Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wendy Wilton's Scary Health Care Statistics--and What you can do

Wendy Wilton, Rutland City Treasurer, has calculated on her own--without any taxpayer funded grants--the cost to taxpayers of Green Mountain Care.  Green Mountain Care, as you may know, is the name of the government health care program that is supposed to fund all uninsured Vermonters' health care.  The legislature passed Green Mountain Care last session, but postponed until after the 2012 election publication of  any analysis of the cost of this monstrosity.  Wendy Wilton, using the figures readily available to our legislators, was able to come up with an estimate of the cost shortly after the legislature adjourned in May, 2011.  Hmmm...wonder why the legislature is  not able  to complete their analysis until more than 18 months after Wendy was able to perform that feat?  Is it possible that the timing is related to the 2012 election?  We report. You decide.  Wendy's analysis should make every Vermont taxpayer ill.  She calculates that, conservatively speaking, even with a 14.5% payroll tax to fund Green Mountain Care  and even assuming that IBM and other self insurers will pay the 14.5% payroll tax, in addition to providing health insurance for their employees (not likely allowed under the Federal   ERISA preemption statute), there will be a first year shortfall of   over $123 million dollars  If Vermont's self insurers do not pay the payroll tax--the more likely scenario because of ERISA preemption-- then the shortfall is $477 million  in the first year alone.

Vermonters have a right to know, before they elect the next legislature,  how much Green Mountain Care is going to cost.  Here is what you can do:  Sign the petition asking the legislature to make public the cost of Green Mountain Care by September 2012.  Better yet, print the petition and get your friends and neighbors to sign. Every Vermonter of every political stripe will want to know this information in order to make an informed choice in November 2012.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mr. Buffett, Stop Coddling Congress

Mr. Warren Buffett wrote a column for the New York Times today in which he argues that he and others in his situation should pay more taxes. There are several problems with his argument:

1. He argues that he and others don't have to pay FICA "taxes". Yes, there is an income cap on FICA contributions, however, FICA was not called a "tax" until recently. FICA is the amount that you pay for your own social security retirement. At one time, it went into a trust fund or a "lock box" as Al Gore called it, payable only for social security benefits. There was a cap, because the wealthy were thought to have enough money when they retired so they would not need to contribute additional money to Social Security for their own retirement. Social Security was never meant to be a welfare program. Furthermore, companies, including those owned or invested in by Mr. Buffett match each employee's FICA contribution, yet, unlike the employee, they do not get benefits in the future for that contribution. So what happened to the trust fund or lock box? Congress has long since spent it and replaced the funds with IOUs to future generations. Its the spending that is the problem.

3. Mr. Buffett's funds would be better spent in creating jobs in the private sector. Jobs in the private sector mean more people paying taxes. More people paying taxes mean more revenue to the government. More taxpayers are created when the economy is growing. When this has happened in the past, the government did not use the extra revenue to pay down the debt. They spent the money. More revenue has always meant more spending, it has never been used to pay down our debt. Its the spending that is the problem.

4. There is nothing in the world stopping Mr. Buffet or President Obama, or others from contributing to paying down the national debt. In fact there is even a website for this.
Personally, I think it is more effective to invest in the private sector to create jobs, rather than sending it to the bottomless pit of government inefficiency.
It is the spending that is the problem.
5.  When the government receives more revenue, its only reaction to date is to spend it.  That is why people in the Tea Party and others have called for a balanced budget amendment.  Mr. Obama says we shouldn't need an amendment to do our jobs - that is true, however, history has shown that the government has never used more revenue to pay down debt.  Until the spending is controlled whether by a balanced budget amendment or otherwise, an increase in revenue is only going to be spent.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What the President Could Have Said


In 2004, at the Democratic National Convention, Senator Barack Obama gave what Dana Perino, President Bush’s press secretary, recently called a “barn burner” of a speech.  She was right, because, like many great speeches, it spoke to the mood of the country.  Its message was what the country wanted and needed to hear.  Sen. Obama said:  “There are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers, who embrace the politics of anything goes.  Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”
   When the President came into office in 2009, he had an enormous store of goodwill; and the country’s need to hear the 2004 message had not diminished; indeed it had increased.   Our country’s desire for unity and good feeling was certainly a substantial factor in the reason Obama was elected.   Yet the President has never followed that effective rhetoric in his 2004 speech or taken advantage of that goodwill.  So, the country is more divided than ever. 

 Here are some things that the President could have said in the spirit of the 2004 which would have made his Presidency more effective and would be the basis today for an agreement with Republicans on our debt crisis.

When the President signed the executive order to close down Guantanamo Bay, he could have said:

“I am closing this facility because I believe deeply that its presence has hurt our war on terror and our American ideals.  I recognize, however, that President Bush and the Congress, both Republican and Democrats, in a time when we had just been viciously attacked and we were blind as to what our enemies had in store, sincerely believed that Guantanamo was a necessary  part of our war on terror.”

When pundits and the media started calling Tea Partiers “racist”, instead of remaining silent, the President could have said:

“I deplore anyone calling Americans who oppose my policies racist and I call on everyone to stop the name calling.  Racism is too repellent to be thrown around so cavalierly.  People who call themselves members of the Tea Party are part of our vibrant democratic tradition of dissent.  While I  thoroughly disagree with their ideas, I applaud their American spirit, and look forward to joining the debate with them and others on the direction our country should take.”

In speaking about who is to blame for the recession, instead of repeatedly talking aboutwhat he “inherited”, he could have said:

“I refuse to lay blame for our economic situation on anyone.  We have too much work to do together to waste time on the past.  And since we are all human, there is probably enough blame to go around for everyone, including me as a member of the U.S. Senate  So, lets roll up our sleeves, and look to the future, which, since this is America, is a bright one if we work together to solve our common problems.”

When Osama Bin Laden was killed, instead of taking sole personal credit, the President could have said:

“This operation was the result of a decade of hard work by men and women in both administrations.  The work was started by President Bush, and I commend him for the work his administration had done to help us reach this point. President Bush and his administration deserve as much credit as my administration for this achievement.” 

Last January, after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,  the President gave an eloquent speech asking Americans to tone down their rhetoric.  During the debate on raising the debt ceiling, however, the pundits used violent rhetoric against the Republicans and the Tea Party saying they “put a gun to [the] heads” of Congress and engaged in “extortion”, and called them “terrorists”.  The President could have said: 

“We just had a robust debate on the deficit spending and the debt ceiling.  The debate was robust because we have different views as to how solve our fiscal problems.  But that is the essence of democracy.  I am glad we have had the debate because we have difficult problems to solve, and we need to have everyone involved in solving our problems.  I celebrate our vibrant democracy where different voices can be heard and issues discussed in a serious way.  Debate is good for us.  And the result of the debate was an agreement that, while not perfect, is the result of hard work by this Administration and by the Congress.  I commend our Congressional leaders for their hard work and their passion.  I look forward to more debates with Congress, and to working together with them to solve problems.”

And when S & P downgraded our credit rating, the President could have said:

“This happened on my watch.  I take full responsibility for it.  As President Truman’s famous sign said, “The Buck Stops Here”.  Our policies of the last 2 ½ years have not yet been successful in keeping the country on a sound fiscal path.  And because I am the person responsible  for the situation we are in,  I pledge to work together with Republicans and Democrats to fix this problem.  While I still disagree with the Republican’s approach, there is much that we can agree on.  And I applaud the Tea Party for being the first to sound the alarm about our debt.  I still disagree with their solutions, but they did bring the debt issue to the country’s attention.  I call the Congress to come back to Washington from their vacation a week early, and I pledge, instead of taking my planned vacation, to work on concrete proposals for the Congress to consider when it comes back.”

If the President had said these things—taken personal responsibility, giving credit where due to opponents, talking to his own side rather than just his opponents about their rhetoric, and acknowledging the good faith of all political points of view,  we would be able to focus on our problems and solve them despite our differences.  Instead, the President’s silence at his allies’ name calling, his blaming President Bush and not taking responsibility, and his scolding opponents while calling them to compromise have made this country more divided than ever.  The President’s lost opportunity to unite the country is truly a sad state of affairs, given the great promise of the President’s 2004 speech.    

Friday, August 5, 2011

Leading from Behind…Obama’s economic policies put world economy at risk.

President Obama refuses to stray from his commitment to seek economic growth by expanding government in the Keynesian tradition choosing to disregard the overwhelming evidence that his policies have failed.  The stimulus, Obamacare, crushing regulation, policies that inhibit our ability to seek low cost energy, and soaring debt have combined to undermine our economy keeping unemployment at historically high levels and snuffing out growth.  We are following the same policies that have already led to economic crises in Greece and Spain where unemployment is now over 20%.  In years past, the strength of the U.S. economy provided support for the rest of the world.  Leading from behind has not worked in Libya and it is certainly risky strategy for our economy. 

by Charlie Bucknam