Apparently Claire McCaskill is running hard for the Tea Party vote. She has teamed up with conservative Senator Bob Corker in an attempt to offer budget cuts of the same nature as those recommended by Simpson/Bowles – except more draconian. In this regard, the following are a few of the things baffling me these days:
- President Obama cut a deal with the right wing – approved by most Democrats – which continues a tax system weighted heavily in favor of the rich and super-rich while many Democrats are pushing for punishing cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and other programs and benefits (including freezing federal employee pay) on which the middle and low income classes depend. Why don’t we make the tax code fair instead of cutting programs needed by most American households?
- Democrats like McCaskill want to increase Medicare and Medicaid co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance but seem oblivious to obscene overpayments to medical device manufacturers (can we say GE), pharmaceutical companies, the insurance industry and other components of the medical industrial complex. Canada and most other industrialized nations spend a fraction of what the U.S. spends on health care – both per capita and as a percentage of GDP. Why are the Democrats not talking about the rent seeking, market manipulating behavior resulting from the collusion between congress and the medical industry?
- The Defense/War Department is responsible for approximately $1 trillion dollars of the U.S. budget. Even with the stupid, senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that $1 trillion could be reduced to half that without seriously harming U.S. security. A $500 billion war budget would still dwarf any other country’s war expenditures. Why don’t the Democrats just start working to wring the waste, graft, and corruption out of the warrior segment of the U.S. government?
- And finally, what really baffles me is the passive, subservient, behavior of the American middle class. The corrupt nature of the U.S. congress – aided and abetted by the White House – is plain for everyone to see. What does it take to get people to see that Obama’s sucking up to General Electric signals more middle class tax dollars funneled to global behemoths that manufacturer very little of anything in the U.S.?
I should elaborate a little more on baffling issue number four. Let’s take General Electric as a case in point. Just this week, the latest issue of Newsweek caught my eye as I was browsing through magazines at Borders. An article featured above the masthead entitled “The Mammogram Hustle” piqued my interest since I have a major interest in medical costs (especially in outrageously priced health care). The article was written by Joe Eaton, Elizabeth Lucas, and David Donald who are with the Center for Public Integrity.
Here is what the rather well documented article claimed: General Electric was able to convince congress that its digital mammograms improved detection of cancer over film mammography, which, along with other heavy duty lobbying, resulted in legislation requiring Medicare to reimburse digital mammograms at a rate of $129 while standard mammograms are reimbursed at a rate of $78.
How much does this differential cost the Medicare system? The extra cost for digital mammogram screening between 2003 and 2008 has amounted to $350,000,000 – over one-third of a billion for just this one little rip off. Why is it a rip off?
Medical research suggests that the digital mammogram is not significantly more effective in detection of cancer in women over 65 than is the traditional film mammogram. According to the authors, “The rise of digital mammography is a tale of intense industry marketing, direct-to-consumer advertising, political lobbying, and strategic donations to politicians who forced Medicare to pay more for digital mammograms than for film mammograms, creating the financial incentive for clinics and hospitals to replace film machines with digital ones.”
So, Senator McCaskill and Democrats, why don’t you find out where GE is manufacturing these machines, which are costing the U.S. taxpayers an arm and a leg? Don’t you think the working people who are paying the freight for this rip off should at least have jobs making the equipment? Furthermore, why don’t you go through the entire health care system and find the waste, fraud, abuse, market manipulation, lack of marginal cost pricing, etc., etc.? I’ll bet you’ll reduce the deficit much quicker that way than you will by making poor and elderly people pay more for health care.