Daily Archives: June 5, 2009
President Obama’s push for healthcare reforms gets a boost today from a new study by Harvard University researchers that shows a sizable increase over six years in bankruptcies caused in part by ever-higher medical expenses.
The study found that medical bills, plus related problems such as lost wages for the ill and their caregivers, contributed to 62% of all bankruptcies filed in 2007. On the campaign trail last year and in the White House this year, Obama had cited an earlier study by the same authors showing that such expenses played a part in 55% of bankruptcies in 2001.
For two decades beginning in the early 1950s, John McCandlish Phillips composed elegant newspaper stories under grueling deadline pressure for the New York Times, earning a reputation as one of his generation’s great reporters. In his 2003 memoirs, Arthur Gelb, a longtime editor at the paper, described him as “the most original stylist I’d ever edited….”
Mr. Phillips stunned the staff when he decided to leave full-time employment in 1973 at the age of 46. The New Yorker magazine much later called him “The Man Who Disappeared” and wondered why a figure with so much talent would “walk away from it.”
But Mr. Phillips did not disappear. He channeled his imagination into the church he had co-founded with Hannah Lowe a decade or so earlier, the Manhattan-based New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a small Pentecostal congregation. His dream was to spur a massive evangelizing campaign in New York City that would result in waves of born-again Christians.
“What everyone in this city needs, with scarcely anyone knowing of it, is the one salvation that God has provided in His son, Jesus Christ,” he told me in a recent interview. “My life was changed in a moment of time, permanently, by an act of evangelism [in 1950]. I know its power. And I have no chiefer desire than to see as many individuals as possible come to that same threshold and cross it.”
So what kind of teachers could a school get if it paid them $125,000 a year?
An accomplished violist who infuses her music lessons with the neuroscience of why one needs to practice, and creatively worded instructions like, “Pass the melody gently, as if it were a bowl of Jell-O!”
A self-described “explorer” from Arizona who spent three decades honing her craft at public, private, urban and rural schools.
Two with Ivy League degrees. And Joe Carbone, a phys ed teacher, who has the most unusual rÃ©sumÃ© of the bunch, having worked as Kobe Bryant’s personal trainer.
The big retreat to realism concerns democracy promotion. The Bush administration tried to promote democracy, even at the expense of stability. That proved unworkable.
But many of us hoped that Obama would put a gradual, bottom-up democracy-building initiative at the heart of his approach. This effort would begin with projects to create honest cops and independent judges so local citizens could get justice. It would make space for civic organizations and democratic activists. It would include clear statements so the world understands that the U.S. is not in bed with the tired old Arab autocrats.
There was a democracy-promotion section to the speech, and given the struggle behind it, maybe we should be grateful it was there at all. But it was stilted and abstract ”” the sort of prose you get after an unresolved internal debate. The president didn’t really champion democratic institutions. He said that governments “should reflect the will of the people” and that citizens should “have a say” in how they are governed.
Many of Mr. Obama’s supporters surely thought this young, dynamic generation of public leaders would elevate the hip, cutting edge of the U.S. economy — nanotechnology, genomics, robotics, even health and medicine technology. Instead, we’ve gotten the Old Economy on dialysis. General Motors has been commanded to restart aging UAW factories to output product on behalf of the administration’s hybrid-car obsession. Where’s the New Economy in any of this?
Or ObamaCare. How will a build-out of Medicare (b. 1965) to cover everyone and costing $1.2 trillion over 10 years not kill innovation in medical and health technology by siphoning away growth capital and its potential financial rewards?
All of this seems so out of sync with the persona and promise Barack Obama conveyed in the campaign. A lot of his Web-based supporters probably thought Mr. Obama was going to be about promoting young guns with new ideas seeking risk capital for the next big thing. Instead, it looks as if the Obama years will be about managing soft landings for mature industries and old unions in the American autumn.
Congress is talking about a “bad behavior” tax on beer and soda pop to reduce obesity and fund mega-Medicare. How about a bad-behavior tax on government? Slim as the president looks, Uncle Sam is looking like quite the fat boy.
There were divided opinions in the Israeli media about U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on Thursday. What all media outlets, including the printed and the electronic, did unitedly was the blanket coverage given to the address.
We come now to a more full Account of our honored fellow townsman, Andrew B. Peters. He was the second son of Colonel John Peters, born at Hebron, Conn., January 29, 1704, and when with his parents he first came to this town, he was about seven years of age….
In the year 1798 Andrew B. Peters was chosen Town Clerk of Bradford, and was continued in that office for forty out of the ensuing forty- six years, there being but two interruptions, the first of five, and the other of one year. The early records of the town, while they exist, will be a memorial of his ability and correctness. It is well that the books were kept so long by one faithful man, instead of being bandied about from one place to another. The same year in which Mr. Peters was first chosen Town Clerk he was also elected Representative to the State Legislature, arid served the town in that capacity for five years, though not continuously. He also officiated as a Justice of the Peace for many years. For half a century he was occupied in various public services, and in every department gave general satisfaction.
Esquire Peters was strictly temperate in his habits, both of eating and drinking. He was accustomed to rise, and also to retire, at early hours. He was in his temper, quick and decisive; in his pursuits, active and persevering. And never having broken down his physical constitution by excessive labor, or other abuses, his sight, hearing, memory, and powers generally, both of body arid mind, held out admirably. In his old age he stood erect, arid walked with a quick arid firm step. But a few weeks before his decease, he, with his wife, took a journey to Boston and vicinity, to visit their children there. If men would abstain wholly from the ordinary use of intoxicating liquor, tobacco, opium, and otherwise observe as they should the laws of health, instead of becoming old and broken down at the age of forty-five or fifty, instances of sprightliness and energy at the age of seventy-five or eighty would not be at all uncommon.
In early life Mr. Peters united with the Episcopal church, and, though he seldom had opportunity to enjoy its forms of worship, he retained his membership to the last. He was strict in his observance of the Sabbath, and exemplary in his attendance on public worship, with the Congregational denomination, whose house of worship was long quite near his residence. He was detained at home only for two Sabbaths, during his last illness. Though fully aware that the time appointed for his departure was close at hand, his mind remained peaceful. He did not seem to depend on his morality at all, but on Christ, and him alone, for salvation. On Sabbath morning, August 10, 1851, the venerable old man passed quietly away at the age of eighty-seven years, six months and twelve days.
On the following Monday, his funeral was numerously attended by the inhabitants of the town which he had in various capacities so long and faithfully served, the religious services being performed by his Congregational pastor, assisted by the Methodist brother then officiating in Bradford.
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem decided today to withhold consent to the election of the Rev. Kevin G. Thew Forrester as bishop-elect of Northern Michigan.
The vote was confirmed this evening (June 4, 2009) by committee president Canon Robert Wilkins. The committee is preparing a statement explaining the vote and hopes to have it ready tomorrow.
Fifty-six standing committees have now decided to withhold consent, while 29 have given consent, according to a survey by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. Roughly 16 committees, including seven based outside the United States, are still in the discernment process. Another 10 or so committees have voted, but are currently declining to reveal their vote.
Barring last-minute vote-switching by dioceses across the country, Thew Forrester will not be seated by the House of Bishops.
More than 8 in 10 parents said they home-school their children to provide religious or moral instruction, up from 72 percent in 2003. A plurality of parents””36 percent””said that was the most important reason they home-school their children, followed by concern about the school environment (21 percent) and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools (17 percent).
The carnage in state budgets is getting worse, a report said Thursday, with places like Arizona being hurt by falling revenue on multiple fronts, like personal income and sales taxes. Other states are having mixed experiences, with some tax categories stable, or even rising, even as others fall off the map.
The report, by the National Conference of State Legislatures, also provided a scorecard for how well drafters of state budgets read the recession’s economic tea-leaves ”” and the short answer is, not very well.
Thirty-one states said estimates about personal income taxes had been overly optimistic, and 25 said that all three major tax categories ”” sales taxes, personal income taxes and corporate taxes ”” were not keeping up with projections.
….our aging population and unconstrained entitlement programs mean that a dramatic expansion in the size of government will occur automatically in coming decades unless Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are reformed. Simply stated, there’s no way to finance all this new spending without an additional, broad-based tax. That’s exactly why a VAT — which is like a national sales tax collected at each stage of the production process, rather than at the final point of sale — should be resisted.
The classical argument in favor of a VAT says that it’s desirable because it has a single rate and is based on consumption. It is true that single-rate systems (assuming a reasonable rate) are less harmful than discriminatory regimes with “progressive” rates. It’s also true that a consumption-based tax would not inflict as much damage as our internal revenue code, with its multiple layers of tax on income that is saved and invested. But these arguments only apply if a VAT replaces the current tax system — which is not the case here. And the evidence from Europe suggests it’s not a good idea to add a somewhat-bad tax like the VAT on top of a really bad tax system.
The Arabs may have wished for more – for a tougher line on Gaza, a new peace “initiative” and an apology for past US policies. He was right to offer none of these. He did not repudiate his presidential predecessor. Nor did he denounce the two interventions that have inflamed much of the Muslim world – in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Instead, he insisted that America had no wish to stay a moment longer in Afghanistan than the threat dictated. His Administration knew that “the less we use our power, the greater it will be”. But that did not mean that America would not confront extremists.
Like his earlier address to Iran, Mr Obama’s appeal struck a chord that infuriated those peddling hatred of America. Both Iran and Osama bin Laden were swift to belittle his words. He did not, sadly, address the issue of democracy. That must remain part of the agenda. What he did was to demolish the myth of a clash of civilisations. That is the first step to bridging the chasm.
Gordon Brown was dealt a devastating blow tonight as James Purnell quit the Cabinet and told him to stand down to save the Labour Party.
The Work and Pensions Secretary’s sensational decision, given to the Prime Minister shortly before polling ended in the European and local elections, left an already damaged Mr Brown in grave peril. He told Mr Brown to stand aside and give Labour a “fighting chance of winning”.
The departure of such a talented minister in a crucial reforming role raised immediate questions over whether other ministers would follow, and whether Mr Brown had the authority to complete his Cabinet reshuffle.