Monday, July 6, 2015

I Hate The Dentist

Okay, I know this might not be the most popular opinion, but I do not enjoy going to the dentist. Aside from the obvious fears about any pain being involved , it's also generally a very costly venture, even for a particularly mundane procedure. Sadly, the procedure I need is not mundane. In fact, I had to go to a specialist, who is recommending surgery, which aside from sounding very unpleasant, is also quite expensive (the potential to be up to five figures). As you might guess, this news has left me in a rather depressed state, hence the lack of posting (more so than usual, admittedly) . But I think I've finally reached the acceptance phase, so I will resume blogging.

Reforming the dental industry should be the next big frontier that Democrats pursue.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rick Perry On Texas' High Uninsured Rate: "That's Not How We Keep Score"

Yesterday, former Presidential candidate and current Presidential candidate, Rick Perry, went on Fox News Sunday, where the host, Chris Wallace,  asked him a question on the subject of health care. Specifically about the absolutely horrid uninsured rate in his state. Let's see how that went:


WALLACE: One more question about Main Street or looking out for the little guy. When you were governor of Texas, your state had the highest uninsured rate in the country. One in five, more than one in five Texans didn't have health coverage, and yet you refused to set up a state exchange under Obamacare. You refused to expand Medicaid. Is that looking out for the little guy when 21 percent of Texans didn't have health insurance?

PERRY: If how you keep score is how many people you force to buy insurance, then I would say that that's how you keep score. That's not how we --

WALLACE: But the flip side of it, how many people don't have health insurance.

PERRY: Let me explain what we do in Texas. This is a state by state decision. We make access to healthcare the real issue. We passed the most sweeping tort reform in the nation. We got 35,000 more positions licensed to practice medicine in 2013 than we did a decade before that. This is an issue for me, it's about access to healthcare. And it's not about whether you force somebody to buy insurance. It's whether Texans have access to good healthcare.
I have to admit, I'm not sure what Perry's trying to say. He doesn't care about people having insurance, but rather, he cares about them having "access"? I'd figure insurance would fall under that umbrella. Is he trying to say that it's okay that so many people don't have insurance because they can still see a doctor? Who pays for that visit? The Freedom fairy? Or do most of the doctors down there treat all poor people for free?

Also, Perry's claim about massive surge in doctors rushing into Texas after he helped pass tort reform is, unsurprisingly, bunk:

And the bulk of that influx has come in larger cities where health care was already abundant, leaving large rural swaths of Texas still without doctors…. [M]edical records in Texas show that of the state’s 254 counties, only 106 have an obstetrician/gynecologist — just six more than in 2003. In Presidio County, which has 8,000 residents and is growing, some of Parsons’ patients move 240 miles away to live with relatives in Odessa or Midland when they become pregnant. […]
Medical rolls increased by 24 percent since 2003, while Texas’ population was soaring by 20 percent during the decade. Texas also saw rapid growth of physicians per capita before tort reform, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Furthermore, over 10,000 of those doctors were ones "“who sought licenses in Texas but took jobs elsewhere”. Oops.

And that leads me to my next question: if Rick Perry did such a great job in turning Texas in a free market utopia, why did/does it still have the highest uninsured rate in the country?  Under Perry's stewardship, taxes were cut, spending was cut, regulations were cut, tort reform was passed, the  medicaid expansion was turned down, etc. Don't conservatives constantly say these policies would somehow allow more people to be insured? In fact, Texas seems like a great example of what the rest of the country would be like if the Republican alternative to Obamacare was actually in place.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wisconsin Dead Last In New Business Start Up Activity

It's such a shame that President Obama keeps ruining Scott Walker's economy:

Wisconsin ranks last of all the states for new business start-up activity, according to a major survey released June 5.

Milwaukee fared little better, coming in 39th among the nation’s 40 largest metropolitan areas.
The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship is the first and largest study tracking entrepreneurship across city, state and national levels for the United States. Produced by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the index is one of the world’s most respected and cited entrepreneurship indicators in the nation.
When Walker became governor of Wisconsin in 2011, he presided over $2 billion in tax cuts, which, like all Republican politicians who endorse the magical effects of supply-side economics, he assured everyone, would lead to an explosion of economic growth. Sadly for Walker, things didn't pan out that way.

Back in 2010, Walker claimed that his freedom loving policies would create 250,000 jobs by the end of this first term. Turns out Walker fell short by 120,000.

Walker, like nearly all Republicans, believed tax cuts for the wealthy would result in increased revenues. Not only did said tax cuts not increase revenue, the state currently faces a $238 million shortfall.

And now, Walker's failed on yet another metric. Quite spectacularly, I might add. By being dead last in new start ups, that means that even high tax hellholes like California, Minnesota and New York (and really, every other Democratic state) are doing better, despite their job killing policies. How is such a thing even possible?

So Walker may have wrecked his state's economy, but on the plus side, he plans on making it harder for women to have abortions, so there's that, at least.

Monday, June 1, 2015

BREAKING: Job Creators Have Not Trickled Down Jobs In Kansas

Okay, so we all know by now how Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback's "experiment" with lowering taxes on the rich did not in fact, lead to more revenue. But hey, who cares about actually paying for government services? Afterall, our greatest founding father, Ronald Reagan, never wound up collecting more revenues with his policies, so why would we expect a lesser Republican like Brownback to do so?

However, where the Gipper was lacking in terms of collecting money, he made up for in job creation (well, not really that either, but just play along for a moment).

So how has Brownback fared so far on the job creation front?

The new national jobs report for April, released Wednesday, shows Kansas now trails 44 other states and the District of Columbia in total nonfarm job creation in the first four months of 2015.

That’s an extremely dismal record, especially given that Gov. Sam Brownback has pledged previously that the huge income tax cuts he pushed in 2012 would bring a resurgence of employment to the Sunflower State.

It’s not happening.

The new report shows Brownback is falling far short of keeping his promise on job creation in Kansas.
During his re-election campaign in 2015, the governor said he wanted to create 100,000 new private sector jobs in his second term. That works out to just over 2,000 added employees per month over that four-year period. Brownback said Kansas had to grow that quickly so it could gain more tax revenue to avoid budget shortfalls.

But the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows Kansas now has actually lost a total of 300 nonfarm jobs in the first four months of Brownback’s second term, from January through April
That’s worse than 44 other states. Put another way, it’s better than only Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma and West Virginia. All those states have lost jobs at slightly higher rates than Kansas has.

Okay, so things didn't exactly go according to plan. Brownback promised that he would turn Kansas into an economic powerhouse, but instead has turned it into the exact opposite. Stuff happens.

But the report wasn't all bad news. There was one positive stat buried in the article:

The nonfarm jobs report is the best overall measurement of total employment, including government jobs. If you strip those out, you’re left with the private-sector job figure that Brownback used. In that case, total private sector employment has gone up by only 700 in the first four months of the year.
Of course, I meant "positive" in the same way that a doctor informs you that a loved one is merely comatose as opposed to being dead after a car crash.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article22414056.html#storylink=cpy



Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article22414056.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article22414056.html#storylink=cpy

Maine Gov. Says He'll Veto Every Democratic Bill Until The State Income Tax Is Repealed

Apparently, Maine's Republican governor had a little temper tantrum last week:

AUGUSTA, Maine — During a fiery news conference that lasted nearly an hour, Gov. Paul LePage pledged Friday to veto every bill sponsored by a Democrat until his opposition relents and accepts his constitutional amendment to eliminate Maine’s income tax.

LePage this year has proposed a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the state’s income tax by the year 2020. Republicans, who have shied away from the governor’s more comprehensive tax reform efforts, have rallied around the amendment.

Democrats have opposed it, sparking LePage’s trademark fury during a news conference at the Blaine House.

Like all Republican plans to eliminate the income tax, this would mean a huge boon to the wealthy, and a pretty significant hit to the middle and lower classes, as it more than likely means the income tax would be replaced with a higher sales tax, an idea the governor is very fond of.

It seems LePage thinks that by allowing more money to be concentrated at the top, it means more money will eventually be trickled-down to everyone else. The governor attempted to do just that back in 2011, lowering the top rate from 8.5% to 7.95%. How did that work out? About as well as anyone expects by this point:

Across the U.S., total state tax revenue reached pre-recession levels in mid 2013. But tax receipts in 30 states, including Maine, have not yet recovered. This chart, with data from the Pew Charitable Trusts, shows Maine’s tax revenue picture compared with the nation’s. In the third quarter of 2014, more than five years after the recession’s end, Maine was still collecting less than at its peak before or during the recession. Comparisons are based on Maine and the U.S.’s peak tax revenue level since 2006.
Well, clearly it seems that, as usual, revenues have only gone down cause we haven't cut taxes enough

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chris Christie: No, I Really Don't Know Anything About Jimmy Carter At All

A little late to this, but I did feel the need to comment on it. Last week, New Jersey governor, and former Sopranos extra, Chris Christie, was campaigning in New Hampshire, and gave a speech criticizing President Obama's supposed failed economic policies. Factcheck.org has a nice little round up of all the fun ways Christie mangled the economic data to reach his conclusions, but I wanted to focus on one specific line he said in his speech:

This weak growth is no coincidence. It is the direct result of the policies of this president, the worst economic president since Jimmy Carter.
I know Republicans have been nurtured since birth to despise and mock Jimmy Carter, but would  it really be too much trouble to have a modicum of knowledge about what actually happened under his administration?

Say what you will about Carter, but contrary to conservative legend, his economic record wasn't particularly terrible. Here are the total net jobs created under every president since Carter:


Carter: ~10 million
Reagan: ~16 million
Bush I: ~2.6 million
Clinton: ~ 23 million
Bush II: ~1.3 million
Obama: ~ 7.3 million


Well, aren't these some interesting numbers?

From 1977 to 1980, Carter presided over the creation of roughly 10 million jobs. Not too shabby! His successor, the greatest President since the founding of our country, Ronald Reagan, presided over roughly 16 million jobs. Of course, unlike Carter, Reagan's numbers were over the course of eight years as opposed to four. Yes, the rate of job growth was actually higher under the wretched Jimmy Carter than under Ronaldus Magnus!

But notice which president appeared to do the worst job at creating jobs in the past 40 years? Why that would be our most recent Republican president, whose brilliant supply-side powered economy created a pathetic 1.3 million jobs over the course of eight years. President Obama's numbers may not be the most impressive, historically speaking, but they absolutely obliterate ole' Dubya's performance.

If Christie needed to reference a president with a terrible economic track record to compare Obama to, he didn't have to go back too far in time to do so.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Welfare Recipient, Ben Carson, Says He Would Raise Taxes On Poor Because They Have Pride

This past Sunday, Fox News' Chris Wallace interviewed self proclaimed serious Presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson. Wallace asked the good doctor about the tax plan he would enact if he ever became leader of the free world:

Well, I like the idea of a proportional tax. That way you pay according to your ability. And I got that idea, quite frankly, from the Bible, tithing. You make $10 billion a year, you pay $1 billion. You make $10 a year, you pay $1. You get the same rights. That's pretty darn fair, if you ask me.

Now, some people say it's not fair because, you know, the poor people can't afford to pay that dollar. That's very condescending. You know, I grew up very poor. I experienced every economic level. And I can tell you poor people have pride, too. And they don't want to be just taken care of.

 Okay, there's two big problems I have with Carson's comments. The first is something I wrote about almost a year ago regarding Carson from a McClatchy report. Many people may not know that the esteemed former neurosurgeon himself grew up receiving much help from the government:

No doubt, Mother Carson deserves tremendous credit, but – in the words of a political sound bite from the last presidential election – she didn’t do it alone. Carson, in his book, tells how his grades improved tremendously when a government program provided him with free eyeglasses because he could barely see. Not only that, in “Gifted Hands” we read this nugget: “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps. She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”
 No doubt Carson thinks his own mother was severely lacking in pride for allowing the government to offer her assistance. Or maybe not.

It’s hard not to see Carson’s own upbringing coming into view here. He grew up in meager surroundings in Detroit and Boston, in a family that made use of public assistance programs like food stamps. The culture was different then, Carson insists. “I think there was a time when people were not proud of taking handouts,” he said. “There were more people who did have that drive and determination. You do what you have to do."
As always, it's okay to receive government help if you're a Republican. If not, then you should have enough pride and self-respect to go hungry for a little while until your next paycheck arrives.

The second issue I have is, as Wallace explained later on,  that Carson's plan would provide a massive tax cut for the wealthy.

WALLACE: But, Doctor, here is a problem with flat tax in the real world -- according to the Tax Policy Center, to raise the same amount of revenue we do now, the tax rate would have to be in the low to mid 20 percent range.

...

WALLACE: Low and middle income families would get a big tax hike, while wealthy families would actually get a tax cut.

In Carson's world, we should think that poor people should be insulted for wanting the government to go easy on them, but for some reason, rich people don't seem to have that same level of dignity. Later on, Carson went to argue that his solution to poor people paying higher tax rates would be to increase offshore drilling. How that would said poor people with the tax hike Carson wants to impose on them is a bit of a mystery.

This is gonna be a fun election.

I know, I know..

I'm sure all of you have noticed that the posts on here have been rather infrequent to say the least. I've been preoccupied with a combination of real world distractions as well as sickness for the past few weeks. I know I say this all the time, but I will "try" to be a bit more diligent about blogging. I apologize to my adoring public in advance.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chris Christie Thinks His Half Million Dollar Income Doesn't Make Him "Wealthy"

Well this should be fun when it starts making the rounds on the internets:

Gov. Chris Christie insists he's not rich, but is nonetheless confounded by the complexity of his tax returns and again hinted that he might back a simplification of the U.S. income tax code should he run for president.

"The fact that my wife and I, who are not wealthy by current standards, that we have to file a tax return that's that thick ... is insane," Christie told the editorial board of the Manchester Union-Leader on Monday, holding his thumb and forefinger several inches apart.

"We don't have nearly that much money," he said.
 So how not nearly that much money does Christie actually have?

The Christie family reported $698,838 in income on their 2013 tax returns, the most current year available.

Only eight-tenths of one percent of all U.S. households had an adjusted gross income over $500,000 in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan think-tank based in Washington.

Poor guy. He's only a mere semi-millionaire. Someone should start a GoFundMe page for him.

How does the Governor compare against the people in the state he serves?
In New Jersey, the Christies are also in a rarified strata: According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income for the state of New Jersey between 2009 and 2013 was $71,629. The Christies most recently-reported income in 2013 is more than eight times that amount.

"If the Christies had an adjusted gross income of almost $600,000, they're certainly in the top 1 percent," said Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center.

Only  eight times more than the median household income in New Jersey? Come on, like that's even worth mentioning.

Chris Christie may not see himself as "wealthy", but he knows who actually are. This apparantly includes people on social security making more than $80,000/yr. and families earning under $28,665/yr.

The governor seems to have rather unfortunate timing, as Republicans recently have concocted the genius idea to attack Hillary Clinton for supposedly being an out of touch, tone deaf, plutocrat. Oops.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ted Cruz Demonstrates Why The Healthcare Debate Has Been Wrapped In a Mobius Strip of Idiocy

I've been meaning to comment on this exchange between CNBC's John Harwood and Ted Cruz that took place last week:

Harwood: Now, a third Texas president, L.B.J., created Medicare in the mid-'60s. Your hero, Ronald Reagan, campaigned vigorously against that, saying it would lead to socialized medicine, it would end liberty in the United States. Who was right, L.B.J. or Reagan?

Cruz: ​You know, at the end of the day— it's not worth tilting at windmills. And we are at a different point in time than we were in the 1960s. Today, Medicare is a fundamental bulwark of our society.  And there is an entire generation of s—
 
Harwood: ​So, the philosophical objection just goes out the window?

Cruz: ​At the— I'm— I'm a big believer at focusing on battles that matter and that are winnable. And there is a broad, universal consensus that Medicare is a fundamental bulwark of our society that's fundamentally different. Look, it's one thing to have asked 50 years ago should we have created it. It's another thing when you have a generation of seniors who paid into it 30, 40, 50 years who have been made promises. We need to honor those promises—

Harwood: Fair enough. But—

​​Cruz: ​—and— and— and—

​​Harwood: ​—do you think at the time Reagan as right?

​​Cruz: You know, I don't know. I wasn't alive then. What I do know is that today, we have got to preserve and reform Medicare.

Most political commentators  have zeroed in on  that last line from Cruz. But while that comment was no doubt breathtakingly stupid, it is, amazingly enough, not the most idiotic thing he's said during that exchange.

Ted Cruz, like every Republican politician in the country, hates Obamacare, and has vowed to repeal every word, if given the chance. Why? Because he and his ilk, are ideologically opposed to the idea of "government run" healthcare. Sure, Obamacare, as it was crafted, doesn't result in the government actually delivering healthcare, and mainly relies on private insurers to do most of the work, but even that's a bridge too far for Calgary Cruz.

Which makes his comments on medicare all the more interesting/moronic.

Cruz says that there's a "broad, universal consensus" that medicare is "a fundamental bulwark of our society". Why is this a problem? Because medicare just happens to be one of those wretched, awful, anti-freedom government programs that Cruz absolutely loathes. To be clear, it's not just a government-run program like Obamacare. In fact, it's far, far worse.

As mentioned earlier, Obamacare relies mainly on private insurance providers. Private. Medicare, by contrast, is entirely administered by the government. You know, the same government that conservatives are supposed to hate? Yeah, that's the same one that handles this wonderful medicare program that Cruz thinks is a "fundamental bulwark of our society".

I can already predict the rebuttals that will no doubt be flooding the comments section. "Medicare is completely different! People spent their entire lives paying for it, and should be able to reap the benefits as they had no choice in the matter!". This is true. It's also completely irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Right-wingers like Cruz aren't just making the argument that the free market can deliver better quality healthcare at lower cost. They are making the argument that government involvement in healthcare (or really almost anything else for that matter) is not only inefficient, but immoral, and evil. Indeed, prominent conservatives have literally argued that government-run health care will lead to genocide!

If Republicans had any internal consistency, you'd see people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, etc. vowing to repeal every word of medicare, considering it's a far more liberal, and therefore, far more of a socialist monstrosity than Obamacare. Instead we have a situation where Ted Cruz is actually falling over himself to defend this wretched creature spawned from the Great Society. Hell, during the last election, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan performed an impressive feat of Rovian political jiu-jitsu by attacking the socialist tyrant, Obama as the true enemy of medicare!

This is the state of our national healthcare debate.

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