Sunday, January 10, 2010

Federal Government and Health Care: We're Just Here to Help

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Original article at DBKP: Federal Government, Health Care: Here to Help


Some random headlines from a random point in time, taken from a random day.

A quick look at how the federal government is helping American citizens everyday.

It's exactly the type of "help" these same citizens can expect from government health care.

Internal Revenue Service

* IRS expects to answer only 71% of phone calls this tax season

If you call the Internal Revenue Service for help this tax season and someone actually picks up the phone, consider yourself lucky.

The agency has set a goal of answering only 71 percent of calls to its toll-free help line this year, and those fortunate enough to get through are expected to spend an average of 12 minutes on hold, according to a report released Wednesday by an IRS ombudsman.


* Amtrak "Train From Hell" Delayed Almost 24 Hours:

Arriving almost 24 hours behind schedule, Amtrak's California Zephyr arrived in Chicago with a trainload of passengers who described themselves as "tired, hungry and stinky."
Some passengers complained about a short supply of food and water on board, others criticized the crew for not keeping them informed. Most say they will never take Amtrak again.
In a similar incident, an Amtrak train bound from Denver arrived 23 hours late. A third train which runs from San Antonio to Chicago derailed in St. Louis yesterday, temporarily stranding 176 passengers and a crew of nine.

Social Security, Medicare

* Recession Drains Social Security and Medicare

Even as Congress hunted for ways to finance a major expansion of health insurance coverage, the Obama administration reported Tuesday that the financial condition of the two largest federal benefit programs, Medicare and Social Security, had deteriorated, in part because of the recession.

As a result, the administration said, the Medicare fund that pays hospital bills for older Americans is expected to run out of money in 2017, two years sooner than projected last year. The Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2037, four years earlier than predicted, it said.

* Let Them Go Bankrupt, Soon: Solving Social Security and Medicare.

When the trustees of Social Security and Medicare recently reported on the economic outlook for these programs, the news coverage was universally glum. The recession had made everything worse. Social Security, Medicare face insolvency sooner, headlined The Wall Street Journal. Actually, these reports were good news. Better would have been Social Security, Medicare risk bankruptcy in 2010.


* The Price for Fannie and Freddie Keeps Going Up:

On Christmas Eve, when most Americans' minds were on other things, the Treasury Department announced that it was removing the $400 billion cap from what the administration believes will be necessary to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac solvent. This action confirms that the decade-long congressional failure to more closely regulate these two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) will rank for U.S. taxpayers as one of the worst policy disasters in our history.
There is more to this ugly situation. New research by Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer for Fannie Mae and a housing expert, has found that from the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime or Alt-A.

In general, a subprime mortgage refers to the credit of the borrower. A FICO score of less than 660 is the dividing line between prime and subprime, but Fannie and Freddie were reporting these mortgages as prime, according to Mr. Pinto. Fannie has admitted this in a third-quarter 10-Q report in 2008.

* Business Digest: Mortgage delinquencies up at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

Delinquent home loans at government-controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac surged 20 percent from July through September, according to a new report by the companies' regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Almost 1.6 million borrowers had not made their mortgage payments for at least two months. That's about 5.18 percent of all borrowers. Year over year, the number of delinquencies more than doubled.

U.S. Postal Service

* Going postal as New York pension checks lost in mail:

The state controller's office says the U.S. Postal Service has lost many of the 60,000 pension checks it mailed last week.
"This is why we encourage people to have direct deposit." [said Dennis Tompkins, spokesman for Controller Thomas DiNapoli.]

* Did top postal exec break contracting rules?

The U.S. Postal Service's top marketing executive directed more than $1.3 million in sole-source contracts to former business associates since July 2008, according to documents obtained by Federal Times.

Robert Bernstock, president of the Postal Service's Mailing and Shipping Services division, approved $600,000 to consultant Lynne Alvarez, $412,500 to consultant Richard Sorota, and $324,975 to consultant Kimberly Wolfson, all of whom Bernstock worked with in the private sector prior to joining the agency in June 2008.

Department of Homeland Security

* More Bad News for DHS Intelligence Capabilities

In the heavily redacted report titled “Information Sharing at the National Operations Center,” the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued some disconcerting findings about the abilities of the DHS National Operations Center (NOC) to perform its mission as the nation’s “nerve center for information sharing and domestic incident management, increasing coordination between federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local governments, and the private sector.” This report, coming as it does on the tail end of the total failure of the federal government to detect and prevent the Christmas Day bombing attempt, represents a serious blow to DHS and its leadership.

* Not Systemic Failure, But Failed System

"Systemic failure" is how President Obama described the homeland security and intelligence lapses that led to the unsuccessful terrorist attack by a Nigerian Islamist on Dec. 25. The accuracy of this assessment was underscored by another intelligence failure that resulted in the death of seven CIA agents in Afghanistan on Dec. 30.

All of the assurances from your senator and congressmen--from President Obama himself--that you're in better hands than you realize, that their health care vision is the correct one, should be juxtaposed against any random headlines taken from any random point in any random day.

Feel better now?

Of course health care is better off being run by the government.

But Americans have more experience with dealing with big government bureaucracies in 2010 than they did in the 1930s or the 1960s or even the 1990s.

That's why the political elites in Washington, DC have to jam this one down Americans' throats.

by Mondo Frazier
image: DBKP file

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