Tuesday, November 30, 2010

US Deficit Commission Heads Will Present Final Plan Wednesday

US Deficit Commission Heads Will Present Final Plan Wednesday

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Leaders of a White House commission Tuesday said they would delay until Friday a final vote on a plan to hold down long-term federal spending by at least $3.8 trillion on Wednesday.

The slight delay is meant to give members more time to review the document, which is still receiving final touches. Even with the extra time, it isn't clear how many of the 18 panel members will endorse a package that includes what would be unpopular changes to the tax system and sharp spending cuts.

Regardless, the commission cochairmen said they had focused the American public on the potential fallout of the burgeoning debt caused by years of federal spending in excess of income.

"The era of deficit denial in Washington is over. I don't think there is a soul left in America who doesn't understand that this deficit and debt is like a cancer and is going to destroy our country from within if we don't face up to it and face up to it quickly," said Erskine Bowles, Democratic cochairman of the panel, along with former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican.

Bowles, who was chief of staff to President Clinton, and Simpson need 14 of the 18 members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to support a proposal in order to issue a formal recommendation, which could then be voted on by Congress.

Simpson said he had hoped legislative language would be ready by now but the panel had run out of time. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) had told the chairmen that a vote would be possible in the Senate next year.

However, Simpson said they hadn't asked incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) for a similar commitment.

Earlier this month, the two proposed sweeping changes to tax and spending policy in an effort to cut the budget deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars a year and, ultimately, hold down the growth of the federal debt by about $3.8 trillion by 2020.

The budget deficit, or the amount by which federal expenditures exceed revenues each year, was about $1.3 trillion for fiscal year 2010, which ended on Sept. 30. The current national debt is roughly $13.8 trillion.

The cochairmen proposed big spending cuts along with lowering corporate and income tax rates while eliminating some tax breaks, but quickly encountered opposition among panel members and interest groups.

The two initially proposed $100 billion in Defense Department cuts and another $100 billion in savings on other domestic programs, including a federal wage freeze, workforce cuts and elimination of contractors.

Simpson and Bowles tried to avoid revealing too many details of the final plan. The final version is expected to be released publicly Wednesday morning.

But both did mention some specific points that had been outlined as options and now appear set for the final version.

For example, it appears the two will recommend eliminating tax deductions for mortgage-interest payments and other loopholes popular with the middle class and corporations.

"We have proposed eliminating these tax earmarks, which amount to $1.1 trillion a year," Bowles said. Such a move would be coupled with a simpler tax code and lower rates of 8%, 14% and 23% for individuals, and 26% for companies.

The proposal also is likely to include changes to Social Security, such as smaller benefits for wealthier Americans and a later retirement age.

Both men acknowledged that opposition would be strong.

"The far left and the far right are going to rip this thing to shreds and do it with zeal," Simpson said. "We will listen in the next few days to the same old crap I have been dealing with in all my public life: emotion, fear, guilt and racism."

The panel members are Sen. Max Baucus (D. Mont.), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.), Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), David Cote, chairman and chief executive of Honeywell International Inc. (HON), Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), Ann Fudge, former chief executive of Young & Rubicam Brands, Sen. Judd Gregg (R., N.H.), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), Alice Rivlin, former director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), Rep. John Spratt (D., S.C.), and Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.

Pentagon Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on Upcoming Iraq War Wikileaks Docs (Part 1 of 2)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GGN- Economic News :: November 8, 2010

Maine Children's Services Administrators Need To Be Pubicly Flogged

I am deeply disturbed by the tone of this article.  


The Maine program experiencing this magnitude of cost overruns has nothing to do with quality of services as most families struggle to access basic services for children, it has to do with basic incompetency of administration.  


Maine is notorious, as well as many other states, to shift the burden of child welfare services to child welfare services.  Yes this is redundant so allow me to expound upon this.


The basic revenue-maximization scheme is to place the child under the auspices of the state to access more financially beneficial funding streams. 


Simply put, Maine will put a kid in foster care for reimbursement of administrative costs to provide basic services that should have been provided in the first place if there was leadership who was in possession of rudimentary elements of public administration.


Then, as kids, particularly special needs children, are snatched and placed into foster care services, national statistics become skewed showing how horrible parents are in the state.  In reality, this is how Maine thought it would get away with trying to balance it budget on the billable souls of kids.


Here, reactively, the state begins to cut services provided to the community.


MaineCare Medicaid Policy Revision
Due to woefully inadequate management, the state must take away from the community to make up for its budgetary shortfalls.


So why are there shortfalls to begin with?  Well, when you have child abuse propaganda machines conditioning public opinion to justify placing a child in foster care, for billing purposes of Medicaid Targeted Case Management, of course, on the idea that the state is providing educational special needs services due to child abuse and neglect, you have the fundamental elements of fraud, waste and abuse of federal and state funding.


And, if you dope these special needs kids with psychotropic meds, the state thinks that the rate of administrative payment increases.


Mainecare, its Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services and its contactual partnerships need to be publicly flogged.  If no one wants to flog them, then, contractually debar them.


See, an official of the State of Maine (a fan) informed me that the legislature, with advice and consent of the child abuse propaganda machines, was to "ease the rules" a bit when it came to accessing certain educational services.  It seems parents were challenging the liberal application of psychological diagnosis (ADHD, Bipolar), so the "easing of the rules" allowed for greater access to educational services for children at a higher rate of reimbursement.


HHS Appellate Decision on Maine Department of Health and Human Services 2009 Targeted Case Management

Child services program over budget by 70 percent


AUGUSTA,  Maine — The state’s Child Development Services program is over budget and will need more than $13 million to get through the current budget year. The state appropriation for the program is $14.9 million for this budget year.
“CDS has overexpended their account by close to 70 percent,” said Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake. “The demand for CDS funding is for more than we appropriated.”
He said the overspending reinforces his opinion that the state should abolish the program, a move he supported 10 years ago.
James Rier, finance director for the Department of Education, said CDS has been undergoing a major reorganization required by the Legislature and standardizing services across the system has left the budget for the program short this budget year.
Rier proposed filling the hole by taking $5.7 million from a section of General Purpose Aid to Education that pays for the education of state wards and $7.4 million from an appropriation of cash from the general fund.
He said the agency is preparing a request for the supplemental budget that is expected to go to lawmakers in January that shifts some funds and asks for additional funding.
CDS provides both case management and direct services for children through age 5, with needs ranging from learning disabilities to mental health services. Some services can be covered under the state’s Medicaid program, called MaineCare, which means the federal government pays roughly two-thirds of the cost for those children that meet the eligibility standards.
The reorganization of CDS that took effect July 1, 2010, was in part a response to federal concerns that some of the services being billed to MaineCare were not allowed and there were inconsistent regulations between CDS sites across the state.
Both Education Commissioner Angela Faherty and Health and Human Services CommissionerBrenda Harvey were questioned by members of the outgoing Education Committee earlier this month.
“Whether or not they get services is determined by the eligibility criteria under the education act,” Faherty said. “If they are not medically necessary, they cannot be reimbursed by MaineCare.”
The loss of MaineCare funding is projected to cost the CDS program about $8 million in each of the 2012 and 2013 budget years and will be part of the next two-year state budget discussion.
Complicating an already complex situation is the DHHS shift to a new bill-paying system on Sept. 1, which has not gone as smoothly for school districts and CDS as it has for other MaineCare providers that bill for services through the system. Several districts told lawmakers earlier this month that they were experiencing billing problems and in some cases had yet to receive reimbursement for services billed in September.
“We heard a lot of concerns and we know they are going to have to be addressed,” said Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, co-chairman of the outgoing Education Committee and assistant Senate minority leader in the new Legislature.
David Stockford, director of special services at DOE, said while there are concerns with the way the system has operated and its costs, it has been successful in preparing children for school and avoiding costs for school districts in future years.
“There are numbers of these children who, having received early intervention services, are able to enter the school-age programs with little or no service,” he said.
A study released in September found the problem of children with learning disabilities should be addressed early, but many are not being diagnosed until they start school. It indicated more money may be needed in the future to meet the need.
Only 22 percent of Maine children are being screened before starting school, according to census data. In the last school year, 812 children were first identified as needing special services when they started school. There were already 875 children receiving services through CDS.


Administration of Maine and Michigan were the inspiration for this educational video:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

State documents incoming speaker's inflated Medicaid charges

State documents incoming speaker's inflated Medicaid charges
AUGUSTA — In 2001, Trues Pharmacy in Oakland, owned by incoming Speaker of the House Robert Nutting, bought medical gloves for $4.39 per package. By the time Trues sold them to a Medicaid provider, the price had gone up to $11.11.
That markup — 153 percent — was much more than was allowed by Maine’s Medicaid program, known as MaineCare, which permits only a 40 percent markup.
Nutting contended in state hearings that his use of a different formula to calculate the markup — a formula which put more money in his pocket — was the accepted method.
Although the state ruled its Medicaid formula — not Nutting’s — should have been followed, the state said that even if it allowed Nutting’s formula, Trues still “overcharged MaineCare 100 percent of the time ...”
Such inflated charges — multiplied by thousands of gloves, adult diapers and other supplies — and the failure to keep adequate records led to the state’s finding that Nutting’s pharmacy overbilled the state $1.6 million, of which he failed to pay back $1.2 million after the pharmacy went bankrupt.
Nutting is the presumptive speaker of the House, selected by fellow Republican legislators two weeks ago. His election to the third most powerful post in state government will not become official until he is approved by the full Legislature in January.
Despite the recent revelations that Nutting left the state and federal Medicaid programs with the $1.2 million in bad debt, Republicans and even some Democrats have said it will not harm his chance to become speaker.
The debt sparked a state investigation.
The records of the state Department of Human Services, as it was called 10 years ago, show that Nutting’s pharmacy pushed its prices up that high in two steps:
First, Trues charged the 40 percent markup allowed by Medicaid, but based it on the sales price of the product. Medicaid rules say the markup should be based on the acquisition cost — what it cost the pharmacy to buy the product from the supplier.
Second, Trues then added another markup.
Take the medical gloves, for example.
In 2001, Nutting bought 4,800 packages of latex and other medical gloves for $4.39 per package. If he had followed state regulations, he would have sold them to a Medicaid provider, such as a nursing home, for no more than $6.22 — a 40 percent markup.
But Nutting told the state he used a different formula — one he had learned in pharmacy school — that is based on the sales price, not the acquisition price, to set the markup. He did that by dividing what he paid for the product by 0.6.
That is contrary to state regulations. If he had used that improper 0.6 formula, he would have sold the gloves for $7.31 per package.
In fact, the state said he sold them for much more. He sold the packages of gloves for $11.11, a markup of $6.72, or 153 percent.
When the state added up all the gloves Trues billed Medicaid for between 1997 and 2001, it concluded, “ ... Medicaid overpaid Trues by $531,792.73.”
The state’s research of pricing formulas cited a survey that would appear to partially support one part of Nutting’s markup method.
Of 23 New England pharmacies responding to a poll, 16 used Trues’ 0.6 markup formula and six marked up prices the way the state mandates. But the survey was not related to Medicaid charges.
A DHS audit of 13 medical suppliers like Trues showed that none used the 0.6 formula that Trues used.
In interviews, Nutting said the overbillings were “honest,” “unintentional” and the result of “confusing regulations.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Arguments to take place in Oklahoma over ban on Islamic law in courts


Arguments to take place in Oklahoma over ban on Islamic law in courts

From Matt Smith, CNN
November 22, 2010 6:21 a.m. EST
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Oklahoma voters approve an amendment barring the use of Islamic law in state courts
  • A U.S. district judge issued a temporary restraining order on the ban earlier this month
  • The lead plaintiff says the amendment violates the First Amendment
  • Backers cite a judge's refusal to grant a restraining order against a husband accused of rape
(CNN) -- A federal judge will hear arguments Monday on a temporary restraining order against an Oklahoma referendum that would ban the use of Islamic religious law in state courts.
Oklahoma voters approved the amendment during the November elections by a 7-3 ratio. But the Council on American-Islamic Relations challenged the measure as a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a temporary restraining order November 8 that will keep state election officials from certifying that vote.
"What this amendment is going to do is officially disfavor and condemn the Muslim community as being a threat to Oklahoma," Muneer Awad, executive director of CAIR's Oklahoma chapter and the lead plaintiff in the suit, said earlier this month. In addition, he said, the amendment would invalidate private documents, such as wills, that are written in compliance with Muslim law.
The amendment would require Oklahoma courts to "rely on federal and state law when deciding cases" and "forbids courts from considering or using" either international law or Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, which the amendment defined as being based on the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.
In bringing suit, CAIR argued that the amendment violates both the establishment and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. Awad has said the amendment passed "under a campaign of fearmongering" about Islam.
2009: What is Sharia law?
Sharia law on ballot in Oklahoma
The entire U.S. Muslim population is about 2.4 million -- less than 1 percent of the country, according to a 2009 survey by the nonprofit Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
But supporters said a New Jersey case, in which a judge refused to grant a restraining order against a Muslim man whose wife accused him of raping her repeatedly, made it necessary for Oklahoma to take action to keep Islamic law from being imposed there.
The New Jersey decision, in which the family court judge found the husband was abiding by his Muslim beliefs regarding spousal duties, was overruled by an appellate court.
But in automated phone messages in support of the amendment, former CIA Director and Oklahoma native James Woolsey warned that there was a "major campaign in Europe to impose Sharia law" and that Islamic law "is beginning to be cited in a few U.S courts."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Barbara Bush 'hopes Sarah Palin will stay in Alaska'

Barbara Bush 'hopes Sarah Palin will stay in Alaska'

Barbara Bush, the former US First Lady, has poured cold water on Sarah Palin's presidential aspirations, underlining how elements of the Republican establishment regard her as a dangerous upstart unworthy of national office.

Sarah Palin has admitted that she is seriously considering a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination
Sarah Palin has admitted that she is seriously considering a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination Photo: GETTY
Asked during a television interview to share her thoughts about Mrs Palin, Mrs Bush replied: "I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful."
With pursed lips, she added: "And I think she's very happy in Alaska. And I hope she'll stay there."
Mrs Palin, who campaigned alongside John McCain in the 2008 election as his vice-presidential candidate, has admitted that she is seriously considering a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination at a time when her national exposure has never been higher.
Her second book, America by Heart, is published on Tuesday and is likely to be another bestseller, the second episode of her TV show, Sarah Palin's Alaska aired last night, while on Monday her 20-year-old daughter Bristol will compete in the final of television's Dancing with the Stars.
The book is billed as a tribute to conservative American values. It includes attacks on President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, the First Lady, as unpatriotic and criticises John F Kennedy for shunning his Catholic faith.
According to an early copy of the book purchased by the Associated Press, Mrs Palin discusses at length Kennedy's noted speech on religion during the 1960 campaign, when he said: "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic."
Mrs Palin said that Kennedy – the first Catholic elected president – "essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are".
Ted Widmer, a historian and former speech writer for Bill Clinton, said: "It's putting a negative spin on what was interpreted at the time as a sensible and uplifting message. JFK was trying to protect his own right to be a Catholic and to run for president."
Mrs Palin's ability to cross over from politics to popular culture, combined with what critics regard as an inflated self-regard, has unnerved many old school Republicans who think that she is not only unworthy of the presidential nomination but would cost the party the White House.
She however enjoys substantial grassroots support from fans, mostly connected with the Tea Party movement, who prize her straight talking and atypical approach to politics. Polls show that among Republican voters she is the most popular of the likely 2012 candidates, though she is not always chosen as their favourite for the nomination.
Karl Rove, the former adviser to George W Bush, recently suggested in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that Mrs Palin lacked the "gravitas" for the most demanding job in the world. He also suggested her television show was unpresidential.
Mrs Palin's retort that Ronald Reagan had enjoyed a career in popular entertainment before becoming president brought an angry response from Peggy Noonan, a columnist and Mr Reagan's favourite speech writer. She called the Alaskan a "nincompoop" for making the comparison.
"The point is not 'He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,' though that is true," Mrs Noonan wrote.
"The point is that Reagan's career is a guide, not only for the Tea Party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him. He wasn't in search of a life when he ran for office, and he wasn't in search of fame; he'd already lived a life, he was already well known, he'd accomplished things in the world."
Her potential rivals for the nomination have however been conspicuously absent in their criticism, either public or private, worried that a pre-emptive attack could wreck their own chances.

Sarah Palin accuses Barack and Michelle Obama of being unpatriotic

Sarah Palin accuses Barack and Michelle Obama of being unpatriotic

Sarah Palin has accused Barack and Michelle Obama of being unpatriotic and suggested that they were racist.

Sarah Palin has accused Barack and Michelle Obama of being unpatriotic and suggested that they were racist.
Sarah Palin believes she would beat President Obama in a fight for the White House Photo: AFP
The attack is likely to deepen the impression that the former Alaska governor is too divisive a figure to win the presidency.
In leaked extracts of her new book, Mrs Palin delves into the minefield of racial politics, arguing that the first African American US president is among those who regarded the conservative tea party movement as racially prejudiced and who thinks that “America is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country”.
As proof, she dredged up a quote from a 2008 campaign speech in which Mrs Obama said “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country”.
Mrs Palin went on to say: “I guess this shouldn’t surprise us, since both of them spent almost two decades in the pews of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church listening to his rants against America and white people.”
Mr Obama remains personally popular despite his Democratic Party allies being heavily beaten in the recent midterm elections. His wife moreover is according to numerous polls the best-liked the political figure in the country, thanks to her support for military families and campaign against childhood obesity.
In America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, which is published next week, Mrs Palin was choosing a line of attack against the First Lady that most other opponents of the president have abandoned long ago.
She characterised the First Lady as only being proud “when her husband started winning elections”. In full context, Mrs Obama’s meaning was that she felt a surge of pride at the way young people were finding hope in the country’s future.
The former vice-presidential candidate’s second book is regarded as a launch pad for a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination, which Mrs Palin this week admitted she was “seriously considering”.
Many Democrats think the president’s chances of winning re-election would improve vastly if Mrs Palin was his opponent.
Vice-President Joe Biden had to stifle laughs when asked about the possibility of an Obama-Palin matchup on morning television yesterday.
“I don’t think she could beat President Obama,” he said, “but she’s always underestimated, so I don’t think I should say any more”.
Early reviewers have described Mrs Palin’s new book as mostly a fairly predictable paean to conservative American values.
But it also contains a withering put-down of talent show contestants, particularly those on American Idol, and the “cult of self-esteem”, which she blames partly on Mr Obama.
“No one they have encountered in their lives – from their parents to their teachers to their President – wanted them to feel bad by hearing the truth. So they grew up convinced that they could become big pop stars like Michael Jackson.”
Her observations came without apparent irony, despite the fact that her own daughter Bristol is competing so ineptly in Dancing with the Stars that there are strong suspicions she has only stayed in contention because of the support of her mother’s fans voting from home.
Mrs Palin herself has also begun broadcasting her own reality show about her family life and her home state.