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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The President and Israel, and the Supreme Court faces a $36,000,000,000 Question

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There's a new picture to the right for you to try to identify.  The prior location was of Tacoma, Washington with Mount Ranier in the background. 
Jack Lippman


The $36,000,000.000 Question

When the Administration goes before the Supreme Court to defend the mandate provision in the Affordable Health Care Act, contemptuously referred to by its opponents as “ObamaCare,” they will point out that in 2008, the unpaid bills for the uninsured medical care of uninsured patients was $36,000,000,000.  (That’s billions, folks.)  By now, it is even more annually.  

                                            If the guy on the gurney doesn't have insurance, guess who pays.

Oh, sure!  The doctors, hospitals and other health care providers eventually got paid, but this money came out of your pocket.  Providers raised their fees to account for these unpaid charges and insurance companies, and the government (where it was involved as in the operation of such things as municipal hospitals) passed the costs on to you, friends, in the form of increased insurance premiums or tax increases.  Employers who may have paid the higher premium for your coverage didn’t forget that when it came time to look at your compensation.  So this is the mish-mash methodology describing how that $36,000,000,000 got paid in 2008, and continues to be the way it gets paid today.  You pay for the health care free-loaders, many of whom can well afford to pay for insurance, but who don’t because they think they’ll never get sick nor injured. 

The Affordable Health Care Act, most of which has been eagerly accepted by Americans, will solve this problems in a few years (as did Romney’s Health Insurance program in Massachusetts) by “mandating” that everyone have at least minimal health insurance.  Those who choose not to would be penalized, or “fined,” when they file their income taxes.  And the government would not get into the insurance business to provide this coverage either.  It would come from our free enterprise system via private insurance companies.   This is the provision which the Supreme Court will look at, determining whether such a “mandate” is constitutional on a Federal basis.  Certainly, it was okay on a state basis, as in Massachusetts, but the Court will answer the question of whether interstate commerce is sufficiently involved to permit a “mandate” on a nationwide basis.

If it is allowed to go into effect, premiums to purchase insurance to cover that $36,000,000,000 shortfall will supposedly come out of the pockets of those freshly “mandated” to buy insurance, or their employers.  I strongly suspect that if some of them cannot afford it, and are below a certain income level, funds to pay for this will end up coming from taxpayers.  But they won’t be continuing to come from increased health insurance costs and as a result, higher insurance premiums for everybody else, as would be the case if the “mandate” is found to be unconstitutional.  And the cost burden passed on to the public would be somewhat reduced.

My greatest fear is that the conservative dominated Supreme Court, by a five to four vote, will make a Republican political decision and rule the “mandate” unconstitutional, effectively crippling the Affordable Health Care Act.  Their doing so would result in the Democrats using this as a triumphant campaign issue in the November election, and ultimately, some form of “mandate” would go into effect.  It might have to wait for the replacement of one of the conservative majority on the Court, and no one knows when that will happen. Things would have to get worse before they get better, but just for a while.


There is also a good chance that the Supreme Court will not pass judgement at all because there is precedent for their backing off from cases where there has not already been a contested action caused by a law.  They very well may say that a decision must await someone being penalized for not purchasing “mandated” insurance and their going to court about it. This would permit the G.O.P. to use their opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act as the main issue during the 2012 Presidential Election campaign.

By the way, the next time you encounter someone who feels that “ObamaCare” should be repealed, ask them exactly what it is that they specifically object to about it. 
  • Closing the doughnut hole for prescription costs for seniors? 
  • Providing coverage to age 26 for dependent children remaining in a parent’s household? 
  • Requiring insurance companies to issue health insurance without considering the applicant’s pre-existing medical conditions during an open enrollment period each year?   
  • The “mandate” discussed above which results in everyone having to buy insurance, not just the unhealthy, making reasonable pricing possible?
Or do they just object to anything whatsoever that the President does?
Jack Lippman


President Obama, a Fierce Defender of Israel … Regardless of What You May Hear

Here is an article published on March 21 in the Florida Jewish Journal, a weekly distributed in South Florida by the Sun-Sentinel, a Broward county newspaper.  I agree with its contents.  If you disagree, this blog will be happy to include your comments.
By Rabbi Bruce Warshal Florida Jewish Journal     
March 21, 2012

It has always been a central tenet of American politics that support of Israel is a nonpartisan consensus, something that is good for America and is divorced from contentious political infighting. This stability, this unstated rare meeting ground of political foes, has been very important for Israel. It has been the bedrock of American-Israeli relations, placing Israel in the position of an almost-fifty-first state.

Unfortunately the
Republican Party and its candidates for its presidential nomination have broken this tradition, and not to the long-run benefit of Israel. Israel wants to stay above American politics; being dragged into it can eventually lead to the breaking of this important nonpartisan consensus.

This thrust started with the Republican Jewish Coalition, an offshoot of the National Republican Committee and was quickly picked up by the more fringe elements of the party. The blog The Right Scoop has branded Obama as "The Anti-Israel President." A conservative activist in South Florida emailed this message: "Let's finally face reality. Obama despises Israel…Obama's strategy of strangling Israel … can lead to its destruction.”

If you are conservative and you don't want to vote for Obama, that's legitimate. If you don't want universal medical insurance; if you were against the auto industry bailout; if you are against extension of unemployment insurance; if you think that we should not tax the rich at a higher percentage than the middle class; if you think that Social Security should be privatized; if you are for the reduction of social service programs, but we should not cut military expenditures; then you should vote Republican — and they are legitimate reasons for your decision.

But there is one reason that is illegitimate. Obama is not anti-Israel. It is a bald-faced lie to pander to the Jewish community. In fact,
President Obama's administration has been a fierce defender of Israel, fiercer than any previous administration. Here is a partial list of some of that support. Obama did the following:

•Significantly expanded military and intelligence sharing with Israel to a level unheard of during the administrations of his two predecessors (one Republican and one Democrat).
•Supported Israel's development of the David's Sling and Arrow anti-missile systems in addition to the Iron Dome system.

                                      Iron Dome Missile System in Operation
•Established and operated an advanced American X-band air-defense radar by U.S. forces stationed in Israel.
•Presented Israel with a $3 billion defense package in 2011, the largest foreign aid to Israel in the history of U.S. administrations.
•Had the largest ever joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise (Juniper Cobra) and withdrew from a Turkish-led
NATO exercise because it excluded Israel.
•Vigorously supported Israel in the U.N. Security Council, using the American veto to kill resolutions in condemnation of Israel.
•Vetoed over a half-dozen anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council.

The list could go on, but this is a newspaper column, not an encyclopedia page. The message is clear. The Republican attack on President Obama as being anti-Israel is bogus. The proof of this fact came to light in an interview with Israeli Defense Minister General
Ehud Barak on Charlie Rose's show this last December. Rose asked Barak if President Obama is a good friend of Israel. Of course, he was not going to say anything derogatory about an American president on national television. One would expect him to say the usual platitudes about all presidents having contributed to the warm relationship between the two countries.

But Barak did something unusual and unexpected. He became very intense and looked Rose in the eyes and very deliberately and forcefully spoke about President Obama's "deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel." (That's an exact quote. You can go to Charlie Rose's Internet web page and see the entire interview.) Barak's body language and effusive words told the whole story. You now have the choice of believing the Israeli Minister of Defense or the Republican politicians who want to make Israel a political football in the November games.

Actually, yes there is one reason concerning Israel not to vote for Obama. He, like every one of his predecessors, Republicans and
Democrats, believes in a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with land swaps and modifications. I repeat — with land swaps and modifications as supported by Bush I, Bush II, Clinton, in fact by every previous American president. If you believe in a Greater Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, if you support continued West Bank settlements to the total exclusion of a Palestinian state, then it would make sense for you not to vote for Obama. Actually, you probably should not vote at all, because even a Republican president will end up supporting a two-state solution.

This whole matter was best summarized by Representative Gary Ackerman of New York in a letter to his constituents these past
High Holy Days. He noted that of the 43 confessions of sins on Yom Kippur, 11 relate to some form of speech (lashon hara, an evil tongue). He then lamented the irresponsible and outrageous accusations against President Obama as being anti-Israel.

Finally, Ackerman wrote: "Enough is enough. The president is far from perfect and criticizing him is legitimate. But the lies and smears and spit-flecked hostility that have emerged in some parts of our community's debate are a disgrace to a people that regularly asks in prayer for divine assistance to 'guard my tongue from evil speech and my lips from speaking lies.'"

Rabbi Warshal is the publisher emeritus of the Jewish Journal and the author of "Provocative Columns: A Liberal Rabbi Reflects on Beliefs, Israel & American Politics." He can be reached at brucewarshal@comcast.net.

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This article brings to mind the short story, “The Meeting” which appeared on this blog on August 10, 2011.  In it, at a fictitious meeting of extremely wealthy Americans, a program was outlined whereby the votes of groups which were single-mindedly devoted to a particular cause could be captured by ostensibly supporting that cause, but with the aim of getting their votes for the entire conservative agenda.  Here is a quote from the program outlined at that meeting.
(Go back on the blog and read the entire piece, if you wish.  It is hard to believe that it is fictitious.)

“3. We must ally ourselves with groups who seem susceptible to adopting our ideology because they are already single-mindedly devoted to one cause or another.  This blind devotion can be easily transferred to our cause. This will increase our numbers and believe me, this is very applicable to members of Congress and local legislators.  The groups with which we must ally ourselves are endless.  They include pro-Israel groups, pro-life groups, creationists, anti-fluouride groups, home schooling and pro-educational voucher groups, evangelical Christian groups, anti-immigrant groups, chambers of commerce, some professional societies, sporting groups, bankers associations and Second Amendment groups.”
Jack Lippman


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