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Famous “Reality TV Star” Sarah Palin Laments That Politics Resembles Her World

After starring in her own reality TV show, camping with Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame, dining with Celebrity Apprentice host Donald Trump, and cheering for her daughter on Dancing with the Stars, Sarah Palin has taken to Fox News, where she is paid handsomely as a contributor, to lament that the media creates “reality show intrigue” around possible GOP candidates.

In what is perhaps the least self-aware 16 minute television interview every given, Palin then proceeded to assert that “I am a proponent though of the media providing as much coverage of candidates in order to vet these candidates as possible,” even harkening back to the 2008 election cycle, when she refused most interviews and championed the idea of reaching voters directly, by saying that “we learned our lesson in electing Barack Obama who was not vetted by the media.” Who’d have imagined, based on coverage during the 2008 campaign, that he’d pass a liberal health-care bill, seek to raise taxes on the rich and wind up having been born in America? In all seriousness, it’s hard to think of anything that the news media has dug up about Obama that went unreported before the election but has since proven even marginally consequential.

Let us now marvel at the former Alaska governor’s latest attempt at determining who counts as a real American. “What’s going on in the real world, outside the political beltway where they call it flyover country I guess, the heartland of America, we’re having a hard time finding jobs and keeping jobs, believing that our economy is going to be solvent, and that we won’t be a country on the path toward bankruptcy,” she said. Already, the “we” makes this problematic: Alaska is not flyover country, nor is New York, where Fox News has its studios, or Arizona, where Palin owns a second home, and she doesn’t seem to be having a hard time getting work. Also note that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the lowest unemployment rate in America during August 2011 were North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Vermont and Iowa in that order — and that the places with the highest unemployment in America, starting with the worst, were Nevada, California, Michigan, South Carolina, D.C., Florida, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia, in that order. The lesson: Palin’s obsession with privileged “coastal dwelling elites” and the long-suffering “real Americans” in flyover country and the heartland blinds her to reality.

Finally, watch as Palin zings her employer, Fox News, for allegedly spreading misinformation. “I think it’s kind of humorous to see the way that the media is covering these candidates. Let me give you an example of this,” Palin said. “Earlier today, Greta, on Fox News, you had a host who said, ‘Sarah Palin in the polls, she’s way way down there in the polls.’ And I’m kinda scratching my head going, ‘Wait a minute, on another network, on CNN just the other day, they showed a poll where I was within five points of President Obama.’ I was doing well, much better, than many of the other candidates, and I’m thinking, all this misinformation and contradictory information even from hosts on this network itself, it adds to the disconnect of not just the permanent political class, but many in the media also, because sometimes they don’t do their homework, and many times a host or a reporter, they have their own agenda. And they interject their agenda in the information.” If ever a network got what they deserved from an employee, it’s Fox News.

By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, September 28, 2011

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Journalists, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“See Spot Run”: Dick Morris Still Can’t Read

A few weeks ago, Dick Morris, the sleazy Republican consultant, wrote an entire print column built around a single observation: the economy lost 30,000 health care jobs in the month of August. There was, however, a small problem: the economy actually gained 30,000 health care jobs in August. Morris’ entire indictment was based on numbers he misunderstood.

This week, it happened again. Here’s the lede in Morris’ new print column, published yesterday.

Behind the president’s whining to the Black Caucus, begging them to “quit grumbling,” is a decline in his personal popularity among African-American voters that could portend catastrophe for his fading reelection chances.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, his favorability rating among African-Americans has dropped off a cliff, plunging from 83 percent five months ago to a mere 58 percent today — a drop of 25 points, a bit more than a point per week!

If the president’s favorability rating among African Americans really had slipped to 58%, that would be a pretty significant development. But once again, Morris based an entire column on numbers he chose not to read carefully enough.

What the poll actually found is that President Obama enjoys an 86% favorability rating among African Americans — 28 points higher than Morris’ column claimed.

How’d he screw this up? The poll found that 58% of African Americans have a “strongly favorable” view of Obama, but that’s only part of the basis of a favorability rating. Morris apparently noticed one number, brushed past the relevant detail, and published a claim that’s plainly not true.

The point here isn’t that the president can ignore some of his key supporters, and win a second term with his current levels of support. Clearly Obama has a lot of work to do. The point is, The Hill keeps publishing Dick Morris claims that are demonstrably wrong. It’s not a matter of opinion — the columnist is making specific arguments about numbers that aren’t connected to reality.

Indeed, Morris said Obama was doing well when his favorability rating among African Americans was 83%. But right now, they’re 86%. By Morris’ reasoning, Obama is doing great with this constituency.

Also note, this wasn’t just some side detail Morris flubbed — just as with the clearly dishonest health care column a few weeks ago, the columnist is building entire print pieces around basic statistics that don’t exist.

Either Dick Morris can’t read or he’s assuming his readers won’t bother to check. Either way, maybe it’s time for The Hill’s editors to start taking a closer look at his pieces.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 28, 2011

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, President Obama, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sharp Rise In Premiums Exposes Health Insurers’ Greed

According to a study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 2011 health insurance premiums for employer-sponsored family healthcare benefits rose 9 percent over last year’s prices, leaving employees to pay, on average, $4,129 and employer contributions at $10,944. The number represents a surprising rise given that increases experienced in 2010 were just 3 percent.

So, why the sudden increase?

We know that Americans are using fewer medical services since the economy took a dive as people are staying away from the doctor and putting off non-life saving surgeries, such as knee and hip replacements, until they have more confidence that they will have the money required to pay deductibles and co-pays. We also know that fewer medical services are being utilized as a result of the increased popularity of Health Safety Accounts which require deductibles in excess of $2,000 per family, and employer provided policies that have increasingly large deductibles and co-pays.

As a result, can it possibly make sense that medical costs are increasing by the 9 percent reflected in the hefty premium hikes? In a word, no.

That will not stop the  anti-Obamacare forces, of course, from putting  the blame squarely on healthcare reform. In a sense, I suppose the Affordable Care Act does bear some of the responsibility—if you can consider motivating the  health insurers to falsely inflate their prices, by forcing them to do  the right thing, to be a blamable offense.

Beginning  next year, health insurers will be required to justify any increases in  premium rates above 10 percent. They will further be obligated to refund money to customers if an insurer is found to have spent less than  85 percent of their premium income on medical expenses. Thus, it is  hardly a stretch to conclude that the insurers are simply taking their  last chance to raise premium rates before they find themselves having to be more accountable to the government, particularly when they are pretty much admitting to as much.

As noted by Reed Ableson in The New York Times:

Throughout  this year, major health insurers have defended higher premiums—and  higher profits—saying that their expenses would rise once the economy  recovered and people believed they could again afford medical care. The struggling economy will probably keep suppressing demand for medical care, particularly as people pay a larger share of their own medical bills through higher deductibles and co-payments, according to benefits  consultants and others. About three-quarters of workers now pay part of  the bill when they go see a doctor, and nearly a third have a deductible  of at least $1,000 if they have single coverage, up from just one in 10  in 2006, according Kaiser.

So, the insurance  company defense is that they expect prices to rise sometime in the  future (clearly an undefined period) and they want to be ready. Somehow,  this justifies them to dramatically raise their premium prices now, at  time when their costs are actually less and their profits are through the roof.

Not only is such behavior astoundingly predatory, the insurers are playing a major role in keeping the economy in the dumps, as it is precisely this sort of unnecessary premium increase  that causes employers to avoid hiring more employees.

For those  who believe that we should leave it to the free market to establish the prices  in the medical system (of which insurance will always be a necessary  part), maybe they can explain how the system is working in this instance? In a time where patient control has risen dramatically as consumers decide if and how they will—or will not—spend on medical services now that they have greatly increased responsibility for the familiy medical bills as a result of much higher deductibles, and at a moment where there are substantially reduced claims coming  onto health insurers’ balance sheets due to diminished use of medical  services, exactly what is the free market concept that justifies an  insurance company raising their premium rates? What’s more, at a time when fewer people are using physician’s services, why would costs go up?

Free market principles would suggest that lower demand should produce lower  prices. But that is clearly not what is happening.

I know what some of you are thinking—but before you say it’s all the government’s fault, I would hasten to point out that, with an apples-to-apples comparison,  there are no substantial new regulations hitting physicians this year  that did not exist last year. And before you blame the president’s health care reform program for the  insurance companies’ usurious behavior, note that the two million young  people who have been added to the insurance roles as a result of  Obamacare’s permitting these people to stay on the family insurance  policy, would not increase an insurance company’s costs by 9% over last  year’s prices. Indeed, adding all of these healthy kids to the insurance pools  should help insurers spread risk more effectively while collecting  additional premium revenues.

The bottom line is that there is  absolutely no justification whatsoever for the health insurance industry hitting employers with a 9 percent increase. It is a simple matter of greed and it is  precisely that greed that has long made access to healthcare continuously more  difficult for middle class Americans.

By: Rick Ungar, Mother Jones, September 27, 2011

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Consumers, Economic Recovery, GOP, Government, Health Care Costs, Ideology, Insurance Companies, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Conservatives Hate Warren Buffett

Maybe only a really, really rich guy can credibly make the case for why the wealthy should be asked to pay more in taxes. You can’t accuse a big capitalist of “class warfare.” That’s why the right wing despises Warren Buffett and is trying so hard to shut him up.

Militant conservatives are effective because they are absolutely shameless. Many of the same people who think the rich should be free to spend unlimited sums influencing our politics without having to disclose anything are now asking Buffett to make his tax returns public. I guess if you’re indifferent to consistency, you have a lot of freedom of action.

Buffett has outraged conservatives by saying that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary. He’s said this for years, but he’s a target now because President Obama is using his comment to make the case for higher taxes on millionaires.

Thus did the Wall Street Journal editorial page call on Buffett to “let everyone else in on his secrets of tax avoidance by releasing his tax returns.”

Somehow, the Journal did not think to ask its friends who battle vigorously for low taxes on capital gains to release their tax returns, too. But aren’t they just as engaged in this argument as Buffett? Shouldn’t accountability go both ways? Nor did the Journal suggest that the Koch brothers could serve the public interest by releasing a full accounting of all their political spending.

Buffett’s sin is that he spoke a truth that conservatives want to keep covered up: Taxing capital gains at 15 percent means that people who make their money from investments pay taxes at a much lower marginal rate than those who earn more than $34,500 a year from their labor. That’s when the income tax rate goes up to 25 percent. (For joint filers, the 25 percent rate kicks in at $69,000.) For singles, the 28 percent bracket starts at $83,600, the 33 percent bracket at $174,400.

So if an investor such as Buffett pockets, say, $100 million of his income in capital gains, he pays only a 15 percent tax on all that money. For everyday working people, the 15 percent rate applies only to earnings between $8,500 and $34,500. After that, they’re paying a higher marginal rate than the multimillionaire pays on gains from investments. Oh, yes, and before Obama temporarily cut it by two points, the payroll tax added another 6.2 percent to the burden on middle-class workers. That levy doesn’t apply to capital gains or to income above $106,800, so it hits low- and middle-income workers much harder than it does the wealthy.

No wonder partisans of low taxes on wealthy investors hate Warren Buffett. He has forced a national conversation on (1) the bias of the tax system against labor; (2) the fact that, in comparison with middle- or upper-middle-class people, the really wealthy pay a remarkably low percentage of their income in taxes; and (3) the deeply regressive nature of the payroll tax.

(Because this column appears in The Post, I should note that Buffett heads a company that owns a substantial minority share in The Washington Post Co. and for many years held a seat on the company’s board of directors.)

It’s worth noticing that while conservatives who talk about religion get a lot of coverage — and I will always defend their freedom to speak of faith in the public square — what really get the juices flowing on the right these days are tax rates. I’m not sure that a politician who renounced the Almighty would get nearly the attention Buffett has received for his renunciation of low capital gains taxes.

Advocates of higher taxes on the wealthy do not want to “punish” the successful. Buffett and Doug Edwards, a millionaire who asked Obama at a recent town hall event in California to raise his taxes, are saying that none of us succeeds solely because of personal effort. We are all lucky to have been born in — or, for immigrants, admitted to — a country where the rule of law is strong, where property is safe, where a vast infrastructure has been built over generations, where our colleges and universities are the envy of the world, and where government protects our liberties.

Wealthy people, by definition, have done better within this system than other people have. They ought to be willing to join Buffett and Edwards in arguing that for this reason alone, it is common sense, not class jealousy, to ask the most fortunate to pay taxes at higher tax rates than other people do. It is for this heresy that Buffett is being harassed.

By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 28, 2011

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Corporations, Economy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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