Mike Klein Online

Health Care Reform + Debt Commission = National Sales Tax?

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor is an unforgettable sound track that immediately conjures up Rocky Balboa trying to resurrect his ring career against dastardly basher James “Clubber” Lang. This is long after Rocky vanquished Apollo Creed.  Rocky has gotten soft, fattening his resume on bums who couldn’t punch through tissue.  “Eye of the Tiger” is Rocky on the Rebound, lean, fast, hard, a ring artist, a two-fisted cruise missile.  Mano a mano!

“Eye of the Tiger” announced a not-so-lean Newt Gingrich into the American Conservative Union’s CPAC last week in Washington.  The ballroom rocked; it was a Rocky moment, the conservative version of triumph by good over evil.  Gingrich delivered a high octane half hour.  Gingrich barnstorms this week in Atlanta, addressing an Atlanta Press Club luncheon and keynoting the Georgia Republican Party’s Presidents’ Day Dinner, both Wednesday.

The timing of  this week’s two Atlanta appearances could hardly be better for folks interested in Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation.  Thursday is “Health Care on TV Day” when President Barack Obama convenes Democrats and Republicans for the administration’s latest episode of “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

Monday morning the White House announced the President’s new health care proposal that primarily blends Senate and House Democratic legislation passed last year without any mention of a government public option, which long has been the torch that ignited this bonfire.  Democrats and Republicans have clamored for a definitive Obama proposal almost since Health Care Day One.  Now they have something that claims to expand services, save money and bring together the best ideas of the White House and major political parties not named Tea.

Health Care Year Two convenes fully six months after the original deadline to complete reform.  Did we all forget?  It was supposed to be done before August so the administration could move onto financial re-regulation, cap-and-trade energy legislation and other hard stuff.  Thursday’s televised summit is the year’s first big health care reform moment since Democrats lost 60-vote control of the Senate and since the White House created a budget deficit reduction commission to save government from destroying itself and eating its young, starting in 2015.

One line of thinking suggests the commission is little more than an excuse to start momentum toward a national sales tax. Health care reform and whatever the commission decides must be linked together, given the enormous impact Medicare and Medicaid have on federal and state budgets.  However Thursday works out, it’s just one small step – either forward, backward or down another drain.

Choose your news network!   They will all be there and this figures to last longer than Tiger Woods!

Richard Besser Reflects on Haiti

We are several weeks into seeing horrific images from Haiti where January’s earthquake killed about the same number of people who died during atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  That’s sobering, hard to comprehend, even for Richard Besser, former director of the CDC office of terrorism preparedness and emergency response.

“People understand the power of an individual story and telling the story of an individual,” Besser said.  “When you say 230,000, people go numb.  You don’t know how to process that. And so, it’s very important that the media doesn’t abandon the story and continues to tell the stories of individuals, their struggles and what can be done to help.”

Besser became the ABC News senior health and medical editor last September, a career about-face after 18 years at the CDC which included several months as acting director.  Besser was in Atlanta last week to receive the 2010 “Mercy Moves Through Me” award from Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care Services.  The award recognizes his extensive volunteer work.

Besser went to Haiti with 17 years of experience deploying relief to scenes of tragedy.  Going in as a journalist first and as a physician second was different.  He admits to being “unprepared for what we saw which was massive devastation, bodies on the corners, just a sense that no one was in charge, the entire infrastructure in the country was broken.

“In the early days, day two, day three, I was really frustrated at the lack of search and rescue that I could see visibly going on.  I knew that many of the buildings had people in them who were alive.  The scale of the search and rescue was not up to what the country’s needs were.  I was frustrated by the lack of medical supplies and appropriate care being delivered to people.”

Besser stayed eight days, long enough to change an early perception.  “I was expecting to see a lot of looting and civil unrest.  What I really saw was a community that was coming together.  People were helping each other, looking out for each other.”

Besser speculated on the endlessly troubled tiny nation’s future.   “It depends on whether the international community maintains the same kind of interest or decides the story is somewhere else.  There is a real opportunity to build Haiti better than it was before.”

All Signs Point Up, Down, Somewhere?

Where the economy goes from here and even how to measure it remains baffling.  “Bush left a mess.  Obama is trying to triple the mess.  It’s unacceptable.”  That analysis was offered last week in Atlanta by Mike Scotto, chief investment strategist at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Scotto analyzed economic signals during an MIT Enterprise Forum of Atlanta event at the UGA Terry College of Business campus in Buckhead.  The podium included Sun Trust Bank chief economist Gregory Miller and SVB chief operating officer James Walling.  They agreed some analysis shows an economic uptick but they raised significant red flags:

** The U.S. economy could grow by 5% this year but would slow to between 3.25% and 3.75% next year.  Serious inflation is possible during the 2012 presidential election year.

** Oil prices are worrisome.  Oil at $100 per barrel for five to six consecutive months could translate into gasoline that costs between $5.50 and $6.25 per gallon in Atlanta.

** Annual U.S. venture capital investments declined from $8 billion three years ago to $5 billion last year.  Venture capital creates many new businesses that cannot find important funds to launch or grow from banks and other sources.

** Given the absence of venture capital, it’s not surprising that the market for initial public offerings declined from 212 companies three years ago to 49 companies last year.

** Residential foreclosure rates have stabilized at 6% – 7% … or another way to look at that number … some 93% to 94% of all persons holding a residential mortgage are paying on time.

Scotto minced no words with his criticism that the United States became a “nation living above our means” fueled by “consumers pumped full of drugs” who had access to loans they could not afford to pay back.  “Atlanta is an example of that,” Scotto said, “with these massive houses that have two people and two kids and a workout room they never use.”

Additional Resources

American Conservative Union, www.conservative.org

Center for Health Transformation, http://www.healthtransformation.net

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, www.lala.com/#artist/Survivor

Newt Gingrich Press Club tickets; www.atlantapressclub.org

Newt Gingrich website, www.newt.org

White House health care proposal, www.whitehouse.gov

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February 22, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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