Monday, February 16, 2009

Big T's Pic of the Day

A Small Glimpse of the Spending in the Stimuls Bill

Since actual journalist won’t do their job and break down what is in this outrageous economical spending—oops--I mean stimulus bill, I have done it for them.

The legislation was released to the public at 11pm on Thursday, and because I have no life and am a geek and nerd, I have spent hours upon hours into the wee hours of the morning going through parts of the stimulus bill looking for where our tax dollars are going. This is by no means a full list of spending projects in the final economic stimulus bill, but it represents a good cross section of what I found.

This piece of legislation is well over 1000 pages long. I find it extremely hard to believe that any member of Congress read it before voting to pass it on Friday.

If you want to take a look for yourself, follow the links below:

As I mentioned, it is not a small document, one reason it was broken into four different parts for your downloading and reading enjoyment. I recommend several cups of coffee or red bulls to help you along the way.

Here is just a few of the things that I found:

$24 million for construction and repairs to US Department of Agriculture facilities

$22.5 million for the USDA Inspector General for oversight on the stimulus bill

$176 million for deferred maintenance on US Agricultural Research Service facilities

$50 million to modernize and maintain the IT system of the Farm Service Agency

$290 million for "Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations"

$50 million for "Wastershed Rehabiliation Program"

$1 billion for rural housing direct loans

$10.4 billion for rural housing guaranteed loans

$2.5 billion for rural distance learning, telemedicine and broadband

$100 million in grants for National School Lunch Program equipment assistance

$150 million in agricultural commodity assistance

$1 billion for the Census Bureau

$4.7 billion for "Broadband Technology Opportunities Program" which includes $350 million for the development of a "broadband inventory map"

$650 million for Digital TV converter box program

$220 million for Scientific research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

$360 million for Construction of scientific research facilities

$230 million in extra budget money for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

$600 million for NOAA "Procurement, Acquisition and Construction"

$225 million in grants for programs to combat violence against women

$2 billion in state and local law enforcement assistance grants

$225 million in grants to improve the criminal justice system

$225 million in law enforcement assistance to Indian Tribes

$100 million for the "office for Victims of Crime"

$125 million in law enforcement assistance for rural areas

$50 million in state and local grants to combat internet crime against kids

$1 billion for the COPS program

$400 million in operations budget money for NASA

$150 million for "Aeronautics" at NASA

$400 million for "Exploration" at NASA

$2.5 billion for research at the National Science Foundation

$100 million for NSF "Education and Human Resources"

$400 million for NSF "Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction"

$1.4 billion in Army "Operation and Maintenance"

$657 million in Navy "Operation and Maintenance"

$113 million in Marine Corps "Operation and Maintenance"

$1.09 billion for Air Force "Operation and Maintenance"

$98 million for Army Reserve "Operation and Maintenance"

$55 million for Navy Reserve "Operation and Maintenance"

$39 million in Marine Corps Reserve "Operation and Maintenance"

$13 million for Air Force Reserve "Operation and Maintenance"

$266 million for Army National Guard "Operation and Maintenance"

$25 million for Air National Guard "Operation and Maintenance"

$75 million each for Army, Navy, Air Force "Research, Development, Test and Evaluation"

$400 million for "Defense Health Program"

$2 billion for Army Corps of Engineers construction

$375 million for Army Corps projects on the Mississippi and tributaries

$2.07 billion for Army Corps of Engineers "Operation and Maintenance"

$100 million for "Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program"

$1 billion for Interior Department "Water and Related Resources"

$50 million for Central Utah Project Completion Act

$50 million for California Bay-Delta Restoration Act

$10 million to inspect canals in urban areas

$16.8 billion for Energy Department, "Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy"

$5 billion of that goes for "Weatherization Assistance"

$4.5 billion to improve the nation's electricity grid

$3.4 billion for "Fossil Energy Research and Development"

$483 million for "Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup"

$390 million for "Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund"

$1.6 billion for "Science"

$6 billion "Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program"

$5.12 billion for "Defense Environmental Cleanup"

$7 million for oversight of "Making Work Pay" tax credits and payments in this bill

$80 million to implement health insurance tax credit plan

$5.5 billion for the "Federal Buildings Fund"

$300 million to buy energy efficient vehicles for the federal government

$200 million to consolidate the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters

$100 million for hi tech border security technology along the Mexican border

$420 million for construction of US Customs land border ports of entry

$20 million for tactical communications equipment for immigration enforcement

$1 billion for Aviation Security (explosive detection equipment)

$98 million for improvements to Coast Guard shore facilities

$142 million for "Alteration of Bridges"

$150 million in FEMA Public Transportation Security Assistance grants

$150 million for Port Security Grants

$210 million in grants to upgrade non-Federal fire stations

$125 million for Bureau of Land Management activities

$180 million for Bureau of Land Management construction

$15 million for Wildland Fire Management

$165 million for Fish and Wildlife Service deferred maintenance

$115 million for Fish and Wildlife Service construction projects

$15 million for preservation at Historically Black Colleges

$589 million for National Park System construction

$140 million for repair and restoration of US Geological Survey facilities

$450 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs construction

$600 million for EPA Superfund program

$200 million for Leaking Underground Storage Tank program

$4 billion in Clean Water grants

$2 billion for safe drinking water projects

$300 million for "Diesel Emission Reduction Act grants"

$650 million in US Forest Service "Capital Improvement and Maintenance"

$500 million for Wildland Fire Management

$85 million for Indian Health Services

$415 million for Indian Health Facilities construction projects

$25 million for repairs on Smithsonian Institution facilities

$50 million for National Endowment for the Arts to help preserve jobs in the non-profit arts

$3.95 billion in worker training and employment services

$400 million in state unemployment insurance funding

$80 million for enforcement of worker protection laws

$250 million for construction of Job Corps Centers

$500 million in grants to health care centers

$1.5 billion for health information technology systems

$500 million to address health professions workforce shortages

$1.3 billion for National Institutes of Health research resource

$7.4 billion for Office of the Director, NIH

$500 million for high priority construction at NIH

$700 million for comparative effectiveness research

$2 billion in low-income child care assistance

$1 billion in funding for Head Start

$1.1 billion for expansion of Early Head Start

$1 billion for Community Services Block Grant Act

$2 billion for Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology

$300 million for CDC childhood immunization programs

$650 million for community-based prevention and wellness strategies

$50 million in grants to states for infections reduction strategies

$13 billion in Title I education funding

$720 million in school improvement grants

$200 million in "Innovation and Improvement" education grants

$12.2 billion in Special Education funding

$15.8 billion in student financial assistance money

$89 million in AmeriCorps awards money

$500 million to replace the National Computer Center for Social Security

$500 million to process disability and retirement claims

$180 million in Army Military Construction

$280 million in Navy and Marine Corps Military Construction

$180 million in Air Force Military Construction funds

$1.33 billion to build military hospitals

$120 million for military energy conservation programs

$50 million for Army National Guard Military Construction

$50 million for Air National Guard Military Construction

$34 million for Army family housing construction

$80 million for Air Force family housing construction

$555 million for "Homeowners Assistance Fund"

$1 billion for Veterans Affairs medical facilities

$50 million for National Cemetery Administration

$150 million to hire temporary VA claims processors

$50 million for VA Information Technology Systems

$150 million in grants to build state extended care facilities

$90 million for passport and training functions facilities

$290 million for State Department IT security upgrades

$1.5 billion in surface transportation infrastructure

$200 million for FAA infrastructure projects

$1.1 billion in airport grants

$27.5 billion in railroad and port infrastructure investments

$105 million for Puerto Rico highway program

$60 million in competitive transportation grants to states

$550 million for transportation on Indian reservations

$8 billion for high-speed rail

$1.3 billion for Amtrak

$6.9 billion in mass transit capital assistance

$100 million in discretionary grants to public transit agencies

$750 million for mass transit rail improvements

$4 billion in "Public Housing Capital Fund"

$510 million in Native American Housing Block Grants

$1 billion in Community Development Grants

$2 billion in emergency aid for the redevelopment of foreclosed homes

$2.25 billion for low-income housing tax credit projects$1.5 billion in a homelessness prevention fund

What does the stimulus bill have to do with healthcare? Apparently a lot!

As republicans and critics argued over the right mix of tax cuts and whether money was going to the right places to jump-start the economy, no one was objecting to the healthcare provisions that were slipped in to the bill without debate or discussion.

Senators should have read over this stimulus bill with more scrutiny before blindly voting for it. They should have paid extra attention to the provisions lined out in H.R. 1 EH (page numbers mentioned refer to this pdf version) and voted against it, because it is dangerous to your health, and I am not talking about the aneurysm you put yourself at risk of from reading this mess.
The stimulus bill will affect every aspect of the healthcare industry, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated and how much money hospitals will get paid.

These new provisions are clearly a reflection of the ideas of Tom Daschle as they are virtually identical to what he proposed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” (A book I just recently finished reading. Coincidence? I think not.) In the book Daschle suggests doctors give up their autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners. Daschle was the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department, until recently.

If you read pages 445, 454 and 479 it is clear new health rules in this bill will affect “every individual in the United States.” A federal system is now going to electronically track every medical treatment you receive.

Having electronic medical records instantly available for easy transfer to other hospitals is no doubt beneficial, but the bill goes further. It will create a brand new government bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, to monitor treatments and make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions. (Pages 442, 446)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my doctor to work for the federal government and their interests, but rather work for me and mine.

There is also a summary of penalties in the bill you can read about on pages 511, 518 and 540-541. Under this bill Hospitals and doctors that are determined to not be “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” or the penalties is not clearly defined or stated in the bill. The new HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time”, will determine that. Whatever that means?

And what exactly are the penalties? Will they deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocol if you have a special condition or you need an experimental treatment?

There is no doubt in my mind the vagueness of this was done intentionally. If we go back to Daschle’s book, he proposes an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions others won’t make. The stimulus bill does just that and covers it on pages 190-192. It is called the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.

Daschle also explains in his book the goal is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He goes on to praise European systems for their willingness to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forego experimental treatments.” Daschle criticizes Americans for expecting too much from the healthcare system. He explains the reform “will not be pain free,” and seniors should be more accepting of conditions that come with age instead of treating them.

Interestingly this goal is accomplished in the bill as well. Medicare currently pays for treatments deemed safe and effective, but the stimulus bill would change that. According to the bill on page 464 there will now be cost-effectiveness standard set by the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.
Daschle also tells us in his book the blue print for this council is modeled after a board in the U.K. named the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence that approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly.

In 2006, the U.K. health board, NICE, denied treatment and a costly new drug to elderly patients with macular degeneration until they went blind in one eye. It took almost three years of public protest to reverse the decision.

Hiding the groundwork for universal or socialized healthcare in a stimulus bill was intentional. Daschle and supporters of the Clinton administration’s universal health care plans in 1994 learned an important lesson. They cannot pass universal healthcare with a debate and delay on the issue. In fact Daschle noted last year the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a healthcare plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”

The newly elected administration and Congress are following the script. All last week, President Obama was out pushing the stimulus bill calling it “inexcusable and irresponsible” for senators to delay passing the stimulus bill. In truth, the bill needed more scrutiny. Scrutiny they new would destroy their road to socialized medicine.

Universal Healthcare and the Uninsured

We know the groundwork has been laid for universal healthcare in the stimulus bill, but how long will it be before it is a reality? It looks like universal or national healthcare may be here sooner than you think. Congress plans to address the issue very soon, perhaps in the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency.

The democrats are wasting no time either. They are well underway to getting the process started. Montana Senator Democrat Max Baucus, senate finance committee chairman, has unveiled his own healthcare plan. It is very similar to President Barack Obama’s plan from the campaign trail, but there is one little exception. Under Baucus' plan Americans would be required to have health insurance. In other words, it would be illegal for you to be without health insurance.

They claim the goal of the new proposal is to provide insurance for the so-called 47 million uninsured Americans we keep hearing about, but who are the 47 million uninsured?

Many of them are illegal immigrants, others can actually afford to pay medical costs out of pocket and some are too lazy to sign up for government health care benefits they are eligible for.

Here are some numbers from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) conducted in 2007 by the US Census Bureau.

· 9.7 million of the uninsured are non-citizens or illegal immigrants

· 7 million live in households with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000

· 7.6 million live in households with incomes more than $100,000

So that leaves 22.7 million uninsured or about 8% of the population, of which 7-10 million are eligible for government healthcare programs but fail to sign up according to the Congressional Budget report. This means the number of hardship and chronically uninsured Americans is closer to 12-15 million or approximately 4-5% of the population. This is hardly a healthcare crisis.

Under the government solution employers will be forced to provide health insurance to employees. Those who do not provide health insurance will have to pay into a fund to cover the uninsured. In other words, healthcare will no longer be an employer benefit, but a government mandate. This is just another hidden tax on business.

An analysis of Barack Obama's healthcare plan by a consulting firm estimates that his plan, which is similar to Baucus' proposal, would cost the taxpayers $75 billion in the first year. By 2018, we will have spent over $1 trillion to fund this government insurance scheme.

The analysis also found that Obama's plan might worsen some problems like shortages of primary care doctors. The report also said, "Unless costs are cut, growing health care costs will increase the costs of Obama's plan dramatically over time and reduce the effectiveness of mandates. This could make the federal costs unsustainably high."

This leaves the question is 4-5% of uninsured Americans enough reason to destroy one of the best healthcare providers in the world by turning it into a socialist system?

If you still think it is, I suggest you take the time to read this well researched article comparing the different healthcare systems outside the United States by Michael Tanner, health policy expert at the Cato Institute.

You might find it interesting how many people escape their countries’ socialized medical systems for care in the United States to include former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Burlusconi. Tens of thousands of foreigners seek treatment in the US every year and one out of three Canadian physicians sends a patient to the US every year. The Canadian healthcare system pays 1 billion a year for care in the US.

Although it is definitely not perfect, no system is, one could argue that there is no system better than the US. Universal or national healthcare is not only bad for Americans, but also bad for the world.

News and Views from Around the Web

It’s nice to know our government is not alone when it comes to wasteful spending, China has spent earthquake donation funds on luxury vehicles.

It seems a lot of Americans are turning to the golden arches in these hard economical times. McDonalds reports 80% rise in profits for 2008.

Here is some good news; retail sales were up last month after a six-months of decline. Another sign the economy may be improving without the help of the stimulus bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) warns that America is heading towards a looming entitlement crisis… Gee, I wonder what his first clue was?

Almost 70% of Americans feel that they could do a better job on the economy than Congress…Well, they couldn’t do any worse.

When Michael Moore wants to make a film about the financial crisis, where does he turn to for expert advice? How about the The Daily Kos! I guess economist were too hard to find.

Times are tough for government budgets. So tough that Berkeley's public arts program is going to pay an artist $196,000 to create dog statues.

Arkansas is considering a bill that would allow people to carry concealed handguns into churches. No problems here. I think law-abiding citizens should be able to carry handguns wherever they want.

Mark Cuban has come up with his own version of an economic stimulus that relies on entrepreneurs, hard work and ingenuity, rather than government. What a concept! Genius!

How many jobs will the stimulus bill have to create to be successful? Seems like a fair question, but no one seems to be able to answer it.

Dick Morris has some useful information on our “culture of debt” and how dangerous it is. I have been telling you this stuff for years!

It looks like Meg Whitman, former CEO of E-bay, is going to put her name in the hat to run for Governor of California. Perhaps she can take the liquidity out of that mess and sell it on E-bay!

One of the brilliant senator’s from Massachusetts John Kerry is concerned about tax cuts because people would be "free to invest anywhere that they want if they choose to invest." Yeah John, I know this is hard for you to grasp, but it is called freedom!