Archives for FUBAR

Health care: Lots of pain before any gain

The costs of health care reform being pushed through Congress by Democrats will be felt long before the benefits.

Proposed taxes and fees on upper-income earners, insurers, even tanning parlors, take effect quickly. So would Medicare cuts.

Benefits, such as subsidies for lower middle-income households, consumer protections for all, and eliminating the prescription coverage gap for seniors, come gradually.

"There's going to be an expectations gap, no question about that," said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "People are going to see their premiums and out-of-pocket costs go up before the tangible benefits kick in."

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VA screws vets with delayed GI bill payments

Universities and colleges are still waiting for tuition payments for thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who attended school last fall under the new GI Bill, leaving the veterans panicked that they'll be unable to return to class in January.

Veterans Affairs Department officials promise to get them back into the classroom. The VA says the number of veterans with claims unprocessed is now fewer than 5,000 — down from tens of thousands — and the goal is to have them all processed by the end of the year.

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Public views on health care reform remain steady

The public's views on health care have stayed largely steady this year, despite dramatic swings in the political battle over President Barack Obama's drive to revamp the nation's medical system, a survey says.

Overall, 82 percent say an overhaul of the nation's health care system is important for recharging the economy, according to an average of monthly polls conducted since April by the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The most recent survey, covering November, found that 77 percent agree with that connection.

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Washington’s anti-whistleblower culture

A Marine Corps whistleblower says military officials are trying to force him from his job for exposing failures to deliver lifesaving equipment to troops in Iraq.

Franz Gayl, a senior civilian employee, alleges a series of punitive actions that underscore the challenges President Barack Obama faces in fulfilling a campaign pledge to treat federal whistleblowers as patriots instead of pariahs.

Public interest groups cheered Obama's promise. But Gayl's case points to the difficulty of transforming a culture, particularly within the military, where whistleblowers often are viewed with contempt.

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Who wins, who loses in health care bill

The little town of Libby, Mont., isn't mentioned by name in the Senate's mammoth health care bill, but its 2,900 citizens are big winners in the legislation, thanks to the influence of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

After pushing for years for help for residents, many of whom suffer from asbestos-related illnesses from a now-closed mineral mining operation, Baucus inserted language in a package of last-minute amendments that grants them access to Medicare benefits.

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America and China blamed for climate talks mess

President Barack ObamaThe U.N. climate talks were in serious disarray Friday, with delegates blaming both the U.S. and China for the lack of a political agreement that President Barack Obama, China's premier and more than 110 other world leaders are supposed to sign within hours.

Broad disputes continued behind closed doors between wealthy nations and developing ones, delegates said — the divide that from the start has dogged the two-week U.N. climate conference, which aimed to reach agreements on deeper reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming.

Both Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao were in the Danish capital, but no agreed text had emerged just an hour before the presidents and premiers were to gather at a Copenhagen convention hall, said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren.
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Federal workers owe billions in back taxes

Federal workers owed the government more than $3 billion in back income taxes in 2008, just as federal tax revenues started to suffer from the recession.

More than 276,000 federal employees and retirees owed back income taxes as of Sept. 30, 2008, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service. The $3.04 billion owed was up from $2.7 billion owed by federal employees and retirees in 2007.

Among cabinet agencies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development had the highest delinquency rate, at just over 4 percent. The Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, had the lowest delinquency rate, at 0.98 percent.

Overall, the 9.7 million federal workers included in the data had a delinquency rate of about 2.9 percent.

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Millions of missing Bush emails found

Computer technicians have found 22 million missing White House e-mails from the administration of President George W. Bush and the Obama administration is searching for dozens more days' worth of potentially lost e-mail from the Bush years, according to two groups that filed suit over the failure by the Bush White House to install an electronic record keeping system.

The two private groups — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive — said Monday they were settling the lawsuits they filed against the Executive Office of the President in 2007.

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Americans show support for global warming efforts

More Americans believe steps taken to reduce global warming pollution will help the U.S. economy than say such measures will hurt it. It's a sign the public is showing more faith in President Barack Obama's economic arguments for limiting heat-trapping gases than in Republican claims that the actions would kill jobs.

In an Associated Press-Stanford University poll, 40 percent said U.S. action to slow global warming in the future would create jobs. Slightly more, 46 percent, said it would boost the economy.

By contrast, less than a third said curbing climate change would hurt the economy and result in fewer jobs, a message Republican members of Congress plan to take to an international global warming conference in Copenhagen this week.

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Gitmo detainees going to Illinois prison

Taking an important step on the thorny path to closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the White House plans to announce Tuesday that the government will acquire an underutilized state prison in rural Illinois to be the new home for a limited number of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo.

Administration officials as well as Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will make an official announcement at the White House.

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