Posts Tagged ‘Obama’
Instead of Beer, Transparency and Negotiation over Health Care Reform are the Focus of Obama’s Latest Summit
Today, President Obama and Congressional delegates from both sides of the aisle gathered in Washington to discuss the revival of health care reform during a televised health care summit. Without the beer Obama had provided during a previous summit, leaders sparred from time to time over the daunting task before them in reshaping the nation’s health care system. The summit began with an irritated Obama scolding U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) for bringing a copy of the 2,400-page bill with him, calling it a “political stunt that gets in the way of lawmakers having a serious discussion.” To his credit, Rep. Cantor had likely read the bill, highlighting certain sections he wished to discuss during the summit.
In any case, lawmakers in attendance exchanged stories, facts, and blame as they strategized over how to insure 47 million Americans without burdening future generations with trillions of dollars of debt, not to mention millions more Americans who are satisfied with their health care coverage. What seemed to be lost on most of the attendees (I won’t mention any names) is that in a nation of more than 300 million people, just 15 percent of the population is uninsured. Why not focus on a plan to get just this segment of the population insured as opposed to overhauling an entire system that encompasses nearly 20 percent of our nation’s GDP? Why not focus on a way to help small businesses insure more, if not all, of their employees (through incentives such as tax breaks and payroll tax holidays that will free up more revenue to spend on better benefits)? Better yet, why not hand health care reform over to the states in order to focus on other concerns such as the economy and foreign policy, particularly Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran?
Among the best proposals I’ve seen in confronting the obstacles embedded within health care reform is that which was made by Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation. He makes the case for state control over health care reform as opposed to federal control, particularly for the benefit of cost savings. It makes sense for the simple fact that what may work for Vermont (the healthiest state in the country for 2009 according to a United Health Foundation study) may not work for Mississippi (ranked as the unhealthiest state in the country in the same study). Giving states control over health care reform would enable them to better address the ailments most prevalent within each of their health care systems (chronic illnesses, insurance mazes, low reimbursement rates, etc.) as opposed to, say, forcing Vermont taxpayers to fund insurance coverage for Mississippians.
After a brief hiatus following the release of her best-selling book, Going Rogue, late last fall, Sarah Palin has reemerged into the spotlight, refueling speculation that she may run for president in 2012. “I would be willing to if I believe that it’s right for the country,” she told Judd Berger of FoxNews.com during an interview at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville this weekend.
Mr. Berger then guided the interview toward the issue of experience when running for President of the United States in which he asked Palin if she believed that she is more qualified than Barack Obama to be President. She then explained that during the 2008 election cycle, she and running-mate John McCain had more combined experience “managing huge multi-billion dollar budgets and thousands of employees” than Obama. Whereas, Obama “had 150 days in the U.S. Senate where he was able to vote quite often ‘present,’ not have to make decisions, being one of many, not having to manage.”
Palin’s assessment of Obama’s experience prior to his ascent to the presidency is certainly shared by The Economist. This week, the British publication took a critical look at the President’s 2011 federal budget proposal, which adds another $147 billion to the projected $1.27 trillion deficit for next year. “The president’s challenge in the 2011 budget was clear—begin the push towards medium-term deficit stabilisation, with an eye towards a long-term budget fix. Here he has come up woefully short.” The article also takes aim at the “unexpectedly bad performance” by Obama’s administration in getting the nation’s economy back on track through the $787 billion economic stimulus package that went into effect early in 2009. At the time, the Administration had predicted the stimulus would prevent the national unemployment rate from exceeding eight percent and would “save or create” 3.5 million jobs. Instead, the unemployment rate hit 10 percent by the end of 2009 and the number-crunching behind the job creation data has yet to be proven fully accurate. Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department estimates that more than 15 million American workers remain unemployed.
With the promise he made in his State of the Union speech to make job creation his top priority going into 2010, Obama now faces the challenge of delivering on that promise while keeping the federal budget deficit in check for the sake of security within the bond markets.
He may have missed that opportunity a year ago.
As the stimulus package made its way through both houses of Congress last year, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) fought hard for the inclusion of a temporary payroll tax holiday. Additionally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) worked to include $67 billion worth of tax benefits into the stimulus package to help the small business community retain and create jobs. However, the payroll tax holiday was rejected from further consideration and the $67 billion in tax benefits was reduced to $4 billion. Obama did not veto nor request that these final provisions be reconsidered.
“I think that President Obama, with all due respect, his lack of experience is really made manifest in the way that decisions are made in the White House today,” said Palin.
Whether they’re the result of his “lack of experience” or his loyalty to his allies in Congress, Obama’s decisions over the past year have had a significant impact on the economy. Despite the criticism among those like Palin, however, Obama still has a team of experienced advisors who should be capable of reviewing the direction of the economy over the past year, listening to the predictions made by the world’s top economists, and factoring these into a budget proposal that won’t further damage our fragile country, particularly in the marketplace. His advisors should be experienced enough to help him make the tough decisions he should have anticipated the day he took the oath of office in becoming President of the United States. Yet, at this point, as The Economist writes, “Mr. Obama has not done anything to reassure (the markets)…that the United States will eventually make good on its obligations.”
Could we expect more from a President Sarah Palin after 2012?
Within his State of the Union speech last week, President Barack Obama criticized the Supreme Court for a decision he believes will “open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.” He also said, “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests…” As he made these remarks, Justice Samuel Alito supposedly mouthed, “That’s not true,” which generated some negative buzz.
What did not seem to generate any buzz, however, was the obvious contradiction at this particular moment of the speech. Obama criticized a decision made by our nation’s highest court to uphold First Amendment protections in the financing of campaigns when he himself had rejected public financing of his presidential campaign. According to both NPR and the BBC, among many other news outlets, Obama was the first presidential candidate since Watergate to reject public financing of his campaign and instead relied on the massive influx of private contributions he raised to fund his bid for the presidency. In response to his move away from public financing, Obama told his supporters that the public financing system is broken and accused his opponents of “gaming the system.”
Regardless of who was “gaming” who during the 2008 election cycle, the obvious fact remains that Obama spoke out against a decision that, had it been made three years ago, would have prevented him from raising more money than any other U.S. President in history. And, if the public financing system is as broken as he made it seem in 2008, when will he propose legislation to begin fixing it, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on campaign financing?