Opinion

The High Cost of Allowing Health Insurers To Continue Keeping Us In The Dark

Walking in the darkIn his State of the Union address, President Obama said very little about health care reform, but what he did say was a reminder of how tight a grip the insurance industry has on the U.S. health care system -- and will continue to have if the Affordable Care Act is not implemented as Congress intended. And it is largely up to the President to make sure that it is.

"I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage or charge women more than men," he said.

That comment drew applause, although certainly not from the insurance industry’s friends in Congress, who continue to call for gutting the law. That’s because when and if it’s fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act will make many of the most egregious practices of insurers a thing of the past. Weakening or stripping out the consumer protections in the law that insurance companies despise would make executives and shareholders of those companies very happy, not to mention much richer in the years to come.

Stress Testing Tim Geithner

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim GeithnerThanks to Occupy Wall Street, in the State of the Union this week President Obama struck some of his most populist themes yet. He wants to tax millionaires, bring back manufacturing and prosecute the big banks. He touted his Wall Street reforms saying the big banks are "no longer allowed to make risky bets with customers deposits" and "the rest of us aren't bailing you out ever again."

But are we safe from the next big bank bailout? Many experts are dubious and Wednesday the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen decided to test the theory in the most direct way possible. They used the administrative law process to formally petition the nation's top bank regulators to move swiftly to break up Bank of America (BofA) asserting in their petition: "The bank poses a grave threat to U.S. financial stability by any reasonable definition of that phrase."

Scott Walker’s Plutonomy: An Economy for the One Percent

While volunteer after volunteer from each of Wisconsin's 72 counties marched into the state's election board to deposit over one million signatures for the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Walker was nowhere to be found.

At the hour petitions were being deposited on January 17, Mother Jones revealed that Walker was scheduled to attend a high-dollar fundraiser in the heart of the New York's financial district at 339 Park Avenue -- the towering headquarters for global financial giant CitiGroup. The $5,000 per couple fundraiser was hosted by none other than Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, former CEO of AIG.

Park City Tragedy Underscores Tragedy of the U.S. Health Care System -- for Both Canadians and Americans

The journey I embarked on when I made the decision to leave a successful career in the health insurance business was a spiritual one. I can trace the decision to a true epiphany, to the very moment I saw hundreds of people standing, soaking wet, in long, slow-moving lines, waiting to get medical care that was being provided in animal stalls at a fairground in Wise County, Virginia.

Right to Work in Indiana – Will This Battle Impact 2012 Super Bowl?

A guest post by Bob Sloan; read more from this author at the Daily Kos.

Indiana Republicans, who hold solid majorities in the state House and Senate as well as the governor's mansion, have once again taken up "Right-To-Work." Indiana tried passing anti-union legislation last year but the effort stalled amidst public outcry. Despite this, Right-to-Work legislation was one of the first pieces taken up by the GOP majority in the 2012 session.

Stop Censorship of the Internet!

Stop the passage of the Internet blacklist bills.Thousands of websites across America have gone dark this week in protest of supposed anti-piracy bills in Congress.

I first noticed when I went to MichaelMoore.com to see how he was covering the Wisconsin protests, but his site was black with an eerie image of a mouse-controlled light that revealed the message "This site has gone dark today in protest of the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate... We need to kill these bills to protect our right to free speech, privacy and prosperity."

ALEC Politician Claims ALEC Meetings Are "Open to the Public." Really?

ALEC's Rep. Bill Howell (R-VA)Confronted with a report by ProgressVA stating that through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate lobbyists get access to legislators "behind closed doors," ALEC politician Bill Howell dismissed the claim and told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that all ALEC meetings were open to the public.

Really?

That would be breaking news to both traditional press and the online media that have been blocked from ALEC meetings and are increasingly being threatened with arrest.

Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth Newt Gingrich

While Mitt Romney came out ahead in New Hampshire, his front-runner status will soon be under the gun by some very deep pockets backing Newt Gingrich.

As previously reported by CMD, over $3 million dollars worth of ads cut by a Super PAC controlled by Mitt Romney's former aides, dropped Gingrich like a stone in Iowa. Gingrich sank from an overconfident front runner, who told ABC's Jake Tapper "I will be the nominee" on December 1, to an embittered candidate who placed fourth in Iowa a short time later.

After ineffectually whining about being totaled by Mitt Romney's "negativity" in the Iowa primary, Newt Gingrich may have decided that revenge is sweeter. A pro-Gingrich Super PAC is preparing to unleash a barrage of negativity on South Carolina voters.

Newt Gingrich's Baggage

The new Super PACs dominating the air wars in Iowa and New Hampshire were unleashed by the Citizens United revision of the First Amendment to allow individuals and corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to influence U.S. elections. Super PAC spending cannot be directly coordinated with a candidate, but provides candidates with an avenue for negative attack ads that they do not have to put their name on. (Numerous groups are calling for amending the Constitution to overturn the decision.)

The most omnipresent ad by the pro-Romney "Restore Our Future" Super PAC led with the line "You know what makes President Obama happy? Newt Gingrich's baggage." It then went on to detail a scorching list of allegations, including that Gingrich was paid $30,000 an hour by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two organizations that "helped cause the financial crisis."

"I've been Romney-boated," Gingrich complained to the press in Iowa, referring to the ad campaign in 2004 launched by the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, that helped sink presidential candidate John F. Kerry. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, 45 percent of all TV ads in Iowa have been attack ads against Gingrich, including this no-hold-barred attack by Ron Paul's campaign. (Note that Paul does not hesitate to put his name right on the ad.)

The pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC massively outspent the candidate's official presidential campaign on advertising, reportedly spending $7 million to the candidate's official $5 million so far. While Romney dodged responsibility for the negative ads, Gingrich put is succinctly: "It's very hard to run $3.5 million of negative ads and pretend it's not yours and not have people think you're being dishonest."

"The Man that Destroyed Us"

Now, a pro-Gingrich Super PAC is getting ready to unleash a world of harm on the Romney campaign. According to the New York Times, billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson has cut a $5 million check to the "Winning Our Future" Super PAC. Adelson has long been a Gingrich supporter.

Winning our Future just released a devastating 30 minute film, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, in advance of the South Carolina primary ten days away. The Super PAC has reserved more than $3.4 million in advertising time in the state to air clips of the movie as ads.

The ads and the film claim that as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm, Romney bought American businesses simply to shut them down. Romney describes his tenure at Bain as one in which he created "100,000 jobs." But the ad characterizes Romney and Bain "as group of corporate raiders ... more ruthless than Wall Street" and intones, "For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town." A woman put out of work by Bain, characterizes Romney as "the man who destroyed us," a potent message in a country that currently has 25 million unemployed or underemployed citizens.

Gingrich characterized Romney and Bain as "rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company," but Gingrich of course has his own private equity supporters including Blackstone Group and KKR & Co. according to the Boston Globe.

As for the truth of the matter, an old Bain prospectus obtained by the Los Angeles Times shows a stunning 88 percent average annual rate of return under Romney's leadership. But did the firm earn this money by creating jobs or destroying them? The Washington Post recently gave Romney three Pinocchios for his unsubstantiated job claims.

Inside ALEC: Naked Contempt for the Press and Public in Scottsdale

ALEC Exposed logo"Mr. Hodai had a history at the conference--not a very pleasant history. He was considered to be a persona non grata..."

-- Westin Kierland General Manager Bruce Lange to Olivia Ward of the Toronto Star.

Evicting the Press, Part 1: Meet Mr. Black

Scottsdale, Arizona--A suburb awash in money and golf courses, set against the backdrop of the jagged mountains surrounding Phoenix.

I was sitting in a sports bar of the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, swapping journalism stories with Olivia Ward of the Toronto Star on one of the bar's overstuffed leather couches. Over the course of an hour, the bar filled with conventioneers from the American Legislative Exchange Council's 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit (SNPS). (A new story on Westin's connections to other ALEC corporations is available here.)

My assignment was to cover the 2011 SNPS, taking place at the resort from November 29 through December 2. ALEC had refused to grant me media credentials. Nevertheless, I was a paid guest at the resort.

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