In its assaults on a Democratic health care overhaul bill, the insurance industry uses facts selectively and mixes accurate assertions with misleading spin and an embrace of worst-case scenarios.
Take the 30-second TV spot that America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's trade group, was running this week in six states as the Senate Finance Committee approved overhaul legislation.
With a series of beleaguered-looking elderly people on camera, a soothing female voice says accurately that Congress has proposed cutting more than $100 billion from Medicare Advantage. The program, administered by private companies that provide extra services like eye and dental care, serves about a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries, more than 10 million people.
Growing by leaps and bounds, the Pentagon’s secretive Information Operations budget keeps tripping over some basic information — like how much it costs.
Just months ago, the Defense Department said it needed $988 million to help win hearts and minds in the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. When the House cut this by half in July, top-level officials landed on Capitol Hill, pleading their case but also making a startling admission: Their budget needs for 2010 are actually $626.2 million — more than one-third less than first estimated.
Consumers may be slowly regaining their appetite to shop, as the prices they encounter in stores remain low.
One benefit of the recession is that inflation is nowhere to be seen, as consumer prices have barely grown in months. Rising unemployment, stagnant wages and tight credit have restrained consumer demand, making it difficult for retailers to raise prices.
Most economists expect that pattern to continue when the Labor Department on Thursday reports the September Consumer Price Index. Economists forecast that consumer prices rose just 0.2 percent in September, after a 0.4 percent gain in August and a flat reading in July.
The number of households caught up in the foreclosure crisis rose more than 5 percent from summer to fall as a federal effort to assist struggling borrowers was overwhelmed by a flood of defaults among people who lost their jobs.
The foreclosure crisis affected nearly 938,000 properties in the July-September quarter, compared with about 890,000 in the prior three months, according to a report released Thursday by RealtyTrac Inc. That puts foreclosure-related filings on a pace to hit about 3.5 million this year, up from more than 2.3 million last year.
The Social Security Administration makes it official Thursday: There will be no cost of living increase for Social Security recipients next year, the first year without one since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975.
The announcement comes as President Barack Obama and key members of Congress call for a second round of $250 payments to more than 50 million seniors, veterans, retired railroad workers and people with disabilities.
The payments would be equal to about a 2 percent increase for the average Social Security recipient. The cost: $13 billion.
Obama called on Congress Wednesday to approve the payments, and several key members of Congress said they would.
As health care "reform" lumbers it way towards an uncertain fate in the halls of Congress, one reality remains certain for Americans who still have health insurance: They will pay more for coverage in 2010.
Employers, faced with rising costs for health plans, are increasing the share employees must pay and those with pay the full cost of insurance will find sticker shock as insurers send out their new rates.
President Barack Obama openly courted the health insurance industry as he attempted to craft a coalition to craft a health care reform bill.
But that industry turned out to be the wolf in the hen house, keeping its powder dry and waiting for the right time to try and torpedo any serious attempt at reforming the system that provides them with huge profits while saddling Americans with crippling costs.
Those lucky enough to still have jobs don't necessarily have it made. Many face wage cuts, demotions to lower-paying positions or reductions in the numbers of hours they work.
The New York Times says airline captains now fly as first officers, a reduction not only in rank but in pay -- as much as 50 percent less. Hourly workers find themselves cut from full-time to part-time and some face loss in benefits as well.
It's the new economy and one where such cutbacks are the worst since the great depression.
Less work means less money which translates into less buying power and and a resulting impact on the economy.
In the health care reform debate, where playing nice has been the rule, a scathing insurance industry report looked to critics Monday like a grenade aimed at scuttling progress in Congress.
But it also looked to some like too little, too late.
Not only did the report land many months into the debate — with Democrats on the cusp of passing bills through five committees — it infuriated some of the very people the industry group hoped to influence.
“I don’t view the impact of the report as a bill-stopper as much as a bill-changer,” said Robert Blendon, a health policy pollster and political analyst at Harvard University. “The momentum is way too far [in favor of passing a reform bill], and there is a sense out there that something has to be done.”
Even as President Obama leads an intense debate over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, administration officials say the United States is falling far short of his goals to fight the country’s endemic corruption, create a functioning government and legal system and train a police force currently riddled with incompetence.
Interviews with senior administration and military officials and recent reports assessing Afghanistan’s progress show that nearly seven months after Mr. Obama announced a stepped-up civilian effort to bolster his deployment of 17,000 additional American troops, many civil institutions are deteriorating as much as the country’s security.