Thursday, October 29, 2009

ECONOMY - Controlling the Robber Barons of Wall Street

"6-Obama wins first financial reform victory in months" by Kevin Drawbaugh and Charles Abbott, Reuters

Excerpt (3 page article)

The Obama administration scored its first financial regulation reform victory in months on Thursday when a U.S. congressional committee approved new rules for over-the-counter derivatives.

In a 43-26 decision, the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee voted in favor of slapping new rules on the largely unpoliced $450-trillion OTC derivatives market, widely blamed for amplifying last year's financial crisis.

The committee's bill strives to balance a desire to curb speculative market excess with preserving the market's useful role in helping corporations hedge against operational risks.

That effort, which meant watering down parts of an earlier administration proposal, got mixed reviews.

"It does not do enough to protect taxpayers and our economy," said Heather Booth, director of Americans for Financial Reform, a consumer advocacy group.

"Unregulated derivatives trading was a major cause of the economic crisis ... But the big Wall Street firms who make tens of billions of dollars from these trades -- and then left the taxpayers to clean up their mess -- want to continue with business as usual," Booth said in a statement.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler called the committee's action "a significant step," but added he wanted to work with lawmakers toward legislation "that covers the entire marketplace without exception."

The committee delayed until next week voting on a bill to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, but not before amending it to ease the impact of CFPA inspections on small banks and credit unions. Proposed by the administration, the CFPA would regulate mortgages and other financial products.

"Obama financial reforms advance in Congress" by Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters 10/28/2009

The Obama administration made gains on Tuesday in its push for U.S. financial reform, unveiling a landmark bill to tackle systemic risk in the economy and winning congressional committee approval for a measure to expose hedge funds to more government scrutiny.

The systemic risk bill would grant vast powers to a new systemic risk regulatory council, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp to monitor and address risks to economic stability posed by shaky financial holding companies.

Those deemed severely undercapitalized by the council could be restructured or even shut down by regulators. Managers could be dismissed, credit exposures limited, pay and bonuses restricted, acquisitions and new ventures blocked.

In a measure meant to reverse decades of weakened oversight of Wall Street and the banks, the bill aggressively asserts government power to prevent bailouts like last year's rescues of AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America.

It also attempts to shift the cost of future financial stabilization efforts toward industry and away from taxpayers by forcing financial firms with more than $10 billion in assets to foot the bill for any losses from Federal Deposit Insurance Corp actions to resolve the problems of failing firms.

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the bill was urgent and crucial to prevent excessive risk-taking by big firms.

"We cannot meet these tests with a set of small changes at the margin," Obama said in a letter to Barney Frank, chairman of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, that also stressed the importance of building a stronger financial system in which no firm was "too big to fail."

If approved by Congress, where industry lobbyists and Republicans were certain to push back against it in weeks ahead, the bill would form the centerpiece of a sweeping effort by Democrats to tighten bank and capital market oversight.

After the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a packed room of Wall Street dealers and bankers on Tuesday they could not look America in the eye and argue that financial regulation is fine as it is.

Geithner said the financial system was tragically fragile after the crisis and the government must respond by adding new regulations and strengthening old ones.

"It's a war of necessity, not a war of choice," he said at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in New York. "And it's a just war."

Another part of the administration's reforms -- requiring hedge funds and private equity firms to register with the government -- won approval from Frank's committee on Tuesday.

The committee already has approved bills to form a new watchdog agency to protect consumers of mortgages and credit cards, and to regulate over-the-counter derivatives.

The full House was expected to vote as early as Thursday on the financial consumer watchdog bill, also a central piece of the administration's reform program.

Frank will meet this week with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson to reconcile their panels' OTC derivatives bills, said Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler on Tuesday at a roundtable meeting.

The CFTC is working with both panels, which are targeting a vote on the House floor for a single bill next week, he said.

Frank's committee was expected to vote on Wednesday on a bill to regulate credit rating agencies. The panel put off for now a proposed bill to set up a new National Insurance Office to monitor insurers, which are now policed at the state level.

While House Democrats have been making steady progress on financial reforms, despite stiff resistance from lobbyists and Republicans, the Senate has been moving very slowly.

Key lawmakers in the upper chamber of Congress are still far apart of key issues, including the consumer watchdog, known as the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, aides said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

HEALTHCARE - The Cost of NOT Reforming

"Healthcare system wastes up to $800 billion a year" by Maggie Fox, Reuters

The U.S. healthcare system is just as wasteful as President Barack Obama says it is, and proposed reforms could be paid for by fixing some of the most obvious inefficiencies, preventing mistakes and fighting fraud, according to a Thomson Reuters report released on Monday.

The U.S. healthcare system wastes between $505 billion and $850 billion every year, the report from Robert Kelley, vice president of healthcare analytics at Thomson Reuters, found.

"America's healthcare system is indeed hemorrhaging billions of dollars, and the opportunities to slow the fiscal bleeding are substantial," the report reads.

"The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion is wasted annually. That's one-third of the nation's healthcare bill," Kelley said in a statement.

"The good news is that by attacking waste we can reduce healthcare costs without adversely affecting the quality of care or access to care."

One example -- a paper-based system that discourages sharing of medical records accounts for 6 percent of annual overspending.

"It is waste when caregivers duplicate tests because results recorded in a patient's record with one provider are not available to another or when medical staff provides inappropriate treatment because relevant history of previous treatment cannot be accessed," the report reads.

Some other findings in the report from Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Reuters:

* Unnecessary care such as the overuse of antibiotics and lab tests to protect against malpractice exposure makes up 37 percent of healthcare waste or $200 to $300 billion a year.

* Fraud makes up 22 percent of healthcare waste, or up to $200 billion a year in fraudulent Medicare claims, kickbacks for referrals for unnecessary services and other scams.

* Administrative inefficiency and redundant paperwork account for 18 percent of healthcare waste.

* Medical mistakes account for $50 billion to $100 billion in unnecessary spending each year, or 11 percent of the total.

* Preventable conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes cost $30 billion to $50 billion a year.

"The average U.S. hospital spends one-quarter of its budget on billing and administration, nearly twice the average in Canada," reads the report, citing dozens of other research papers.

"American physicians spend nearly eight hours per week on paperwork and employ 1.66 clerical workers per doctor, far more than in Canada," it says, quoting a 2003 New England Journal of Medicine paper by Harvard University researcher Dr. Steffie Woolhandler.

Yet primary care doctors are lacking, forcing wasteful use of emergency rooms, for instance, the report reads.

All this could help explain why Americans spend more per capita and the highest percentage of GDP on healthcare than any other OECD country, yet has an unhealthier population with more diabetes, obesity and heart disease and higher rates of neonatal deaths than other developed nations.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said on Sunday that Senate Democratic leaders are close to securing enough votes to pass legislation to start reform of the country's $2.5 trillion healthcare system.

More bad news for the Party of NO! (aka GOP).

POLITICS - The War on Fox GOP-News

"8 Reasons Fox Is Not a News Organization" by Adele Stan, AlterNet

Even before Barack Obama was elected to the presidency, Rupert Murdoch had declared war on him via the personalities of Fox News Channel, a subsidiary of Murdoch's media conglomerate, News Corp.

Since Obama's election, the cable channel's hosts and paid analysts have launched a full frontal assault on the president, smearing his nominees, calling him a racist and suggesting that his administration was trying to persuade disabled veterans to off themselves.

Now the fearmongers at Fox are crying foul since the president and his aides declared Fox not to be a news organization. Earlier this month, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn called Fox an "arm" of the Republican Party. Obama went even further, suggesting this week that Fox "is operating basically as a talk-radio format," and we know what that means: A format in which the most provocative opinions dominate the discourse and facts are optional.

Yet that's just the tip of the iceberg. Setting Fox apart from the two other cable news networks is its ownership by a corporation whose CEO and major shareholder is a mogul with an ideological agenda -- who operates his News Channel as a propaganda machine for his anti-government cause.

He even has his own community organizer, a fellow named Glenn Beck, who can turn out a mob on a dime at your local town-hall meeting. His big ratings-getter, Bill O'Reilly, is a professional bully, handsomely paid to physically intimidate progressive commentators -- on video -- and to vilify others.

Murdoch's agenda is simple: He's against regulation of any kind. Famous for smashing the unions at his U.K. properties, Murdoch also has a pronounced disdain for labor.

In essence, Murdoch's agenda tracks closely with that of the current GOP, that far-right rump of a party that once claimed to embrace a range of views under the canvas of a big tent. So he uses the Fox airwaves to raise funds for Republican political action committees.

We've seen the Fox News-branded hosts and pundits -- such as Michelle Malkin and John Stossel -- sent out gin up the fearful folk gathered by astroturfing groups funded by corporations that seek to derail government intervention of any kind, whether in the nation's dysfunctional health care system or in its increasingly compromised environment.

Murdoch saves money by farming out the investigative-journalism functions of his alleged news enterprise to Republican Party entities, whose error-laden press releases are passed off as original Fox News research.

When you watch Fox News Channel, what you see is the advancement of that agenda through a media organ that seeks to turn regular people against their own interests -- the better to enrich the coffers of Murdoch and his heirs -- and that actively organizes those whose paranoia it has fed with lurid and untrue tales.

How else would you turn their fear of a bitter economy and an unstable world into rage against a president who ran for office on an economic platform geared toward the needs of everyday people?

Here we list a few of the reasons why Fox News Channel is anything but a news operation in the hope of shedding light on what it actually is: a massive media campaign for the consolidation of wealth through unfettered markets.

Here is just the list of "Why Fox News is not a news operation"
(read full article for details):

  1. Glenn Beck, the community organizer

  2. Fox's alliance with the corporate-funded astroturf group Americans for Prosperity

  3. On-air fundraising for Republican PACs

  4. Bill O'Reilly, stalker of those whose opinions he doesn't like

  5. Sunday talk-show host who promotes Republican falsehoods

  6. Fox News anchors, show hosts and pundits parrot GOP press releases, or just make up stuff

  7. Fox News hosts urge viewers to join a particular political group

  8. Glenn Beck, deranged inventor of paranoid conspiracies

POLITICS - Hay, What Else Is NOT-New?

"Gen. Eaton: Dick Cheney Was 'Incompetent War Fighter'" National Security Network 10/22/2009

Today, National Security Network Senior Adviser Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.), who served more than 30 years in the United States Army and from 2003-2004 oversaw the training of the Iraqi military, responded to Dick Cheney's accusations on Afghanistan from last night:

"The record is clear: Dick Cheney and the Bush administration were incompetent war fighters. They ignored Afghanistan for 7 years with a crude approach to counter-insurgency warfare best illustrated by: 1. Deny it. 2. Ignore it. 3. Bomb it. While our intelligence agencies called the region the greatest threat to America, the Bush White House under-resourced our military efforts, shifted attention to Iraq, and failed to bring to justice the masterminds of September 11.

"The only time Cheney and his cabal of foreign policy 'experts' have anything to say is when they feel compelled to protect this failed legacy. While President Obama is tasked with cleaning up the considerable mess they left behind, they continue to defend torture or rewrite a legacy of indifference on Afghanistan. Simply put, Mr. Cheney sees history throughout extremely myopic and partisan eyes.

"As one deeply invested in the Armed Forces of this country, I am grateful for the senior military commanders assigned to leading this fight and the men and women fighting on the ground. But I dismiss men like Cheney who inject partisan politics into the profound deliberations our Commander-in-Chief and commanders on the ground are having to develop a cohesive and comprehensive strategy, bringing to bear the economic and diplomatic as well as the military power, for Afghanistan -- something Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld never did.

"No human endeavor can be as profound as sending a nation's youth to war. I am very happy to see serious men and women working hard to get it right."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HEALTHCARE - Two Congressmen Say.....

"No anti-trust exemption for health insurers" by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz), The Hill

When I announced my support for a full repeal of the health insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption yesterday, I was thinking of three things: regulatory fairness, consumer protection and the economy. If we’re going to fix the problems in our health care industry, we need a policy that adequately addresses all three.

Repealing the exemption is fair because, frankly, the status quo is unfair. Members of most American industries are forbidden to fix prices, create de facto local monopolies or divvy up the country in ways that hurt consumers. We need to make sure health insurance is subject to these same unobjectionable regulations.

The policy I support protects consumers by giving the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate alleged wrongdoing by insurance providers and, if necessary, to sanction guilty parties. Health insurance companies today argue that state anti-trust laws are enough to keep them honest. In fact, few industries enjoy such lax oversight. With many states seeing major budgetary shortfalls, who believes there’s enough regulatory authority at the state level to truly protect consumers? Giving the FTC the support it needs, and should have had in the first place, is the best way to guard against future predatory business practices.

Tightening up these regulations will help the economy by cutting overall health care expenses. When people – for instance, in rural areas – are denied coverage by the only insurer within 50 miles, they don’t just sit at home hoping to get well. They go to the emergency room, and that costs everyone money. We need to make sure insurers play by the rules because we’ve seen what happens to health care costs when they don’t.

The exemption granted in the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act was only intended to last until lawmakers addressed the issue more comprehensively. Let’s eliminate it now and tell the government to treat health insurance the way it treats the rest of the economy.

"We have nothing to hide," says the fox to the farmer. Yah, American citizens should just "trust" that the healthcare industry is not ripping us off.

"Building a house of health" by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash), The Hill

President Obama is trying to bring about the largest change in social policy in more than 75 years. To do that, he has to get consensus among 300 million Americans who fall into two basic categories: those worried that change will not go far enough, and those worried they will be worse off when the process is done.

The President tried to allay the fears of those who already have health insurance by assuring them that they could stay where they were. At the same time he promised to create a health insurance system for all 300 million. It would be as though you were living in a house and the president came and said he was going to build a new one that would house everyone on your block, perhaps even you.

The President is trying to build a house of health in which all Americans can live without fear of losing their coverage or being threatened by bankruptcy. In the process of building this house he is promising the American people that it will be a better place to live and will not cost more than it presently does.

Congress has shaped the president's vision into legislation that includes major provisions like a public option, prevention and wellness, increased competition and assistance for small business. Together, the president and the Congress have started to pour the foundation and build the structural supports. Much of the argument that is going on today is over the details of what the house will look like, what will be included, and at what cost.

From the beginning, the President clearly understood that not every detail could be worked out before construction started. This house of health is a work in progress that will be created over the next three years. There are those who feel that if we can't know all the details of the construction then we should not begin to build the house. Their plan is to do nothing until everything is decided in final form. People who feel this way don't want a house of health.

The President has succeeded in convincing the majority of the Congress that the most effective way to provide both access to health care and control the cost of health care is to have everyone living in the same house that is universal coverage. No one can be excluded from the house because of where they lived before (pre-existing condition) and no one can be thrown out of the house because of problems they develop while living in a house. Today in the United States some 50 million people do not have a roof over their head and another equal number have a leaky roof that does not protect them when the storms come. Every other industrialized nation in the world has built a house of health for their people. It is inconceivable that the richest democracy on earth cannot provide a house of health to cover everyone.

When one builds a house there is not unlimited money available, so choices have to be made. None of these decisions are simple or easy, but they will be made over the course of the next three years as we build the house of health. Cost estimates will be made, but anyone who has done home construction knows that unexpected things come up which require decisions.

In 1965 when we built the house of health for senior citizens called Medicare, we could not anticipate all the changes that would occur in health care delivery since then. Congress has changed Medicare many times since it was created to keep up with the times and the needs of older Americans. This compassionate flexibility is at the heart of Medicare's popularity and success. The same process will go on as we build the house of health for the American people.

The President and the Congress are about to lay the foundation so that all Americans can live securely in the house of health, unafraid of the consequences of an illness or injury. This house will protect the American people from the weather they cannot predict. We must begin now.

I have to say that Congressman Grijalva's way of presenting the issue MAY make it more understandable to our citizens. It also emphases the (in my opinion) moral issue of providing healthcare to all American citizens.

POLITICS - Of Selective Memory?

"No hint of irony" by John Feehery, The Hill

President Barack Obama, with no hint of irony, had this to say about former Goldman-Sachs CEO and current New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine: “Now, listening to Jon's opponent, you'd think New Jersey was the only state that's been swept up by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," said Obama, "which, by the way, didn't start under Jon Corzine's party's watch. There seems to be some selective memory about how we got into this fix."

Well, how we got in this fix is because guys like Jon Corzine, who made hundreds of millions of dollars at Goldman-Sachs, and George Soros, who made billions manipulating currencies, did everything they could to stop the regulation of unregulated over-the-counter derivatives.

As the liberal public television program “Frontline” exposed earlier this week, the efforts to stop regulations were led by Robert Rubin, President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary, Larry Summers, President Obama’s national economic adviser, and Timothy Geithner, President Obama’s Treasury secretary.

Obama said the state's economic problems are part of the nation's overall crisis, which is in turn the product of lax regulation and trickle-down economics promoted by the GOP: "They got a lot of nerve — they leave this big mess and suddenly they're complaining about how fast we're cleaning it up."

Well, the fact of the matter is that the Democrats have thus far done nothing to clean it up. In fact, many analysts think the situation is actually getting worse.

Corzine won his election as governor because of the millions of dollars he made at Goldman-Sachs. I don’t know if they were ill-gotten gains or not, but I do know that when Corzine was there, he was fighting hard to stop the regulations that could have prevented last year’s meltdown. As governor, Corzine has been a complete disaster, and his only campaign strategy thus far has been to call his opponent fat and hope that the third-party candidate saves his bacon.

Barack Obama, of course, became president because he was able to ride a wave created in large part by the donations of George Soros. Soros and a couple of his colleagues put in millions of dollars to fund front groups, including Without the help of those front groups, I doubt Obama would be our president today.

And for those who have short memories, last year Soros said that last year’s financial crisis was good for his bottom line. In other words, Soros made lots of money off of everybody else’s misfortune.

But, with no hint of irony, standing next to a former Goldman-Sachs CEO, Barack Obama has the temerity to blame Chris Christie and the GOP for the problems that haunt New Jersey’s economy.

HEALTHCARE - Opt-In or Opt-Out for States

"Obama And Reid May Be Leaning Toward Opt-Out" by Jon Walker, Fire Dog Lake

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told Poltico that he felt Harry Reid (D-NV) and the White House were leaning toward a national public option with an opt-out:

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) briefed Nelson and other Democratic centrists on Thursday morning.

“I keep hearing there is a lot of leaning toward some sort of national public option, unfortunately, from my standpoint,” said Nelson, a key swing senator. “I still believe a state-based approach is the way in which to go. So I’m not being shy about making that point.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been pushing strong for a national public option (presumably his “level playing field” plan) with a provision that would allow states to opt out if they choose. Given how closely Schumer has been working with Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) on the issue of the public option, I assume Schumer’s personal push for the opt-out compromise played a large part in Rockefeller’s public expression of tentative support for the opt-out.

Many important questions about the opt-out idea remain to be answered. What kind of national public option would it be (negotiated rates or rates tied to Medicare)? How would states opt-out (decree by governor, pass a bill, popular vote by state legislature, state wide referendum, etc.)? How soon could a state opt out (right away or not until 2013)? What would a state need to do to opt back in if it previously opted out? Who will pay for the added cost of states opting out?

Depending on the answer to these question only a few states might opt out, or over half the people in this country might be denied access to the public option.

POLICIES - 3 On the Down-slide of the GOP

"The biggest threat to the GOP" by John Feehery, The Hill

The latest poll numbers don’t tell a very good story for the Republican Party. Their national approval ratings aren’t very good (in fact they are really bad). Their congressional approval ratings aren’t much better. But those approval ratings aren’t the thing that worries me the most.
I still believe that come next year, most Americans are going to want a check on the power of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. That should give Republicans a clear shot at taking back the House and doing much better in the Senate than most believe.

And yet, Republicans have a huge problem that is playing out in two elections this fall. Chris Christie should be beating Jon Corzine handily. And in the race to replace now-Army Secretary John McHugh, Republican Dede Scozzafava should be beating Democrat Bill Owens in a solidly Republican district.

But in both races, conservative independent third-party candidates are running insurgent campaigns that just may give the election to the Democrats.

In fact, the Club for Growth, a nominally Republican-leaning but actually Republican-slaying organization, is pouring money into the third-party candidate in the New York race, attacking the Republican candidate. The third-party challenger has no chance of winning, so this seems like a conspiracy to give the Democrats another seat in a Republican district. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) weighed in, endorsing Scozzafava, making that very point. The mysterious Dick Armey, once the House majority leader and now Tea Party provocateur, has weighed in on the side of the Democrats and the independent Club for Growth.

Part of this is caused by disenchantment with the particular Republican candidates (Christie and Scozzafava) by the hard right wing, and part of it is disenchantment with the Republican brand in general.

The hard-rock conservatives don’t seem to be in much of a mood to make accommodations to a broader base. And that could spell doom for Republicans as they try to take back the House and make inroads in the Senate.

It seems to me that Republicans have to get to work on a real reform agenda that will unite the hardcore conservative base and more moderate elements. Simply opposing Obama is not enough, because as of now, opposition to Obama has not yet made the Republicans somehow more palatable to those independent elements who feel the need to run third-party candidacies.

Republicans do better as reformers. They need to get to work soon on a reform agenda that can better unite those who oppose the radical agenda of congressional Democrats and the Obama administration.

"The GOP's Violence Problem" by Matt Finkelstein, Media Matters

In an interview out this morning, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) joked that he "hunt[s] liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it's a waste of good ammunition." When asked about the remarks, a spokesman for Harper was unapologetic. "It's supposed to be fun...It's having a good time," he said.

Harper may have been making a "joke," but there's nothing funny about the GOP's increasing taste for violence. Over the last several months, Republican lawmakers, commentators, candidates, and activists have turned to violent rhetoric with alarming frequency. Media Matters Action has compiled some examples below:

  • Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) said, "We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it's a waste of good ammunition."

  • During a GOP event at a gun range, South Florida Republican Robert Lowry fired at a target with the initials of his opponent, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, written on it.

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would "bludgeon" blue dogs "to death" to get their votes for health care reform.

  • A columnist for Newsmax, which has rented its email list to the Republican National Committee, promoted the possibility of a military coup against President Obama.

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told supporters, "We're almost reaching a revolution in this country."

  • After a man brought an assault rifle to an Obama event, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said people "should" bring guns to public meetings.

  • Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) joked about Democratic members who "almost got lynched" at town hall meetings.

  • At an anti-health care reform event, protesters hung an effigy of Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD)

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann said conservatives need to "slit our wrists, become blood brothers" to make sure health care reform doesn't pass.

  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's (R-TX) former press secretary wrote a column favorably comparing the Tea Parties to "Project Mayhem" -- a fictional terrorist organization in the movie Fight Club that blew up banks.

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann said she wanted the American people "armed and dangerous" to fight cap-and-trade legislation.

This is an incomplete list, to be sure. Even before factoring in the paranoid rantings of Glenn Beck, or the hateful rhetoric of far-right activists like Randall Terry, it's clear that the "mainstream" conservative movement has a violence problem. Unfortunately, the GOP doesn't seem to realize that violent words can have consequences.

"Rohrabacher: House GOP leadership 'constantly trying to play a political game'" by Michael O'Brien, The Hill

House GOP leaders are too interested in playing "political games" to score attention, one Republican congressman said this weekend.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) took shots at his own party's leaders in the House currently, and blasted fellow Republicans for having failed to have reform healthcare during the first six years of the Bush administration, when Republicans held Congress and the White House.

"Unfortunately, I see a lot of Republicans simply involved in political games," Rohrabacher said in an interview with conservative bloggers at this past weekend's Western Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in videos posted by the conservative blog Hot Air.

"The Republican leadership in the House right now is constantly trying to play a political game every day to try and get a headline, and I don't think that's going to take us anywhere," he added.

The California lawmaker, who was elected in 1988 and most notably sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pulled no punches when speaking about fellow Republicans, accusing them of only being interested in the "next couple days of headlines," and describing the GOP as facing a rift between populist and business interests.

"The American people rightfully think the Republicans are just complaining, because we had power -- we had both houses of Congress and we had the presidency," Rohrabacher explained. "What did we do with it? All of these changes that we could make to have improved our healthcare system we didn't do during the Bush years when we had both houses in Congress."

He described a battle within the Republican party as being between "regular Americans" and powerful business interests, as well.

"There is a rift between some very powerful forces within the Republican Party, who are very wealthy interests and powerful in the economic arena and business community and what's going on with regular Americans," Rohrabacher said. "And either we side with regular Americans -- the patriots -- or we won't win."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

POLITICS - Overheard at a GOP (behind closed doors) Meeting!

Good morning, Worm your honor.
The crown will plainly show
The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature;
This will not do.

"The Trial" by Pink Floyd

Monday, October 19, 2009

OUTSIDE USA - Aid to Muslim World

"A new approach to US aid in the Muslim world" by Ghassan Michel Rubeiz, AltMuslim

While America tries to improve its image in the Muslim world, it is slowly realizing that providing aid for programmes that will benefit a country's people, not just the state, can help immensely.

The American University of Beirut (AUB), from which tens of thousands of Arab leaders have graduated over the last 140 years, is a shining example of foreign aid put to good use. What distinguishes the graduates of AUB is not only leadership and a sense of service to the Arab world; graduates of this New York-chartered university are often also strong believers in American culture and ideals.

But foreign aid to poor countries is not always put to such good use. Donors can reach the hearts and minds of recipients when aid creatively addresses human needs such as education, employment, gender equality or health. Unfortunately, however, aid has also been used as compensation for damage done in punitive wars, and has often been squandered through corruption on the side of the donor or recipient. In Iraq, for instance, the Center for Global Development's Commitment to Development Index (CDI) of 2008 calculates that only 11 cents of every dollar actually goes to aid because of wide scale corruption–a great disappointment for the Iraqi people.

Regrettably, in Iraq, as in many other countries in the Middle East and South Asia, the bulk of foreign assistance is military-based. Military aid encourages developing countries to depend on weapons to achieve security. Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey receive the lion's share of US foreign assistance, mostly for defense contracts that ultimately benefit US companies and dull the sensitivity of the recipients to peace and reconciliation. Israel and Egypt alone consume over half of the US foreign aid budget.

In absolute volume–over $25 to $30 billion dollars annually–America spends the more than any other country in foreign aid. Despite the impressive quantity, however, American aid is scant in relation to its national wealth. America donates about 0.016 of its gross national product, according to Robert McMahon at the Council on Foreign Relations but, according to international standards, every donor country is expected to spend about 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Over the past decade, though–especially in light of 9/11–the United States has realized that the status quo must change. As a result, there has been serious progress reforming the process of American foreign aid delivery. New literature on state building, such as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's foreign and humanitarian aid expert Thomas Carother's Aiding Democracy Abroad, has challenged the dominance of politics in foreign aid. Think tanks and economists that favor trade and foreign investment as strategic methods for wealth building and poverty reduction argue that foreign aid is of no real long-term value to donor or recipient countries. Development experts are also speaking up about the need to improve the level and effectiveness of humanitarian aid while improving other avenues of development.

The new US approach to foreign aid parts with the practice of linking help, first and foremost, to US "strategic" needs, which often translates to rewarding autocratic regimes with humanitarian or military assistance for political compliance.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government agency that started in 2003 under the George W. Bush Administration, ties massive foreign aid that comes from tax dollars to the competitive performance of the recipient country. Only countries that invest in human development, respect the rule of law and exercise free market principles are eligible to receive large government grants in human investment.

The popularity of the MCC has increased US commitment to development and improved the quality of empowerment initiatives. Reform-oriented countries like Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Morocco, Jordan, Malaysia and Indonesia are among the Muslim-majority countries which have received MCC support or are expected to be awarded large US grants in the future.

While America tries to improve its image in the Muslim world, it is slowly realizing that providing aid for programmes that will benefit a country's people, not just the state, can help immensely. Extricating the United States' development-oriented assistance fully from its strategic political and military objectives will take time, but US investment in agencies like the MCC–and the countries it benefits–demonstrates that it is on the right track.


Obama to GOP: "Grab a Mop."

POLITICS - Rant of the Week

"New name for Republicans: Hate America Party" by Bill Press, Milford Daily News

For a while, after they got trounced in the last election, it was hard to figure out what the Republican Party stood for. They were floundering around without direction. But no longer.

Today, the Republican agenda is clear. If it's good for America, they're against it. If it's bad for America, they're for it. You think I'm kidding? Just check out their recent record.

It started last winter, when economists, liberal and conservative, warned that only massive government intervention could save our economy from a second Great Depression. Obama stepped up to the plate with a $787 billion recovery package to create new jobs in construction, education, and green technology, and to save existing jobs in state and local governments.

Not one Republican in the House, and only three Republicans in the Senate, voted for it. Fast forward: On Oct. 13, the National Association of Business Economists announced that, thanks to Obama's recovery package, the recession is over and the economy is on the rebound. No thanks to Republicans. The stimulus was good for America. They voted against it.

Last July, in a similar move to goose economic recovery, the Obama administration offered its "cash for clunkers" program, offering consumers a $3,500 to $4,500 rebate for trading in older cars with lousy gas mileage. The program was such a phenomenal success it revived moribund dealerships and sparked 625,000 new car sales. But it also ran out of money within a month, and Congress was asked to extend the program. Once again, the anti-America crowd stepped in. The cash for clunkers program was good for America. Republican leaders in the House and Senate campaigned, unsuccessfully, against it.

We saw the same reaction when Chicago made the final cut for the 2016 Summer Olympics. As we had previously learned in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, hosting the Olympic Games anywhere in the United States brings prestige, jobs and tourist dollars to the entire country. Surely, this was one time when all Americans would set politics aside and cheer on the American team.

Fat chance. When President Obama went to Copenhagen to make a personal pitch for Chicago - over Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro - Republicans actually accused him of shirking his duties as president. The Olympics would have been good for America. But Republicans were against them. Some openly rooted for Brazil, instead.

And imagine Barack Obama's surprise when he was awakened by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday, Oct. 9, and informed that he'd won the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama himself was the first to admit he didn't deserve the award for his accomplishments, but only as a "call to action" for progress in efforts he'd already begun to revive the peace process in the Middle East, fight global warming, and rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Deserved or not, the honor was as much a tribute to the American people as it was to the president, and a recognition of the new, positive standing America enjoys around the world as a result of the election of Barack Obama. The Nobel Peace Prize was good for America. But leaders of the Republican Party, starting with Chairman Michael Steele and House Minority Leader John Boehner, not only condemned it, they said Obama should refuse to accept it.

Same with health-care reform. Today's health-care delivery system is so expensive, so inefficient, and so unfairly distributed, that fixing it by making sure every American enjoys basic, quality, affordable health insurance would be good for America. Yes, and that's why Republicans are against it.

Is there nothing Obama-related that Republicans are willing to embrace? Apparently not. Not even good news on Wall Street. On Oct. 14, seven months after bottoming out at a 12-year low, the Dow Jones Industrial average soared to more than 10,000.

Now, there's good news all Americans could celebrate. Right? Wrong! House Republican leader John Boehner pooh-poohed the significance of the market rebound, insisting, "The American people aren't looking at the stock market in terms of putting food on the table." Of course, this is the same John Boehner who blamed Obama when the market hit its 12-year low back in March. But, once again, Dow 10,000 was good for America. So, Republicans were against it.

There's only one thing left: to rename the party for what it really stands for. It's no longer the Republican Party; it's the Hate America Party.

ECONOMY - Cheat Net (not a WEB site)

"US tax amnesty nets thousands of cheats" by Matthew Allen, Swiss News World Wide 10/15/2009


A United States tax amnesty, part of a campaign to crack down on perceived tax havens such as Switzerland, has netted 7,500 repentant tax dodgers.

An investigation into UBS, that found that the Swiss bank had helped US citizens evade tax, helped fuel a crusade to weed out cheats who were using offshore accounts to hide undeclared assets.

The amnesty, that ended on October 15, offered reduced punishments for those who voluntarily declared their guilt. Culprits will pay a fine between five and 20 per cent of their stashed assets as opposed to a 50 per cent levy and a possible prison sentence faced by those who did not come forward.

The IRS even extended the amnesty for a month to help tax lawyers cope with a deluge of worried clients who wanted to come forward.

It is not yet clear how many of the 7,500 had accounts in Switzerland. But Doug Shulman, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), said the disclosures would be scoured to identify which institutions had helped the tax evaders.

Friday, October 16, 2009

WAR ON TERROR - Increasing Threat of Muslim Militancy

"Pakistan Attacks Show Tightening of Militant Links" by JANE PERLEZ, New York Times 10/15/2009


A wave of attacks against top security installations over the last several days demonstrated that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and militant groups once nurtured by the government are tightening an alliance aimed at bringing down the Pakistani state, government officials and analysts said.

More than 30 people were killed Thursday in Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan, as three teams of militants assaulted two police training centers and a federal investigations building. The dead included 19 police officers and at least 11 militants, police officials said.

Nine others were killed in two attacks at a police station in Kohat, in the northwest, and a residential complex in Peshawar, capital of North-West Frontier Province.

The assaults in Lahore, coming after a 20-hour siege at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi last weekend, showed the deepening reach of the militant network, as well as its rising sophistication and inside knowledge of the security forces, officials and analysts said.

The umbrella group for the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Lahore, the independent television news channel Geo reported on its Web site.

But the style of the attacks also revealed the closer ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and what are known as jihadi groups, which operate out of southern Punjab, the country’s largest province, analysts said. The cooperation has made the militant threat to Pakistan more potent and insidious than ever, they said.

The government has tolerated the Punjabi groups, including Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, for years, and many Pakistanis consider them allies in just causes, including fighting India, the United States and Shiite Muslims. But they have become entwined with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and have increasingly turned on the state.

The alliance has now stepped up attacks as the military prepares an assault on the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, where senior members of the Punjabi groups also find sanctuary and support.

“These are all Punjabi groups with a link to South Waziristan,” Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, a former interior minister, said, explaining the recent attacks.

In a rare acknowledgment of the lethal combination of forces, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that a “syndicate” of militant groups wanted to see “Pakistan as a failed state.”

The rise in more penetrating terrorist attacks may now add its own pressure on the Pakistani government to crack down on the Punjabi militants. It is time for the government to come out in public and explain the nature of the enemy, said Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of North-West Frontier Province.

Note that this is a threat TO Shiite Muslims as well as America and the "West" in general.

All militant fanaticism, especially religious based, is a threat to freedom. This includes Christian based fanaticism that turns militant. People who are religious zealots and militant will not be persuaded by "normal" means because they believe they are fulfilling God's Will. This is the REAL threat to freedom.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

POLITICS - Another Example of Dishonesty

"Obama EPA releases Bush-era global warming finding" by DINA CAPPIELLO, AP

A controversial e-mail message buried by the Bush administration because of its conclusions on global warming surfaced Tuesday, nearly two years after it was first sent to the White House and never opened.

The e-mail and the 28-page document attached to it, released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency, show that back in December of 2007 the agency concluded that six gases linked to global warming pose dangers to public welfare, and wanted to take steps to regulate their release from automobiles and the burning of gasoline.

The document specifically cites global warming's effects on air quality, agriculture, forestry, water resources and coastal areas as endangering public welfare.

That finding was rejected by the Bush White House, which strongly opposed using the Clean Air Act to address climate change and stalled on producing a so-called "endangerment finding" that had been ordered by the Supreme Court in 2007.

As a result, the Dec. 5 e-mail sent by the agency to Susan Dudley, who headed the regulatory division at the Office of Management and Budget was never opened, according to Jason Burnett, the former EPA official that wrote it.

The Bush administration, and then EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, also refused to release the document, which is labeled "deliberative, do not distribute" to Democratic lawmakers. The White House instead allowed three senators to review it in July 2008, when excerpts were released.

The Obama administration in April made a similar determination, but also concluded that greenhouse gases endanger public health. The EPA is currently drafting the first greenhouse gas standards for automobiles, and recently signaled it would attempt to reduce climate-altering pollution from refineries, factories and other large industrial sources.

In response, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican lawmakers have criticized the EPA's reasoning and called for a more thorough vetting of the science. An internal review by a dozen federal agencies released in May also raised questions about the EPA's conclusion, saying the agency could have been more balanced and raising questions about the difficulty in linking global warming to health effects.

The agency released the e-mail and documents after receiving requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Adora Andy, a spokeswoman for EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, said Tuesday that the draft shows the science in 2007 was as clear as it is today.

"The conclusions reached then by the EPA scientists should have been made public and should have been considered," she said.

Bold emphasis mine

HEALTHCARE - When Health Insurance Executives Fix the Game

"New Ad Blasts Insurance Companies, Renews Push For Public Option" by Greg Sargent, Who Runs GOV

There’s a growing sense in Washington that the insurance industry inadvertently breathed new life into the public option by releasing that report yesterday predicting reform would hike premiums, creating a new argument in favor of creating competition for the industry in the form of a public plan.

Now the labor-backed White House ally Americans United For Change is going up with a new ad timed to capitalize on that sense to renew the push for the public option:

The ad, which is airing on D.C. cable in an effort to target lawmakers, concludes: “When health insurance executives fix the game, they get rich. Time for competition when it comes to health insurance. We need the choice of a public health insurance plan.”

The spot is designed to amplify the message — perhaps best delivered yesterday by Congressman Anthony Weiner — that the insurance companies made one of the strongest cases yet for a public option by essentially vowing to raise rates. The report also makes it easier for reform proponents to argue that the industry, which had been making nice with the White House, is a bad-faith actor not to be trusted.

It seems like a potentially big tactical error by the insurance industry, and it’ll be interesting to watch how proponents of the public option capitalize on it to pressure the White House and Senate leadership to put a public plan — or some form of it — into the final Senate bill that’s being negotiated this week. The public option lives!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

POLITICS - NOT All Members of the GOP are Dimwits

"GOP's Graham gets it right on climate change" by Yael T. Abouhalkah, Kansas City Star

Showing political courage, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham has spoken out in favor of passing a climate change bill. Unfortunately, that may not be good enough.

Graham joined Democratic Sen. John Kerry in calling for action.

"We refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change," they wrote in The New York Times on Sunday.

"We are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future."

Graham's action is significant because it is a break from the official GOP position that climate change legislation would hurt the U.S. economy.

Many energy companies, especially coal interests, have been campaigning against the bill in Washington because it could raise their costs of doing business.

True, a climate change bill that would cap and trade emissions would raise costs to consumers. But some kind of penalty is needed to coerce U.S. industries into reducing their harmful emissions.

Graham's support for some kind of cap and trade system at least gives President Barack Obama a chance to pass an emissions-reduction program sometime in the near future.

The question is, how many -- if any -- GOP votes can Graham bring with him when it's time to vote?

A carbon tax would be an even better and simpler idea than cap and trade. The straightforward tax would be harder for industries to "game."

But there's little stomach in Congress right now for passing the tax.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

WORLD - American Sunrise

"Global survey says U.S. rises to most admired country in the world" by Zaid Jilani, Think Progress

Reuters reports that a new global survey has found that the United States is the most admired country in the world. The U.S. nabbed the top spot of this year’s National Brand Index (NBI), which ranks countries by how admired they are globally, up from number seven last year:

The United States is the most admired country globally thanks largely to the star power of President Barack Obama and his administration, according to a new poll.

It climbed from seventh place last year, ahead of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan which completed the top five nations in the Nation Brand Index (NBI). “What’s really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States for 2009,” said Simon Anholt, the founder of NBI, which measured the global image of 50 countries each year.

When asked about why he believes the United States shot up to the top of the list, Anholt explained that it likely is because of the election of Barack Obama. “There is no other explanation,” he said.

It's about time, considering the massive damage to our reputation perpetrated by the Bush Administration.

HEALTHCARE - Reform "Would Reduce Federal Budget Deficits" CBO

"Health-Care Bill Wouldn't Raise Deficit, Report Says" by Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray, Washington Post


Congressional budget analysts gave an important political boost Wednesday to a Senate panel's health-care overhaul, projecting that the $829 billion measure would dramatically shrink the ranks of the uninsured and keep President Obama's pledge that doing so would not add "one dime" to federal budget deficits.

With the report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the measure crafted by the Senate Finance Committee has emerged as the only one of five bills by various panels that achieves every important goal Obama has set for his top domestic initiative.

White House budget director Peter Orszag applauded the analysis, saying the bill "demonstrates that we can expand coverage and improve quality while being fiscally responsible," and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called the CBO report "another important step down the road toward enacting comprehensive health insurance reform." But senior Republicans seemed only to harden in their opposition to the measure.

The Finance Committee could vote as soon as Friday on the bill. Passage by the Democrat-dominated panel is virtually assured, but Democrats are eager to win the vote of Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), the only Republican on the committee who has expressed any support for the measure.

Snowe said Wednesday that she was relieved to see that the cost of expanding coverage remained below Obama's limit of $900 billion over the next decade. "But we have a lot to review," she said.

She urged Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to wait until next week for a final vote. "It's a critical vote. . . . I would rather have the comfort level of having had sufficient time to analyze it."

Other Republicans pored over the 27-page report in a late-afternoon huddle, then emerged with the warning that the finance panel's measure would impose a stiff price on people who already have health insurance. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the committee, said he is worried that insurers and other health-care companies would pass on the cost of new fees and taxes to consumers. And he said the bill's expansion of Medicaid would leave a new set of "unfunded mandates" for states already struggling with record budget deficits.

"There's a lot of things in there to be concerned about," Grassley said.

Reid said he hopes to combine the bill with a competing measure approved by the Senate health committee and present the result to the full Senate later this month. He will begin to convene small meetings in his office next week with Baucus, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and senior White House officials, including Orszag, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior health adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the legislation is likely to become more problematic as Reid works "in a closed-to-the-public conference room, somewhere in the Capitol" to add provisions aimed at winning the 60 votes needed to avert a GOP filibuster. "The real bill will be another 1,000-page, trillion-dollar experiment," McConnell said in a statement, "that slashes a half-trillion dollars from seniors' Medicare, raises taxes on American families by $400 billion, increases health care premiums, and vastly expands the role of the federal government in the personal health-care decisions of every American."

According to the CBO, Congress's official arbiter of the cost of legislation, the Finance Committee measure would expand coverage to an additional 29 million Americans by 2019 by dramatically expanding Medicaid coverage for the poor and by subsidizing private insurance for low- and middle-income Americans.

The $829 billion cost would be more than offset by reducing spending on Medicare and other federal health programs by about $400 billion over the next decade, and by imposing a series of fees on insurance companies, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers and other sectors of the health industry that stand to gain millions of new customers under the legislation.

All told, the package would reduce federal budget deficits by $81 billion over the next decade, the CBO forecast, adding that the savings probably would continue to accumulate well into the future.

"The added revenues and cost savings are projected to grow more rapidly than the cost of the coverage expansion," the report said. "Consequently, CBO expects that the proposal, if enacted, would reduce federal budget deficits [beyond 2019] relative to those projected under current law" by as much as one-half of 1 percent of the nation's gross domestic product -- savings that could total hundreds of billions of dollars.

Similar article:
"Health Care Bill Gets Green Light in Cost Analysis" by ROBERT PEAR and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, New York Times

Monday, October 05, 2009

POLITICS - As the GOP Sinks Slowly in the East

"L.I. Assemb. changes parties" by Rick Brand, News Day

Longtime Republican Assemblyman (Long Island, NY) Fred Thiele is switching to the Independence Party, saying the GOP minority “stands for nothing” and “no longer speaks to pocketbook issues.”

The 14-year Albany veteran said he delivered the necessary papers at the Suffolk Board of Elections Thursday and will seek to sit with the Assembly’s Democratic majority.

Thiele, 56, of Sag Harbor, would join the Assembly’s only other Independence Party member, Timothy Gordon from Albany, who has run with Democratic backing and if accepted would become the 110th majority conference member in a house of 150.

“This is something the Assembly majority conference will decide,” said Dan Weiller, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). “However, traditionally we have a big tent.”

Thursday, October 01, 2009

POLITICS - Example of REAL Backbone

"Grayson: 'I apologize to the dead,' not GOP", from The Buzz, St. Petersburg Times 9/30/2009

Excerpt (minus Reaction)

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, under fire for his heated attack on Republicans last night, took the House floor a while ago and offered an apology, but not the one Republicans wants to hear.

"Last night, I gave a speech and I'm not going to recount everything I said but after that speech, several republicans asked me to apologize. I would like to apologize.

I would like to apologize and here's why. According to this study, health insurance and mortality in adults which was published two weeks, 44,000 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. 44,789 Americans die every year according to the Harvard study. And you can see it by going to our website at That is 10 times more than the number of Americans who have died in Iraq and who died in 9/11. But that was just once. This is every single year. That's right. Every single year.

Take a look at this. Read it and weep. And I mean that, read it and weep, because of all these Americans who are dying because they don't have health insurance. Now, I think we should do something about that and the Democratic health care plan does do something about that. It makes health care affordable for those who can't afford insurance and it safes these peoples' lives.

Let's remember we should care about people even after they're born. I call upon the Democratic members of the House, I call upon the Republican members of the House, I call upon all of us to do our jobs for the sake of America, for the sake of those dying people and their families. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America. I yield the rest of my time."

HEALTHCARE - Worth the Cost, YES

"Americans willing to fund healthcare reform: poll" by David Morgan, Reuters

Most Americans would pay higher taxes to fund healthcare reforms that provide the best quality of care, but only a minority expects Washington to deliver it, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The telephone survey of 3,003 U.S. adults conducted by Thomson Reuters found 63 percent willing to pay for healthcare reform, though most also said they are happy with their own doctors, insurance plans and out-of-pocket costs.

However, only 35 percent of those surveyed said President Barack Obama's reform agenda and the debate in Congress will lead to better health service, while 41 percent said they would expect it to lead to lower costs.

"There's skepticism that the government can deliver value," said Gary Pickens, chief research officer for Thomson Reuters' healthcare and science research business. Thomson Reuters is the parent company of global news agency Reuters.

"But underlying this is a fairly strong belief that people are entitled to the best healthcare," Pickens added. "This is a value statement: that people are entitled not just to good but to the best healthcare. And people are willing to pay for it."

The survey began September 8, the day before Obama sought to jump-start the congressional debate with a prime-time speech to lawmakers. Researchers wound up their polling on September 17. The findings have a 2 percent margin of error.

The survey period also followed a summer of rancorous debate in Washington and angry exchanges between healthcare reform advocates and adversaries at political town hall meetings across the country.

The survey showed that 76 percent of those polled believe Americans deserve the best healthcare. But only 43 percent said they actually receive it.

Readiness to pay for effective reform crossed party lines, with 78 percent of Democrats willing to accept higher taxes, as well as 64 percent of independents and 48 percent of Republicans.

Expectations split sharply with party affiliation. Seventy-two percent of Democrats but only 35 percent of independents and 12 percent of Republicans expected the reforms to drive down costs.

Sixty-six percent of Democrats said reform will bring better healthcare service, versus 29 percent of independents and 8 percent of Republicans.

And 77 percent said they were satisfied with their doctors, 68 percent with their health insurance coverage and 53 percent with out-of-pocket expenses.

Could it be, most Americans see providing healthcare as a moral issue?! I certainly hope so.

Now if the GOP had any real morals.........