Tag Archives: spending

Debate Du Jour

cbs-debate-screenshotAfter a long day of college football and poignant play-by-play announcer comments on the rape of children and the effect on Joe Paterno, an estimated 612 channel changes between games – each accompanied by a “where are my glasses moment,” an unrehearsed comedy segment using picture-in-picture mode on our not-wide-enough-screen-TV, and a frustrating trip to NetFlix “New Arrivals” which all pre-date the birth of the parents of our grand-children, we decided on a survivor show: the “CBS News/National Journal South Carolina Republican Debate.”

Eight candidates. Each seeking to find the heart of the Republican voter and ride their hate toward final victory in November to overthrow four long years under the iron-will of the Democrat (insert your preferred insult here) who has spent his entire time in office trying to undo the problems created by the last Republican vice-president and his henchman, George Bush.

Can Cain harass Bachmann saying “9-9-9” or by “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan”? Can Perry remember what he’d forgotten? Can Huntsman get a question from the moderator? Can Santorum get past audience snickers? Can Newt be more sanctimonious? Can Bachmann think of anything new to say? Can Paul continue to sound sensible? Can Romney again calm the debate with the black hole of his personal charisma? And will they, one-by-one, convincingly kiss the “ring” of Jim DeMint? These were the questions we wanted answered.

The subject: national security and foreign policy. The entire debate, including commercials, was an hour and a half. You can watch it at CBS.com, read the transcript, their fact check or winners and losers. Here’s what I heard.

  • Bachmann, Huntsman and Santorum recognize that foreign policy is complicated and that it is dangerous to give simple answers to complicated questions.
  • Romney and Cain recognize that it is best not to answer questions, simple or otherwise, with specifics and that it is dangerous in politics to give answers, simple or otherwise.
  • Newt prefers to agree in general with other candidates so he’s not really on the record, while speaking as if he knows the inside jargon the others don’t.
  • Perry worked very hard this week and delivered a few carefully rehearsed lines reinforced by the extensive experience that he gained as governor of a state where he can see Mexico.
  • Paul spoke his mind clearly and saw no reason to give long answers to questions that were, inherently, absurd.

For specifics on issues, I carefully charted the candidates’ answers below. Enjoy:

Chart: How would you prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons?

Chart: Your appraisal of the combat situation in Afghanistan and how would you change it?

Chart: Sending troops into Pakistan?

Chart: Foreign Aid?

Chart: Thinking outside the box?

Chart: Listening to the right people before making a decision?

Chart: Torture?

Chart: Are we engaged in financial warefare with China?

Chart: Spending?

Chart: The Arab Spring?

Chart: Syria?

Chart: What about Gitmo?

Note: this post was updated on Monday, November 14, 2011 to correct a misspelled word in the torture chart.

Stimulus Hawk

In a dramatic achievement of bipartisan compromise, the Clinton-Obama administration has announced a compromise with Republicans for continued stimulus spending – deficit be damned – as long as the economy, as judged by the Chamber of Commerce, deems it appropriate. No, extending the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy was so last week. Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stuck in the malaise of the post-prozac depression, we simply cannot afford to have hundreds of thousands of Americans return home off combat pay. The effect on Visa and Mastercard write-offs would be massive. Public relations spokespeople for virtually every economist who has ever appeared on TV, have stated that, “America needs the stimulus from combat-death life insurance pay-outs to the surviving families to keep our communities vibrant and our schools and VA hospitals open.” Were one of these wars to suddenly come to an end, every American would suffer from the effect of those laid-off in the bomb, bullet, flack jacket, tank, predator drone, helicopter, MRE, spy satellite, cargo plane and cable news industries. The effect would be enormous – we would have to go back to watching people talk about abortion and the protection of marriage.

Were the totally implausible to occur, ‘peace’, the opportunity for middle-aged former veterans to sell themselves to companies formerly known as Prince, for only five times what real soldiers make, is over. Stop. Think for a moment. Without thousands of flights per month half way around the world, what would happen to the price of oil? What would happen to community college language programs in middle eastern dialects? What would happen to the army of friendless nerds working for letter divisions of government who spend their waking hours listening in on phone conversations to and from war zones? Zeltch. Nada. Unemployment. Just imagine for a moment how long they could make it on the street as homeless.

We cannot afford to let his happen. We must support the wars. We must stand against peace. Whatever wars they want, for whatever reason, we need this. For capitalism. For free enterprise. For if we stop fighting over there, the war will leave your street and come to Wall Street.

It is cannot be about winning un-winnable wars. Look what happened to Russia when they left Afghanistan – their economy was destroyed and their government overthrown. We’ve been in Afghanistan now longer the Russians. We cannot afford to ever leave.

If you have not gotten it yet, think for a moment about the people. Awash with dollars in a country where malls are made of clay, how could they survive on poppy production alone? What will happen if the Taliban were to take over the Pakistan nukes? Preemptive strike by India? Or will Ms. Clinton invite a short Pakistani general to come back to power? Would Pakistan make new nuke sales to future terrorist states, such as Brazil or Canada or, god forbid, Mexico? Would Osama come out of his cave leaving us with no enemy to be the focus of our fear? No, we must stay the course.

The joint chiefs, in an announcement approved by Hillary Clinton, have weighed in, “No comment.” Unnamed, anonymous and/or innocuous or vague sources have confirmed that “as long as Wikileaks is plugged, you’ll have to check with the White House or, even, the State Department for an official statement that can be parroted in your blog.” China and Saudi Arabia are on board. Publicly, the EU is for peace, but not at the price of not war. The rest of the world is just too busy or hungry to care.

Perhaps, someone like Senator Jim DeMinted (T, SC) will state it best, “In this time when our very way of life is being threatened by godless people who have run out of money, I’m pro-offense spending. Especially, if we have to cut taxes and social security to pay for it.”

We need to stop thinking about war as, well, “war.” We need to cease our fixation with the sounds of explosions, the blood of innocent children and camps of refugees. We need to embrace that war is about the economy and jobs – our jobs. We need to come together and support our troops in protecting our way of life.

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic. ~A. J. P. Taylor

When a war breaks out, people say: “It’s too stupid, it can’t last long.” But though a war may be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. ~Albert Camus

One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one. ~Agatha Christie

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country. ~Alexis de Tocqueville

A great war leaves a country with three armies: an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~Anonymous (German)

War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible. ~A. Philip Randolph

The Race for the money

Pink Products

The Business of Breast Cancer

Just look at the market: one in eight American women will get it — based on current US populations, that works out to 19,337,500 potential customers. 192,370 new customers just this year who will spend the Medicare average of $31,735, or more, to treat it.

The CDC says $7 billion was spent on treatment of diagnosed breast cancer in 2007, but that number doesn’t come close to the total amounts spent on living with it or fearing you’ll get it. Eight in eight American women (154.7 million) are aware that they could be the one in eight.

Breast cancer is a multi-billion dollar business. For every positive test, someone profits. Those companies want you to survive for as long as you possibly can pay — for every death, those who profit suffer, too. Callous as that sounds, it is true.

Here are some figures to give you an idea of the scale of the efforts towards early detection and a cure:

Research Spending:

Then there are those who wish to influence your government to either find a cure, help those who suffer or pad their profits (please note: large lobby groups do not break out their spending by initiative, specific cancer, etc., but their influence is clear):

2008 Lobby Spending:

  • National Breast Cancer Coalition: $174,619
  • Medical Equipment & Supplies: $6.3 million
  • Big Pharma: $29.2 million (not breast cancer specific)
  • Insurance: $46.8 million (all companies)
  • Health Professionals: $95.2 million

In addition to hospitals, imaging centers, physicians, surgeons, radiologists, rehab centers, hotels near treatment centers, airlines, ambulances, family counselors, book publishers, vitamin firms, alternative treatment practitioners, wig, hat and pink paraphernalia stores, here are some lists of just some of those who are sucking on the money tit.

Drugs: $36.7 billion
This is a list of annual sales of drugs used to treat breast cancer. It is just a partial list and many of these drugs are also used for other diseases. It also doesn’t begin to list the drugs and the profits required to live with the pain, suffering and side effects.

  • Femara (Letrozole): $1.1 billion (Source: 2008 Novartis Annual Report)
  • Aromasin (Exemestane): $465 million (Source: 2008 Pfizer Annual Review)
  • Arimidex (Anastrozole): $1.9 billion (Source: 2008 AstraZeneca Annual Report)
  • Tamoxifen (generic): $1.1 billion, estimate (Source: 2008 AstraZeneca Annual Report)
  • Fareston (Toremifene): $2.9 million (still in testing: Source GTx, Inc. news release)
  • Evista (Raloxifene): $1.1 billion (2007 – Source: Eli Lilly press release)
  • Herceptin (Trastuzumab): $1.4 billion (Source: Genetech web site) –  note: annual treatment expense: >$100,000
  • Lapatinib (Tykerb): $162 million (recently approved: Source: 2008 GlaxoSmithKline Annual Report)
  • Ixempra (azaepothilone B): $500 million, estimated (Source: FiercePharma.com/Bristol-Myers Squibb)
  • Xeloda (Capecitabine): $1.2 billion (Source: 2008 Roche Annual Report)
  • Aredia: $21 million (Source: Healthcare Sales & Marketing Network/Barr Pharma)
  • Pamidronate (generic): $553 million, estimate (Source: AccessMyLibrary.com)
  • Paclitaxel: $1.6 billion (Source: Bristol-Myers Squibb10-K filing)
  • Adriamycin (Doxorubicin): $550 million (Source: EvalutatePharma.com)
  • Pamidronate (Darbepoetin alfa): $550 million (now generic. Source: AccessMyLibrary.com)
  • Aranesp (Darbepoetin alfa): $4.1 billion (Source: 2006 Amgen Annual Report)
  • Epogen: $2.5 billion (Source: 2006 Amgen Annual Report)
  • Procrit/Eprex: $3.3 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/Johnson & Johnson)
  • Aredia (generic/Pamidronic acid): $21 million (Source: Healthcare Sales & Marketing Network/Barr Pharma)
  • Epirubicin (generic): $68 million (Source: Healthcare Sales & Marketing Network/Teva)
  • Faslodex (Fulvestrant): $250 million  (Source: 2008 AstraZeneca Annual Report)
  • Lupron, Eligard (Leuprolide): $1.8 billion (Source: Mongabay.com/Abbott)
  • Gemzar (Gemcitabine): $1.3 billion (2005 – Source: Eli Lilly press release)
  • Neulasta (Pegfilgrastim): $3 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/Amgen)
  • Neupogen (Filgrastim): $300 million (Source: AccessMyLibrary.com)
  • Docetaxel (Taxotere): $2 billion (Source: MedicalNewsToday.com/Sanofi-Aventis)
  • Vinorelbine (generic/Navelbine): $26 million (Source: EvalutatePharma.com)
  • Zoladex (Goserelin Acetate): $1.1 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/AstraZeneca)
  • Zometa, Zomera, Aclasta and Reclast (Zoledronate): $1.2 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/Novartis)

Mammography Equipment: $610 million (US only). Source: Global Industry Analysts, Inc.
Price range: $58,000-$76,000 each. Doesn’t include CT’s, ultrasounds, new digital breast imaging equipment, or mobile devices.

Breast Implants (not just breast cancer):

  • Allergan: $310 million (source: 2008 Annual Report)
  • Mentor Corporation (Johnson & Johnson): $328.4 million (source: Bloomberg)

Miscellaneous:

  • Breast Cancer Postage Stamps: $34.5 million (since 1998)

Plan A

elephant-in-the-roomThere’s a cold dark secret inside the White House, your state house and your city hall. You aren’t likely to hear it discussed on talk tv. There are no talking points prepared. Don’t expect mass email blasts raising money for it. No one wants to talk about it. It is the elephant (or donkey depending on your affiliation) in every room.

It explains why healthcare reform will be in name only. Why regulation of banks and Wall Street will be studied in committee well into next year. It is why K Street still has its way on the hill. Why oil prices are going back up although demand isn’t driving it. Why our investments in green are longterm. Why there’s no hurry to get our troops home. Why we can throw money at GM and buy a few extra weapons programs we don’t want and won’t use. Why so much of our stimulus was to help the states who can’t borrow, or was for shovel-ready projects that were just another name for pork. The cold dark secret explains why Republican Bush and Democrat Obama would each bet the house (ours) and ask willing bi-partisan Congresses for blank checks –  all caring less how they are cashed.

This secret is more important than jobs, foreclosures, funding pensions, deficits, global warming, peace, food or clean water. It keeps every sober politician up at night and makes every other drink themselves to sleep. It is the source of their power. This isn’t about mid-term elections. For them, it is all of it. Every last senator, congressperson, governor, mayor and political appointee, regardless of party, has known the crisis was coming, but they had already drank the Kool-Aid. Now, there’s only one way out.

Tax revenues are way down and falling. Their only hope is a Wall Street bubble.

The villains who caused it are now heroes in waiting. “It’s the economy stupid” has been replaced with “it’s the Dow Jones stupid.” The only answer found by our best and brightest is to purposely have history repeat. The speculators are speculating. Our government has provided all the chips and is covering all the bets. They don’t care who gets rich, or how rich. They just know that it is the only way quick enough for enough people to make enough income so enough people pay enough taxes that our great nation of cards won’t fall during their watch. At least not this year.

Our cities and states are suffering. It is way too late to raise taxes and too few are left to pay. Cutting enough spending will just make it worse. Creating jobs is too hard and takes too long. Another housing bubble can’t work until we have finished burping the last. They have never had faith in the middle class and had just as soon be rid of them. Wall Street bubbles are quick, cheap and they’ve done it before. Plus, you can do it with half the country unemployed or paralyzed in debt.

Don’t get your hopes up for anything else. There is no plan B. All the rest is just sport to keep us distracted.

Dinosaurs should be extinct

2ijpxr4Try living with them and you’ll trampled or eaten. One of the many notable dinosaurs surviving today is the health insurance industry. They are really big. Have voracious appetites. And their sole purpose is keep you alive just long enough to eat every dollar you have.

Way back in the World War II era (before the internet began recording history), these dinosaurs began roaming the US as result of the wage freeze during the war. Employers saw it as way to scam the freeze and attract employees when employees were scarce. By the end of the war, employees loved these cute little scaly creatures (Yabba-Dabba Do). They didn’t eat much back then, but as we started feeding them, they started growing and got bigger and bigger. They began eating each other and fighting over the food supply – us. Thick skinned, with no known predators, lots of lobbyists and seemingly impervious to regulation, they have continued to grow to their enormous present-day size. They also seem to have a particular love for the food in the South.

Quoting researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Click here for the full report), SouthernStudies.org, says the “Health insurance industry monopolizes the South. According to the report, insurer consolidation also disproportionately disadvantages rural states. In several rural states across the nation the two largest health insurers control at least 80% of the statewide market. In Alabama, for instance, the biggest insurer holds 89% of the statewide market, the highest rate in the nation for a single company. Even more populous states in the South have serious market concentration problems; Virginia’s largest health insurer, for example, controls a 50% share of the statewide market.

The combined market share percentage of the top two insurers in each state in the South:
Alabama – 88
Arkansas – 81
Florida – 45
Georgia – 69
Kentucky – 69
Louisiana – 74
Mississippi – n/a
North Carolina – 73
South Carolina – 75
Tennessee – 62
Texas – 59
Virginia – 61
West Virginia – 54

”In the past 13 years, more than 400 corporate mergers have involved health insurers, and a small number of companies now dominate local markets“ – HCAN

“94 percent of insurance markets in the United States are now highly concentrated, and insurers are thriving in the anti-competitive marketplace, raking in enormous profits and paying out huge CEO salaries“ – The American Medical Association

”Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, going up more than 87% on average over the past six years“ – The Department of Justice

From blog.AFLCIO.org and quoting a letter to the Department of Justice’s Anti-Trust Division, Richard Kirsch, HCAN national campaign manager, and David Balto, former policy director of the Federal Trade Commission and now senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes: “Simply put, the private insurance companies have secured monopolies or tight oligopolies and exercised that power to put profits ahead of patients….There were no actions taken against anticompetitive conduct by health insurers in the last administration, in spite of the fact that cases by state attorneys general have secured massive fines against these insurers. A lack of antitrust enforcement has enabled insurers to acquire dominant positions in almost every metropolitan market.”

Extinct in most of the world, the cost of maintaining these dinosaurs has soared.

According to the National Coalition on Health Care:

  • In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation.
  • Total spending was $2.4 TRILLION in 2007, or $7900 per person
  • Total health care spending represented 17 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) – compared to 10.9 percent of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7 percent in Germany, 9.7 percent in Canada and 9.5 percent in France.
  • U.S. health care spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade reaching $4.3 TRILLION in 2017, or 20 percent of GDP.
  • The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,700.
  • The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,700.
  • Health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.
  • Health insurance cost in the United States have been rising four times faster on average than workers’ earnings since 1999.
  • The average employee contribution to company-provided health insurance has increased more than 120 percent since 2000. Average out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits rose 115 percent during the same period.
  • National surveys show that the primary reason people are uninsured is the high cost of health insurance coverage.
  • A recent study by Harvard University researchers found that the average out-of-pocket medical debt for those who filed for bankruptcy was $12,000. The study noted that 68 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. In addition, the study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses.Every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.
  • A new survey shows that more than 25 percent said that housing problems resulted from medical debt, including the inability to make rent or mortgage payments and the development of bad credit ratings.
  • Retiring elderly couples will need $250,000 – $300,000 in savings just to pay for the most basic medical coverage.
  • The United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations.

64022626_711ca081eeWe obviously need a dragon slayer. We need to kill these evil beasts off once and for all. We cannot afford to wait. They will eat us all. Write your congressperson. Demand single payer and enforcement of our anti-trust laws. If for no other reason, do it because dinosaur farts contribute to greenhouse gases and some believe brought on the last ice age.