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.
Bright, eager—and unwanted. While unemployment is ravaging just about every part of the global workforce, the most enduring harm is being done to young people who can't grab onto the first rung of the career ladder.
Affected are a range of young people, from high school dropouts, to college grads, to newly minted lawyers and MBAs across the developed world from Britain to Japan. One indication: In the U.S., the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has climbed to more than 18%, from 13% a year ago.
A report commissioned by America's Health Insurance Plans says the Senate Finance Committee legislation will cause health care costs to go up faster than under the current system.
The report, which was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, has caused some buzz among Hill GOP aides and infuriated the Obama White House.
The report will drop ahead of a crucial vote on the bill Tuesday in the Finance Committee, and could figure into the discussion there. At the very least, expect to hear a lot more about the report from Republicans, who are looking to slow any kind of momentum for the Democratic health care reform proposals after the Congressional Budget Office's positive analysis last week.
Sixty years is how long Democrats say they've been pushing for legislation that provides health care access for all Americans. They'll have to wait another three if President Barack Obama gets a bill to sign this year.
Under the Democratic bills, federal tax credits to help make health insurance affordable for millions of low- and middle-income households won't start flowing until 2013 — after the next presidential election. But Medicare cuts and a sizable chunk of the tax increases to pay for the overhaul kick in immediately.
There is no more visible sign that America is putting the Iraq war behind it than the colossal operation to get its stuff out: 20,000 soldiers, nearly a sixth of the force here, assigned to a logistical effort aimed at dismantling some 300 bases and shipping out 1.5 million pieces of equipment, from tanks to coffee makers.
It is the largest movement of soldiers and matériel in more than four decades, the military said.
By itself, such a withdrawal would be daunting, but it is further complicated by attacks from an insurgency that remains active; the sensitivities of the Iraqi government about a visible American presence; disagreements with the Iraqis about what will be left for them; and consideration for what equipment is urgently needed in Afghanistan.
MSNBC's Keith Oblermann devoted his entire program Wednesday night to a "special comment" on the sorry state of health care and the debacle over "health care reform."
Olbermann, whose seriously ill father has been through America's health care system recently, blamed insurance companies for putting profits ahead of patient needs and Congress for caving in to special interests.
The protesters convened for a final planning meeting, already triumphant, convinced that nine months of preparation was about to pay off. Antiwar organizers who had come to Washington from 27 states exchanged hugs inside a Columbia Heights convention hall and modeled their protest costumes: orange jumpsuits, "death masks," shackles and T-shirts depicting bloody Afghan children. Then Pete Perry, the event organizer, stood up to deliver a welcome speech.
"This is a great moment for our movement," he said. "We are continuing an incredible tradition."
"Like Gandhi," said the next speaker.
"Like Martin Luther King," said another.
The idea of a tax credit for companies that create new jobs, something the federal government has not tried since the 1970s, is gaining support among economists and Washington officials grappling with the highest unemployment in a generation.
The proposal has some bipartisan appeal among politicians eager both to help their unemployed constituents and to encourage small-business development. Legislators on Capitol Hill and President Obama’s economic team have been quietly researching the policy for several weeks.
“There is a lot of traction for this kind of idea,” said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican whip. “If the White House will take the lead on this, I’m fairly positive it would be welcomed in a bipartisan fashion.”
President Barack Obama's top defense and diplomacy advisers said the United States retains the Afghanistan war goal that he outlined just two months into his presidency - to sideline al-Qaida - but changing circumstances require a reassessment of how to get there.
A "snap decision" on whether to add more U.S troops would be counterproductive, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday.
Whatever the president decides, the military will salute, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
"It's important that at the end of the day that the president makes a decision that he believes in," Clinton added.