What an exciting moment in the history of our country. Look at the reaction moment photo. Obama's face captures it all, with others cheering in the background. It looks like Teddy Roosevelt's horse is also excited.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="531"] Barack Obama reacts to the House agreeing to the Senate's ammendment to the ACA[/caption]
Today the NPR health blog posted a great article about where we are in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Has it met it's goals?
The article simply summarizes in table format each of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 cost and impact, what has been done, and whether or not it is "on track". The table really impressed me as an excellent, well-referenced resource that I wanted to refer our readers to. It divides the provisions into expanding coverage, senior benefits, and consumer protections. Below are some highlights.
EXPANDING COVERAGE - 7 provisions
3/7 - Met goal
3/7 - Has not met goal
1/7 - Too soon to tell
An estimated 54 million people received at least one free preventive health benefit in 2011 (goal was 41 million).
48,879 people covered through 2011; Cost: $618 million through 2011 (goal was 200,000-400,000 covered).
SENIOR BENEFITS - 3 provisions
3/3 - Met goal
Prescription drug benefit included 3.8 million beneficiaries who saved $2.3 billion in 2011. Old people should love Obama.
CONSUMER PROTECTIONS - 5 provisions
2/5 - Met goal
3/5 - Too soon to tell
Insurers can no longer impose lifetime limits.
I'm impressed, are you?
By Doctor LauraClubFancy, your health care correspondent.
The topic of gas prices has taken center stage recently in our political discourse. Gas prices, as we are all painfully aware of, are have been climbing steadily, effecting us not only at the pump, but everywhere else where higher fuel costs are passed down the line to consumers, like at the grocery store.
So why does Obama let this happen? Why does he refuse to lift a finger to bring gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon, as Newt Gingrich promises to do if he is elected? Well, if you read the comments on the FoxNews web site from readers weighing in on the topic, you would learn that it is because: “the only thing he cares about is implementing his socialist/Marxist agenda”; and that “The progressive left have completed their agenda to weaken America so they can now bring in the wolves to finish her off.” I am not making this stuff up. These people really exist.
The insanity isn’t just coming from the right-wing blogosphere, either. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said a few weeks ago that Mr. Obama should be held “fully responsible for what the American public is paying for gasoline.” Other politicians with close ties to the oil and gas industries (i.e., mostly Republicans), are also getting into the mix. This has become a huge political issue, but its implications go far beyond just politics.
If the Republicans can convince Americans that today’s high gas prices are a result of Obama’s overregulation and antipathy for the hydrocarbon industry, then they can successfully distract voters from the real issue of what dependence on fossil fuels means for our country and for the world, politically, economically and environmentally, and at the same time score political points in an important election year.
The facts are that under Obama domestic production is way up from what it was at any time under Bush II (see NY Times graph). Is this because of Obama’s supposed onerous regulation, I wonder? It is also a fact that any expansion of drilling permits, or approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (a project originally opposed by Nebraska’s republican governor) would not have an impact on oil prices for years, especially since most of that oil would go to foreign markets anyway.
Oil is a global commodity, and producers will sell to whoever will pay the most. With the continued growth of countries like China, India Brazil and South Africa, global demand is only increasing. This is reflected in the rising gas prices all around the world, not just in the US. The US now exports more oil than it imports, but oil drilled here doesn’t necessarily stay here.
The fact that OPEC controls huge international oil supplies, and has the power to drive up prices through reducing production whenever it wants needs to also be acknowledged by Obama-hating Republicans. Middle East instability, lack of refinery capacity, corporate profits and global commodity speculators (which even the hyper-conservative Lou Dobbs admits is a big reason for current gas prices) all play a role as well. None of this, of course, is immediately under Obama’s control, or acknowledged by Republicans engaged in their anti-Obama rhetoric.
But common sense and facts have never given Republicans pause before, so why start now? That is why their only response to the situation is to “drill baby drill”, and make sure that high-earning oil companies continue to get billions of dollars in tax subsidies each year, while at the same time decrying efforts to subsidize green-energy firms, a move which, apparently, is only appropriate for fossil fuel companies. (These subsidies, curiously enough, don’t seem to be an issue for GOP deficit hawks. I guess deficit concerns just apply to NPR or Health Care.)
And what about reducing demand for fossil fuels through less consumption, increased fuel efficiency and alternative fuels? Poppycock! That is just liberals trying to destroy America through their environmental scare tactics! Somehow Republicans missed that day in econ. class when their professors explained how there are two ways to bring down costs in a market, one being increasing supply and the other being to reduce demand.
At the end of the day oil is a non-renewable resource, and it will only get more expensive as the economies of highly populated countries around the word continue to grow, and as long as western nations continue in their oil addiction. The only way to deal with it is to start figuring out how to use less. Period. But until the Right pulls its head out of the sand (and pulls its hands out of big-oil’s pockets), I’m afraid the prospects for making progress on this front are not promising. And like gas prices, that is also not something Obama has personal control over.
"Not now. I have to be honest with you; it's not about your faith, even if the church itself in its structure is perfect, the people in it are not. That's not to say he's not a good person, don't get me wrong. But I would not vote for him just because he is Mormon. I want to know what he is going to do for the people. I want to see the compassion. I want to talk about something else besides the money. I know how hard it is to send two kids to college when you ain't got nothing. I know people may not think of me in that way, but this business gives you ups and downs. ... I am a Barack Obama fan, from head-to-toe, always have been. He's not perfect; nobody is going to be that way. Until you sit in that office, at that desk, don't tell me what you're going to do because you are going to come in and have some of the same problems as he did."
Thanks to John for posting this on the Mormons for Obama facebook group
Once again, thanks for the support!
But these two internet entities are in no way collaborating with each other, nor are they communicating! They are completely and totally and 100% free of all and any type of coordination! (To understand why this even matters, please read Jen's post on Super PACs, and watch Steve Colbert's and Jon Stewart's explanation as well.
So please join Mormons for Obama on Facebook to interact with like-minded supporters of the president. You will find updates from this website, plus postings of events, other web links, and civil discussion of the 2012 election! Tom is in charge over there, and I don't even know if that is his real name, that is how uncoordinated we are.
Join Mormons for Obama on Facebook by clicking here!
Post by Joseph -
Super Tuesday is over, Santorum took Kansas yesterday, and Romney got Wyoming (and Guam and the Virgin Islands); he continues to inch closer to Republican nomination - line upon line, precept upon precept. And in order that I might contradict my last post, I offer up this post script:
While it might seem less likely that I'll have the opportunity to be offended by the Republicans for picking Santorum over Romney, ultimately I wish that the Romney candidacy was done or that it had never happened altogether. This Mormon moment is going on for an eternity, and I feel a tremor in the Force.
Mostly, I don't like the scrutiny. With Romney in the spotlight, the news media is looking to report on anything and everything about the Church; seriously, if there is anything sensational, ugly, or that will make a good report or newsworthy (or not) they seek after these things. Check out Friday's op-ed piece in the Huffington Post that asks, "Is Mormonism a Cult?" The good old days of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics are gone, back when the Church had published ideas for stories on Mormons for the media to use when reporting about the Church. Now the talking points have given way to the Mormonism: Getting it Right feature, and Mormonism 101 which includes a FAQ section that addresses many of the queries about Mormonism, (i.e., "Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will 'get their own planet?'") Personally, I would prefer directions from the brethren that sounded something like "duck and cover!" "drop and roll!" "hold on tight!" or other words of wisdom from a Tornado Survival Guide.
This oversaturation of Mormon stories in the news and popular culture leaves me feeling defined, boxed-in, stereotyped, and judged. My discomfort is increasing with each new online article or blog post, and I am patiently awaiting the day when I become desensitized to it all (or just give up and grow horns). I acknowledge again that Mormons make a tempting target. The policies of apparent discrimination makes it so; but seriously, The Book of Mormon Musical? (And I have it on good authority that it contains catchy tunes, colorful sets, and profanity throughout.) Of course, the South Park guys are equal-opportunity offenders, and Mitt Romney's campaign can't be blamed for The Book of Mormon Musical, only thanked. But it feels a little bit much right now.
A couple of media storms have arisen in the past few weeks that illustrate my point; these concern baptisms for the dead, and the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood.
Baptisms for the dead have continued to be a problem in the Church due to the continued overzealousness of some genealogically-minded Latter-day Saints that feel inclined to submit the names of people such as of Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl, Elie Wiesel's parents and other Holocaust victims for proxy baptisms. See my previous post. And before I even heard the Church leaders' letter that was to be read in Sacrament meetings today, I first heard a report about it on NPR.
And then my former mission president (and BYU professor), Randy Bott, offered an explanation to a Washington Post reporter about the Church's ban on blacks receiving the priesthood. The Church immediately condemned it in an issued statement. Well, I don't feel I need to say much about the ban or the 1978 reversal; here is the link to the original Washington Post article, and this is the Church's response as reported in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune. Additionally, some Mormon bloggers at By Common Consent have already thoroughly examined the issue and posted their many comments, condemnations, and analyses on their website; they lined up like members of a Utah firing squad, uncertain who had the real bullet in their barrel, but took aim President Bott and fired their guns anyway. Their posts can be found here and here and here and here and here and here. I especially liked what this guy had to say - he's southern, and I can relate.
But my point is that a lot of this news coverage seems to miss who we really are as Latter-day Saints. For example, I enjoy explaining proxy baptisms for the dead. To me, this rite and all the research that goes into it, shows a deep compassion for one's ancestors and a commitment to them in a real tangible way. I am reminded of some branches of Buddhist practice that call for the male relatives of a deceased person to become monks and spend time in the monastery so that they can obtain merit vicariously for the departed. This merit is then transferred in a ceremony in hopes that it will improve the station of the loved one in their next life. Therefore, I realize I could take the opportunity to correct the misperceptions, but with so much information on the Church and its doctrines suddently available, why would someone even feel the need to ask a Mormon for clarifications at this point? (And why would someone feel the need to talk to LDS missionaries if they just heard them singing on Broadway for three hours?)
Additionally, all of the criticism of President Bott does not represent him in the way that I experienced him as a mission leader. I love this man; I loved his enthusiasm, compassion, and insight. He did away with "junior-senior companions," (we needed to learn to share responsibilities equally); he never talked about baptismal statistics, (this obscured the real purpose of missionary service); and he consistently followed Joseph Smith's declaration, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." As an instructor, he was incredible. He gave us the parable of the devil tree, his retelling of the David and Goliath story, and a clearer existential understanding of life and death. I remember going to him as a struggling "green" missionary, feeling somewhat alone and isolated, and he saw to the heart of my concerns almost instantly. His counsel was right on the mark, and I remember it almost word for word. I don't feel I should forget this, regardless of the Post article and the assertion by some that President Bott has taught these ideas for years at BYU.
Thus, I refuse to define my former mission president by this public relations debacle. I know that I don't wish for a lone action on my part to solely characterize me. President Bott does not equal his statement made to the Post reporter, just like the Church is not just the pre-1978 ban on blacks receiving the priesthood. But I realize that this happens often in life and popular media; we define people by their most provocative action or a prominent occurrence, and all else becomes insignificant: Kitty Genovese was defined by her murder, Richard Jewell by doing his job, and Thomas B. Marsh by cream off the top of the milk.
I miss the days of my youth in the south when nobody really knew the Mormons; I could be the one to tell them who we are and be the first point of contact. Then I had control of how I was defined and understood. So let it be over quickly. Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations have pulled Mormonism into the 21st-century spotlight like a handcart across the plains of America, and I am feeling pretty tired. Not even a hit Broadway musical could have ever done it this well.
I smile every time a pundit tries to link escalating gas prices to our president. Not because I am satisfied with the erroneous connection, but out of amused exasperation at the hypocrisy that continually plagues polarizing talking heads. Gas pricing is a function of market dynamics, meaning that it is driven by supply, demand, and speculation. Any action by President Obama to influence pricing would be governmental regulation, which opposes conservatives’ fundamental advocacy of smaller government. The only organizations that can truly impact pricing are the oil companies whom our tax dollars continue to subsidize. Domestic oil companies are set to rake in windfall profits as pricing continues to rise. It’s time to ask for those subsidies back.
Most Americans do not understand that half the oil consumed by the United States is produced within its borders. The United States consumes almost 18 million barrels daily (MBD), of which 9.1 MBD comes from our own drills. We are the largest oil consumer in the world, using 22 percent of total global production. We are also the third largest producer of oil, just behind Russia (9.9) and Saudi Arabia (9.7). The other half of U.S.-consumed oil is imported from several nations. The largest exporter of oil to the U.S. is Canada, which accounts for 2.3 MBD. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nigeria are all next in line, with each exporting roughly 1 MBD. Surprisingly, and despite all the rhetoric, Iraq ships just 400,000 barrels a day, a mere 2 percent of our total oil consumption. In total, the United states only receives 10 percent of its total oil supply from the Middle East.
So if the U.S. consumes oil almost exclusively from North America, how does the Middle East impact pricing? What consumers need to understand is that the largest global producer of oil has the greatest control on pricing. Even though the United States receives only 10 percent of its imported oil from the Middle East, that region of the world accounts for 30 MBD, or 34% of global oil production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a cartel of participating countries that unify production and pricing to maintain greater control of supply and demand. OPEC supplies the majority of oil to the world’s Eastern Nations (China, Japan, India, etc).
So why are gas prices rising? Bordering Iran is the world’s greatest natural choke hold of oil transportation. Almost 17 MBD pass through The Straits of Hormuz on their way to consuming nations. Iran has threatened to close the Strait, which would result in incremental increases in cost to transport oil out of the region. Since OPEC nations control the largest collective supply, any price increase due to their control will impact the worldwide marketplace.
American oil companies do not have to raise prices as no incremental production costs are being reflected, as in the Middle East. The problem is increased market demand for cheaper U.S. oil can drive prices up (i.e. China would prefer to buy our cheaper oil instead of OPEC’s more expensive offering). U.S. companies understand competition, and would much rather raise pricing with OPEC than undercut competition in the short term. Why? Oil is highly inelastic and consumers will pay for gas regardless of price. Over the next several months, as oil prices stay high, U.S.-based oil companies will deliver some of the most profitable quarters for their shareholders, taking full advantage of Middle East instability.
There is no better time to withdraw the subsidies our government pays to domestic oil companies. Each year domestic oil companies take $4 billion of taxpayer dollars and add it to their bottom line. As noted previously, subsidies have no impact on domestic oil prices, nor does increasing U.S. production through additional drilling. Any incremental oil production will be sold at the market prices, regardless of those subsidies, unless companies are willing to break away from OPEC direction. As gas prices continue to climb at the pump, understand that capitalism is in full swing. Oil company shareholders could not be happier, and they should thank both Iran and the American taxpayer.