We take note this week of HR 45, Congresswoman Bachmann’s (R-MN) most recent attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Her legislation speaks volumes about this law and the path it has taken, and, frankly, how very contradictory the response to the law has become.
The bottom line on ObamaCare is that something had to be done about a healthcare system the expense of which was causing financial devastation among some who actually have insurance, compounded disproportionately for those uninsured. Simply put, the cost of healthcare, health insurance, and proscription drugs shows no sign of abating and have reached the point where something as fundamental as medical care was beyond the reach of a number of Americans approaching 20% of the population.
Intended or otherwise, opposition to this law is in favor of the medical insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, and large healthcare organizations. Support for the law is based on the getting healthcare to those who need it. But then there is the cost, and that is where Rep Bachmann’s bill is off track.
One question early on about the law was how does a law spend $1 trillion but reduce the deficit by over $100 billion? The answer is one that seems to rely on faith, certainly participation. The law draws its short-term revenues from fighting waste, fraud and abuse in the system or, at least, changing things that may be interpreted as waste, fraud, and abuse; that of over-testing patients and billing Medicare along with actual fraudulent billing. The law begins the cost-saving process of paying doctors and hospitals for actually curing a patient rather than treating symptoms for which the patient continues to return and pay for treatment over time. In the long term the preventive medicine provisions in the bill are intended to go a long way to reduce the government’s cost of treating those diseases, such as diabetes, for life.
CBO mashed the numbers on this law several times and came up with this counter-intuitive conclusion: if the insurance provisions of the bill are repealed it will save the taxpayers $1.2 trillion, but if the entire law is repealed it will cost taxpayers $1.3 trillion.
There is Rep. Bachmann’s first contradiction; as an adamant ‘spending cutter’ Rep.Bachmann seems willing to lose the $1.3 trillion perhaps by concluding that after saving the $1.2 trillion, the overall loss would be $100 billion. But that math is deceptive; the cost of repealing this bill is $1.2 trillion and it would take us back to a time when medical insurance and care had reached costs too high for most to afford. More so, though, it would take us back to being at the expense of medical insurance company decisions about our healthcare needs, back to claims being denied for simplistic application form errors, back to being denied for a pre-exisitng conditions, back to having a policy dropped or limited coverage. If you think that won’t cost more you need only to look back to the way things were three years ago when this law was beginning to be implemented.
Opponents to this law who are also cost cutters would do well to work within the bill to further reduce its cost and assure its success. ##
…from the Senate Clerk
Early on the morning of June 17, 1972, five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C. A security guard discovered the team and alerted the metro police, who arrested the burglars, who carried more than $3,500 in cash and high-end surveillance and electronic equipment.
While the burglars awaited their arraignment in federal district court, the FBI launched an investigation of the incident. The dogged reporting of two Washington Post journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, raised questions and suggested connections between Nixon’s reelection campaign and the men awaiting trial in federal district court. The White House denied any connection to the break-in, and President Richard Nixon won reelection in a landslide in November 1972.
On January 10, 1973, the trial of the Watergate burglars and two accomplices began. After weeks of testimony, Chief Federal District Judge John Sirica expressed skepticism that all the facts in the case had been revealed. Five men pleaded guilty and two were convicted by a jury. Judge Sirica urged those awaiting sentencing to cooperate with the soon-to-be-established Senate select committee.
Watergate Hearings Begin
On May 17, 1973, Senator Sam Ervin opened the first public hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, commonly known as the Watergate Committee. Television camera crews, photographers, and print journalists competed with Senate staff and curious onlookers for space in the crowded Senate Caucus Room, the site of numerous notable Senate investigations including Teapot Dome, the Kefauver crime hearings, and the Army-McCarthy hearings. Over the next seven months senators and staff investigated allegations, prompted by the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate hotel and office complex, of “illegal, improper, or unethical activities” related to the presidential election campaign of 1972. Television delivered live coverage of the dramatic hearings to the living rooms of millions of American households. Only one month after the hearings began, an overwhelming majority of Americans—97 percent—had heard of Watergate. Of those, 67 percent believed that President Nixon had participated in the Watergate cover-up. President Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.
Leaks Lead to Open Hearings
On March 28, 1973, the Watergate Committee met behind closed doors to hear the testimony of convicted Watergate burglar James McCord. Foreshadowing the public’s fascination with the televised hearings that would begin two months later, reporters jostled one another in the hallways of the Capitol, eager to interview senators after they concluded their five-hour meeting. The closed hearing generated so many leaks to the media that the committee decided to conduct all future hearings in public session.
Early Days of the Conservation Movement
…from the House Clerk
On May 13, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered the opening address, “Conservation as a National Duty,” at the outset of a three-day meeting billed as the Governors’ Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources. He explained to the attendees that “the occasion for the meeting lies in the fact that the natural resources of our country are in danger of exhaustion if we permit the old wasteful methods of exploiting them longer to continue.” The conference propelled conservation issues into the forefront of public consciousness and stimulated a large number of private and state-level conservation initiatives.
The gathering of the nation’s governors was spearheaded by Chief Forester of the United States Gifford Pinchot, with the assistance of Secretary of the Inland Waterways Commission William John “WJ” McGee. No individual was so completely and prominently identified with the American conservation movement in this era as Gifford Pinchot, who made it his mission to establish the permanently sustainable use of the nation’s natural resources on a foundation of rational and integrated public ownership and management.
Born in 1865, Pinchot was inspired at a young age by his father’s suggestion that he should dedicate his life to the profession of forestry, then all but unknown in the United States. Pinchot graduated from Yale and went to France and Germany to pursue his education as a forester. When he returned to the United States, another notable conservationist and friend of his father, Frederick Law Olmsted, encouraged him to work in North Carolina managing the forest at George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore estate near Asheville. In 1898, he became chief of the Division of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture, and in 1905 he succeeded in having the recently created forest reserves (later renamed national forests) transferred from the Department of the Interior to his own under what is now the Forest Service.
At the turn of the century, the nation’s newly created Forest Reserves were in the Department of the Interior. The General Land Office—at that time soaked with fraud and incompetence—had responsibility for administering them. Meanwhile, what few foresters existed worked in the Division of Forestry, located in the Department of Agriculture. When Gifford Pinchot took over the tiny Division of eleven people in 1898, he resolved to bring forests and foresters together into what many then considered the more efficient and ethical Department of Agriculture.
The U.S.D.A. Forest Service,