Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mike Proctor: Special New Year's Commentary

Mike Proctor was an Obama activist in Washington state during 2008. He responded to my invitation to contribute this op-ed:
As 2009 comes to a close, I have a few observations that I wanted to share. As someone who for years has argued in favor of full body scanners; I find it curious that so many are now suddenly proponents.
The painful truth is that the politicians who were wildly more concerned about keeping their campaign wallets filled by their Health Insurance masters are the same folks who were against having full body scanners at US airports and allowing countries from using it on inbound American flights. By creating the conditions that allowed the "underwear bomber" to board the Detroit flight that nearly took the lives of 300 civilians, regardless of whether they intended for harm to happen or not, our laws would define them as being accomplices!

And to those who recently changed their minds about the use of full body scanners, you would be wise to view this as an opportunity to reflect over other issues that made headlines in 2009. After all, when tragedy strikes, the victims are never identified as being conservative, liberal or somewhere in between; in our country anyway, they will be known only as Americans. Last summer President Obama reminded us that we are our brother’s & sister’s keeper, and that it is the embodiment of this value that makes our nation worth fighting for. To add to this, I believe that in order be good citizens, we must approach our democracy with compassion and courage; to ask tough questions, to research facts, to bring our open minds and calm voices together, to make decisions that serve the most good with the least waste, and to move swiftly to implement real solutions.

This is how I’d hoped 2009, with all its great promise, had unfolded. Maybe the near miss on Christmas morning will serve as a catalyst for real progress in 2010. Na├»ve, perhaps, but that is my hope anyway. Think about it! If more folks had imagined how their lives would be impacted had they lost their health insurance, then 2010 would have been the year of Universal Healthcare. If more had understood the facts of Afghanistan, then I believe that the President would not felt pressured to prove that he is tough on terror and wrongly send more troops into harm’s way. And it goes on and on…
It is my hope for the new year that some will set aside party affiliation and visualize the danger of preventing reason from interrogating the words of our leaders, and to begin anew, getting down to the serious business of making our nation and the bigger world in which we live a safer and more compassionate place for ourselves and future generations.
Howie P.S.: If I read Mike correctly, he's saying we need more body scanners and less troops and drone bombers in the five Muslim countries where we currently have them. They are:
1. Iraq
2. Afghanistan
3. Somalia
4. Yemen
5.Pakistan

"Political Predictions for 2010" (Publicola)

Publicola:
fizz

We’re dedicating the final Morning Fizz of 2009 to our local political predictions for 2010. These are, of course, legally binding and we will be personally liable if any of them fail to come true as promised.

1. Tim Burgess v. Mike McGinn.

This one could take longer than a year to fully materialize, but rest assured: City council member Tim Burgess—who, despite his freshman status, has emerged as the political strong man of the council—is bound to clash with Mayor-elect Mike McGinn, whom Burgess would be forgiven for seeing as an inexperienced upstart who lacks the discipline that has made Burgess such an effective legislator in his two years in office.

Politically, law-and-order guy Burgess, a former cop, is both more conservative and more pragmatic than McGinn; after he defeated incumbent David Della in 2007, he was a constant presence at city council and council committee meetings, absorbing all the information he could before taking office in 2008. Bottom line: When he wants to be, the man is dedicated. And given that he only decided not to run against Mayor Greg Nickels because advisors convinced him Nickels was unbeatable, it’s hard to believe his mayoral ambitions are extinguished. 2010 may well be a prelude to 2013.

Watch for Burgess to emerge as the key council voice and check on McGinn during the search for a new SPD chief.

2. Sayonara, Suzie.

Optimistic GOP predictions to the contrary, Susan Hutchison—the former news anchor and Republican-in-all-but-name who ran against Dow Constantine for King County Executive this year and lost, 41 to 59—is done politically, and everyone but the local Republican Party knows it.

If Hutchison is cajoled into a misguided run against US Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), her defeat will be both decisive and embarrassing—factors the GOP ought to consider before rolling the failed local candidate out onto the national political stage. (The GOP stands a much better chance in the 3rd Congressional district where GOP state Rep. Jaime Herrera and Democratic state Sen. Craig Pridemore will make it through the primary.)

Re: The Democrats’ Suzan, Suzan DelBene—the latest challenger taking on U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8) on the eastside—Reichert’s votes for the Stupak amendment and against the health care reform bill will loom large. But so will Reichert’s liberal votes on the enviornment.

3. Constantine the head-cracker.

Dow Constantine may have been elected King County Executive largely on his record as a Democratic King County Council member, but the subtext of his success was that he was willing to crack down on the most egregious abuses of county governmental privilege—starting with the county’s unions, which enjoy an exalted status among local government employees. Constantine campaigned on a pledge to make county workers pay a portion of their health-care costs, but expect him to go much farther—challenging union members, for example, to abandon the ridiculous system that effectively pays them for “unpaid” furloughs and grants automatic cost-of-living increases even when services to the county’s poorest residents are being slashed to the bone.

4. $1 Billion in Corporate Tax Loopholes will Stay in Place

Despite the $2.6 billion state budget shortfall and Gov. Chris Gregoire’s pledge to close tax preferences, the $833.9 million in sales tax exemptions for white collar business services and the $322.3 million in sales tax exemptions for financial services firms will remain in place.

5. Shakeups in the McGinn Inner Circle

So far, Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn has played it safe—reappointing Greg Nickels staffers left and right and anointing political insiders, including folks from Vulcan and other local real-estate firms, to head up his initial inner circle. Don’t expect the Nickels-Lite facade to last. By year’s end, most of the Nickels insiders—who, we’re not prepared to guess, but we’re anticipating a substantial number—will be out the door, replaced by McGinn loyalists who more closely hew to the new mayor’s green urbanist vision. As a first-time officeholder, McGinn just needs some time to get on his feet.

6. The “Strong” City Council? Pffffft.

Much as has been made of the new, “strong” city council (although the mayor and the council are technically equal legally, the council has generally bent to the mayor’s will under Nickels), the council, with a few individual exceptions (Tim Burgess, Richard Conlin), will continue to conform to the mayor’s will, tweaking legislation they don’t agree with but generally failing to craft a legislative agenda for the city on their own. McGinn may be new, but he’s a strong personality, and the council isn’t accustomed to speaking up loudly (and with a single voice) for itself.

7. We lead the way on social issues—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court

Two local cases—the lawsuit against the city’s gun ban in parks and the lawsuit by Storman’s pharmacy to nullify state pharmacy board rules requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception—will both go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before they do, though, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn (another prediction here) a lower Tacoma court decision voiding the emergency contraception rules. (The 9th Circuit has already had to rule against the lower court twice in this case, overturning the Tacoma court’s earlier injunctions against the rules as the case proceeds).

Re: The gun ban (another prediction)—the local courts will, surprisingly, uphold it.

8. No end in sight for the tunnel stalemate.

What—you thought that after nearly a decade, the city and state should be able to agree on a solution for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct? Think again. With McGinn as mayor and Frank Chopp as speaker of the House, the tunnel question could remain in limbo for years; and the longer the project stays up in the air, the more expensive (and less practical) it becomes. Bottom line: Even if the tunnel eventually gets built, the short-term prognosis is for still more discussion, stagnation, and delay.

9. No Sea Change for Labor

The Washington State Labor Council’s DIME PAC (Don’t Invest in More Excuses)—a new labor PAC that pledges to make contributions more strategically, rather than giving blindly to Democrats—will chicken out of supporting Republicans and will not be a factor in 2010.

Similarly, while the Washington Education Association will remain at odds with Democrats over education reform (and in sync with the GOP opposing reform), the WEA will not put its money where its mouth is to pony up for GOP candidates in 2010.

10. Joe Mallahan Will not Vote.

Howie P.S.: The "prediction" on McGinn's inner circle (#5) serves to counter charges that McGinn has "sold out." "No end in sight for the tunnel stalemate" (#8) casts McGinn's position in a friendly light and promises "discussion, stagnation, and delay." For them, that's a good thing.

"2009 in Perspective: Glenn Greenwald on the Five Wars U.S. is Fighting in Muslim Countries" (with video/audio)

Democracy Now! with video/audio (20:46):
As 2009 comes to a close, today we begin by taking a step back and putting this year of war in perspective. Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald discusses U.S. foreign policy, including the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes on Pakistan, cruise missile attacks on Yemen, operations in Somalia and the ongoing operation in Iraq much more.
The war in Afghanistan was escalated twice in 2009 by President Obama and with it, the death toll of Afghans and US and NATO forces. In the latest news, a suicide bomber attacked a CIA base in Afghanistan Wednesday, killing eight Americans. In Pakistan, the number of US drone strikes has increased dramatically over the past year and in Iraq there are still tens of thousands of US troops deployed. Now, Obama a new military front appears to be opening up against Yemen with Obama ordering cruise missile attacks there.

Meanwhile, the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay remains open and human rights groups have decried what they call an Obama administration policy of preventive detention.

On the domestic front, the president’s top legislative priority–healthcare reform–is lurching forward with legislation passing both the House and Senate. But many question the nature of the reform with no public option and no employer mandate.

For analysis of 2009, we turn now to Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon.com. He joins us via Democracy Now videostream.
Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon.com. He is the author of three books. His most recent is Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics.
Howie P.S.: At the end of his appearance Greenwald is asked about the results of Obama's efforts on health care legislation. He calls it "an extremely immoral and destructive scheme."

"MOVE YOUR MONEY" (video)


moveyourmoneyproject, video (04:11):
For more, go to http://moveyourmoney.info

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

GRITtv: Scahill, Greenwald on "embedded, corporate" media (video)


GRITtv with video (15:41):
The independent media has all but taken over the old role of the Fourth Estate, and Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald are two of the most respected voices in the new media generation. We spoke to them on October 1st.
We wrote then:

The absence of a critical fourth estate in the run up to the war in Iraq is widely acknowledged, even by the establishment media that trumpeted the lies and misinformation of the Bush administration. Take the NYT yesterday in an article comparing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear capabilities with Colin Powell’s presentation on Iraq in 2003:

“In many dissections of the blunders before the Iraq war, the news media, including The New York Times, came in for a share of the criticism for repeating Bush administration claims about Iraq without sufficient scrutiny or skepticism.”

You say? The question today is whether the media have learned anything at all. From torture to saber rattling over Iran is there enough scrutiny and skepticism? And if not are independent journalists picking up the slack? Glenn Greewald, a columnist at Salon and the author of Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politicsir?t=lauraflanders-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0307408663 and Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Armyir?t=lauraflanders-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1560259795 on the battle between the independent press and the mainstream media.

Eugene Robinson: "Dick Cheney's lies about President Obama"

Eugene Robinson (WaPo):
It's pathetic to break a New Year's resolution before we even get to New Year's Day, but here I go. I had promised myself that I would do a better job of ignoring Dick Cheney's corrosive and nonsensical outbursts -- that I would treat them, more or less, like the pearls of wisdom one hears from homeless people sitting in bus shelters.
But he is a former vice president, which gives him a big stage for his histrionic Rottweiler-in-Winter act. It is never a good idea to let widely disseminated lies and distortions go unchallenged. And the shrill screed that Cheney unloosed Wednesday is so full of outright mendacity that, well, my resolution will have to wait.

In a statement to Politico, Cheney seemed to be trying to provide talking points for opponents of the Obama administration who -- incredibly -- would exploit the Christmas Day terrorist attack for political gain. Cheney's broadside opens with a big lie, which he then repeats throughout. It is as if he believes that saying something over and over again, in a loud enough voice, magically makes it so.

"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war," Cheney begins.

Flat-out untrue.

The fact is that Obama has said many times that we are at war against terrorists. He said it as a candidate. He said it in his inaugural address: "Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." He has said it since.

As Cheney well knows, unless he has lost even the most tenuous grip on reality, Obama's commitment to warfare as an instrument in the fight against terrorism has won the president nothing but grief from the liberal wing of his party, with more certainly to come. Hasn't anyone told Cheney that Obama is sharply boosting troop levels in Afghanistan in an attempt to avoid losing a war that the Bush administration started but then practically abandoned?

Cheney knows this. But he goes on to use the big lie -- that Obama is "trying to pretend we are not at war" -- to bludgeon the administration on a host of specific issues. Here is the one that jumps out at me: The president, Cheney claims, "seems to think that if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won't be at war."

Interesting that Cheney should bring that up, because it now seems clear that the man accused of trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was given training -- and probably the bomb itself, which involved plastic explosives sewn into his underwear -- by al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. It happens that at least two men who were released from Guantanamo appear to have gone on to play major roles as al-Qaeda lieutenants in Yemen. Who let these dangerous people out of our custody? They were set free by the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The former vice president expresses his anger that the Obama administration is bringing Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to trial in New York. Cheney is also angry that Obama does not use the phrase "war on terror" all the time, the way the Bush administration used to. But Obama just specifies that we're at war against a network of terrorists, on the sensible theory that it's impossible to wage war against a tactic.

Toward the end of his two-paragraph statement, Cheney goes completely off the rails and starts fulminating about how Obama is seeking "social transformation -- the restructuring of American society." Somehow, this is supposed to be related to the president's alleged disavowal of war -- which, of course, isn't real anyway. It makes you wonder whether Cheney is just feeding the fantasies of the paranoid right or has actually joined the tea-party fringe.

I can find reasons to criticize the administration's response to the Christmas Day attack. Obama and his team were slow off the mark. Their initial statements were weak. Obama shouldn't have waited three days to speak publicly, and when he did he should have shown some emotion.

But using a terrorist attack to seek political gain? I have a New Year's resolution to suggest for Cheney: Ahead of your quest for personal vindication, put country first.

"Kennedy Center Honors – Eddie Vedder My City of Ruins" (video)


positively Barack, video (02:31):
The Kennedy Center Honors were broadcast last night. Here is Eddie Vedder paying tribute to Bruce Springsteen.
Howie P.S.: Here in my neighborhood (West Seattle) we claim Eddie as a resident, even though he has other domiciles, as well.

Updated: "Why Jane Hamsher and Howard Dean Can't Be Wrong"

UPDATE: "What House Dems are trying to get in exchange for public option"(Sam Stein-HuffPo).

Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks):
Can Jane Hamsher or Howard Dean be wrong on the substance of policy issues? Of course!!! I don't think they often are, but recently there have been many progressives who have thought so. These were reasonable disagreements and everyone was within their full right to think Dean or Hamsher might not have gotten the balance right on any particular issue.

So, why can't they be wrong?

Because even if you disagree with them, they're doing you a huge favor. If you're a strong progressive and you think Howard Dean has gone out too far left on health care reform or Jane Hamsher has attacked President Obama too hard from the left -- then, fantastic, you are now officially a moderate!

And more importantly, so is Obama.

Why is this so important? I'm not sure you particularly want to be moderate, and I'm certainly not sure you are one. But that's not the point. The point is that the mainstream media loves people who they can call "moderates." If Joe Lieberman is somewhere between Obama and Cheney, no matter how far to the right he is, he gets to be called a moderate. Why? Because there's someone to the right of him.

Now, you have someone to the left of you. Congratulations, you made it! You're now part of the cool crowd in DC, the only people that the establishment media care about or give any credence to -- moderates.

I get thrown into the Hamsher category because I believe in attacking hard from the left. Some have started to call this the Uygur Doctrine, which, of course, I love. The reality is I'm a political moderate who until about a month ago believed we should stay longer in Afghanistan and that single payer was not the way to go. But it's not my positions that matter as much as my attitude. We have to, have to, have to attack Obama from the left. If we don't, he is seen as the far left and the whole spectrum shifts even further right than it already is.

If Obama is seen as the middle that helps him. So, even if you think Jane is crazy to team up with Grover Norquist and her attacks have no merit (you would be wrong on that, by the way), you have to send her a thank you note for making Obama look centrist. Rahm might not be happy about their target, but he has to be happy with how the politics of it plays out for the president.

But much more importantly, this isn't about Obama. This is about moving the spectrum. If there is no real and credible left-wing that fights back, then the entire political landscape gets pushed down to the right. This has huge policy implications, as we just saw in the health care fight.

Besides which, what do we have to lose? We lost the public option. We're going to lose on climate change (nearly a foregone conclusion at this point). Financial reform is terribly watered down and getting weaker by the minute. The war in Afghanistan has already been escalated, twice. Do I need to go on? This is what you get when there is no credible threat from the left.

Worst case scenario, Dean and Hamsher lose (I understand their tactics are entirely different, and in some ways I hate to lump them in together, but I do because they are among the few making real noise on the left), and they move the spectrum left and make other progressives look moderate. Best case scenario, they win! Dare we dream?

I know what some of you are thinking -- that's not the worst case scenario. The worst case is somehow their attacks on Obama help Republicans win. But if you buy into that, then you have to pack your bags and go home. That means you are never willing to forcefully challenge Obama out of the fear that it might somehow hurt him. While I'm sure he appreciates that, I can guarantee you that he will thank you by completely ignoring you (and your policy priorities). Asking politely is obviously not getting the job done.

Real political pressure by definition involves the possibility of real political pain. If you're not willing to go that far, then in my humble opinion you are too risk averse to have any consequential role to play in current day politics. Politics is about power, if you don't ever wield it, then you're not really in the game.

"The Global War on Stealth Underwear"

Northwest Airlines Flight 253 sits on the runway after arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.
Robert Scheer:
There is no “war” against terrorism. What George W. Bush launched and Barack Obama insists on perpetuating does not qualify. Not if by war one means doing the obvious and checking a highly suspicious air traveler’s underwear to see if explosives have been sewn in. If Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had put the stuff in his shoes we would have had him because that was tried before, but our government was too preoccupied with fighting unnecessary conventional wars and developing anti-missile defense systems to anticipate such a primitive delivery system.
The explosives-laden underwear—worn by an airline passenger who had previously been flagged as a potentially dangerous fanatic, and who had paid cash for his ticket and had no checked luggage—was the terrorist’s weapon of choice, one that could have blown a hole in the side of Northwest Airlines’ Detroit-bound Flight 253 on Christmas Day, killing hundreds of innocents. But it is not a weapon to be effectively countered with the deployment of hundreds of thousands of American combat troops. Nor can it be stopped by the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of planes, subs and missiles in our arsenal of Cold War-era weapons, part of an annual defense budget that is higher in inflation-adjusted dollars than at any time in the past half-century.

In response to the 9/11 hijackers, armed with artillery that cost a couple hundred dollars at most, we threw money and, more important, attention at conventional military responses while neglecting the difficult police work and the intelligence evaluation and civilian-focused technology necessary to thwart homeland attacks. Yes, there are evildoers out there that mean us harm, as President Bush declaimed. But they are often the products of the best of Western education who, as examples ranging from the lead 9/11 hijackers – the Hamburg group—to the elite University College London-educated engineer in the latest incident demonstrate, move more easily in urbane Western societies than in Afghan villages.

The technology that could help detect a sophisticated plane hijacker or suicide bomber has been largely botched in development and only halfheartedly deployed even when it is available. On Tuesday, a devastating report in The Washington Post revealed that the full-body scanning equipment hyped after 9/11, which might have detected the explosives involved in last week’s incident, is still not in wide use. As the Post stated, “A plan that would have helped focus the development of better screening technology and procedures—including a risk-based assessment of aviation threats—is almost two years overdue, according to a report this fall by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.”

So, screening equipment that can detect plastic explosives exists, but it was not used in this case and, as the GAO predicted, “TSA cannot ensure that it is targeting the highest priority security needs at checkpoints; measure the extent to which deployed technologies reduce the risk of terrorist attacks; or make needed adjustments to its PSP [Passenger Screening Program] strategy.” As a result, the GAO concluded: “TSA lacks assurance that its investments in screening technologies address the highest priority security needs at airport passenger checkpoints.”

The “systematic failure” in the nation’s security that President Obama referred to Tuesday derives from the war metaphor itself and from the assumption, begun with Bush’s irrational invasion of Iraq and extended with Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan, that terrorism is a military rather than a criminal threat. The terrorists are not rebel fighters rooted, as are the Taliban and the remnants of the Iraq insurgency, in their homeland struggles and subject to being defeated on conventional battlefields.

Rather, they are rootless cosmopolitans of violence, alienated from any stated homeland and free to move easily about the world, armed in almost every instance with valid passports, visas and money to exploit our inability to seriously evaluate our own intelligence data. They can count on our top government officials ignoring blinking red warnings, as the Bush White House did before 9/11, or the alarm of a well-connected and properly concerned Nigerian banker-father.

Preventing terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland has nothing to do with occupying vast tracts of land or winning the hearts and minds of backward villagers whom we falsely depict as surrogates of an evil empire, as we did in Vietnam and are now doing in Afghanistan. What is needed is smart police work to catch these highly mobile fanatics, and that begins with actually reading and then acting on the readily available intelligence data. It requires detectives with brains and not generals with firepower.
The ballooning of the defense budget after 9/11 has proved a great boondoggle for the military-industrial complex, which suddenly found an excuse to build weapons and deploy conventional forces against a superpower enemy that no longer exists. But our stealth fighters and bombers designed to defeat Soviet defenses that were never built are a poor match against a terrorist’s stealth underwear.
Howie P.S.: There can be no war on poverty or drugs, either.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Edgy Moments in 2009: Wanda Sykes @ WH Correspondents' Dinner (video)


Part 1, video (08:58) and Part 2, video (09:18).

Howie P.S.: Wanda on Tim Geithner, Barack's abs, Michelle's arms, Nancy Pelosi, Rush Limbaugh, Joe Biden, G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin's birth control method and more.

"Kill the Bill or Support Passage? A Debate on Healthcare Legislation Between Insurance Industry Critics" (with audio/video)

Democracy Now! with audio/video (18:56):
The progressive community is split over the $871 billion healthcare reform bill that passed the Senate last week. Some have lambasted the Senate for removing language that would have created a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers. Others believe the Senate bill is the biggest expansion of federal healthcare guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid over four decades ago and should be supported as a first step toward reform. We host a debate.
Congress might be in recess right now but the debate over the final shape of health care reform is far from over. The $871 billion Senate bill that passed last week still has to be reconciled with the House bill. Democrats are hoping to be able to present a final version for President Obama to sign by late January or early February.

Meanwhile the progressive community is split about what to push for. Some have lambasted the Senate for removing language that would have created a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers. Others believe the Senate bill is the biggest expansion of federal healthcare guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid over four decades ago and should be supported as a first step toward reform.

Today we host a debate between two outspoken critics of the health insurance industry. Both support the overhaul of the nation’s health care system. But they disagree over whether or not to “kill the Senate bill.”

Jon Walker is a policy analyst at the website FireDogLake who’s been closely tracking health care reform debates. He believes the Senate bill is deeply flawed and writes, “This Senate bill is not a step forward for progressivism, it is a step backward. It is part of the transformation of all-important public social responsibilities into a privatized profit- making machine that lives off of government money won through a corrupt cycle of lobbying, campaign donations, and corporate giveaways.”
He joins me from Washington, DC.

Wendell Potter is a Senior Fellow on Health Care for the Center for Media and Democracy. For 20 years he was a former executive at Cigna and Humana corporations, among the nation"s largest health insurers. Last year he left his job as head of communications for Cigna. Earlier this year he testified on the health insurance industry at a Senate committee hearing. In an op-ed published in the Huffington Post last week, he wrote, “It is tempting to join the "Kill the bill” folks, but it would amount to cutting off our noses to spite our faces." Wendell Potter joins us now from Philadelphia.

Jon Walker, policy analyst at the website Firedoglake

Wendell Potter, Senior Fellow on Health Care for the Center for Media and Democracy. For twenty years he was a former executive at CIGNA and Humana corporations, among the nation’s largest health insurers.

"Health Reform Subsidy Calculator"

Kaiser Family Foundation:
This tool illustrates premiums and government assistance under the types of reform proposals being considered in Congress for people under age 65 who purchase coverage on their own in an Exchange and are not covered through their employer, Medicare or Medicaid. While the proposals considered would not take effect for several years (2013 in the House and 2014 in the Senate), the results are presented in terms of 2009 premium and income levels to enable better comparisons to current circumstances. The tool allows the user to start with the provisions from one of several proposals and examine the impact at different income levels. Advanced settings allow users to change assumptions to show the effect of different policy choices.

A few caveats:

  • Specific subsidies for cost sharing and what people might pay out-of-pocket for deductibles and coinsurance are not illustrated on the calculator.
  • In many cases coverage will be more comprehensive and accessible than what is typically available today in the non-group market, so premiums cannot easily be compared to what people buying insurance on their own are now paying.
  • The calculator does not apply to people with coverage available through an employer, where the firm is generally paying for a substantial portion of the insurance premium.
Choose a proposal
Enter income as: Dollars % of poverty
Enter annual income here:
Enter age of policyholder here (19-64):
Choose family type here:
Is employer coverage available?

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation calculations.

H/t to Daily Kos.