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Wednesday morning at 5 O’clock

The world – or at least that bit of it that sits between Canada and Mexico – waits with bated breath for President Obama’s speech clarifying his Health Care Plan to the joint session of Congress tonight. Meanwhile:

U.N. Afghan panel cites fraud in vote as Karzai pulls ahead

Citing “clear and convincing evidence of fraud,” an Afghan election complaints commission on Tuesday ordered an audit and a recount of votes at numerous polling sites across this warring nation.

The order came on a pivotal day in the drawn-out — and increasingly tense — aftermath of the Aug. 20 presidential election.

College for $99 a Month

Luckily for Solvig, there were new options available. She went online looking for something that fit her wallet and her time horizon, and an ad caught her eye: a company called StraighterLine was offering online courses in subjects like accounting, statistics, and math. This was hardly unusual—hundreds of institutions are online hawking degrees. But one thing about StraighterLine stood out: it offered as many courses as she wanted for a flat rate of $99 a month. “It sounds like a scam,” Solvig thought—she’d run into a lot of shady companies and hard-sell tactics on the Internet. But for $99, why not take a risk?

Solvig threw herself into the work, studying up to eighteen hours a day. And contrary to expectations, the courses turned out to be just what she was looking for. Every morning she would sit down at her kitchen table and log on to a Web site where she could access course materials, read text, watch videos, listen to podcasts, work through problem sets, and take exams. Online study groups were available where she could collaborate with other students via listserv and instant messaging. StraighterLine courses were designed and overseen by professors with PhDs, and she was assigned a course adviser who was available by e-mail. And if Solvig got stuck and needed help, real live tutors were available at any time, day or night, just a mouse click away.

Stuck in the Middle

It is a core belief of Washington’s political culture that policymaking by compromise—“meeting in the middle”—is the way to gain and keep the support of the vast, moderate, essentially reasonable group of voters who constitute a coherent political center. My problem with this analysis is that so many of the big decisions that have to be made are binary: yes or no. The only terrain in the middle consists of “maybe” or “kind of,” and I see no evidence that the country is in a “maybe” or “kind of” mood.

It Could Be the End of Our Democracy as We Know It, By E.J. Dionne

This sounds melodramatic. It’s not. The court is considering eviscerating laws that have been on the books since 1907 in one case and 1947 in the other, banning direct contributions and spending by corporations in federal election campaigns. Doing so would obliterate precedents that go back two and three decades.

The full impact of what the court could do in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has only begun to receive the attention it deserves. Even the word radical does not capture the extent to which the justices could turn our political system upside down. Will the high court use a case originally brought on a narrow issue to bring our politics back to the corruption of the Gilded Age?

Making your COBRA policy look good: Sen. Baucus proposes fee up to $3,800 for the uninsured

The Baucus plan would require insurers to take all applicants, regardless of age or health. But smokers could be charged higher premiums. And 60-year-olds could be charged five times as much for a policy as 20-year-olds.

Thank Susie at Suburban Guerrilla for this: emptywheel at FireDogLake crunches the numbers:

The Bad Max Tax

“Of course, both these families would be in the 25% federal tax bracket. Bad Max is asking middle class families to pay more for health care than they pay in federal taxes.

And let’s look whether it…’ll solve the debt crisis so many in the middle class are experiencing.

Here’s a very rough budget for that family making $67,000 (I’m not an accountant, so tell me where my assumptions are wrong).

Federal Taxes (estimate from this page): $8,710 (13% of income)

State Taxes (using MI rates on $30,000 of income): $1,305 (2% of income)

Food (using “low-cost USDA plan” for family of four): $9,060 (13.5% of income)

Home (assume a straight 30% of income): $20,100 (30% of income)

Bad Max Tax: $20,610 (31% of income)

Total: $59,785 (89% of income)

Remainder for all other expenses (including education, clothing, existing debt, transportation, etc.): $7,215 (or 11% of income)”

And finally – also by emptywheel:
The Max Baucus WellPoint/Liz Fowler Plan

All this time I’ve been calling Max Tax health care Max Baucus’ health care plan.

But, as William Ockham points out, it’s actually Liz Fowler’s health care plan (if you open the document and look under document properties, it lists her as author). At one level, it’s not surprising that Bad Max’s Senior Counsel would have authored the Max Tax plan. Here’s how Politico described her role in Bad Max’s health care plan earlier this year:

Bonus link: The Max Tax Distribution List

Well, this is interesting. Not only did Bad Max send the MaxTax plan out with the name of WellPoint’s former VP still on it, but he distributed it to the industry hacks too. Only the industry hacks.

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49 Responses

  1. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/08/BUMS19K2HP.DTL&feed=rss.business

    good morning. This does not look good for us,
    USA loses top spot economic place

    WOMEN WITH INTELLIGENCE AND EXPERIENCE,MEN WHO SUPPORT THEM AND COUNTRY BEFORE PARTY ALWAYS

    PUMAS,BUBBAS,EQUALISTS AND THOSE PEOPLE RULE

    • When did we pass the point of no return?

      2000, when the lawless Supreme Court majority helped the lawless Dubya/Cheney campaign steal the White House?

      1980, when traitors in the Reagan campaign [I would assume St. Ronnie himself was left out of the loop, as usual] conspired with hardliners in the Iranian government to keep the hostages until after the election, assuring St. Ronnie’s ascension to the Imperial purple?

      1968, when Nixon, Mitchell, &Co. unleashed the “Southern Strategy”?

      Earlier in the 1960s, when JFK and LBJ unwittingly doomed liberalism with the Vietnam War?

      1947, when the National Security Act was passed, creating the CIA?

      The 1930s, when FDR failed to hang the wealthy traitors who plotted to overthrow him?

      The late 19th Century, when the Supreme Court declared corporations to be persons?

      • “The late 19th Century, when the Supreme Court declared corporations to be persons?”

        Bingo.

      • I still say the beginning of the end was the assassination of JFK, November 22, 1963. He planned to pull out of Vietnam and was fighting to get the CIA under control. Everything changed after his death.

      • “2000, when the lawless Supreme Court majority helped the lawless Dubya/Cheney campaign steal the White House?”

        That’s when the realization hit me. Then I could blame it on Republicans. But in the 2008 Democratic Primary when I realized that the Democrats didn’t respect one person one vote…………..

        My only hope:

        http://www.fairelectionsnow.org/

        http://reclaimdemocracy.org/personhood/

  2. “Could” go back to the gilded age?

    E.J. should take off his Beltway-colored glasses. We’ve been back in the gilded age for the last 20 to 30 years.

    Carolyn Kay
    MakeThemAccountable.com

  3. What’s going on here. http://bit.ly/f0YRY

  4. During Obama’s interview with ABC this morning about health care reform – he was STILL saying he’s open to new ideas!
    Yes, let’s leave that door open – signaling to Repubs and Beck & Co. that they can continue assaulting health care reform!!
    If Obama had urged passage of the Public Option – only 1/3 as much as Bush urged invading Iraq – we’d have the Public Option by now.
    But after all these months of “negotiating” with Repubs and stinging town halls – Obama is STILL open to new ideas.
    Obama just doesn’t get it – “open to new ideas” is code to Repubs for continuing their negating. He’s like a gerbil on that little wheel going round and round and round and round….unwilling to get off and take a stand.
    jeeeeez!

    • Obama seems to have much more sympathy for poor, misunderstood “moderate” Republicans than he does for the rest of America.

      My Obot brother still insists that Obama is a liberal Democrat (ahahaha!)… I’d say that moderate Republican is exactly what we are looking at…

  5. The thing I hope everyone realizes by now is the public option being crafted in Congress is not viable. It doesn’t have market share. W/out a massive base of customers there is not much it can do. And, I deplore talking about health care in market terms but that is what we are down to now. We don’t need a costly Exchange. We don’t need taxpayer dollars subsidizing corporate profits. We need more government administered health care. It’s that simple.

    • Unfortunately, I don’t see any other option than scrapping the whole mess and starting over. If they pass anything like what Max B. is proposing, we’ll all be in the poorhouse with worse health care than ever.

      • If they pass HELP or HR3200 it’ll also be crappy. I don’t think it is unfortunate not to pass these horrible “reforms”. Let them nationalize and expand Medicaid. That alone would be a vast improvement over what has been crafted by Congress.

        • We’ll always have Insurance companies – it didn’t take them long to get their hands on Medicare.
          And I agree with Obama – to cut the $180 BILLION that taxpayers currently pay Insurance companies to subsidize Medicare Advantage, an Insurance program for wealthy and upper middle class seniors.
          If wealthy seniors want more coverage than standard Medicare – they should pay for it themselves!

          • Didn’t take them long? Medicare has been around since the ’60s and Medicare Advantage begun under Dubya, that’s a few years.

            Cutting Medicare Advantage is not a bad idea since it is primarily an insurance company boondoggle. However, none of that changes the plain fact that the current reform effort is one big insurance company bailout and should be killed.

          • Ralph – thanks for the correction on Medicare Advantage.
            I thought it had been around longer.

          • I think you misunderstand medicare advantage. It is less coverage than medicare and supplements. It was just a way of the government washing it’s hands of anyone who joined it and allowing private insurance companies to once again co-pay and deductible people to death. Medicare advantage sucks big time and upper middle class and middle class people with any sense avoid those programs like the plague.

      • And in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge…

        “why don’t we just do it, and decrease the surplus population?”

        (Sorry…. couldn’t help myself.)

      • Thanks.

      • I agree, BB – “fixing” this mess would be like putting a scrambled egg back together again.

      • There is no other option, since Medicate for All is off the table along with any real robust unencumbered public option based on Medicare. Frankly, there has been nothing left worth saving for a long time.

    • it seems that the lobbyists got a hold of the plan prior to the Senators or the White House…

      The Max Tax Distribution List

      seems obvious who is writing the legislation.

    • Well, yesterday it was going to include one. Probably a headfake so when he mentions it at all his legions of fans will swoon.

  6. Quietly turning the backdoor key
    Stepping outside she is free.

  7. Do you suppose obama will use his Rev. Wright voice when he speaks before Congress?

  8. Here’s my prediction. They will pass a pile of crap written by lobbyists for insurance and pharma that horribly makes things even worse than they are. And how things will be worse will be right in the bill for anyone to see. And the failbot blogs and the MSM will ignore that and declare success and say we nay sayers are all just bitter and can’t deal with how great Obama really is. And the worshiping will go on.

    • One thing that you said about the people still believing is a real unknown. I hope you’re wrong. It might be just the time that people will come to see this government for what it is, an arm of corporations.

  9. Paglia, an O supporter, is disgusted with the New Dems.

    Too late for Obama to turn it around?
    By Camille Paglia

    Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills).

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/paglia/2009/09/09/healthcare/

    • Molly Ivins:

      There is one area in which I think Paglia and I would agree that politically correct feminism has produced a noticeable inequity. Nowadays, when a woman behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion, we say, “Poor dear, it’s probably PMS.”

      Whereas, if a man behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion, we say, “What an asshole.”

      Let me leap to correct this unfairness by saying of Paglia, “Sheesh, what an asshole.”

    • when Paglia looks in the mirror doesn’t she see her own image?
      Wow, way to blame others for your own short commings. She is the upper middle class professional elite and Obama is the one who turned it wrong in the first place. All those people she is mocking are the ones who put him in office. The real democrats, the working class joes and jos voted for Hillary.

  10. Adding the Tabloids version
    http://wp.me/p38IU-2lR

  11. If either one of my senators votes for this pile of cr*p, they will lose my vote. This is a gift to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. How can they say this is “reform?” It is highway robbery of the middle class, who will have no money to set aside for college and/or retirement. Democrats wrote this bill? No, this is something that the Republicans would do. Why are they screaming? It doesn’t help anyone. Just like Medicare Part D.

  12. Last night I listened to the Young Turks talk about the current state of health care. It was sad to hear that so many have been so disappointed. Firedog Lake was on to inform audience that the pro-Obama organizations had been given $45,000,000 to use in the fight for health care and in fighting against misconceptions in the health bills. Both Cenk and FD wondered where the money had gone. I know few have sympathy for Obots, but, in this case their veil was shown to be completely uncovered. One guy who had worked for the Obama campaign says “never again”. My sympathy is for the loss of innocence but my wish is for new realism of all that is and will ever be Obama. We always remember defining moments in our lives. The “Obama lesson” will remain forever.

  13. Why fine the person for not getting health insurance — they should fine the health insurance company for not offering affordable coverage.
    Unlike owning a car, we can’t actually opt out of breathing.
    In fact, is it even constitutional to require people buy something for an inborn condition — i.e. life? It seems to be a different beast from imposing a tax — when you require someone to buy a product, you are implying that they are forced to choose a product.
    How did MA deal with the legality?

    • Ok, someone explained to me that in MA they basically imposed a new tax on everyone and if you bought insurance you got a tax break.

    • At the cost of the present plan, paying a fine will be less expensive than buying insurance.

      • Yeah, but does paying the fine get you healthcare?
        Or do you end up more broke and still sick?

  14. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/multimedia/ero/index.html

    just because we need to see beauty sometimes for the soul.

    WOMEN WITH INTELLIGENCE AND EXPERIENCE,MEN WHO SUPPORT THEM AND COUNTRY BEFORE PARTY ALWAYS

    PUMAS,BUBBAS,EQUALISTS AND THOSE PEOPLE RULE

  15. The only thing to say about ObamaCare: Burn, baby, burn.

    Just an aside on the $99/mo college: the scheister running that thing does it by paying those Ph.D.s you mention a less-than-McDonalds wage. There are thousands of unemployed Ph.D.s. Trust me on that. He’s made it possible to get college credit by means of small colleges, who are accredited, and getting agreements with them to put his classes under their umbrella. I gather the scuttlebutt is he’s paid them off.

    Either way, now that this has hit the newswires, expect lots of places to drop him like a hot brick. They could easily lose their own accreditation over such an easily scammed setup. (I haven’t heard anything about requirements to take exams under supervision, for instance.)

    It’s also not that great a deal for students. A flat $99/month means people are going to try to cram in a zillion courses at once, like Solvig. In the real world, they’d flunk a lot of them when they were overloaded like that. If they’re not, the exams are a sham. If they are, the courses wind up costing them a lot more than they thought.

    At our local community college here, courses cost $20 per credit per semester. That would be $360 for an 18-credit load. The semesters are 17 weeks, so that works out to roughly $90/month. For that you get all the same stuff as the online thing and then some, plus credits nobody disputes.

    Admittedly, the adjuncts here are also woefully underpaid, but not as bad as the $99/mo outfit.

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