HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Demeter » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 ... 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

Journal Archives

Who is Essential? Insurers or Consumers? By Wendell Potter (GRAMMAR CRINGE)


...Last week a broad coalition of patient-focused groups launched its “I Am Essential” campaign in an effort to make sure that when all of us have to buy health insurance in 2014, we will be getting good value....When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act last year, it included a provision requiring that all health insurance plans sold a little more than two years from now must contain “essential health benefits.” It established 10 categories of required coverage: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management and pediatric services, including oral and vision care. The Department of Health and Human Services has the responsibility of determining, with input from the respected nonprofit Institute of Medicine, just how comprehensive the coverage will have to be in each of those categories.

Insurers and employers who offer coverage to workers have been lobbying both the IOM and HHS to make the coverage requirements as narrow as possible. They want to continue marketing plans with skimpy benefits because they are less costly to employers and potentially more profitable to insurers. The problem with that approach, of course, is that millions of Americans will be forced to the join the ranks of the underinsured—already estimated at 30 million—if coverage they must buy is inadequate to meet their needs. That would not only be a nightmare for many American citizens but, I’m betting, for any politician who is on the record supporting “Obamacare.” If people find out that the coverage they have to buy is of limited value to them when they get sick, they’re not going to be very inclined to vote for Democrats come 2016, especially if insurance firms continue their long-running streak of record-setting profits.

I wrote last month that an insurance industry-backed group called the Essential Health Benefits Coalition had been formed to persuade Obama administration officials to consider “affordability” first and foremost—not comprehensiveness—as they flesh out the benefit requirements. As is typical of such industry groups, this one was set up and is being run out of a big PR firm, Ogilvy Washington. The budget for it is ample enough to pay the salary of its executive director and spokesman, Brendan Daly, a former aide to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In contrast, the “I Am Essential” coalition doesn’t have a budget. “Oh, no, no, we don’t have any money at all,” I was told by Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The Aids Institute, one of the coalition members. “This is all pro bono.” Other members of the group, which last week sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, include the Lupus Foundation of America, the Men’s Health Network, Mental Health America, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs and the National Minority Quality Forum. The only other action the coalition has taken so far is to send out a news release announcing the group and its letter to Sebelius. The letter pointed out that the organizations comprising “I Am Essential” serve many of the nation’s most vulnerable patient groups. “There are tens of millions of Americans who, like the people we advocate for, live with chronic disease and disability,” they told Sebelius. “We are writing to urge you to make certain that the Essential Health Benefits package fully meets the needs of American health care consumers, particularly those who have chronic health conditions… A benefit package too narrowly drawn runs the risk of not adequately covering patient needs.”

The group’s letter came a few days after another group of patient advocates—doctors and nurses—sent a letter to Sebelius making the same plea. Sent by Physicians for a National Health Program, a group that supports a single-payer health care system for the U.S., the letter also blasted the IOM panel for siding with the insurers suggesting that HHS consider affordability first. “We protest the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that cost rather than medical need be the basis for defining the ‘essential benefits’ that insurance policies must cover,” the doctors and nurses wrote. “The IOM proposal would base the required coverage on the benefits typical of plans currently offered by small businesses – enshrining these skimpy plans as the new standard. These bare-bones policies come with a long list of uncovered services and saddle enrollees with unaffordable co-payments and deductibles… If adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services, this recommendation will sacrifice many lives and cause much suffering. We call on Secretary Sebelius and President Obama to reject them.”...

A Romance With Risk That Brought On a Panic




...Dozens of interviews reveal that Mr. Corzine played a much larger, hands-on role in the firm’s high-stakes risk-taking than has previously been known...An examination of company documents and interviews with regulators, former employees and others close to MF Global portray a chief executive convinced that he could quickly turn the money-losing firm into a miniature Goldman Sachs...


He pushed through a $6.3 billion bet on European debt — a wager big enough to wipe out the firm five times over if it went bad — despite concerns from other executives and board members. And it is now clear that he personally lobbied regulators and auditors about the strategy.

His obsession with trading was apparent to MF Global insiders over his 19-month tenure. Mr. Corzine compulsively traded for the firm on his BlackBerry during meetings, sometimes dashing out to check on the markets. And unusually for a chief executive, he became a core member of the group that traded using the firm’s money. His profits and losses appeared on a separate line in documents with his initials: JSC...The review of his tenure also sheds new light on the lack of controls at the firm and the failure of its watchdogs to curb outsize risk-taking. The board, according to former employees, signed off on the European bet multiple times. And for the first time it is now clear that ratings agencies knew the risks for months but, as they did with subprime mortgages, looked the other way until it was too late, underscoring how three years after the financial crisis, little has changed on Wall Street...


Europe’s Deadly Transition From Social Democracy to Oligarchy MICHAEL HUDSON


(As first published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

The easiest way to understand Europe’s financial crisis is to look at the solutions being proposed to resolve it. They are a banker’s dream, a grab bag of giveaways that few voters would be likely to approve in a democratic referendum. Bank strategists learned not to risk submitting their plans to democratic vote after Icelanders twice refused in 2010-11 to approve their government’s capitulation to pay Britain and the Netherlands for losses run up by badly regulated Icelandic banks operating abroad. Lacking such a referendum, mass demonstrations were the only way for Greek voters to register their opposition to the €50 billion in privatization sell-offs demanded by the European Central Bank (ECB) in autumn 2011.

The problem is that Greece lacks the ready money to redeem its debts and pay the interest charges. The ECB is demanding that it sell off public assets – land, water and sewer systems, ports and other assets in the public domain, and also cut back pensions and other payments to its population. The bottom 99% understandably are angry to be informed that the wealthiest layer of the population is largely responsible for the budget shortfall by stashing away a reported €45 billion of funds stashed away in Swiss banks alone. The idea of normal wage-earners being obliged to forfeit their pensions to pay for tax evaders – and for the general un-taxing of wealth since the regime of the colonels – makes most people understandably angry. For the ECB, EU and IMF “troika” to say that whatever the wealthy take, steal or evade paying must be made up by the population at large is not a politically neutral position. It comes down hard on the side of wealth that has been unfairly taken.

A democratic tax policy would reinstate progressive taxation on income and property, and would enforce its collection – with penalties for evasion. Ever since the 19th century, democratic reformers have sought to free economies from waste, corruption and “unearned income.” But the ECB troika is imposing a regressive tax – one that can be imposed only by turning government policy-making over to a set of unelected technocrats.

To call the administrators of so anti-democratic a policy “technocrats” seems to be a cynical scientific-sounding euphemism for financial lobbyists or bureaucrats deemed suitably tunnel-visioned to act as useful idiots on behalf of their sponsors. Their ideology is the same austerity philosophy that the IMF imposed on Third World debtors from the 1960s through the 1980s. Claiming to stabilize the balance of payments while introducing free markets, these officials sold off export sectors and basic infrastructure to creditor-nation buyers. The effect was to drive austerity-ridden economies even deeper into debt – to foreign bankers and their own domestic oligarchies...



Well, I found you all

and I have one comment to make about DU3--

It's ugly! UGLY UGLY UGLY! It has all the charm and visual appeal of barracks leftover from World War II when you've been evicted from a charming cottage in the Cotswolds with mod cons.

Kind of like the economy today, now that I think of it. I doubt that this will provide enough sustenance to keep the intellect alive...and I devoutly hope that it will get better, but I really doubt it.


Runaway Greed Is Destroying America: Should There Be a Lid on How Much Someone Can Make?


...we take the idea of a minimum wage for granted....Social decency, most Americans today would agree, demands a minimum wage, a floor that keeps working people out of dire privation. Does social decency also demand a “maximum wage,” an income ceiling that discourages wealth from dangerously concentrating? Philosopher Felix Adler certainly thought so. We remember Adler today as the tireless reformer who led the national effort to end child labor in the early 1900s. Adler also founded the Ethical Culture movement and introduced the kindergarten concept into American education. Much less well known: Adler advanced America’s first serious maximum wage proposal.

The exploitation of workers young and old, Adler believed, generated grand private fortunes that exerted a “corrupting influence” on American politics. To curb that corruption, he proposed a steeply graduated income tax — with a 100 percent top rate at the point “when a certain high and abundant sum has been reached, amply sufficient for all the comforts and true refinements of life.” This 100 percent top rate, Adler told a packed 1880 lecture hall in New York City, would leave with the wealthy individual “all that he can truly use for the humane purposes of life” and tax away “only that which is to him merely a means of pomp and pride and power.”

The New York Times would give Felix Adler’s call for an income maximum widespread circulation, but the notion of a maximum wage wouldn’t take a specific legislative form until World War I, when progressives demanded a 100 percent tax on all income over $100,000 to help finance the war effort. The group backing this $100,000 income limit, the American Committee on War Finance. would assemble a network of 2,000 volunteers and publish clip-out ads in daily newspapers across the country that readers could sign to “pledge” their support. Americans who signed the Committee pledge were committing themselves “to further the prompt enactment into law” of the boldest tax-the-rich proposal any American political grouping had ever promoted. They were demanding a fixed limit on income, what the Committee would call “a conscription of wealth.”

“If the government has a right to confiscate one man's life for public purposes,” Committee on War Finance chairman Amos Pinchot, a progressive New York attorney, declared, “it certainly ought to have the right to confiscate another man's wealth for the same purposes.”
The richest 2 percent of Americans, Pinchot would testify to Congress, owned an incredible 65 percent of America’s wealth. “Neither the United States nor any other country can carry on a war which will make the world safe for democracy and the plutocracy at the same time,” Pinchot would note to lawmakers. “If the war is to serve God, it cannot serve Mammon.” Amos Pinchot and his fellow progressives would not, in the end, win the 100 percent top tax rate they were seeking. But by war’s end their campaign had totally changed the tenor of America’s political discourse on taxes. The nation’s top tax rate on income over $1 million, just 7 percent in 1914, would hurdle to 77 percent in 1918...



Sam Pizzigati, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., edits Too Much, on online weekly on excess and inequality. His new book, The Rich Don’t Always Win: The forgotten triumph over plutocracy, 1900-1970, that created the classic American middle class (Seven Stories Press), will appear after the 2012 elections.

Don’t Tax the Rich. Tax Inequality Itself.


THE progressive reformer and eminent jurist Louis D. Brandeis once said, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” Brandeis lived at a time when enormous disparities between the rich and the poor led to violent labor unrest and ultimately to a reform movement.

Over the last three decades, income inequality has again soared to the sort of levels that alarmed Brandeis. In 1980, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans made 9.1 percent of our nation’s pre-tax income; by 2006 that share had risen to 18.8 percent — slightly higher than when Brandeis joined the Supreme Court in 1916.

Congress might have countered this increased concentration but, instead, tax changes have exacerbated the trend: in after-tax dollars, our wealthiest 1 percent over this same period went from receiving 7.7 percent to 16.3 percent of our nation’s income.

What we call the Brandeis Ratio — the ratio of the average income of the nation’s richest 1 percent to the median household income — has skyrocketed since Ronald Reagan took office. In 1980 the average 1-percenter made 12.5 times the median income, but in 2006 (the latest year for which data is available) the average income of our richest 1 percent was a whopping 36 times greater than that of the median household...

Four Recent Victories Signal Hard Truth About Rebuilding Labor Movement


For the first time in my journalism career, during one week I wrote four stories about workers winning tough fights. The victories include GE and Cablevision workers unionizing after several failed organizing attempts, the end of the bloody Longview Port longshoremen dispute and the State Department issuing new rules governing student guest workers after last summer's strike by young Hershey foreign workers.

This extraordinarily rare string of victories leads me to believe that despite major attacks on workers’ organizing and collective bargaining rights, unions can take advantage of workers' backlash against these attacks and win big victories. They can still organize.

This is not to say the tide is turning for labor because of the overreach of anti-union forces. During the same period of these small but significant victories for workers, others suffered a number of large defeats. Indiana passed right-to-work legislation aimed at gutting the power of private-sector unions, and Senate Democrats passed a bill rolling back the organizing rights of airline and rail workers.

But the key lesson of these small victories is this: When workers develop individual strategies for their own workplace—rather than rely on grand master plans from union leaders—they're more likely to win. It's to study the GE, Cablevision and the longshoremen union (ILWU) campaign in Longview to understand what works.


How Does the 1 Percent Exploit America? Find Out in One Minute (Videos)

...we’ve created a new video series unmasking those in the 1% who are exploiting the 99%—name by name, fact by fact. Each short video—one minute apiece—lays out the truth about a different tycoon. These aren’t opinions; these are facts, condensed into bite-sized chunks. Occupy has already revealed the country’s widespread outrage at the 1%; now it’s time for the plutocracy’s dirty deeds to be common knowledge.




MORE AT LINK: http://www.truth-out.org/how-does-1-exploit-america-find-out-1-minute-video/1329436217

The Unvarnished Truth About Corporations from Dilbert

Counterfeit Value Derivatives: Follow the Bouncing Ball Zeus Yiamouyiannis.



Here is how the counterfeit value derivative con works. It’s a game of “I pretend, you pretend, we all pretend, and the taxpayer will pay in the end”:

1) I’ll create an instrument, say a credit default swap (CDS), an unregulated insurance with no capital requirements, with a certain “notional” value. Notional value is just something I assign. It does not have to be attached to or backed by any real asset or actual money/principal, but I can pretend as if it is. (Notional amount.)

2) As a seller, I will just declare that this swap covers the full value X of this company, contract, etc. if credit event Y happens. I receive lucrative insurance premiums and fees for my unbacked promise. The CDS’s value is based in nothing more than my promise to pay. I don’t have to have adequate capital reserves on hand, but I can pretend as if I do perhaps with some mini-reserves based on objective-seeming risk ratios calculated by my mathematical models. (credit default swap.)

3) As a buyer, you can then buy as many of these CDS’s as you want, even for a single default. If you are really sure something is going to tank you can insure it 30 times over (or a 100 or 1,000) and get 30 (or 100 or 1,000) times the return when it goes bust! In regulated insurance it is unacceptable to insure beyond the full replacement value of the underlying asset. Not so with CDS’s. The seller has gotten 30x the premiums and the buyer gets 30x value in the event of default. As a buyer of this phony “insurance” you don’t have a stake in the affected properties, but you can essentially pretend you do.

4) As buyer and seller of CDS’s either one of us can assign our risks to a third party through another contract, and pretend as if we are covered in case our own game playing blows up in our faces. This allows us to retain even less reserve capital and spend freed-up funds on more high-risk, high-(pseudo) return speculation. (The monster that ate Wall Street.)

5) We can purchase and sell of these derivative contracts to each other at unlimited rates to generate massive volume and huge fees and profits. We can simply hyper-cycle risk and take our chunk each time.

According to the Bank of International Settlements, as of June 2011 total over-the-counter derivatives contracts have an outstanding notional value of 707.57 trillion dollars, ( 32.4 trillion dollars in CDS’s alone). Where does this kind of money come from, and what does it refer to? We don’t really know, because over-the-counter derivatives are not transparent or regulated.

With regulated economic markets, when an underlying real asset is impaired (i.e. the company in question is bankrupt, the mortgage has defaulted, etc.), market value is assessed, default insurance is paid up to replacement or full value, bond holders and stock holders make claims on remaining value and the account is closed. There is no need for bailouts because order and proportion of compensation has been established and everything is attached to the value of the underlying asset.

When the unreal, counterfeit economy intrudes, you now have a situation where a person can put in an unregulated, but recognized, claim to be paid a thousand times over in case of impairment. Say market participants have negotiated for a bankrupt company a 70% payback for bondholders and (36% payback for insurance claims), and I come with not one but rather 1,000 CDS claims demanding to be paid for each CDS....
Go to Page: « Prev 1 ... 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 Next »