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Posts published in “Day: February 13, 2013”

That health care reference

During President Barack Obama's state of the union speech last night, he spoke (near its beginning) about health care, and included some references to changes that might cut costs. There was this significant line, for example: "We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive."

This, and a couple of other bits, were actually a specific reference - though Obama didn't explicitly say so - to Oregon, whose Governor John Kitzhaber was sitting in the first lady's guest area. Oregon's health care experiment, centered on the use of regional community care organizations, probably is the most advanced such effort in the country, aimed at reducing costs while keeping medical care as good or better.

It isn't a something-for-nothing, free lunch proposition; rather, it's better organization of resources.

It got some good national promotion in a recent article in the Washington Post, which probably deserves some additional reading by policy makers around the country.

Third senator

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

In his wonderfully entertaining memoir, Joe Miller tells an incredible story about Bethine Church, the widow of Idaho’s four-term Democratic U.S. Senator Frank Church.

Miller was for 40 years a top lobbyist in Washington, D.C., but early in his career he was paid a then princely sum of $25,000 a year by the United Steelworkers of America to organize and run campaigns for the U.S. Senate. In his first outing, 1956, one of his winning “horses” was a young, political neophyte, Boise attorney Frank Church.

What Miller did not know but came to know, was the Senate and Idaho were getting two for the price of one. Had Miller known that he might not have crossed Bethine the first time he met her.

In his book Miller tells about flying to Boise shortly after Church had won a narrow victory in the August 6th primary over former U.S. Senator Glen Taylor, the singing cowboy. He recounts meeting in U.S. District Judge Chase Clark’s home. Judge Clark was Bethine’s father, Frank’s father-in-law, a former governor of Idaho and as Miller puts it “a shrewd old hand in Idaho politics.”

Also present was the Democratic national committeeman, Harry Wall, a movie theater owner from Lewiston; the state party chairman, George Greenfield; attorney Carl Burke, Church’s boyhood chum who managed all of the campaigns; and, Bethine. (more…)

First take: Insurance exchange, guns

news

IDAHO INSURANCE EXCHANGE BREAKTHROUGH? It has the feel of a fig leaf, but it could generate the Idaho House votes that the health insurance exchange proposal backed by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter wouldn't get and might need. It is a "trailer bill" (meant to be an addendum) to the exchange bill working its way through the Senate, backed by a coalition of Republican freshman led by Representative Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. It seems to include some additional oversight, including legislative participation on the panel governing the exchange. It doesn't sound as it it will change much, but it may provide enough rationale to draw more votes on the closely-split issue. (This also has the potential to turn Malek into a pivotal figure in the House.)

GUNS, GUNS, GUNS The Washington House Judiciary Committee is considering - and preparing to act on - a bunch of gun-related measures, including background check and safety measures, and some aimed at juveniles. One coming up today: "House Bill 1096 aims to punish juveniles for carrying guns before they have the chance to use them in a serious crime, said Democratic Rep. Christopher Hurst of Enumclaw, who is sponsoring the bill. Right now, juveniles can carry guns and receive no jail time the first four times they are caught ..."

Read more here: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/politics/#storylink=cpy

A North Star toward growth

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

Let’s jump right to the big questions: Did President Barack Obama’s State of the Union do anything to resolve the deep differences in philosophy and policy on Capitol Hill? Was there any common ground? Did he lay the groundwork to find enough votes to stop the sequester, or better, to find a real budget solution?

I don’t think so. What’s more: I don’t think there is agreement on the nature of the problem, let alone any of the solutions.

As far as speeches go, it was a good one. The president pitched his case for where the country should go in terms of both philosophy and policy. My favorite line was this one: “A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”

This line should be inspirational: “A growing economy ... must be the North Star that guides our efforts.” Yet it represents the deep divisions in U.S. politics because a growing economy cannot occur in an era of austerity.

A great example of this divide surfaced when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gave the Republican response. “Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012,” Rubio said. “But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.”

But if you dig into the numbers, there is no evidence for that kind of statement. Economists for the Bipartisan Policy Center say the sequester will cost over a million jobs in 2013 and 2104. The total economy will likely drop from north of 4 percent GDP -- the number Rubio used -- to under 2 percent.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says it will be worse. He says a sequester will send the country into a new recession.

But even the nature of the sequester is a dividing line. The president put it this way: “In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea.”

But for Rubio and many of his Republican colleagues the sequester is only about one thing, the military, calling them the “president’s devastating cuts to our military.” (more…)