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Chris Christie’s Big Problem

Whether or not he lets himself be persuaded to run for president, Chris Christie needs to find some way to lose weight. Like everyone else, elected officials perform best when they are in optimal health. Christie obviously is not.

You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena — and it’s not something you can fail to notice. Obesity is a national epidemic whose costs are measured not just in dollars and cents but also in lives. Christie’s weight is as legitimate an issue as the smoking habit that President Obama says he has finally kicked.

On rare occasions, Christie speaks candidly about his weight. “I’m really struggling, been struggling for a long time with it,” he told CNN’s Piers Morgan in June. “And I know that it would be better for my kids if I got it more under control, and so I do feel a sense of guilt at times about that.”

Six weeks later, the New Jersey governor was briefly hospitalized for asthma — a condition that he has had for most of his life. Researchers say that many respiratory problems, including asthma, are worsened by obesity.

As he left the hospital, Christie acknowledged the connection. He described himself as “relatively healthy by all objective indicators,” but added that “if I weighed less, I’d be healthier.”

“The weight exacerbates everything,” he said.

And it does. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity puts people at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and gallbladder and liver disease.

The NIH estimates that nearly 34 percent of U.S. adults can be classified as “obese,” meaning they have a body mass index of more than 30. By this standard, a man who stands 5-foot-11 — Christie’s reported height — would be obese if his weight reached 215 pounds. While Christie does not disclose his weight, it appears to exceed the 286 pounds that would place him among the 5.7 percent of American adults whom NIH classifies as “extremely obese.”

I refer to obesity as an epidemic because the percentage of obese adults has doubled in the past 40 years — and childhood obesity is increasing even more rapidly. Again according to the NIH, “obesity is associated with over 112,000 excess deaths due to cardiovascular disease, over 15,000 excess deaths due to cancer, and over 35,000 excess deaths due to non-cancer, non-cardiovascular disease causes per year.”

On average, health-care costs for obese persons are 42 percent higher than costs for individuals whose weight falls into the “normal” range. It costs Medicare $1,723 more a year for an obese beneficiary than a non-obese one. For Medicaid the differential is $1,021, and for private insurers it’s $1,140. In other words, obesity is helping propel the rise in health-care costs, which are fueling the long-term rise in the national debt.

My intention is not to blame Christie for the federal government’s deficit spending — or, in fact, to blame him for his own obesity. Blame is not the point. Christie is just 49 and has four young children; politics aside, I’m sure he wants to be around to share the milestones in their lives. He prides himself on bullheaded determination and speaks often about the need for officials to display leadership. Well, Gov. Christie, lead thyself.

“I weigh too much because I eat too much,” he said after his hospitalization this summer, “and I eat some bad things, too.”

If only it were that simple. Yes, the basic arithmetic of calories ingested vs. calories expended is inescapable. But the science of weight control now takes into account the role that genetics might play, along with psychological factors that lie outside our conscious control. There are new options, including gastric surgery, beyond the dieting roller coaster — lose 40 pounds, gain it all back — that Christie says he has been riding for years.

Those who have lost weight and kept it off for extended periods, including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, say they have succeeded by making proper diet and exercise part of their lives — not just unpleasant chores that have to be endured.

Politically, I disagree with Christie on almost everything. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell him why. Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 29, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Medicaid, Medicare, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten Reasons Why Immigration Reform Is Important To Our Fiscal Health

All eyes in Washington these days are on the new congressional super committee. The 12 members from both parties in both chambers of Congress have been assigned the task of developing a plan to reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade or risk setting off deficit-cutting triggers that will force sharp cuts to both defense and domestic spending.

There are many ways the members of this committee can reach the $1.5 trillion target between now and their Thanksgiving week deadline. We at the Center for American Progress understand that comprehensive immigration reform is not among the deficit reduction options on the table but want to urge the super committee to consider it. Comprehensive immigration reform is one key to boosting economic growth and thus helping to solve our nation’s fiscal problems.

Here are the top 10 reasons why immigration reform, or the lack thereof, affects our economy.

Additions to the U.S. economy

1. $1.5 trillion—The amount of money that would be added to America’s cumulative gross domestic product—the largest measure of economic growth—over 10 years with a comprehensive immigration reform plan that includes legalization for all undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

2. 3.4 percent—The potential GDP growth rate over the past two years if comprehensive immigration reform had gone into effect two years ago, in mid-2009. (see Figure 1)

figure 1

3. 309,000—The number of jobs that would have been gained if comprehensive immigration reform had gone into effect two years ago, in mid-2009. A GDP growth rate of 0.2 percent above the actual growth rate translates into, based on the relationship between economic growth and unemployment, a decrease in unemployment by 0.1 percent, or 154,400 jobs, per year.

4. $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion—The amount of additional net tax revenue that would accrue to the federal government over three years if all undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States were legalized.

Revenue generated by immigrants

5. $4.2 trillion—The amount of revenue generated by Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants and their children, representing 40 percent of all Fortune 500 companies.

6. $67 billion—The amount of money that immigrant business owners generated in the 2000 census, 12 percent of all business income. In addition, engineering and technology companies with at least one key immigrant founder generated $52 billion between 1995 and 2005 and created roughly 450,000 jobs.

Taxes generated by immigrants

7. $11.2 billion—The amount of tax revenue that states alone collected from undocumented immigrants in 2010.

Negative consequences of mass deportation

8. $2.6 trillion—The amount of money that would evaporate from cumulative U.S. GDP over 10 years if all undocumented immigrants in the country were deported.

9. 618,000—The number of jobs that would have been lost had a program of mass deportation gone into effect two years ago, in mid-2009. A mass deportation program would have caused GDP to decrease by 0.5 percent per year, which, based on the relationship between economic growth and unemployment, translates to an increase in unemployment by 0.2 percent, or 309,000 jobs, per year.

10. $285 billion—The amount of money it would cost to deport all undocumented immigrants in the United States over five years.

The upshot

Most Americans and their elected representatives in Congress would be pleasantly surprised to learn about the substantial benefits of comprehensive immigration reform to our nation’s broad-based economic growth and prosperity, and thus our ability to reduce our federal budget deficit over the next 10 years. Given how difficult a challenge the super committee faces, we cannot afford to ignore any viable options for strengthening our economy. We hope the super committee takes these top 10 economic reasons into account as they move forward with their deliberations.

By: Angela M. Kelley and Philip E. Wolgin, Center For American Progress, September 29, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democrats, Economic Recovery, GOP, Government, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Teaparty, Unemployment | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP Congress Hates (Except When It Loves) Federal Spending

“You saw the House act,” Rep. Eric Cantor snapped to a reporter last Friday. Yeah, act like a petulant 4-year-old!

The majority leader of the GOP-controlled House has long been a whiney ideological brat who stamps his tiny feet in peevish anger whenever he can’t get his way on legislation. In this particular incident, Cantor tried to pretend that the House had approved more federal aid for thousands of Americans who’ve been devastated by natural disasters this summer. However, he had sabotaged his own “act” by slipping a poison pill into it.

You see, “federal aid” is a four-letter word to right-wing ideologues like Eric, so for weeks he had stalled the emergency funding that hard-hit families desperately need. Cantor and his fellow anti-government dogmatists in the House turned a straightforward humanitarian bill into their political football, insisting that any increase in funds must first be wholly paid for by cutting spending on other public needs. His ploy has become known as the “Cantor Doctrine” — budget purity first, people’s needs last.

Actually, his this-for-that demand could’ve easily been met if Cantor had agreed to cut things America definitely does not need, such as the $4-billion-a year subsidy doled out to Big Oil. But — whoa! — in Cantorworld, oil giants are gods that shower manna from heaven on Republican campaigns, so it’s blasphemy even to think of cutting that money.

Instead, Cantor went after Big Oil’s most dreaded nemesis: companies that are making fuel-efficient and clean energy vehicles. Thus, the Cantorites decreed that there’d be no more disaster relief until the federal loan program to foster development of this green industry was slashed by $1.5 billion.

This would have been a political hat trick for the GOP extremists — striking a blow for their anti-government absolutism, doing a favor for a major campaign funder and defunding an Obama-backed program that helps him with voters.

Luckily, Cantor’s nuttiness was so extreme that a bipartisan vote by 79 senators killed his political scheme — this time.

You’d think that aid for storm victims would be beyond politics. But nothing is too far out for right-wing cultists like Cantor.

Well, you might think, at least the leaders of the tea party-infused Republican Congress are consistent in their opposition to big infusions of federal dollars into the economy, right?

Absolutely! Unless you count infusions of taxpayer funds into projects favored by corporations in their districts.

For example, a favorite target of howling Republican ridicule has been President Obama’s effort to stimulate our moribund economy by making government-backed loans to job-creating, green-energy projects. In particular, they’re presently assailing a 2009 loan guarantee of $535 million that the Obamacans awarded to the failed solar-panel maker Solyndra. This loan to a financially shaky company, they wail, is proof that green energy programs are a waste and are just about politics. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell recently sputtered in a rage that “the White House fast-tracked a half-billion dollar loan to a politically connected energy firm.”

Fair enough — the Solyndra deal does stink. However, Mitch’s tirade would’ve had a lot more moral punch if it were not for Zap Motors. In 2009, even as the Kentucky senator was loudly deriding Obama’s original stimulus program, he was quietly making not one, but two personal appeals to Obama’s energy secretary, urging that a quarter-billion-dollar loan guarantee be awarded to Zap for a clean energy plant it wanted to build in McConnell’s state.

Never mind that Zap Motors had its own shaky financial record, it was (as McConnell now says of Solyndra) “a politically-connected energy firm.” Connected directly to him, that is. The senator’s robust support of Zap came after the corporation hired a lobbyist with close ties to Mitch, having been a frequent financial backer of the senator’s campaigns.

The moral of this Republican morality tale is that they hate government spending, except when they love it. For them, political morality is relative — decry federal largesse loudly, but when it serves your own political needs, hug it quietly … and tightly.

By: Jim Hightower, Common Dreams, Originally published by, September 28, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Economic Recovery, Energy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blame Greed, Not Obama For Rise In Health Insurance Premiums

It’s Obama’s fault

Isn’t everything? I can’t believe what I am hearing and reading. Insurance companies are raising their premiums and, of course, that is President Obama’s  fault. It’s that damn “Obamacare.” Ah, no, it isn’t.

Insurance companies have been raising their subscriber’s premiums  for  years before Mr. Obama was president; actually, even before he was “Senator Obama.”

I have a family plan to cover my husband and our two children; but I also own two small businesses and cover my employees’ healthcare at both companies. The large private PPO provider who I won’t name, but has  the color of the sky in their title (ahem), has increased my premiums for both group plans and my individual family plan at least once a year  for the past five  years. And when I phone them and ask why, they don’t have an answer. They certainly don’t say: It’s President Obama’s fault and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

As a matter of fact, the president of Kaiser also stated that healthcare reform is not the reason for the increased premiums; at best,  it might contribute to 1 percent; so what is the other 99 percent?  What is the reason these insurance companies keep increasing our premiums?

How can healthcare reform increase our premiums? Due to the increased number of people being covered by the reform act (mostly children and  students who may remain on their parent’s plan), there are more people  purchasing plans, whether employers or employees, which actually brings more  money to those insurance companies. So why the increase?

Every time my plan has been increased, I have phoned to ask what additional benefits I am receiving for that cost increase; and every  time the answer is the same: none. When I ask why, no one knows. But I  know, it’s greed.

All, not some, all of the heads of these insurance companies earn millions of dollars a year in their paychecks. The insurance companies  are one  of the few in America not being negatively affected by our  economy. Don’t believe me? Check their stock prices, or  the stock  prices of most medical related companies for that matter.

Actually, the increase in premiums, whether a person has an HMO or a PPO, just helps to support the need not only for healthcare reform, but for further reform, specifically a public option.

These increases are proof that the public needs another option, an affordable option. And the mandate? That drives business to the  insurance companies, so they should be reducing the premiums. Insurance companies will say that many people are requesting a higher  deductible; of course we are, it’s a bad economy and most of us want to  pay less per month, taking the risk that we won’t end up in the E.R.  or need surgery, etc.

And according to my doctor-husband, that’s a big risk. He’s an orthopedic surgeon. Patients used to  come see him when they were in  pain—let’s say their knee hurt. Now they come when their bones are  sticking  out—when they’re chronic.

So the increased prices by the insurance companies should be blamed on the insurance companies. They  are hurting our healthcare system, doctors’ ability to provide proper care, and the economy as  well; especially when so many Americans head to the E.R. once they’re  chronic, which further bankrupts the system.

Bottom line—don’t  blame Obama. Blame the insurance companies. They’re the bad guys this time  around.

By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, September 29, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Economic Recovery, GOP, Health Care Costs, Middle Class, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Leadership: A Quality That Continues To Elude Republicans

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) delivered a closely-watched speech the other day, in which he went after President Obama over, among other things, the issue of leadership. “We continue wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office,” the governor said. “We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things.”

The next day, I received a few emails from liberal friends, all of whom are Obama detractors from the left, who seemed giddy but bemused by the fusion of Republican talking points and liberal complaints. They don’t love Christie, but they seemed to love the rhetorical shots Christie was taking at the president.

I find much of this pretty bizarre, not just because dyed-in-the-wool lefties are applauding cheap GOP talking points, but primarily because the argument itself is so weak. John Dickerson had a good piece yesterday on the nature of presidential leadership.

What the president’s critics really mean when they say the president “isn’t leading” is that he hasn’t announced that he is supporting their plans, or that he hasn’t decided to commit public suicide by announcing a position for which they can then denounce him.

By any measure, Obama is a leader. The first stimulus plan, health care reform, and financial regulatory reform he pushed for are all significant pieces of legislation. Christie’s measurement of leadership is doing “big things” even if they are unpopular. Health care, as Republicans will tell you, represents about one-fifth of the economy. Obama certainly wasn’t facing the prospect of popularity when he pushed for changing it.

I remember taking a class on leadership and being surprised, as a naive grad student, how complicated it was. Leadership at a conceptual level seems straightforward and obvious — a person steps up, presents a vision, and encourages others to follow him or her. There is, however, far more to it than that, and there are even different models of leadership (transactional vs. transformational, for example).

But for the purposes of conversation, the notion that Barack Obama is a “bystander,” too overcome by “paralysis” to do “big things,” isn’t just wrong, it’s ridiculous. Indeed, as far as the right is concerned, the attack is itself in conflict with the conservative notion that Obama is destroying American civilization with his radical agenda. One can be a bystander and one can be a radical activist hell bent on gutting our cherished traditions from within — but one cannot be both.

Contradictions aside, what are we to use as a metric for evaluating a president as a leader? If the metric has to do with making controversial decisions to advance the greater good, Obama has clearly done this repeatedly, including his unpopular-but-successful rescue of the American auto industry. If the metric relates to accomplishments, Obama’s record is lengthy (health care, Wall Street reform, Recovery Act, DADT repeal, student loan reform, New START, etc.). If the metric has to do with making tough calls when combating enemies, Obama’s role in killing Osama bin Laden would appear to meet that standard, too.

Has Obama compromised? Sure, but so has every other successful president. Has he fallen short on several goals? Of course, but he’s leading at time of nearly impossible circumstances, after inheriting a Republican mess of unimaginable proportions, and his tenure hasn’t even lasted three years. Is Obama struggling to get things done with this tragically dysfunctional Congress? Obviously, but there’s no point in blaming the president for the structural impediments of the American system of government. As Dickerson explained, “Calling for leadership is a trick both parties use to arouse anger and keep us from thinking too much more about the underlying issue. If only we had a leader, everything would be solved, they’d like us to think. But we should think more about what it actually takes to be president — what kind of leadership works and what kind of leadership doesn’t.”

Ultimately, the president’s critics are raising the wrong complaint. For the right, the criticism should be that Obama may be an effective leader, but he’s effectively leading the nation in a liberal direction they disapprove of. For the left, the criticism should be that Obama isn’t leading the nation to the left quickly or aggressively enough.

But to characterize him as a passive bystander is absurd.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 29, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Government, Health Reform, Ideologues, Teaparty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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