HEALTH CARE: Today, the Senate began what's expected to be a long drawn out debate on health care reform. There were no votes today, though Senators were able to offer amendments. The first amendment on the Democratic side looks like it will be offered by Senator Mikulski (MD), and it would increase funding for preventative care for women. This obviously seems good, although Mikulski spent much of her debate time talking about mammograms in the wake of the recent recommendation against women under 50 getting mammograms. It's just more evidence how hard it is to make tough choices when it comes to cutting costs in health care.
The first Republican amendment is a complete and total insult. It's a joke. The Republicans will offer an amendment restoring the $500 billion in cuts that the bill makes to Medicare. I didn't realize Republicans were such staunch defenders of single-payer health care!! The party that has tried to cut Medicare since its inception is now trying to force a political vote against one of the main funding mechanisms in the bill. As a reminder, the AARP says that the bill will not cut services to beneficiaries under Medicare. I expect that we'll get votes on those amendments some time tomorrow afternoon.
Also today, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the effect of the Senate bill on health care premiums. The report reaches a somewhat complicated conclusion, but the basic findings are that those who get health care through their employers will see very small cuts in premiums, while those buying insurance through the individual market will see significant changes. While premiums in the individual market will be 10% higher than they would be under current law, they would pay for 30% more services. For you wonks out there, that's called improved actuarial value. (Father Strike pointed this out). Furthermore, 57% of those who enter the individual market will get subsidies that, on average, will more than make up for the average premiums. As expected, the mainstream media turned this study into headlines such as "CBO says premiums will rise." It's just pure dishonesty, but it will help fuel Republican attack lines.
AFGHANISTAN: The President is set to announce his new Afghanistan policy tomorrow night in a prime time address. Today, he gave orders to his military commanders relating to his new strategy. This will set in motion the process to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. We'll talk more about this tomorrow night, but this is a sad day for many progressives, who voted for Obama thinking that he had a more complete understanding of the costs of war. I think this Michael Moore letter captures the feeling of a lot of us as as we await tomorrow's announcement.
JOBS: I have nothing to say on jobs today, but The Big Picture chips in with some very good thoughts in response to this Ezra Klein post. See if you can understand this, as he stipulates, without much context. We'll see you tomorrow night.
The more I think about it the more the "professional, Presidential" appointments Obama made, which earned such great praise from the David Broders of the world, were such a big mistake, such a bad course to take. Rahm I have mixed feelings, but overall, would you say that we - and more importantly all those activists in the documentary, the ones who worked their hearts out for Obama to beat Hillary, for "change we can BELIEVE in" - were looking for an administration where policy would be made by Geithner, Summers, Rahm Emanuel, Jim Messina, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates - none of whom fit the profile of liberal, outside-the-beltway, not-corrupted-by-the-past, in-touch-with-real-people that was what Change clearly mean. Nobody who's considered serious at setting policy fits that profile. And that has hurt him with the Left, but because the policies are poor, geared toward the elite, and not very effective, and that all those folks are poor politicians, not in touch, so clearly part of the Washington/Wall Street Elite, they've also undermined support from the center, rather than comforting it, now people see government and Obama's Administration as of, by, and for the Washington/Wall Street Elite. Liberal advisers would have pleased the base AND given people the impression that Obama was up against the Washington/Wall Street Elite AND, most importantly, would have made more effective policy to address the crucial issues of unemployment and foreclosures and financial regulation.