Making Health Care More Affordable

Health care costs are very much on people’s minds.

As I travel our Senate District, I hear concerns about cost; from a farmer paying $1900 a month for just his own health insurance, from local county board members worried about rising employee health costs, from union members worried about losing health benefits, from small business owners with double digit increases in health costs.

Why are health care costs so high?  As compared to other countries, higher prices for drugs, doctor and hospital care make all of us pay more for health insurance.  Did you know an MRI scan in the U.S. costs eight times more than a similar scan in Britain?

In addition, we use more services. We don’t see the doctor more. (The Japanese see the doctor 14 times a year compared to the American average of five visits.) But when we do see the doctor, we get more tests, scans and other procedures – which cost more.

Finally, paperwork costs us. The U.S. spends about fifty-percent more on paperwork than our Canadian neighbors.

On Organized Fearmongering Revealed, Or, “Lock Up The Kids…It’s The Gay!”

The airwaves (and the print and blog waves, for that matter) are filled with the news that a Federal Judge in California has declared that State’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, which could clear the way for the resumption of same-sex weddings in the State.

Ordinarily, this would be the point where I would present to you a walkthrough of the ruling,and we’d have a fine conversation about the legal implications of what has happened.

I’m not doing that today, frankly, because the ground is already well-covered; instead, we’re going to take a look at some of the tactics that were used to pass Prop 8, as they were presented in Judge Vaughan’s opinion.

It’s an ugly story—and even more than that, it’s a reminder of why it’s tough to advance civil rights through the political process, and what you have to deal with when you’re trying to make such a thing happen.

Piling on poor Plale

Poor Jeff Plale.

Liberal bloggers like moi are piling on the South Milwaukee state senator  for sucking up to the special interests, Milwaukee News Buzz says, suggesting he's being attacked for being pro-business.

Actually, he's being criticized for selling out his constituents and doing the bidding of the corporate utilies while pocketing their campaign contributions, something I've described as Pay to Plale.

Gosh, how will poor Plale survive this onslaught from Zach Wisniewski at Blogging Blue and me?

Krugman filets Paul Ryan, 'Flimflam Man'

When your day starts with a NY Times column about you, written by a Nobel-Prize winning economist, and it's headlined, "The Flimflam Man," you , might want to consider going back to bed.

Paul Krugman says Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has gotten widespread praise in the media for his Roadmap for America's Future economic plan, but he can't imagine why.

A few of the choice bits from Krugman:

The Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.” But it’s the audacity of dopes...

Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich...

The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint.

Scott Walker -- Actually trying to fix problems is hypocrisy

Remember when people actually tried to fix things that were broken?  When government agencies working together was a good thing?  When if you saw a problem you actually went to work, rolled up your sleeves, and tried to do something about it?  No more. 

Welcome to the bizarro world of WIsconsin Republican Politics.  From today's Journal-Sentinel --

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker took Democratic candidate Tom Barrett to task for meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson in Milwaukee on Thursday in the wake of the massive release of untreated water and sewage from recent storms and flooding.

Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee, is meeting with Jackson and fellow Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle and local leaders on water technology issues.

“It’s pure hypocrisy that President Obama’s environmental police are coming to town for a photo op with pals Tom Barrett and Jim Doyle and the schedule of events doesn’t include a tour of the billions of gallons of raw sewage and storm water Barrett’s sewerage district dumped into Lake Michigan,” said Walker’s campaign manager, Keith Gilkes.

(h/t to Illusory Tenant for pointing this out)

I'm trying to understand this.  I didn't see anyone saying that the releases from MMSD weren't an issue.  I thought the purpose here was to talk about water technology issues.  Cripes, I somehow thought that this was a good and productive thing, not an opportunity for Walker to once again carp about the fact that Barrett presides over a city that is not perfect.  I suspect Barrett knows that Milwaukee is not perfect.  I'm pretty sure the EPA knows it too.  I won't even go into the difference between spilling sewage into the lake and spilling crude oil (Walker tries to suggest that the MMSD releases are worse than the Gulf oil spill)  because Walker and his party seem to be science-immune.  Or maybe just science-deaf.

The big difference I see  here is the ability and will to talk about the issues, and actually work toward solutions rather than sitting on the sidelines and carping about it.  Which seems to currently be the Republican mindset.  Find fault, say no, make a stink, lay blame, but never ever under any circumstances offer a productive idea or solution.  Other than, of course, lowering taxes for the rich, which will solve all problems. Life is simple, and it's purely ideological.  Let's not talk about what actually stands a chance of working, it only muddies the waters.

It's time for all of us to work to make this horror stop.  Talk to your neighbors.  Make  a stink of your own.  Say that you want government to be responsible, to do things, and for Wisconsin to move forward, rather than just complaining that life is not perfect.

Needed: Election integrity, not GOP fraud

There's election fraud in Wisconsin -- but not where you might think if you believe all of the bombast from Atty. Gen. JB Van Hollen, who continues to act as though there is some vast conspiracy to steal Wisconsin's elections.  Those claims are the real fraud.

One Wisconsin Now pointed out this week, as Van Hollen trumpeted his expanded election task force, that after almost four years of searching for fraudulent voting in the 2008 presidential election, he's come up almost entirely empty.

Despite the scary headlines, OWN noted, Van Hollen has found only 11 potentially-improper votes cast out of 3 million people who voted. 

Van Hollen's "partisan-fueled, taxpayers-financed anti-voter witch hunt," is a bust, said OWN's highly quotable Scot Ross. "Van Hollen claims there is widespread error  ...

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