September 5, 2016 Democratic response to the weekly letter from Representative Carter
Yes, we have a cure for Congress people that are beholding to the $360 million Big Pharma lobby. In this case it is known as Nathan Russo who is qualified to be elected in your place in November. The 21st Century Cures is a conglomoration of several bills, some with merit and others just a money grab by Big Phama. Whose idea was it that the FDA should be forced to allow treatments that have not been adequately proven to be effective? or even safe? We have seen in the past where Big Pharma fudged FDA testing results with horrific outcomes, and now you say “don’t bother testing”. You better call up your Big Phama buddies to fund your re-election campaign in return for your public support. The FDA is a scientific organization, not a political football.
August 28, 2016 Social Security
Since I didn't get a weekly letter from Buddy Carter, let me expand on a subject of my own choosing.
Social Security Expansion
The GOP hates Social Security because it was implemented by Franklin Roosevelt and for no other reason. The same blind rage they hold against Barack Obama today. For decades they have decried and attempted to dismantle it only to discover that it is popular with the people. As popular, or more so than Medicare or cutting taxes.
Social Security is neither broke nor a Ponzi scheme despite the GOP wailings. To understand why this is so, you need to know the basics of how Social Security works. It is NOT a retirement savings account but rather a transfer system. People that work contribute, people that are retired receive the benefit. There is a social contract that depends on workers having assurance that the GOP won’t suddenly call the program quits.
People normally work for about 45 years and then live about 15 years in retirement, so there is at any time a 3:1 ratio of contributors to those that benefit. The median income of American workers is about $52,000 and the average Social Security benefit is $14,000. Using the 3:1 ratio that means there is $156,000 income to benefit payout. That would require a tax on income of 9% to sustain. The actual tax is 12.4% for Social Security (half paid by employer), that was set by Ronald Reagan to allow a surplus to accumulate. The surplus is now at $2.8 Trillion(!) and as of last year it is still increasing. Why would there be a surplus if the program is self-sustaining under normal circumstances? Blame the Baby Boomers. The huge bump in workers born after WW2 upset the normal balance. This generation was willing to pay more in tax than required for their eventual benefit so that the current Millenial generation would not be burdened. The Boomers have started retirement and many are now on Social Security. So in a few years, the reserve could start to drop during their remaining 15 year lifetime.
Those that predict Social Security will be broke in 20 years do so based on the number of new retirees being added at the same rate as for the Boomer generation which is ridiculous. The number of retirees is better judged by birthrates of 65 years ago. They also look at the declining “labor participation rate”. That is true, but requires you to ignore the fact the current labor participants are actually still adding to the surplus. The labor participation rate includes all people old enough to work, except those still in school, compared to available jobs. It does NOT exclude retirees, so as the ratio of retirees to workers increases, the labor participation rate drops initially to account for that. But remember, when a person retires, that job in theory is still available for a younger worker, so the universe of jobs does not decrease because of retirement. Worker contribution to Social Security stays nearly level and in no case would continue down for 20 years simply due to retirement. As Obama has showed us, the current economy has the capacity to add far more jobs each month than we have new retirees. However just as birthrates cycle, so do economies, so it is best not to extrapolate future needs beyond what is prudent.
But if you really think you need to ‘fix’ a system that is not actually broken, there are 4 simple fixes, any of which would cure any problems. One would be to remove the earnings cap that rewards the 1% with NO FICA tax once they have $120,000 in income. The 1% represent few of the retirees but much of the available income in America, and FICA also pays for Medicare, rich old people get just as sick as poor, so the cap is not reasonable. Or there is plan two, which calls for comprehensive immigration reform. This would correct the declining worker participation rate big time, because undocumented workers are not counted currently. If an immigrant works their lifetime contributing to the American economy, they have earned a benefit. Remember the Boomer bump is a problem only because we did not replace them with home-grown workers. Immigrants, as they have in years past, can build our work force without adding to our burdens. Fix number three is obvious, increase the income that working America receives, a $15/hr minimum wage would be a start. Four is along the same lines, pay women equally as men, that would give a 30% boost to half the American workforce. One ‘fix’ i didn’t mention was the current GOP plan which calls for investing Social Security contributions in the stock market. What they fail to mention was if this was done, it would not take too long for the Government to own all the corporations in America! Holy Socialism, we want fiscal responsibility not a government take over.
But remember the Boomers that paid 38% more in tax so as to not be a burden? If we ‘fix’ the system then they are due a 38% increase in benefits! This is why Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are calling for expanded Social Security. It is the right thing to do, and the money given to seniors, it has been shown repeatedly, goes directly to stimulating the economy, unlike ‘trickle down’ from the rich. This will be a boost to the Millenial generation as well when business responds to the influx of consumer spending. An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times (Steven Hill, July 11) reporting on expanded Social Security concepts concluded that the system could easily afford to DOUBLE its benefits if some of the fixes mentioned are employed. The idea is to change the system from a bare bones safety net to a real retirement plan. As fewer employers benefit workers, this idea has a lot of traction. And as more vulture captitalists gut worker retirements, a degree of social justice is restored.
August 21, 2016 Democratic Response to Representative Carter's Weekly Newsletter
A Dangerous Congress
Since you have been serving in the Congress (2015-2016), the Pharma industry has ponied up $360 Million in lobbying expense. And now you are telling us that it is paying off in spades with your attempt to block CMS from improving how Medicare handles exhorbitant medicine costs.
For people that don’t understand what Medicare B medicine is, let me get you up to speed. those are the doses that the doctor (or more likely the nurse) administers to you in the office/clinic. Typically these are injection doses so the patient might not be competent to takes those on their own. These will run from $1000 to $5000 PER DOSE. Why so high? Because Medicare is not allowed to negotiate with producers a fair and reasonable cost, manufacturers can and do charge any price they feel like. Are there alternatives to these treatments? often the answer is yes, but a doctor does not like to prescribe them because Medicare B works on a cost plus basis. That means the doctor is encouraged to only prescribe the most expensive possible treatment so that his cut is also maximized. If the alternative is a pill that the patient takes on their own, then the doctor gets nothing other than the 6 months office visit to rewrite prescriptions, a mere pittance. What about the patient? Medicare B is 80% coverage, so the patient has to fork over $400 to $1000 per month for the rest of his/her life or until the patents expire.
Your statement that the doctor would now be required to administer medication for less than “his cost” is a gross over statement. You neglect that part of the “his cost” is the cost of the nurse to do the injection, the cost of air-conditioning the clinic, the payment on his yacht, and anything else he spends his profits on. Medicare does not mind the nurse or even the AC, but the yacht? So instead of reimbursing the doctor the price of the medicine plus a fixed extra 20%, the extra amount is reduced to a more reasonable figure, one that does not particularly encourage the doctor to always chose the most expensive possible treatment for the patient. And the new plan cuts the copay by the patient so they are not hit with hundreds or thousands of dollars per month to cover treatment. Oh, did you forget to tell us the part about this saving Medicare patients money.
If you remember your first Town Hall meeting in Savannah, i was the one that told you about the medical trial i was on that was soon to be over (it got extended for some reason so i am still getting free medication) and was told the treatment would cost $2000 per dose. There is an alternative, a generic pill that i could get on my Medicare D for free. In fact i was required to stay on the pill during the trial in case i got a placebo regimen. As to the cost they provide me with 8 injectors per clinic visit ($16,000 worth of medicine?) to take home and i get to self medicate using a pre-loaded sub-dermal injector. no nurse or office visit required. I am no fool, they are not handing me $16,000 of stuff, probably cost them maybe $5 per dose tops, and they get the injectors back for re-cycle. But once this comes on the market, it is a $2000 per dose item and the doctor collects $400 every two weeks when you have to let the nurse dose you in the office. And the generic pill that also could work for you? can’t get it without a prescription and you know which treatment the doctor is going to prescribe without the new program that rewards the doctor for trying cost effective solutions to treatment first. The company that makes the treatment is AMGEN Inc, and they have spent $4,660,000 just this year alone to lobby you, the Congress.
Those of us that are on Medicare, and those of us that want Medicare to not be drained dry before we do qualify demand the system be fixed. The Congressional plan to block a common sense solution is not acceptable. sorry if you thought so. Cost plus was a simple solution to covering clinic costs back when a medicine dose was like $100 and saved a lot of paperwork for doctor and Medicare both. But now that BIG pharma is putting out $5000 per dose medicine, this needs to be corrected. The military discovered that “cost plus” was no way to build airplanes, because the manufacture simply drove up the costs so that the profit increased as well.
August 17, 2016 Why We Vote for Democratic Presidents
The simple answer is fiscal responsibility. Democratic leaders have efficiently managed the postal service as measured by rate increases by administration:
Geo W Bush 27%
George HW Bush 16%
The only Presidents to lower a postal rate are Barack Obama and Woodrow Wilson.
August 14, 2016 Democratic Response to Representative Carter's Weekly Newsletter
Blame the mosquito.
Yes, Florida has finally found the first case of American born mosquito infection. However people have been getting Zika virus all along from its main source of transmission in the United States, which is through sexual contact. What does the bills proposed by the Congress do about that? They defund the main source of prevention. huh? true, it appears the GOP has more to fear from Planned Parenthood than it does from Zika. Look at the science of mosquito control because you seem to have that wrong too. Zika is not carried by just any mosquito, it is mainly due to Aedes aegypti which is important to know if you are trying to control it. Where did the A. aegypti mosquito get the Zika virus? from biting someone who first had the disease, either because of travel, or having sex with someone who traveled. So it should immediately strike you how vitally important it is that Americans either have no sex or engage only in safe sex using condoms supplied by Planned Parenthood. That will prevent the disease from getting into the mosquito in the first place.
Secondly you visited Mosquito Control in Chatham County, i am sure they enjoyed seeing you. But did they inform you that spraying is not effective in controlling A. aegypti? Spraying does help in dealing with some mosquitos, most notably the other 64 mosquito species that carry West Nile Virus. And had Congress not de-funded the West Nile Virus programs we would not be seeing the recurrence that virus is making. The problem with A. aegypti is it does not live in the marshes, bogs, lakes and sloughs where spraying is effective. Instead it looks for temporary wet places, like an old tire lying in the yard, pot holes in parking lots, poorly functioning drainage ditches, flower planters after a rain, locations immune to the activities of the Mosquito Control and occur in abundance in Chatham County. We don’t need WNV any more than we need Zika, so do your duty and fund those operations. Just don’t call that a response to the Zika emergency because it isn’t.
Blame President Obama
That is surely a case of killing the messenger. Obama ask the Congress for funding to deal with the Zika issue, when? last February. Obama is a good man, and he did not sit on his hands for the last 6 months waiting on Congress. So yes he has dipped into emergency funds and ‘borrowed’ from other appropriations in anticipation that surely the Congress would act. sometime. like maybe this year. He does not have $600 million to fight Zika as you suggest, he has $600 million authorized by Congress to fight OTHER viruses, including WNV and Ebola. Considering that these other viruses are far more deadly than Zika, this is a move motivated by expediency and not science. Are there NO good men in Congress like President Obama?
Blame the Democrats
The original Democratic position was to fund the entire $2.1 B requested by the President as an emergency allocation. The Senate GOP did not like that, and cut the funding in half, but still it got Democratic approval. But your House rejected that, and approved only $660 million, entirely from funds already allocated, so essentially NOTHING. So you blame the Democrats for this? You puff out your chest and said “No money for Zika” and call that answering the bell? The revised version eventually called for defunding ACA (Obamacare), so you deal with a health emergency by ending healthcare. That is truly a “head in sand” response. And also defunding Planned Parenthood, when the most effective way to combat Zika spreading is to control sexual exposure. The bill was rejected, and rightly so. The GOP Congress deals with the emergency the only way it knows how, to go on recess. Yep here is a picture of you in St Mary’s GA on July 4, already on break.
August 6, 2016 If the Election were Today
Based on several recent Georgia polls, if the election were today, Hillary Clinton would win Georgia. The real election is 3 months away, but the point is Georgia is now Hillary's to lose and it is Trump that will have to campaign. And well he should, no national pundit predicts a path to 270 electoral votes for Trump without Georgia. If Hillary takes Georgia then Trump can win Florida and the entire Rust Belt, and still not make it to 270. Tomorrow the Hillary for America campaign has its first Savannah organizational meeting, 2:30 pm at the Bull Street Library (2002 Bull St).
If you compare the cross tabs on the AJC poll to recent national polls, they show Georgia is following the national trends. Which is, Democrats have united strongly behind Clinton. The Bernie or Bust faction has either busted or gone back to being independent. On the Republican side, it is a mutiny. While the Georgia GOP is clinging on a little better than nationally, Gary Johnson has swelled to 11% and even Hillary is getting some of the GOP vote. Hillary has the young voters 41% which puts her far ahead because Trump and Johnson have split the remainder. Hillary has the middle age voters as well, but not as strong in GA as nationally. Trump's only age group is the 65 and older which is odd considering he is no friend to Social Security and would end Medicare as it is now, go figure. Hillary is way ahead with college educated voters, no wonder the Democrats are campaigning on free college! Trump only got 2% of the Georgia blacks but whites are abandoning the GOP ship. In 2012 Obama lost the white GA vote by 60 points, but currently Hillary is only behind 37 in that group, whites are not afraid to vote for Hillary. In Georgia it is not so much a woman's card as it is an "I'm not crazy" appeal.