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“Caught Red Handed”: The Latest On Efforts To Privatize The VA

A few weeks ago, the Washington Monthly published a story by investigative reporter Alicia Mundy that challenged the whole narrative about 2014 VA “scandal,” the one in which dozens of veterans were said to have died as a result of lengthy wait times to see VA doctors. In fact, Mundy shows, the department’s inspector general, after an exhaustive review of patient records, could not say with any confidence that even one veteran had suffered that fate. There were certainly problems at some VA facilities; the wait list numbers were definitely being gamed by VA personnel who, like Charlie Chaplin’s factory worker, struggled to keep up with unmeetable performance metrics. The “death wait” allegations, however, turn out to be bogus–cooked up by a Koch brothers-funded group, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), working with Hill Republicans, in order to panic Washington lawmakers into passing legislation in 2014 to outsource VA care to private sector providers.

In reaction to our story, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Jeff Miller (R-Tea Party) wrote an intemperate letter attacking the story’s key findings as “completely false,” allegations we rather easily countered. Then Miller appeared before the commission his legislation mandated and made a damned fool of himself. Then a faction of the conservatives on the commission were outed for writing up a secret draft of the commission’s recommendations–in which they call for full privatization of the VA—in possible violation of the Sunshine and Federal Advisory Committee Acts.

The latest news on this is that leaders of eight prominent veterans’ groups, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, sent a letter to the commission chair slamming the secret draft and expressing their united opposition to privatizing the VA. This is an important development. As Mundy explains in her piece, a big reason the privatization push has gotten as far as it has is that the traditional veterans groups allowed themselves to be sidelined politically by CVA. Now, finally, those groups are fighting back. And while they don’t have seats on the commission, they do have 5 million members.

So far, this story has gotten virtually no mainstream press coverage–in part, no doubt, because it contradicts the “scandal at the VA” narrative that the press itself originally reported. But I don’t think this hesitancy will last long–the story’s way too juicy. Independent research mandated by that 2014 legislation not only undermines claims about dozens of veterans dying because of wait times, but also shows that the VA provides the same or better quality care than does the private sector. Yet here you have commission members, many of whom represent corporate medical centers that stand to gain billions of dollars in revenue from outsourcing VA care, caught red handed crafting secret recommendations to outsource VA care at the expense of quality care for veterans.

If I had to bet on who’s going to win this policy war, I wouldn’t, at this point, put my money on the outsourcers.

 

By: Paul Glastris, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 7, 2016

April 8, 2016 Posted by | Republicans, Veterans, Veterans Administration | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“His Campaign Is Circling The Drain”: What Rick Perry’s Fall Tells Us About The GOP Primary Process

Rick Perry’s candidacy is not dead, it’s just pining for the fjords.

Perhaps I’m being unkind. After all, it’s only August, and there’s at least one example — John McCain in 2008 — of a candidate who hit rock bottom, was counted out by everyone, and came back to win his party’s nomination. But Perry is now struggling for his political life, when he should have been a strong contender for the nomination. How did this happen? We’re talking about a guy who was governor of the largest Republican-dominated state for 14 years, who created a businessman’s paradise of low taxes and almost no regulations, whose contempt for Washington is plain for all to see, who genuinely came from humble beginnings, who served in uniform, who’s a socially conservative, God-fearin’, gun-lovin’, tough-talkin’ Texan with a natural appeal to all of the party’s constituencies. And yet, his campaign is circling the drain. So can Perry’s floundering help us understand anything about the contemporary presidential campaign?

As I’ve mentioned before, candidates don’t depart presidential primaries when they decide their effort is doomed, they depart when they run out of money. Once the stench of defeat is upon you, it becomes harder to get media attention and harder to raise cash — after all, who wants to donate to a candidate who’s on his way out? There’s a moment on all of those campaigns when the staff is gathered together, and the campaign manager stands up in front of them with obvious pain in his eyes, and tells them that they aren’t going to be able to make the payroll. This is where the Perry campaign is now:

Former Texas governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign is no longer paying its staff because fundraising has dried up, while his cash-flush allied super PAC is preparing to expand its political operation to compensate for the campaign’s shortcomings, campaign and super PAC officials and other Republicans familiar with the operation said late Monday.

Perry, who has struggled to gain traction in his second presidential run, has stopped paying his staff at the national headquarters in Austin as well as in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to a Republican familiar with the Perry campaign who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller told staff last Friday, the day after the first Republican presidential debate, that they would no longer be paid and are free to look for other jobs — and, so far at least, most aides have stuck with Perry — according to this Republican.

Perry’s super PACs may still have plenty of money (as of a month ago they had raised nearly $17 million, a respectable if not spectacular total), since they haven’t had to spend what they raised on things like big ad buys. But that may be the first lesson of Perry’s desperate situation: super PACs can’t substitute for a real campaign. While it’s easier to raise money for them since they aren’t constrained by contribution limits, there’s only so much they can do to prop up their candidate when he’s in trouble. If what you need is some more advertising on your behalf to keep you competitive in a primary that’s days away, having a super PAC is great. If what you need is to maintain yourself over the long slog of the pre-primary period, they can do very little, because they can’t pay for your travel or your rent or your staff.

The second lesson could be that, just as everyone suggested, the first debate’s 10-candidate limit really could do damage to at least some of the candidates who didn’t make the cut. Perry was narrowly excluded, even though he trails others who made it, like Chris Christie and John Kasich, by a tiny amount. If he were running a lighter campaign — though I’m not sure, I suspect that the Santorum for President effort right now is two guys and a Geo Metro — he wouldn’t be too damaged by being excluded. But Perry is trying to run a serious effort, and that requires resources.

Perry’s struggles also show that while there may be second acts in GOP presidential primaries, your first act has to be a good one. Most of the people who have won the Republican nomination in recent years did so on their second try — Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush. But all of them performed pretty well in their first runs, essentially coming in second to the eventual winner. Perry, on the other hand, flamed out spectacularly in 2012. He may be a better candidate this time around, but it appears that few voters were waiting eagerly to hear more from him.

And finally, it’s a reminder that candidate quality matters. Perry may have been an effective politician in the Texas context, where the state is dominated by Republicans and his particular down-home style plays well, but it didn’t seem to translate to other places, four years ago or today. On paper, he may have looked like the perfect Republican presidential candidate. But that’s not where the campaign is decided.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The WashingtoAugust 11, 2015

August 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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