Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 18, 2009
POLITICS: So Much For Supporting The Troops

Regular readers will know that I have a pretty low opinion of Barack Obama, and for the most part he's lived down to my expectations since taking over as our President. But even I have been astounded that President Obama would do anything as monumentally politically stupid as trying to chisel budget savings out of the health care for wounded veterans, this after a wild spending spree so profligate that nobody seems to even have bothered to read the stimulus bill to see what it was promising to bailout recipients. As Ed Morrissey notes, the projected savings from forcing veterans to cover their own health care - at the undoubted cost of driving up their premiums and disincentivizing employers from hiring veterans - "amounts to just over half of what Obama just gave Hamas in Gaza to rebuild after their disastrous war with Israel this winter, and about 1/300th of what the government gave AIG in a bailout." No wonder even Congressional Democrats are running as fast as they can away from Obama's folly.

Now, it's true that you don't have a budget until you have said no to everyone at least once. And it's also true that the VA and DOD are gigantic bureaucracies, and as such they don't always work very well; the Bush Administration certainly took its lumps over the periodic failures of those agencies in taking proper care of what is almost certainly the federal government's single most sympathetic and deserving constituency. But nobody ever doubted that Bush at least tried to do the best by our veterans. Ditto John McCain, himself a disabled veteran, who was lambasted for proposing a better deal for veterans to take federal money to pay for healthcare outside the VA system. Obama is harking back to the days of the Bonus Army by viewing wounded or disabled veterans as a source of cost savings to pay for his other priorities. Given the opposition even among his own party, his defeat on this one seems as inevitable as it is deserved.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:18 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (36) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

"the projected savings from forcing veterans to cover their own health care"

They already do cover some of their own health care.
http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility/costs/

Really though - if you want to see someone go slowly insane, have them have a service related condition (lower back) and then argue with both an insurance company and the VA about how service related these things can be. Young men get bitter fast.

Though Crank, really - I think you and the rest of the angry right just got suckered. Compare the cost of the VA in the current budget proposal with last years, and I think it's up about 10%. If the budget that is passed isn't up another 2% (or whatever) to cover the difference between striking this out, then I'll be amazed. Or, if this isn't a setup for something like "huh, premium costs - well you know, larger pools that businesses could join would drive that down."

Or, if it's not a setup to go towards the Medicare reimbursement. Which states will hate, but anyone who likes the VA loves.
http://www.newbernsj.com/articles/veterans_44411___article.html/shinseki_budget.html

Really - if he came out with a plan to bill Medicare, what would the reaction be off the bat, putting more of a burden on states? What will it be, now, with this other option?

Posted by: Dave at March 18, 2009 4:04 AM

What's Honorable John McCain's response to this gambit? Is he still for calling Obama a patriot?

Posted by: joe at March 18, 2009 4:41 AM

Debacle, least competent admin ever.

Posted by: dave at March 18, 2009 7:36 AM

If the media actually did its job in reporting the caprices of this administration, Mr. Obama's support would be gone by now, and perhaps a smattering of common sense could be injected into the mix.

Speculating on when, if ever, the media will begin to do it's job is possibly the most frustrating part of this debacle. I feel as if I am living in a reality written by Samuel Beckett.

Posted by: DD at March 18, 2009 7:52 AM

"As Ed Morrissey notes, the projected savings from forcing veterans to cover their own health care - at the undoubted cost of driving up their premiums and disincentivizing employers from hiring veterans"

This plan is probably not a good idea, but let's not get carried away with the hyperbole. Someone is going to have to convince me that those two negative effects above are really that dramatic.

Besides, it's not like Obama is cutting the VA budget:

"Still, veterans’ advocates said they were open to discussing alternatives, which is likely to be the topic Thursday. One option could be to have some veterans use their private insurance for treatment of service-related injuries, but without requiring co-payments.

Another option could be allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to bill Medicare for an eligible veteran’s coverage. Currently, if a veteran eligible for both Medicare and the VA and uses the VA, the agency is not allowed to bill Medicare.

“This, we believe, would more easily meet the president’s financial goal,” David Rehbein, the commander of the American Legion, said in a statement

Apart from the tempest over private insurance, several veterans’ advocates said that Obama has been a supporter of their concerns. His proposed budget for 2010 of nearly $113 billion for Veterans Affairs was more than $1 billion more than the plan they had been pushing.

But many said they were surprised by the ham-handedness of the private insurance effort because it seemed that no one in either the White House or the VA took into consideration how veterans would react."

http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation/story/1092512.html

As for the knock on the media, this is all over CNN, so I can't understand why anyone is claiming media bias here.

Posted by: MVH at March 18, 2009 9:40 AM

Oh, I wouldn't count on the media doing it's 'job' - as most intellectually honest people would define the term - as they're completely intent on shaping the news, not reporting it.

Behold, the JournoList

Talk about a cartelish echo chamber. Geesh.

Posted by: Agent W at March 18, 2009 9:45 AM

Agent W,

Media bias??

Headline: "Senators slam plan for wounded vets to use private insurance"

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/03/10/veterans.health.insurance/index.html

Headline: "Veterans groups irate at Obama's private insurance proposal"

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/03/17/obama.veterans/

No one reading those articles has any doubt about the problems that veterans have with the policy. You guys claim media bias as a reflex, and it really hurts your credibility.

Posted by: MVH at March 18, 2009 10:00 AM

MVH,

I didn't say media bias was a problem in this case. The only credibility hurt here is yours, with your quick attempt to deny media bias without actually taking the chance to think I wasn't suggesting that they weren't picking up on this story.

Plus, this is a case where Democrats are speaking out against it, so the media has no problem covering it.

Not sure what your point on this one was, MVH. Seriously, though, do a little reading into the JournoList.

Posted by: Agent W at March 18, 2009 10:07 AM

Keep them coming Crank. This is awesome. I just wonder how you're going to get yourself even more outraged over the next 8 years. At your current pace, you're going to be on the "Obama hates America" team by the midterm elections.

Posted by: Bill at March 18, 2009 10:37 AM

Hey Crank has anyone commented yet on the various polls showing that the Republicans, after less than 2 months of "Hope and Change", are now ahead on the generic Congressional Ballot for like the first time in about 3-4 years or how President Empty Suit is only at +4 on the strongly approve/disapprove question or how his strongly disapprove ratings are much higher than the "unpopular and divsive" Bush at the same point in their presidencies or how even the lapdog media is beginning to question Empty Suits competence. Is anyone commenting on how in light of the AIG mess maybe it wasn't a good idea to rush legislation throught that no one had a chance to read? and now we have Presdent Empty Suit deciding to save money (LOL) by going after disabled veterans benefits.

My god, the wheels are falling off much quicker than I ever dreamed possible.

Posted by: dch at March 18, 2009 11:11 AM

Isn't this one of those private sector solutions conservatives are always screaming about?

And isn't it curious conservatives so dedicated to free market principles go ga-ga over the military, which is the most second most radically socialist institution in America (the National Football League takes first place honors of course).

It's as if conservatives are not doctrinaire ideologues at heart, but rather patriotic American who recognize fundamental moral obligations-- sacrificing a bit practically and ideologically to guarantee the men and women who make the entire American system possible-- cannot be shirked, spun, or massaged away.

Posted by: seamus at March 18, 2009 11:23 AM

Dave - The relevant point is shifting more of the burden onto private health insurance. I'm not totally opposed to finding ways to control costs in the VA, it just seems to me you oughta be squeezing a lot of other sources first. Also, it totally gives the lie to everything Obama said about veterans' health care the last two years.

dch - Saw that. Tracking polls go up and down, I wouldn't get too excited just yet, but clearly the relative position of the GOP compared to the Democrats has been gradually improving since January 20. There was also a poll from Ohio showing something like a 20-point drop in his approval rating. It's a long, slow slog in which patience is required.

seamus - It's a matter of reneging on promises we made to get people to enlist. I don't know too many conservatives who want to privatize the Army. Besides, a private sector solution is more like McCain's idea that vets can take the money the federal government owes them in vouchers for care outside the federal system - this is the inverse of that.

Posted by: Crank at March 18, 2009 11:29 AM

Crank-

Agreed. I was trying to channel one of the more superficially clever liberal arguments I've heard recently, then lampoon it. W/ uncertain success, unfortunately.

Posted by: seamus at March 18, 2009 1:03 PM

So now Crank loves him some troops. That didn't take long.
You had no problem letting over 4,000 of them die in a war to protect the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution of the United States of America.
These were the same protected rights and freedoms that just yesterday you didn't have a problem with the former administration taking away from Americans in a "public policy dispute".
So what exactly were these brave soldiers that you love dieing for?

EVERYONE knows Republicans only care about the troops as pawns that can be used in their debates to win policy arguments. Want to see the Right really care for the troops? Propose to the Right that Iraq War veterans should get free lifetime healthcare (both physical and mental), free job training and well-paid jobs, and free housing from the American taxpayer. Soon you'll be in a debate about socialism, out of control budgets, and how these "giveaways" will lead to higher taxes.

As for the "public policy dispute" Crank refers to in his original post, this is a mistake by the Obama Administration.

Finally, how does media bias--used to curry favor with corporations and the rich (I picked this up from my ability to see and hear them, along with something called innate common sense)--keep them from going after Obama on this?

Posted by: Berto at March 18, 2009 1:04 PM

Hey Crank, can we get a post ( with video) of Obumblers teleprompter screw up yesterday where he wound up thanking himself. I can only imagine what would have happened if this was Bush. Does anyone remember when Reagan was called an idiot for using a teleprompter for long speeeches-and using index cards for short ones. Now we have Empty Suit using it for press conferences, campaign stops, basically everything and not a word said-no bias here.

Posted by: dch at March 18, 2009 2:25 PM

Reagan was called an idiot because he stated that "welfare queens" were stealing American tax dollars, when anyone with an iota of sense knew the thieves were on Wall Street.

His belief in the sanctity of free markets and deregulation didn't make him look very bright either.

Posted by: Berto at March 18, 2009 2:31 PM

"Propose to the Right that Iraq War veterans should get free lifetime healthcare (both physical and mental), free job training and well-paid jobs, and free housing from the American taxpayer."

-Berto

One at a time:

1) free health care-- if the injuries are battle related, they currently do. The Obama administration (called a lot of things, but only by Andrew Sullivan "conservative") is looking to change that.

2) free job training--- soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines not only get free job training, they get paid for the training. It's called being on active duty. Even the humblest grunt is learning the basics of policing, and getting paid for it. The Navy's electrical and nuclear engineers are among the best in the world. The Air Forces' fleet does not maintain itself. Marines in motor transport specialties are long-haulers in training. Nurses, corpsmen, air traffic controllers, hell even lawyers, pilots and doctors are, among other things, training for jobs they'll continue to do after their military service is over.

3) free housing-- VA currently guarantees a low interest home owner loan to any honorably discharged veteran. It's not a lifetime guarantee of housing, but neither does it require the veteran to live in government-approved quarters. I'm sure even Berto doesn't think the american taxpayer should subsidize the lifestyle of every veteran, so certain controls would have to be in place. Barracks are great for young men and women, but no one wants to live there forever.

So, Berto's above is ill-informed invective. The American people, led in this case by the very conservative principle that those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the citizenry are owed certain benefits from the citizenry, have chosen already to provide servicemembers and veterans precisely what Berto calls for. The Obama administration, and no one else, is questioning the wisdom of that choice.

Posted by: seamus at March 18, 2009 2:41 PM

Very well said, seamus. I don't believe in a blank check for anybody - like I always say, you don't have a budget until you have said no to everyone at least once - but I'm inclined to give a lot more rope to military veterans than just about anybody else in recognition of the sacrifices they make for the country.

dch - I think even the MSM is starting to notice that the TelePrompter is, as some of my RS colleagues have started calling it, Obama's binky (Politico and the NYT both ran articles, albeit the NYT one made some hilarious efforts to spin it as a good thing; even Maureen Dowd is now cracking that Obama needs a teleprompter to get angry). I can't recall Reagan or Bush ever starting to read somebody else's speech off the thing.

Posted by: Crank at March 18, 2009 2:50 PM

seamus,
"if the injuries are battle realted"?
Training to wash tires on airplanes? That'll get them a lot of work back in the States.
"low interest loans is "free housing"? in what world?

That's a lot of regulations being put on those that fought for your freedoms that Crank thinks can be disregarded due to "policy position disputes".

Wow, even Maureen Dowd. Yeah, there's a winner for you.

Posted by: Berto at March 18, 2009 4:28 PM

"I don't believe in a blank check for anybody"
Crank is seeing the light on regulation. Us socialist's welcome you, but ask what took you so long to join us?
I assume it's because Reagan's body is finally cold enough for you take this stance.

Posted by: Berto at March 18, 2009 4:38 PM

"Training to wash tires on airplanes? That'll get them a lot of work back in the States."

Wow, ignorant AND insulting. Well played, sir.

Posted by: Linus at March 18, 2009 6:52 PM

"he relevant point is shifting more of the burden onto private health insurance. I'm not totally opposed to finding ways to control costs in the VA, it just seems to me you oughta be squeezing a lot of other sources first. "
Right, and I'm of the opinion that this is a lead-in to reaping funds from Medicare, a larger VA budget which Republicans will back, or an add on to overall health care reform. Much like Paulson's no-oversight TARP became light-oversight TARP, it never was meant to succeed.

"Also, it totally gives the lie to everything Obama said about veterans' health care the last two years."
Does no such thing.
http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20090314/BIZ/703149952/-1/RSS03

Initial request went over what organizations were expecting. Hmmm..
http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/03/military_republicans_vaspending_031809w/

Hey! Look what I found! Republicans have stepped up, and increased funding to the VA over and above the substantial increase President Obama asked for! Wow, it's like someone could have predicted this outcome with "If the budget that is passed isn't up another 2% (or whatever) to cover the difference between striking this out, then I'll be amazed."

And everyone gets to walk away happy! The administration gets the higher budget they need without having to submit it themselves, the mostly loyal opposition gets to tout their increased spending.

Think we'll see something else of this type again before the end of the year? I do.

Posted by: Dave at March 18, 2009 7:11 PM

Dave, given that Obama has now backed down, you put an awful lot of effort into changing the subject, which was the impact of his proposal on veterans by increasing the cost of their private health insurance.

Posted by: Crank at March 18, 2009 7:26 PM

"you put an awful lot of effort into changing the subject, which was the impact of his proposal on veterans by increasing the cost of their private health insurance."
Not changing the subject at all - I'm quite aware of what was proposed, and my belief that it was never meant to happen. It was meant to be a red herring for people to chase while they got what they wanted - more funding without having to ask for it.

My first post in this was assuming this would be a strikeout. The difference is in viewpoints - you believe he wanted to do this. I believe it was a negotiating tactic, and have since I first saw it come out.

That this was proposed is a fact - why it was proposed, or the desired outcome. Well, that's something else.

Posted by: Dave at March 18, 2009 8:06 PM

This post is empty demagoguery elevated to frightening levels with a gratuitous comparison to how much money we're sending to aid victims in war torn Palestine.

I can't read this crap anymore. Cancel my subscription.

Posted by: Patrick at March 18, 2009 8:42 PM

"aid victims in war torn Palestine".

I know those words are all English, and yet they do not make sense.

Posted by: mikeski at March 18, 2009 9:49 PM

Linus,
Re: Ignorant AND insulting.
Thanks, but I will not run for, nor will I accept the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
Maybe Glenn Beck will take up the offer.

Posted by: Berto at March 18, 2009 10:51 PM

The best way to keep troops happy—both at present and in the past—is to give them success. For combat troops this means victories. Sounds primitive, I suppose, but it's factual. If we win our wars the troops will accept privation and casualties. Same thing is true of the general populace. Refer to the Civil War for proof.

Beyond that they want to have their service-related injuries cared for, to have their sacrifices appreciated, and—like everyone else—to have something monetary to show for it.

What they don't want—more than anything—is to engage in half-hearted, losing efforts like Vietnam, or thankless, time-wasting affairs like the recent Balkans affair. All the other stuff is secondary. But we should, in any case, keep our word to them regarding benefits or any other matter.

Posted by: Dai Alanye at March 18, 2009 11:38 PM

Hey Crank-its about time to start hitting the AIG stuff with Christopher Dodd and President Empty Suit-though I am a little confused- was it both Fannie/Freddie and AIG that Dodd and Empty suit were 1 and 2 for funds received or was it just AIG? I am so confused. If you want to have some real fun Barney Frank-that piece of crap is now opining about, get this.... GOP amnesia on the financial crises. This is a guy that after a 2 minute search on YouTube would convince anyone, that was not a Kool Aid drinker, that he should be indicted and convicted of something. If Barney Frank had any class or honor, I know, I know we are talikng about a liberal democrat from Mass. , But if he did, ritual suicide would be a good choice.

Posted by: dch at March 19, 2009 1:15 AM

White House Makes Correct Decision On Veterans Insurance Proposal

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "The White House made the correct decision to withdraw its proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs to have military veterans' personal insurance companies pay for their service-connected disability and wounds," said VAdm. Norb Ryan, Jr., USN-Ret., president of the Military Officers Association of America.

Adm. Ryan said he advised President Obama that "pursuing this insurance proposal would detract from the outstanding 2010 Department of Veterans Affairs budget he has put forth -- the best budget for veterans care in 30 years and the largest annual increase proposed by any President."

Posted by: D. Aristophanes at March 19, 2009 2:48 AM

Dave - "I believe it was a negotiating tactic, and have since I first saw it come out. "

I don't know - are you saying that Obama is purposely throwing out this red herring - which he takes the heat for - in order to get a higher VA budget - which the Republicans can take credit for?

That's a little hard to swallow.

The standard play (and the correct one) would be to take credit for increasing the VA budget and force Republicans to either vote for it or take a big political hit for not voting for it.

So my take on this whole thing is that it was just a bad proposal by Obama, but not nearly as bad as Crank is making it out to be.

Posted by: MVH at March 19, 2009 8:57 AM

Agreed, MVH, as the outcome tends to indicate. Rather than hyperventilating over all this as Crank does, it's more useful to look at the Obama administration's tendency to keep many options on the table in any policy-forming situation ... or at least to pay lip service to keeping lots of options on the table.

Romer on the MTP the other day did the same thing with regards to taxing employer health benefits for employees. Wouldn't say it was 'off the table' despite Obama being 'deeply skeptical' of doing that.

Part of this I think is an attempt to appear conciliatory and flexible in contrast to the way the Bush administration was perceived to be ideologically driven and rigid. Another element is that it actually is useful (maybe not always, but a lot of the time) to float lots of different ideas and see which ones stick.

For a somewhat similar scenario, I think back on a proposal in the immediate wake of 9-11, where there was a push to create a kind of terrorism market, which theoretically could end up harnessing the 'wisdom of crowds' to develop some intelligence about where and when attacks could happen. That idea went over like a lead balloon with the public, so it was scrapped.

Which isn't to say that making vets use their private insurance to pay for service-related health issues is a good idea at all (I happen to the think the terrorism market could have been a good idea but was just unpalatable for PR reasons) ... but that throwing ideas like it out there shouldn't be automatically labeled heresy and incompetence and whatever else Crank's thesaurus offers up that day. Opening the debate to many ideas - something that has obvious benefits - is necessarily going to produce some clunkers like this one.

Great, so it failed, let's move on.

Posted by: D. Aristophanes at March 19, 2009 10:08 AM

dch - Sorry, as is true of a bunch of the big financial companies, they are a client, so I'm gonna steer clear of that story as much as I can.

D. Aristophanes - Bad ideas are bad ideas, no matter how indecisive you are about them. Traditionally, Republicans are gunshy about 'keeping open' options in, say, entitlements debates that get them flayed alive by attack ads.

Posted by: Crank at March 19, 2009 10:34 AM

Yeah, well, bad ideas that get dumped after a public outcry are footnotes ... bad ideas that get rammed through no matter what are toxic.

Posted by: D. Aristophanes at March 19, 2009 10:38 AM

I guess Crank misses the straight ahead politics of the Bushies. Politics are like poker, it looks like a nice bluff by the administration. But, it is rather odd the they announce a policy the day before they are planning to meet with a large host of Veterans groups. Float a bad idea, let all the groups meet with you, agree with them and change your plan. So, the end result they feel important that you listened, very smart politically. But, I guess he could have told them you go to war with the Army you have.

Posted by: javaman at March 19, 2009 10:44 PM

disgraceful the way this administration has treated veterans.

Maybe that village in Texas would be willing to give us their idiot back

Posted by: cato at March 20, 2009 1:33 PM
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