this way: Every billion dollars not raised from millionaires is equal to a million average U.S. families each paying an extra $1,000 in taxes. That would be real hardship for a lot of families that, unlike mine, are struggling to make ends meet. [ThinkProgress]


Taking the false-equivalence fallacy to the extreme — What much of the political world seems to be saying today is that the “war on women” now has two competing counterweights. One the one hand, we have a party that has pushed for restricting contraception; cutting off Planned Parenthood; state-mandated, medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds; forcing physicians to lie to patients about abortion and breast cancer; abortion taxes; abortion waiting periods; trap laws at abortion clinics, forcing women to tell their employers why they want birth control, opposition to prenatal care, and measures that make it harder for women to fight pay discrimination. On the other hand, we have a media pundit with no connection to her party’s presidential campaign who said something about Mitt Romney’s wife professional background. Don’t you see? Both sides clearly have a problem here. Republicans were losing the “war on women,” but not anymore. Let’s pause to appreciate the differences between policy and politics. A public policy offensive involving women’s health, waged at the local, state, and federal level is a serious development, worthy of scrutiny. It affects people in direct and personal ways… to obscure the differences a national policy initiative and a 30-second soundbite on CNN, which the pundit has since apologized for, is take the false-equivalence fallacy to depths that simply aren’t healthy for our public discourse. [Steve Benen]

The United States of Barbarity

“Only in the United States does the conservative party uphold the operating principle that regular access to doctors and medicine should be denied to large chunks of the population. This sort of barbarism is unique to the American right.”

Jonathan Chait writes about the barbarism of the Health-Care repeal crusade in no uncertain terms:

People rally in opposition to government reform of health care in Washington, DC, on March 20, 2010. The "Kill the Bill" rally comes on the eve of a vote on health reform by US lawmakers.    AFP PHOTO/Chris KLEPONIS (Photo credit should read CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)

…two parties are fighting over whether access to regular medical care ought to be a right or an earned privilege.

To me, and essentially everybody on the liberal side, the answer to that question is obvious. I’m comfortable with the market creating vastly unequal rewards of many kinds. But to make health insurance an earned privilege is to condemn people to physical suffering or even death because they failed to secure a job that gives them health insurance, or they don’t earn enough, or they happened to contract an expensive illness, or a member of their family did… The principle strikes me as nothing short of barbaric.

[...] Their language is instructive. They decry the bill for requiring “handouts,” and insist, “you have to work for everything you get.” Which is to say, they consider universal health care exactly like welfare — a giveaway of something that people rightly ought to earn on their own.

[...] The House Republican budget, which has become the lodestar of conservative public policy, is instructive. It repeals the Affordable Care Act and leaves nothing in its place to cover the uninsured. It further imposes enormous cuts to Medicaid, increasing the uninsured population even further still. It offers no plan to fill the void it creates. This is not because such a plan lies too far outside its breadth — it is a sweeping statement, including such disparate objectives as deregulating the financial industry, and laying out a vision that would stretch decades into the future. It’s a statement of how the Republican Party would allocate resources, and the crystal clear answer is, Republicans oppose allocating resources to cover the uninsured.

[...] In every other advanced country, the provision of universal access to medical care is a public responsibility. In every other advanced country, this principle has been accepted by the mainstream conservative party. Only in the United States does the conservative party uphold the operating principle that regular access to doctors and medicine should be denied to large chunks of the population. This sort of barbarism is unique to the American right.

Read it all…

God save us.

Morning Bunker Report: Monday 4.9.2012

————————————-WHAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY STANDS FOR TODAY

Neo-Nazis are reportedly patrolling Sanford, Fla. where unarmed teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on Feb. 26. THE FOX ‘NEWS’ WAR ON INTELLIGENCE: According to a Fox “News” affiliate, Neo-Nazis are ‘a Civil Rights group’! — A Fox Orlando affiliate decribed Neo-Nazis as “a civil rights group” on a television broadcast and online. The group of Neo-Nazis, known as the National Socialist Movement, has been conducting armed patrols of the streets of Sanford, Florida, the town where Trayvon Marting was shot dead. The Fox Orlando affiliate, WOFL, aired a shockingly uncritical report of the groups activities. The Fox reporter introduced the group by saying, “There’s another civil rights group in town.” She also conducts an interview with the group’s leader, Jeff Schoep, without challenging any of his claims about the nature and mission of the group. [image: nydailynews.com]

Bob Schieffer Falsely Claims Health Reform Forces Churches To “Buy Birth Control Pills For Their Employees” — In an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation on CBS, falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act required religiously-affiliated institutions — including churches — to “buy birth control pills for their employees.” In fact, churches are exempted from the mandate, and contraceptive services will be provided by health insurance plans, not religiously-affiliated employers. Schieffer is misinforming his viewers when he says that the mandate for contraceptive coverage applies to churches. The rule regarding contraceptive coverage specifically exempts actual houses of worship. Furthermore, the rule doesn’t force any religiously-affiliated institution to purchase birth control pills or distribute them its employees. [...] As Sibelius made clear in her statement, Catholic universities and hospitals aren’t going to be buying birth control for their employees any more than they will be buying blood pressure tests and dialysis. Institutions that provide health insurance as an employment benefit are offering just that – health insurance. When a person with employer-provided coverage goes to the doctor or pharmacist, we normally think of their bills as being paid for not by their employer but by their health insurance plan.

Tennessee seeks to question evolution in bill — The measure states that “teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” It also says the legislation “shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.” In a letter to lawmakers, the Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences argued that the bill would “miseducate students, harm the state’s national reputation and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy.” The Tennessee Education Association, meanwhile, blasted the “unnecessary legislation.” But Haslam has already indicated he would “probably” sign the measure into law. The Discovery Institute, whose model legislation inspired the bill, hailed the passage of a text that “promotes good science education by protecting the academic freedom of science teachers to fully and objectively discuss controversial scientific topics, like evolution.”

NEVER FORGET! – Some sad news: The tea party may have won Republicans the House of Representatives in 2010, but in 2012, it’s looking like it could help Democrats retain the White House. Now nearly three years old, the tea party has fallen out of favor with Americans, and Democrats are prepared to use it against Republicans in this year’s elections. A recent Fox News poll showed just 30 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the tea party, compared with 51 percent who viewed it unfavorably. [...] I don’t want the Tea Party to fall out of favor with pundits, for two reasons. Pundits were, in my view, always ”the movement’s” most enthusiastic promoters, and I think Republicans who have to get reelected should have to wear the Tea Party they embraced like a badge. Actions should have consequences, and I’m all about taking responsibility. [...] These images of the Tea Party are an important part of the historical record of the Republican Party.

———————————————————–——PRESIDENT OBAMA / DEMOCRATS

DNC Chair Slams Wis. Gov. Walker for Equal Pay Repeal, says GOP ‘callous and insensitive’ towards women – “The policies that have come out of the Republican Party, saying that we should have a debate again over contraception and whether we should have access to it and it should be affordable, saying that — like Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, you know, he tried to quietly repeal the Equal Pay Act. Women aren’t going to stand for that. Governor Walker just signed a bill that repeals the equal pay law they had in Wisconsin for years. You have Republicans who have engaged themselves for the entire Congress trying to redefine rape as only being forcible rape, defunding Planned Parenthood and family planning programs. The Lilly Ledbetter Act — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act put teeth behind the notion that women deserve equal pay for equal work. That was the first bill the President Obama signed into law. The overwhelming majority of Republicans serving in Congress voted against it. So, the focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that is unacceptable and shows how callous and insensitive they are towards women’s priorities.” 

“I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented — which reinforces I think people’s cynicism about Washington generally. [The debate over deficit reduction] is not one of those situations where there’s an equivalence. I’ve got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it.  And we couldn’t get a Republican to stand up and say, we’ll raise some revenue, or even to suggest that we won’t give more tax cuts to people who don’t need them.”President Obama on bipartisanship at the AP lunch

  • John Cole said this about bipartisanship and today’s GOP:“I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.” [via]

The Gullible Center – So, can we talk about the Paul Ryan phenomenon? And yes, I mean the phenomenon, not the man. Mr. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the principal author of the last two Congressional Republican budget proposals, isn’t especially interesting. He’s a garden-variety modern G.O.P. extremist, an Ayn Rand devotee who believes that the answer to all problems is to cut taxes on the rich and slash benefits for the poor and middle class. [...] The Ryan cult was very much on display last week, after President Obama said the obvious: the latest Republican budget proposal, a proposal that Mitt Romney has avidly embraced, is a “Trojan horse” — that is, it is essentially a fraud. “Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.”The reaction from many commentators was a howl of outrage. The president was being rude; he was being partisan; he was being a big meanie. Yet what he said about the Ryan proposal was completely accurate. [...]  So you can see the problem these commentators face. To admit that the president’s critique is right would be to admit that they were snookered by Mr. Ryan, who is the same as he ever was. More than that, it would call into question their whole centrist shtick — for the moral of my story is that Mr. Ryan isn’t the only emperor who turns out, on closer examination, to be naked. Hence the howls of outrage, and the attacks on the president for being “partisan.” For that is what people in Washington say when they want to shout down someone who is telling the truth.

Morning Bunker Report: Tuesday 4.3.2012

It’s election day in Wisconsin, Maryland, and DC.

THE WHITE HOUSE / DEMOCRATS

Obama: Supreme Court won’t overturn health care law  — “I think [the individual mandate] is important and I think the American people understand, and I think the justices should understand that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to insure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care,” said president Obama …  Overturning the law would be “an unprecedented, extraordinary step” since it was passed by a majority of members in the House and Senate,” he said. “I just remind conservative commentators that for years we’ve heard that the biggest problem is judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint. That a group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.”

Andrew Sullivan comments, “Too aggressive? A harbinger of a campaign theme if the Court strikes the law down? Or a necessary self-defense? After Citizens United, I’d lean to the latter.”

Obama to slam Republican ‘social Darwinism’ — He will roast a budget passed by the Republican House of Representatives, and backed by the party’s presidential candidates, as a “Trojan horse,” according to excerpts of a major speech he was due to deliver later Tuesday.  […] “Disguised as deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly-veiled Social Darwinism… But Obama argues that the plan will punish the middle class and further enrich the wealthy, a message around which he is building his campaign for a second White House term. “It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it,” Obama was to say in his speech, in a repudiation of trickle-down economics. “By gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training; research and development — it’s a prescription for decline.” […] Obama will also use his speech on Tuesday to make a new push for the “Buffett rule” a plan named after billionaire financier Warren Buffett, that would mandate that all Americans earning over $1 million pay at least a 30 percent tax rate.

“This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different party than I’m used to…. It really is different.”Joe Biden (source)

Joe Biden dismisses Mitt Romney as ‘out of touch’ — “Here’s what I don’t think that Governor Romney seems to understand,” Biden said. “It’s not just about the kid that doesn’t get to go to college because we’re not willing to help him. It’s about that parent, that proud parent looks at his kid and knows, ‘There’s nothing I can do to help this kid.’ … I don’t know that he understands that there are people like my dad who felt ashamed that he wasn’t able to borrow the money and apologizing to me. The worst thing in the world for a parent is to know they can’t help their child, whether they’re sick because they can’t get insurance for them because they have a preexisting condition, or they can’t help get them to college.” That doesn’t mean Biden is counting on an easy win, but he said the anti-government rhetoric out of the Romney camp as it fights to secure the nomination guarantees that voters will have a stark choice in November. “This is the first time the Republicans aren’t hiding the ball,” Biden said. “They’re saying exactly what they think. They’re not talking about compassionate conservatism.”

Clinton praises U.S. for uproar over Limbaugh comments  — “As a woman and as someone who can vaguely remember being a young woman — and as a mother of a young woman of that age and generation — I thought the response was very encouraging.” “I think we need to call people out when they go over the line. They’re entitled to their opinion, but no one is entitled to engage in that kind of verbal assault,” she said, according to a transcript released Monday. […] “There’s been no place better to be a woman than in 21st-century America. So we cannot allow any voices to be given credibility that would undermine the advances that women have made in our country,” she said.

THE SHORT BUS: AKA THE 2012 GOP PRIMARY

Romney: Obama wants to ‘establish a religion called secularism’ – “I think there is in this country a war on religion. I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism. They gave it a lot of thought and they decided to say that in this country that a church — in this case, the Catholic Church — would be required to violate its principles and its conscience and be required to provide contraceptives, sterilization and morning after pills to the employees of the church. … We are now all Catholics. Those of us who are people of faith recognize this is — an attack on one religion is an attack on all religion. It’s one more reason we need to get rid of Obamacare. It’s also one more reason we need to get rid of Obama.”

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote…”JFK (what religious freedom USED to mean)

Wisconsin Chaos Buries Romney’s Big Moment – Romney is on the verge of all-but-officially taking the GOP nomination on the strength of a growing delegate lead and impressive array of endorsements. But the Wisconsin contest, where Romney is favored despite starting behind Rick Santorum in polls last month, also happens to be taking place in the only primary state so far where the presidential battle is an afterthought. Instead, Wisconsin is dominated by Gov. Scott Walker’s recall battle and the ongoing legal fight over the controversial labor law that precipitated it. “Frankly, the presidential primary is being well overshadowed by the recall election,” Wisconsin GOP strategist Mark Graul told TPM. “People are just so hyper-focused on this recall that the presidential election is really just a distant second in most activists’ and voters’ minds, not just on my side of the aisle but with Democrats as well.” This week, the state officially certified the petition campaign to recall Walker, setting a June 5 date for the election that Democrats had gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures in order to force.

Rick Santorum Faces Triple Wipeout in Wisconsin, Maryland, and D.C. — The poll shows Romney leading 40 percent to 33 percent in Wisconsin, and here’s the key stat: Santorum has lost every state for which there is exit polling when the percentage of evangelical voters is less than 50. And in Wisconsin, says NBC, evangelicals make up 41 percent of the Republican electorate. Santorum’s failure to expand his base beyond very conservative and religious voters has hurt him badly in such states as Michigan and Ohio, even as he has racked up wins elsewhere. And he looks to be toast in Maryland, where a Rasmussen poll has him trailing Romney, 45 percent to 28 percent. Santorum has no intention of pulling the plug on his campaign, even if he gets wiped out on Tuesday. || me: HOORAY!

BEARING FALSE WITNESS: Santorum Claims California Universities Don’t Teach American History – “I was just reading something last night from the state of California. And that the California universities – I think it’s seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught.” In fact, of the 10 UC system schools, just one (San Francisco) doesn’t offer American history courses. But that’s because it doesn’t offer any humanities courses at all — it’s a medical school. Meanwhile, Berkeley, Irvine, Davis, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz all offer numerous American history courses. All require students to take U.S. history before they can graduate.

Republican-Teaparty supporters against health reform are encouraged to carry these cards

yoctoontologist: A syndicated political cartoon that substantially illuminates a complex issue for readers unfamiliar with it. Mark this day.

Healthcare reform: free riders and their Freedumb

Ezra Klein observes: There was a reason conservatives once supported the individual mandate: Of all the arguments being waged over the Affordable Care Act — or, as the Obama campaign now likes to refer to it, “Obamacare” — the one dominating the Supreme Court this week is perhaps the most conceptually trivial.

The individual mandate requires consumers to purchase health insurance in order to eliminate the problem of free riders — people who don’t purchase insurance until they get sick or injured or those who never purchase insurance and end up passing on to the rest of us the costs of care they can’t afford.

Like this kind of bullshitMary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama’s healthcare law because she was passionate about the issue. Brown “doesn’t have insurance. She doesn’t want to pay for it. And she doesn’t want the government to tell her she has to have it,” said Karen Harned, a lawyer for the National Federation of Independent Business. Brown is a plaintiff in the federation’s case, which the Supreme Court plans to hear later this month. But court records reveal that Brown and her husband filed for bankruptcy last fall with $4,500 in unpaid medical bills. Those bills could change Brown from a symbol of proud independence into an example of exactly the problem the healthcare law was intended to address.

In one way or another, everyone paying for health insurance and / or paying for any kind of medical visit or service is subsidizing Teaparty Mary Brown and her freedumb.

(EK cont): Detractors argue that the mandate unconstitutionally infringes on personal liberty by forcing Americans to purchase health insurance. But compare it to three ways of addressing the free- rider problem in health care that are clearly, indisputably, constitutional:

• Single payer: The federal government increases income taxes and, in return, guarantees everyone government-provided health-care insurance. There is no option to opt out of the taxes. This is how most of Medicare works, though the insurance kicks in only after you turn 65.

• Late-enrollment penalty: The single-payer approach only holds for “most of” Medicare because the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit works a bit differently. For every month that you don’t enroll after becoming eligible at age 65, your premium rises by one percentage point.

• Tax credits: Under various health-care proposals — including the plan of Rep.Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — the tax code is changed to give families a tax credit for purchasing private health insurance. Families that choose to go without insurance, or simply can’t afford it, would not receive the tax credit.

All of these plans share the same basic approach: They impose a financial penalty, either before or after the fact, on those who forgo health insurance. Single payer does it through taxes, Medicare Part D through premiums and Ryan’s plan through tax credits.

Now consider the individual mandate. Here’s how it works: Starting in 2016, those who don’t carry insurance will be annually assessed a fine of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income, whichever is higher.

That’s about $58 a month. For health insurance coverage. OR 2.5% of your income, which I’d bet a lot of us are paying more than that now. I’d be happier with single-payer though. Not that what I would be happy with will matter.

(EK cont): If the mandate falls, future politicians, who will still need to fix the health-care system and address the free-rider problem, will be left with the option of either moving toward a single-payer system or offering incredibly large, expensive tax credits in order to persuade people to do things they don’t otherwise want to do. That is to say, in the name of liberty, Republicans and their allies on the Supreme Court will have guaranteed a future with much more government intrusion in the health-care marketplace.

Read it all…

The primitive paranoids against healthcare reform

“…but the other half of the country would rather die — literally — than have any kind of government involvement in health care. I certainly hope that people aren’t bullshitting themselves on this point. I would say that it’s far more likely that the Democrats will be hard pressed to even defend Medicare from getting the ax at this point. This country is in the grip of some people who have been so brainwashed that they have lost their relationship to reality itself. Even nations run by right wing dictators aren’t this self-destructive. We are the most powerful nation on earth — and we’re basically at the mercy of a group of primitive paranoids…” — Digby, commenting on why anyone would think that a Supreme Court ruling against Obamacare will translate into a rush for single-payer

Source: sandandglass

Woman unhappy with care at St. Mary’s hospital is arrested for trespassing, dies in jail

Anna Brown wasn’t leaving the emergency room quietly.

She yelled from a wheelchair at St. Mary’s Health Center security personnel and Richmond Heights police officers that her legs hurt so badly she couldn’t stand.

She had already been to two other hospitals that week in September, complaining of leg pain after spraining her ankle.

This time, she refused to leave.

A police officer arrested Brown for trespassing. He wheeled her out in handcuffs after a doctor said she was healthy enough to be locked up.

Brown was 29. A mother who had lost custody of two children. Homeless. On Medicaid. And, an autopsy later revealed, dying from blood clots that started in her legs, then lodged in her lungs.

She told officers she couldn’t get out of the police car, so they dragged her by her arms into the station. They left her lying on the concrete floor of a jail cell, moaning and struggling to breathe. Just 15 minutes later, a jail worker found her cold to the touch.

Officers suspected Brown was using drugs. Autopsy results showed she had no drugs in her system.

Things that would never happen to the one percent:

Friday’s great f**king question

Obamacare illustrated

Pat Bagley

think-progress: Obamacare turns 2. Here are the facts about what Americans have already gained.

Everybody wants something for nothing

Medicare for all. That’s what I’d like to see. Everyone pays in. SOCIALISM!

Did the US Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Cheney’s New Heart? Yes.

Richard A. Stitt writes:

Be well, Mr. Cheney. Just think how much more fortunate you are that if you had not been covered in total by the U.S. taxpayers you might well have exceeded your $2 million maximum cap 30 years ago. You no doubt don’t have to worry about that doughnut hole prescription drug cost that seniors must face while barely surviving on a meager Social Security check. Be well, Mr. Cheney, knowing that all those sick days you spent in Walter Reed and at George Washington University hospitals recovering with your transplanted heart, you could be one of those struggling seniors or young American workers who are living paycheck to paycheck, wondering how they can feed their families. And they can only pray that they never become as sick as you have been because they would never in their wildest dreams have expected to get a modicum of the wonderful health care that you have received. Sooner rather than later, possibly by June this year, Republicans will have much to cheer about if the Affordable Health Care Act is struck down by the rats/corporate/insurance company-friendly court. Just remember this: When Dick Cheney emerges from the Intensive Care Unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia he will be a nightmarish testimony and reminder to Republican/Tea Partyers that his outstanding U.S. taxpayer-paid-for health care is destroying their freedoms and liberties.

Justice Alito Thinks It’s Okay to be Uninsured

Why? Because it’s cheaper to roll the dice and pay less for medical services out of pocket. He’s a smartie.

Alito then flipped the tables, saying that the mandate will require young, healthy people to pay more per year for insurance than they would pay for health care out-of-pocket, thus forcing them “to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else.”

“If you’re going to have insurance, that’s how insurance works,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued back, in the first of the four-justice liberal bloc’s attempts to shore up the government’s case.

The entire point of insurance is not just to pay for routine healthcare, but to have a means of paying for healthcare if and when something really serious and prohibitively expensive occurs. This can happen to anyone irrespective of age or health. Meanwhile, as Justice Ginsburg argued, the premiums that aren’t used for immediate care available in the pool for people who need it.

Essentially, isn’t this how Social Security works? Because if I’m not mistaken, we’re all paying for all the other people who are drawing benefits right now with our paycheck contributions. And we — the current contributors — can only hope that there will be enough workers paying into the system to cover us when it’s our turn to draw benefits.

And two good comments on the ACA from Andrew Sullivan:

Paul Waldman points out that Americans want something for nothing:

85 percent of the public—in other words, basically everyone—thinks we all ought to get coverage no matter our pre-existing conditions. Even Republicans think that. But over half of the public doesn’t think we ought to be required to get insurance, despite the fact that universal participation in the insurance pool is precisely the thing—and the only thing—that makes it possible to do away with exclusions for pre-existing conditions and get closer to a system that operates the way it should, i.e. that you have insurance, and that insurance pays for whatever medical needs you have, full stop.

Conor Friedersdorf concurs:

Put simply, Americans want all the freedom of a market-based health insurance system, all the security of a system heavily regulated by government, and the option to put off purchasing this guaranteed insurance until it’s needed. And all for no more than they’re paying now. It seems whoever is in power will be doomed to disappoint.

Read them all…

Wednesday and the future of Obamacare

via: azspot

Health Care’s Final Day In Court: Expect Fewer Fireworks, Possibly Bigger Consequences

Tuesday morning’s 5 moderately interesting things

1) MITT ROMNEY – the GOP’s unofficially official presidential candidate

Mittmentum from here on out — Next month’s contests will take place almost totally in the Northeast — a region where Romney is thus far undefeated. In addition, a few of those states award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis — something only two states have done so far — allowing Romney to expand his delegate lead more quickly than he has to this point. He leads by about 300 delegates overall… Santorum may get a little momentum off his win — as the media continue to question Romney’s appeal to conservatives — but Louisiana is one of the last states that will put a magnifying glass on that problem.

Romney Disses Santorum: “I’m Not Going To Worry Too Much About What Rick Is Saying These Days — Mitt Romney brushed off Rick Santorum’s criticism of his ability to oppose President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying he doesn’t listen to Rick Santorum much anymore. “I’m not going to worry too much about what Rick is saying these days,” Romney said on CNN’s The Situation Room, telling Wolf Blitzer that Santorum is getting more outspoken on the campaign trail as he falls behind. “When you fall further and further behind, you get a little more animated,” he added.

2) ‘BADASS’ SANTORUM — now with improved Macho!

Rick Santorum Would Love to Be Veep of the ‘Worst Republican In Country’ (VIDEO) – Well this is awkward. The good Christian bitches at CBN asked Rick Santorum if he would accept a veep pick from worst Republican in the country Mitt Romney, and instead of pretending there was a chance of beating our Mittens, or cussing him out for asking the question, Rick Santorum said yes!

Rick Santorum Attacked John McCain For His Temper In 2008 Romney Robocall — Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s temper has been the news this morning for attacking a New York Times reporter who questioned characterization of Mitt Romney as the “worst Republican” to run. Santorum snapped at to the reporter saying “quit distorting my words It’s bullshit.” [...] The text of the call: “Hello, this is Senator Rick Santorum calling to let you know I am supporting Mitt Romney and urging you to support him next Tuesday… As a conservative I don’t agree with McCain on many issues and I don’t think he has the temperament and leadership ability to move the country in the right direction. Please join me and other conservative in voting for Mitt Romney this Tuesday.” [image: drunkonstevphen]

Santorum is so BUTCH — A defiant Rick Santorum on Monday defended his weekend attacks on both Mitt Romney over health care and on a New York Times reporter, saying, “If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not really a real Republican. I just said OK, I’ve had enough of this you-know-what,” Santorum said on “Fox & Friends,” referring to why on Sunday he accused reporter Jeff Zeleny of “bulls——”. “And so that’s what I did and you know, look, we’re out there slugging away … and we’re mixing it up.”

3) THOSE OTHER TWO

Gingrich begins charging $50 for pics at events — In a sign that his campaign is in need of fresh funds, Newt Gingrich on Monday began charging $50 to have a photograph taken with him following a campaign speech to Republican County groups here in the northernmost part of the state. It was the first time the former House speaker has charged those attending one of his public speaking events to pose for a photograph with him. Lately, a member of his campaign staff has been snapping photographs of any interested attendee and later posting them online at the campaign’s website, newt.org. On Monday night, those paying for a photograph were also told they could find their photos on Gingrich’s website, after they had filled out a form providing their credit card information.

Hello, Karma! “Lamestream Media” no longer cares about Newt Gingrich — Newt Gingrich has lost his last embedded print reporters, reporters on the trail confirm. The last two print reporters covering Gingrich full-time on the trail — from POLITICO and the Atlanta Journal Constitution — pulled out on Friday. The Associated Press pulled its embed after Tuesday’s Illinois primary. These and other print outlets will continue to cover Gingrich on occasion, but the sustained traveling press has been reduced to the television networks, which will remain. On the bright side, he’s still faring better than Ron Paul.

Piers Morgan asks Ron Paul why he is still in the race — He noted that Paul had obtained only 71 delegates, far behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. But Paul fired back, saying it was “way too soon” for Morgan “to write anybody off.” “What if Mitt Romney isn’t the best person? Why should we just throw in the towel?” [Paul] continued.

4) AMERICA’S RELIGION PROBLEM

According to Pat Robertson, homosexuality is “related to demonic possession.” Yes, this really is how the religious right thinks. [LGF]

Romney’s cousin: Mormonism is a ‘fraud’ — “There’s compelling evidence that the Mormon Church leaders knowingly and willfully misrepresent the historical truth of their origins and of the church for the purpose of deceiving their members into a state of mind that renders them exploitable,” he explained. [...] But Harvard Kennedy School Prof. Robert Putnam told BBC that the former Massachusetts governor’s religion is not often questioned in the U.S. because Americans value freedom of religion. “It’s not something you’re supposed to talk about,” Putnam said. “Whenever the issue of Romney’s Mormonism has come to the surface, there’s been lots of condemnation across the political spectrum for raising the issue of his religion.” “I’m not saying it’s not relevant, but it’s not talked about in polite company.”

The Religious Frenzy of a Court You Can’t Believe InWhat exactly are these people praying for? Are they praying for a return to the way things were? For the denial of health insurance due to whatever the whimsical opinions of corporate bureaucrats determine to be a pre-existing condition? For the right to be thrown into an overpriced, endlessly gouging “marketplace” the moment when you turn 25, and you’re burdened anyway with usurious student loans? Are they praying that the law be upheld? That the central place the insurance industry holds the way we do health care in this country be guaranteed in what looks like perpetuity, with the government’s power behind it? (This is where the conservative argument falls into incoherence. Conservatives are opposed to the mandate because of, well, Liberty (!), but they never pursue that argument to the point where they might discomfit the insurance companies because of, well, The Market (!). This latter, of course, is why conservatives supported a mandate as a market-based solution in the first place.)

Religious Right Prays for the Supreme Court to Overturn Health Care Reform — With the Supreme Court hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the health care reform law this week, conservative groups are reviving the apocalyptic rhetoric they developed when the law was passed. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver and Matt Barber discussed the case on today’s Faith & Freedom, where Staver said that if the court did not overturn the law it would set “an incredibly bad precedent that allows huge power grabs, not just in this medical insurance issue but in every place else.” Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice emailed members that the law is an “atrocity.” […] The Christian Defense Coalition plans to “encircle” the Supreme Court to pray “that the President’s Health Care legislation is declared unconstitutional.”

5) CLASS WAR: GOP / ONE PERCENT VS. 99%

Trump’s Sons Under Investigation for African Hunting Trip – Donald Trump Jr., who stars on ” The Celebrity Apprentice” alongside his dad, and his brother Eric sparked outrage among animal lovers on Twitter earlier this month after photos surfaced of the two posing with animals they killed during a 2011 safari trip in Africa. Trump Jr. later defended their actions in part by tweeting, “I’m a hunter, for that I make no apologies.” …Trump Jr. may be a hunter, but TMZ.com reports the independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force says the South African safari company the sons used was not registered in Zimbabwe. The task force says Trump Jr. and his brother killed an elephant, a buffalo and a crocodile, among other animals. In one of the leaked pictures, Trump Jr., is seen holding a knife and the cut-off tail of an elephant. [image: Salon]

More tax cuts for T-Mobile! T-Mobile To Lay Off Thousands Of Workers After Taking Millions In Taxpayer Subsidies For Job Creation — About 3,300 employees work at those centers, and the company is planning to lay off at least 1,900 of them, while offering transfers to some (though it doesn’t yet know how many). Adding insult to injury, four of the centers that T-Mobile is closing received taxpayer subsidies worth millions of dollars, according to Good Jobs First: – Frisco, TX: $3.7 million – Brownsville, TX: $5.3 million – Lenexa, KS: $3.9 million – Redmond, OR: $1.3 million These subsidies took several forms, including sales tax exemptions, salary supplements for workers, and job training money. “T-Mobile USA’s decision to close seven call centers, employing 3,300 workers, is a bad one. It harms workers and communities, and in several locations, abuses taxpayers who provided funds to the company in exchange for employment and economic development,” said the Communication Workers of America. || And how big will the CEO bonuses be this year at T-Mobile? HUGE, would be my guess. 

SEIU Campaigning for Retirement Security — SEIU also issued a fact sheet that takes on a number of the right-wing myths that are being spread in an attempt to build support for cutting public pensions. The key points: Seven out of 10 public employee pensions are less than $30,000 a year, making them anything but lavish. Taxpayers pay little to no part of these pensions, which are funded by employee contributions and investment returns. Public pensions have survived for 70 years with no problem and only had any problems because of the financial crash, most of them are starting to return to their earlier strength. Public employees have shown a strong willingness to negotiate to improve pension systems and to work with governments to make through during tough economic times. Massive cuts to public employee pensions will not benefit the economy much or solve state budget crisis, but will be massively destructive to working families. There is no correlation between states that have underfunded pensions and the level of unionization among state workers — unions are not driving the problems we see with pension funding. || RELATEDThe Rachel Maddow Show: SEIU the Next Target for the Right Wing Smear Machine [larger image here]