The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

Contributors (otherwise known as "The Aerheads"):

Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
ChiTom in Illinois -- KISSweb in Illinois -- HoundDog in Kansas City -- The Binger in Ohio

About us:

e-mail us at:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Emerging Sense on Afghanistan from Sen. Casey

When we debate an issue as grave as the war in Afghanistan, we must take the time to carefully deliberate the costs of the war to the American people, both in terms of blood and treasure. We owe it to our brave troops and civilians on the ground, many of them Pennsylvanians, to get our strategy right. We know that, at the end of the day, the fight against the Taliban must be an Afghan fight; the Afghan government must be legitimate in the eyes of Afghans; and that the Afghan development process must be driven by local needs. The core of our strategy must reflect a commitment to support the Afghans in taking ownership of their security and governance so that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

Friday, November 20, 2009

$850 Billion. Oh, the horror, Oh, the humanity!

Time for a little perspective perhaps? That's over 10 years, so it's $85 billion per year -- out of a Federal budget calling for $2.8 trillion in 2010. That's about 3% of the Federal budget, and about one-half of one per cent of GDP, to solve the biggest problem of the generation!

The U.S. has about 150 million taxpayers. That $85 billion per year amounts to $47 dollars per month on average for every taxpayer. Yes, that's 47 Dollars and 00 cents.

But, of course, nobody is proposing any increase in Federal taxes on middle class or below. Sometimes the formula is a surtax on incomes above $250,000, sometimes on income above $500,000. Under those proposals, the cost will be borne by those already paying tens of thousands of dollars or more in taxes (on their hundreds of thousands or more on income). The main purpose of any revenue increase in these healthcare bills is to help people who otherwise cannot afford it to buy insurance in the new system.

Let's take someone making $1.5 million in taxable income – maybe $2 million actual gross (the answer to the question, “How much do you make?”) before adjustments, exemptions and deductions. That person might pay $500,000 in taxes. So if we suppose for this person the added liability to help low income people protect themselves against financial devastation due to a health problem is 30 times that $47 per taxpayer average amount (we are being very rough here for thinking purposes), those taxes go from about $500,000 to $517,000. The net after taxes of real income is $1.483 million instead of $1.5 million.

Oh, the humanity! Will Humana and Wellpoint CEOs be able to survive such rampant populism? At least the Blue Dogs from the states that once were the center of American populism are looking out for those poor babies.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Death toll from Congressional healthcare reform delay: 11,589

Number of Americans dead since the President's original August 7 “deadline” for a new health insurance bill caused by Senate and House delay: 11,589. That's more than twice the number of deaths in Bush's Iraq War, over four times as many as died on 9-11, and in three months one-fifth of the number of Americans killed in Vietnam over a 15-year period.

(As a refresher, a Harvard University study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimated the number of deaths among Americans caused by lack of health insurance at 45,000 per year. That's 123 per day. If the bill is still not signed as of December 31, 2009, that will mean another 6410 deaths for a total since a bill could have and should have been ready for signing into law of 18,000 deaths.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Not Enough Margin to Scare the Senate

Better than losing, but not enough margin to secure a Senate majority?

HOUSE PASSES HEALTH CARE BILL By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent David Espo, Ap Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON – In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation Saturday night to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous.

The 220-215 vote cleared the way for the Senate to begin debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.

A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later.

"It provides coverage for 96 percent of Americans. It offers everyone, regardless of health or income, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will have access to affordable health care when they need it," said Rep. John Dingell, the 83-year-old Michigan lawmaker who has introduced national health insurance in every Congress since succeeding his father in 1955.

In the run-up to a final vote, conservatives from the two political parties joined forces to impose tough new restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance policies to be sold to many individuals and small groups. They prevailed on a roll call of 240-194.

Ironically, that only solidified support for the legislation, clearing the way for conservative Democrats to vote for it.

The legislation would require most Americans to carry insurance and provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford it. Large companies would have to offer coverage to their employees. Both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defied the government's mandates.

Insurance industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions would be banned, and insurers would no longer be able to charge higher premiums on the basis of gender or medical history. In a further slap, the industry would lose its exemption from federal antitrust restrictions on price gouging, bid rigging and market allocation.

A cheer went up from the Democratic side of the House when the bill gained 218 votes, a majority. Moments later, Democrats counted down the final seconds of the voting period in unison, and and let loose an even louder roar when Pelosi grabbed the gavel and declared, "the bill is passed.'

From the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued a statement saying, "We realize the strong will for reform that exists, and we are energized that we stand closer than ever to reforming our broken health insurance system."

The bill drew the votes of 219 Democrats and Rep. Joseph Cao, a first-term Republican who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans. Opposed were 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats.

Nearly unanimous in their opposition, minority Republicans cataloged their objections across hours of debate on the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion legislation.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

America's Unenviable Health Care Record

September 29, 2009, 5:00 pm

Health Care Abroad: Germany

NY Times

By Anne Underwood

Uwe E. Reinhardt is a professor of health economics at Princeton University and a former president of the Association of Health Services Research. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, a board member of the Journal of the American Medical Association. His research has compared health care in the United States to that in other countries, including his native Germany. He spoke with freelance writer Anne Underwood.

Q.Is it true that the concept of health insurance originated in Germany in the 1880s?


  • Life expectancy: 80 USA: 77.85 well behind Japan( 81.25), France (80.98) Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Canada (all above 80), USA ranks 42nd in the world
  • Infant mortality: 4 per 1,000 live births USA: 7
  • Health spending as a percentage of GDP: 10 USA: 16% ( Difference: $882 Billion, more than the $80 billion needed for universal U.S. health care)
  • Percentage of health spending that is private: 23
  • Doctors per 10,000 people: 34 USA: 23 and 52nd in the world way behind Cuba#1 and N.Korea #28 with 33 doctors

Source: World Health Organization. U.S. statistics.

A.During the Industrial Revolution, workers who got sick didn’t earn money, so they formed what they called “friendly societies.” These were cooperatives into which workers paid monthly premiums, pooling their resources so they could continue the cash wages of workers who got sick. Those cooperatives became what are now called “sickness funds” in Germany.
Around the same time, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were stirring up the masses with their tracts, including “The Communist Manifesto.” To Otto von Bismarck, the so-called Iron Chancellor of Germany, it seemed that the only way to stop the growth of communism was to take the wind out of its sails by giving low-income people the things they craved — health care, education and a social safety net in general. So in 1883, he passed the Imperial Insurance Order — in German, the Reichsversicherungsverordnung, or R.V.O. — which made it mandatory that all workers up to a certain income threshold pay premiums to such sickness funds. The R.V.O. still governs German health care, although it’s had a thousand amendments in the meantime

Democrats want to repeal the federal antitrust exemption for insurers: this is not baseball this (world) serious.

As the battle over health-insurance reform heats up, a 64-year-old decision to shield insurers from federal regulation is being reconsidered.

Last week, the insurance industry finally broke with its tentative support for President Barack Obama's health-care reform efforts. The industry's trade group issued a report claiming a bill just passed by the Senate Finance Committee would hike insurance premiums faster than if no bill were passed. The President fired back in his weekly radio and Internet address on Oct. 17, blasting insurers for "making this last-ditch effort to stop reform even as costs continue to rise and our health-care dollars continue to be poured into their profits, bonuses, and administrative costs that do nothing to make us healthy." The industry is "earning these profits and bonuses while enjoying a privileged exception from our antitrust laws," he said, adding that this is "a matter that Congress is rightfully reviewing."

Why are these paragons of capitalism afraid of competition particularly in many areas of the country where there are only one or two dominant insurers?

GOP Continues to Excel in Ignorance

My search for the utimate in ignorance has ended in the winged words of Dick Army.

Armey’s resurgence has occurred not because the Republican establishment loves him but rather because the debate has moved back to what he considers his turf. After high school, he worked a year for the local electric utility, stringing wire, then earned an undergraduate degree at Jamestown College, about 120 miles due south of Cando, and a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Oklahoma. He spent the first part of his working life as a professor, rising to chairman of the economics department at North Texas State University. “I’m an economist and, I don’t mind telling you, a damn good one,” he told me over breakfast. He added, “President Obama is a talented person who showed up at exactly the right time, but I don’t believe the man has ever been exposed to a serious economic idea, and I’m not sure anyone around him ever has, either.”

I pointed out that Obama’s circle of advisers includes some decorated economists, including Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard — a controversial figure but not one generally regarded as an intellectual slacker. “I don’t consider Larry Summers a serious economist,” Armey said. “You can get a Ph.D. from Harvard without ever having seriously considered the subject.”

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Killing Health Care Reform

I've long predicted that the health care reform effort would fail because Democrats can't get their act together, and today just put one more nail in the coffin when Harry Reid said they may not be able to bring the bill to a vote this year (too many holidays between now and year-end). Of course, next year is all about getting re-elected, so there certainly won't be enough time to get it done then, and after that, we'll have a Republican Congress. Bye, bye health care reform.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Does Goldman Sachs Run America

Wednesday, Oct 28, 2009 16:29 PDT
How The World Works
Goldman Sachs' insider at the New York Fed
Who needs conspiracy theories? Stephen Friedman's actions as chair of the New York Fed simply can't be defended
By Andrew Leonard
A great many people are up in arms about a Bloomberg News story detailing how the New York Fed, while Timothy Geithner was its president, forced AIG to pay 100 cents on the dollar to fulfill its credit swap obligations to various financial institutions. The outrage stems mainly from the assumption that a bankrupt AIG should have been cutting deals to pay a lot less, rather than use taxpayer money to pay everything it owed to Goldman Sachs and all the rest. They scoff at the argument put forth by defenders of the move, who say that at a moment when the entire financial system appeared to be on the verge of crashing, making sure AIG's debts were paid in full was explicitly intended as an act that would calm the waters and restore some stability in the middle of full-scale financial panic.

We will be arguing about that point for a long, long time. But to me, that's not the real outrage contained in the Bloomberg article. The true eye-opener is the role played by Stephen Friedman, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs who was at that time serving as the chairman of the board of directors of the New York Fed. Not long after the decision to pay off AIG's debts in full, Friedman was buying stock in Goldman Sachs.

Friedman's role remains controversial. In December 2008, weeks after the payments to the banks were authorized in November, Friedman bought 37,300 shares of Goldman stock at $80.78 a share, according to SEC filings. On Jan. 22, he bought 15,300 more at $66.61.
Both purchases took place before the payments to Goldman Sachs were publicly disclosed under pressure from Senator Dodd in March. On Oct. 26, Goldman Sachs stock closed at $179.37 a share, meaning Friedman had paper profits of $5.4 million.
Jerry Jordan, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, says Friedman should have resigned from the New York Fed as soon as it became clear that Goldman stood to benefit from its actions.

"It's an outrage," Jordan says. "He needed to either resign from the Fed board or from Goldman and proceed to sell his stock." Hard to argue with that.