Opportunity! Health Care, Jobs, and Race

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Blue Room of the White House, July 4, 2010, before delivering remarks to military families during a Fourth of July celebration. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Jobs, Growth, and Recovery

Is President Obama accountable for the slow economic recovery? Did the size of the crisis–the biggest since Hoover–have something to do with the US’ weak fundamentals? Or the ongoing saga of Europe, at the brink of collapse every week? Canoes don’t paddle well on dry beds. An American president of any party finds it hard to “fix” a national economy when every idea is labeled and rejected as partisan, even when confronted with empirical proof, theoretical verification, and country examples.

US Job Growth (non-farm), July 2011 - 2012, under President Obama

Globally, the US leads all economies in the recovery!

Accusing someone doesn’t make them guilty. First, choices, players, conditions, opposing forces, and standards must be assessed. The initial stimulus sent money to the states to provide for the increased demand for basic services, health, unemployment, education, public safety during a time when revenue fell dramatically. The money helped cushion the sudden shock of people who lose jobs in the tailspin. This aid to states was essential. Even those guilty of criticizing it requested and received the money for a variety of projects and programs.

Should the success of the stimulus be measured solely by job creation? That ignores that fully one-third of the stimulus was a payroll tax cut to put more money in the hands of families. It also helped families who couldn’t find jobs.

The recession was international. Where does the US rank globally, among all nations? Globally, the US leads all economies in the recovery!

The US has a higher per-capita GDP than Germany, Europe’s leading economy. China, the world’s second largest economy, had a strong 2011, but now, its year-over-year GDP is falling and its growth rate is slowing.

US GDP growth in constant dollars has trended consistently upward since the recession’s end. In contrast, our most prosperous neighbor in the hemisphere, Brazil, whose economy is now larger (6th in the world!) than Britain and Canada’s, saw its GDP (in constant dollars) drop significantly last year.

In 2011, US corporate profit hit record highs. The aggregate? $824 billion. Profit margins (profit after expenses and taxes) also accelerated to an all-time high. In fact, profits recovered quicker and grew faster after the recession than anytime in US history. Conversely, wages are down. Obama has promised to address the inequity of the middle class’ income and wealth. Wages are revenues for other companies, and as long as wages are low, the recovery will be inhibited, creating a negative feedback cycle of job losses, low wages, and low demand.

Germany’s unemployment is lower than the US, at 6.5% having fallen since February from 7.5%. Brazil, Canada (7.5%) and England match the US rate at 8% (for Brazil, a metropolitan-based rate). Mexico’s unemployment? 5.5 percent, the hemisphere’s best, is severely undercounted. Our economy is still almost a third larger than China’s and 15% larger than Eurozone’s.

Finally, US interest and inflation rates are at all-time lows. Inflation-indexed 10-year treasuries have negative returns! (You pay the government to park your money!) Currently, fixed-yield securities (constant maturities for 10 years) return 1.63 percent.

It’s hard for a single country, even one the size of the US, tied to so many markets, to outpace the world! Sometimes, for reasons or events beyond political control, times are hard. As the US de-leverages from the housing bubble and banking crisis, demand will not return until private debt levels (not public!) provide an impetus to spend.

US Job Growth (non-farm), July 2007 - 2008, under President Bush

Looking at the global details, the benchmarks, GDP comparisons, the rates of growth worldwide by verified standards and measures, the US is still the number one economy in the world and leads the global recovery.

Slowly, the US is shaking off the effects of a deep crisis without falling back into a double dip, as England did. Add record corporate profits and lower taxes to the US’ leadership record, and Barack Obama has done an outstanding job resetting the economy in a world still stalled, trying to recover its punch.

 

President Barack Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, Allie Young, left, alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. University of Colorado Hospital, July 22, 2012. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Health Care and the Savings Debate

The President’s plan expands and protects services for seniors and the uninsured

Rising costs? Cuts in Medicaid services? Taking away seniors paid-in benefits to pay for expanding Obamacare? Under the President’s plan, seniors keep their full range of services while coverage is expanded.

In his speech Mitt Romney said no:

His [Obama's] $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation – and jobs – in medicine.

Here’s an insight from a New York Times reader in San Francisco that explains why Medicaid clients will keep their coverage and tells how the savings work.

I’m a little worried that the worst lie is not being pointed out completely. It is not that Ryan, hypocritically calls for the same cuts in Medicare reimbursements to hospitals as Obama; but rather Obama doesn’t really cut the total reimbursement to hospitals at all–while Ryan would.

Everyone keeps missing the Medicare point. Reimbursements to hospitals are overpaid because hospitals carry the extra expense of providing care to the uninsured for which they aren’t reimbursed. The Obama plan essentially insures that hospitals continue to get the same amount of total reimbursement–less from medicare but more from the previously uninsured because they will be required to have insurance under Obamacare (shouldn’t be ashamed to call it that).

The Ryan plan is an actual cut–because they are not going to require the uninsured to get insurance. HUGE difference that seems to be ignored in the sea of Ryan prevarication.

The President’s plan expands and protects services for seniors and the uninsured.

Soon doctors will get out of practicing medicine? With the provisions in the ACA to cap and deter frivolous lawsuits, malpractice costs should drop. But adjustments can be made–as Bush did with Part D, and with the Advantage program.

The Democrats have a plan! Their plan for cost savings is included in the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare) and is already showing great results. Its major thrust targeted fraud. Last fiscal year, the Attorney General announced a record total annual recovery: $4.1 billion in fraud. In February, he brought the single biggest case against fraud, taking down an extended network that bilked $375 million in illegal payments by, in some cases, going door to door to sign up recipients for false claims. No small change!

The overpayment savings is currently the source of a misleading, shrill political attack. The savings of $716 billion (over 10 years) the President creates by savings from the overpayments will not “close” one in six hospitals (as Ryan has claimed). Under the President, the care for Ryan’s mother is preserved and extended by making it more cost-effective.

Not in effect is the oversight panel which will monitor costs and best practices, setting adjustments to reduce increases, a focus missing in the current system–or the Republican plan. The panel will have plenty of community cost savings programs to review and select. Communities around the country are reigning in costs.

Grand Junction, CO and its surrounding county is a model for high-quality, low-cost healthcare. In Grand Junction, Medicare spends $5,873 per year per patient enrollee. The national average is $8,304. That’s 70% of the average; a 30% reduction and savings in cost! All without mandated legislation that changes the direct benefit system. Team work and vision by providers is proving to reduce costs, improve services.

The Cleveland Clinic model of integrated services and adding doctors is another model that has reduced costs. Real savings can be achieved!

President Barack Obama greets hospital personnel in the ICU at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

 

Race As A Political Appeal

As important as the lies are the truths that are being denied.

Mitt Romney: “I am an American.” He would deny he made an oblique but knowing reference to race. Americans have a new way of talking about race: we deny it. We deny its direct presence, we deny its signals by proxy, we deny its embed–we adamantly deny its role in making political appeals.

Denial as a rhetorical tactic functions at every turn to deny race as an influence in life or politics, asserting that statements are unconnected to race even as racial appeals roll forward a political wedge.

Denial has three repeated structural elements: a reference to a negative or accommodating racial myth, a code word or phrase skillfully used as a call to act and to manipulate the social and moral compass, and an external reference to conceal or deflect the racial narrative.

The coded terms take many forms. Sometimes it’s framed as a do-good rationale (privatizing urban–but not suburban–schools); sometimes as defensive measure (Glenn Beck, his fear of the Obama-led caliphate), as a plea for reason (Herman Cain’s call to leave the Democratic “plantation”), as the status quo (food stamps). Recently, as group traits (“get off the streets”) or as a call to unity to protect against deep flaws and secret malevolence tied to race.

For those in denial, imagine attending an Obama rally. The music blaring, the crowd cheering, he hits the stage to “Our Day Will Come.”

After all, it’s a song of hope.

“The American people are one nation under God, and we may call that God different names but we remain one nation.” –President Barack Obama

Portions of this article have appeared at Walter Rhett’s blog and are included with the author’s permission.