Monday, October 26, 2009

Stimulus Creates 10 million Jobs

The kids over at Fox News have been gleefully reporting that the "$787 billion porkulus package is a failure". The first reports from the "liberally biased mainstream media" supported the idea, because they cite the White House as the source that says 30,000 jobs have been created due to the package. Both sets of reporting come from data released on, the government's website for all things stimulus. exists to provide transparency for spending related to the recovery package. Unfortunately, the media did not read everthing they could see on the transparent website. All of the media outlets (Fox News can't shoulder this burden alone) are to blame for what we are hearing. The problem isn't in the writing or even presentation of the information, it is in the lack of research. The website very clearly states that the 30,083 jobs created come from "federal contract spending", which represents about 8% of the total spend to date.

It gets worse....the first big number to think about is $16 billion. $16 billion is the total value of federal contracts awarded to date. The bigger number is $2.2 billion. $2.2 billion is the amount actually paid out for those contracts.

$2.2 billion for 30,000 jobs. A little different than Hannity's claims and all of the hand-wringing on CNN. So I figure it is time to do a little "modern" reporting myself. Here goes:

The Stimulus Package is on pace to create over 10,760,000 jobs! The United States set to enter new era of prosperity! Neoconservative business owners demand Obama pays Mexicans to emigrate to fill needed positions!

I can show more math to support my position than Hannity can....

But that is not what the Rational Middle is all about. Many economists last winter were predicting unemployment to top 10%, but the Obama team ignored them and made public a view that unemployment would only top 10% if the stimulus was not passed. My guess, based on the numbers so far, is that the stimulus will eventually directly create or save a little over 1 million jobs by the end of next year.The criticism of the administration because of its failure to come close on the projection is both fair and relevant, but it does not change the need for action or the results of the action taken.

More money has been "spent" for tax benefits as a result of the stimulus bill than for projects (part of the $288 billion tax cut that every Republican in Congress voted against...unless they were Senators from Maine). Over $63 billion has been spent on an extension of entitlement benefits such as unemployment. The retail sectors in hard hit areas like Southern California, Florida, and Southern Nevada are clinging to life thanks to those benefits.

The media has a responsibility to report the facts so that the people can hold their government to account. The media, in its haste to report a big "story" instead of the facts, failed that obligation.

The rational middle wants to be "stimulated" by your commentary....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Media Biased

A television spot voiced by Sam Waterston for the political magazine, The Nation, features the line; "...and that famous liberal media bias you just can't get anywhere else." The recent comments by a White House communications staffer that Fox News was not a news company but a propaganda arm of the GOP, has renewed the focus on the question of media bias. The venerable Bill Moyers summarized the problem for media today in a somewhat different manner; Fox is a Republican machine, but the "mainstream" is motivated by ratings rather than Democratic agendas. As Moyers points out, this leaves nobody to do the business of the American people.

Free speech is the most abused right in the Constitution. The concept that is used as a crutch by paparazzi and rabble rousers is meant to protect the speaker (or writer) from government reprisal. It does not protect Rush Limbaugh from accusations of racism, nor does it protect the President from accusations of being a Communist or Muslim. The concept allows a free media or individual to investigate and/or report on the relevant actions of the government and its officers/agents on behalf of the citizens. This notion is, unfortunately, a dying ideal due in large part to the reality of our short attention spans and limited education. Real reporting on government activity is conducted on several of the better organized internet sites in addition to programs on PBS and the BBC. The reporting is fully formed and meticulously cited because the time exists to support the technique.

Network news is able to show less than a dozen stories of less than 3 minutes on a typical broadcast. We have for years been getting our news through a medium that is Twitter like in its brevity. How do you explain health care in less than three minutes? How do you define the parameters of Afghanistan in that time? The less words a news writer is able to use, the more the individuals phrasing and context dominate the story. Last week, I watched several different network and cable news stories on Afghanistan prior to watching a Frontline program on the same topic. The network and cable programs were filled with short sound bites from politicians and pundits from "each side". The Frontline presentation was a well organized compilation that described multiple sides, each with a well defined set of reasons and plan.

The football fans reading this would not likely sit down to watch a game without listening to several minutes of description (complete with graphical aids) of the individual players, coaches, and possible strategies that would be involved in the game. When it comes to national security or economic recovery, we lose interest if the commentator can't identify the good guys, bad guys, and one critical point in less than a couple of minutes.

Now that we have identified the cause for the loss of media accuracy (us), we should look at the reality. When it comes to the battle to label the "mainstream media", the reasons are clear. Stories written and reported from the perspective of working class voters are not likely to favor Conservative thinking. This is because Conservative policies are meant to benefit the working class indirectly (in an economic sense) by enabling the business class to grow rapidly and take the working class with it. There are, I would argue, valid and reasonable points scored in the favor of this "supply-side" economic argument; those points just don't resonate with a voter looking in the short-term. By impugning the reputation of media sources, the Conservative movement has, for the last thirty years in particular, been able to gain ground in demographics not associated with the Republican base. People have begun to distrust the media as much as the politicians. The fact that the same interests have attacked the concept of government in the same terms over the same time period is not a coincidence.

The current label being tossed around, is that the mainstream media is colluding with "Marxist Obama" to lead the nation towards Socialism. That sounds like scary stuff, but it fails a critical test. What is in it for the media? We know why Fox News wants to support Republican policies and personalities; the parent company, News Corp. has paid less than 6% in corporate taxes worldwide since the mid 1990's (at a time during which supposedly liberal ABC parent Disney has paid 31%). Fox News president Roger Ailes was a consultant for Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and the elder Bush. What is not clear is what would make the other companies support a Communist plot?

The "Big Three Networks" are publicly traded, capitalist ventures whose major shareholders and corporate officers all sit in the high tax brackets and pay capital gains regularly. The previous paragraph should have identified why we could expect ABC to have a Conservative bias, rather than a liberal one (see the taxes they have paid). NBC parent GE, famously and repeatedly attacked as an Obama co-conspirator by Fox News, was the firm that launched Ronald Reagan's political career (indeed GE did not pay corporate tax for many years beginning, not surprisingly, after Reagan took office). The multi-billion dollar firm is engaged in a multitude of businesses that are vulnerable to intensive federal regulation; again, the motivation of the corporate parent would indicate for a Conservative bias. CBS is owned by Sumner Redstone, who is in fact a self-proclaimed Democrat. Of course Redstone endorsed George W. Bush against John Kerry in 2004, so I don't think it fair to assign any parent company bias to CBS.

If the corporate parents have a natural Conservative tilt, and the officers and managers are better off financially in a Conservative environment, I find it hard to believe that the networks, and their cable offspring, would be capable of engendering a deep-seeded liberal bias to their reporting. As for a Communist conspiracy, the Soviet Union, as I recall, did have a news service; one news service. It was called TASS, and it is not clear that the reporters and producers were paid very well, nor is it apparent that Communist functionaries have ever had the time or inclination to indulge "personalities".

Where does that leave the members of the rational middle? Most news programs, even the news lineup shows on Fox hosted by Shepard Smith, have value as guides to what needs to be looked at by the citizens of our participatory democracy. The opinion-driven host and panel shows are likely to structure facts in the way an attorney might; they are trying to convince the jury of public opinion. Watch and believe them at your peril. If you are not reading about the news, you probably don't understand the news. That takes time, but I think the country is worth the effort.

The shows today are fancy and entertaining, but most of us learned long ago not to judge a book by its cover.

The rational middle would like to hear YOUR judgement of this column....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Death Panel For Winter

Back in 2004, when Congress revisited Medicare and tried to deal with prescription drugs, they dealt with a related health care matter. The Schiavo debate was fresh in the public's mind and there was wide agreement that a problem existed with a fairly straightforward fix; educate the nation so that people could make legally binding decisions in order to keep government out of their death. Among the responses to the issue was a clause in the Medicare bill that provided coverage to seniors for counselling on items like living wills, do not resuscitate orders, medical powers of attorney, and final wills. This clause facilitated conversations that would help seniors and their families decide and communicate to doctors their desires; whether they be DNR's for terminally ill patients or an order to keep the tubes in and machines on indefinitely. You may not realize, but if these desires are not clearly illustrated and presented to medical and legal authorities, the state can and does step in to make the decision.

This important and well-stated legislation passed without comment in 2004; in 2009 it was included in the description of services for the public option in HR 3200. In that description (for insurance through the government that would not be mandatory), the steps were called "end of life planning". Insurance company shills quickly dubbed it "granny killing", and Sarah Palin jumped into the fray calling it "killing granny to save money". The more people have actually read the bills moving through Congress, the more they have realized what a bunch of garbage this all was. That said, the time it took away from the issue, and the way that it shifted the focus of lawmakers was a terrible waste.

As fall starts to move away, and the health care issue crawls slowly to conclusion, I have started to wonder what the next great moment of hysteria will be. There has already been some bipartisan work done (by Linsdey Graham (R) of South Carolina and John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts) on carbon reduction and energy independence. Much like health reform, which began with an interesting and unique approach authored by a Republican and a Democrat, I think the Kerry/Graham bill will be the canon fodder for the energy industry. The Insurance Cartel and Big Pharma threw better than a quarter billion at defeating health care before they came out publicly against it. Big energy has half of the world's ten most profitable companies, firms that generate $50-$70 million per day in PROFIT. Imagine how much they will throw at the issue. This winter you can count on it; Glenn Beck will go on his show and claim Barack Obama is trying to freeze Granny into communism! I am serious!

Financial regulation represents even greater fodder for panic. The legitimate public anger that drove the Tea Party car steered by Dick Armey, Karl Rove, and Glenn Beck through the spring and summer, was fueled by two contradictory sources; populists, who were incensed that taxpayers were roped into rescuing corrupt and unregulated businesses that were supposed to know better, and libertarians, who detest the very idea of government intervention in the market. For all practical purposes, there is no side to this problem; economists, bankers, fund managers, politicians, career regulators, and rank and file citizens believe reform is necessary. Of course, we stood at a similar place in the dawn of the heath care battle.

It seems clear, that if business interests have become so large as to upset the balance of the world if they fail, that something must be done. The difficulty is that populist anger will prohibit another bailout so some government intervention is called for; while libertarian forces in the country push back against the notion of regulation. Either the institutions must be made to forgo excess risk, in which case they forgo higher levels of reward, or they must be broken up, in which they competitive advantage driven by scale. There is no Pollyanna solution whereby this marketplace regulates itself; it is driven by profit and will follow the profit to the literal edge of the rules. This is an opportunity for informed, rational debate and discussion. It is an opportunity for creative solutions to be proposed and looked at without fear of political reprisals. It is an opportunity for the new and innovative.

Unfortunately, it is also an opportunity for someone to scream that the Marxist Obama is trying to steal Granny's 401k.

Our financial crisis has a lot of players, including us. Just as on climate change and health care reform, financial reform presents opportunities for we the people to make a difference (the old personal responsibility has a place). The commercial and political sources of our problem however, go back to the Ford Administration and touch every President and every Congress since then. George W. Bush and the Republicans may have done the gift-wrapping and final assembly, but there is heavy blame to be set at the feet of President Clinton and representatives of both parties. This administration, and the Democrat and Republicans in this Congress, can fix it. They simply need to be encouraged to do so in a grown-up fashion.

There is a movie coming out centered on the Mayan calendar's supposed prediction of the end of the world in 2012 (presumably, we ran out of Christian prediction in 1999, 200, and 2001). For most people, the commercial for the film is not a moment of shock and panic. I would submit that the emails and frantic wailing of television commentators you will hear over the next few months could be treated with similar indifference.

The rational middle waits for your comments...

Monday, October 19, 2009

We Call Them Liars in the Real World

I misspoke, or made an error, or omitted a fact, or misremembered, or, or, or, errrr....I am a politician (or a ballplayer). If we said to our parents what these folks say to their constituents on a regular basis, we would be slapped and grounded.

They get to continue pretending to be important.

After spending weeks fighting the stimulus bill as "wasteful big government", Senator Kit Bond of Missouri went on a bus trip to promote projects funded by....the stimulus bill.

Over the summer, it was Congressman Boehner celebrating in June about millions of dollars in road construction funding from the stimulus bill that appeared to be "putting some folks back to work and getting things done". A couple of weeks later he insisted that he hadn't seen any money from the bill and insisted that it hadn't created any jobs. (Note: His home state of Ohio has seen more than $60 million, most of it spent on roads, police, and teachers)

Rep. Jack Kingston from Georgia fought the stimulus bill tooth and nail using the old "Washington waste" card. He issued a press release lauding the nearly $250,000 being spent to retain police officers in Alma and Jessup, Georgia. He pointed out that local efforts work better than attempts by Washington to fix problems from afar. He underlined the point by commenting on the tax savings to the district because the towns would not have to come up with the cash themselves.

He missed the tiny little, almost insignificant point that the money was from...the stimulus bill.

President Obama sold stimulus as a bill that would save or create 1.5 million jobs. So far it has saved tens of thousands of jobs (mostly police and teachers), but hasn't done much in the way of creating. The administration is trying to "stay on message" and "frame the discussion" about how things are going. I tried framing discussions with my parents....they stayed on a very particular message.

The bright side that we are missing is that less than one third of the money has been spent. More will happen in the coming months, although it is clear that Obama's team badly misread the depth of the recession we were in.

The rational middle would have been happy if all of the money spent on food stamps, unemployment benefits, and tax cuts had been funnelled towards infrastructure projects. Moody's has studied the harmonic benefit of federal spending and found that infrastructure creates the largest effect by far (tax cuts, alas, create the lowest). We the people, however, demanded immediate action and quick results. The confused timeline and muddy results have left lots of room for what politicians call "spin".

In our world, we know it as, "lies".

The rational middle looks forward to your straight talk...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Confusion, Progress, and the Status Quo

These are confusing times we live in. The Democratic president is escalating a war, confronting a union, advocating for torte reform, and angering his liberal base. The Republicans in Congress have attacked the previous (Republican) administration's economic record, positioned themselves as champions of Medicare, and voted (all of them) against a $288 billion tax cut.

This year has featured a plethora of events I never thought (or hoped) to see in the United States; governors and state legislatures considering secession (treason), threats and suggestions of military takeover, and 300,000 residential foreclosures per month. Picture if you will my friends, what the reaction would have been had Rep. John Conyers screamed at Ronald Reagan in a joint session of Congress. Now think about what did not happen to Rep. Joe Wilson after his little escapade last month. Think about the votes you and I and several million others cast to put a large Democratic majority in power; none of us cast votes to give Senator Reid and Rep. Pelosi more power, we did it to get an agenda passed.

The confusion reigning in the rational middle this year is closely tied to how low the standard for this country has fallen. If you look at polls, you notice quickly that most of the time most of the people are disgusted with the two dominant political parties. This fact is manifest in the low numbers for party identification and the abysmal numbers for Congressional approval. Depending on the poll, no more than 30% of Americans now call themselves Republicans, and no more than 40% will label themselves Democrats. My ambivalence to party identification is easily described in the context of this year; the Democrats have proven their absolute weakness, and the Republicans have proven that facts and progress are less important than winning soundbite battles.

How low is the standard now? With Congress and the nation behind him, Teddy Roosevelt broke the backs of big monopolies, built a great Navy, created the National Park system, and established the United States as a power to be reckoned with on a world stage. With Congress and the nation behind him, Franklin Roosevelt led the country out of the Great Depression (before and without WWII folks), established the FDIC that probably saved your bank account last year, established the Social Security program that has allowed your elders to retire (ask them how that pension or 401k is doing), and built much of the brown water transportation and irrigation network that is, at the moment, sliding into ruin. For good measure, FDR then led us to victory in WWII. Dwight Eisenhower built the interstate highway system at a time in which the nation was dealing with a real debt level surpassing today's. John F. Kennedy led us to the Moon in an adventure that established the market pressures that drove aeronautics, computers, and everything we do today with satellites. Ronald Reagan rebuilt, from the ground up, our entire military establishment at a time where the nation needed the debt spending the job entailed because of the terrible recession we were in.

What have done this year? We had a chance to establish effective 21st century financial market parameters...that was too much. We could have taken on the nation's $2 trillion need for infrastructure repair and modernization....that was too much. We could have dealt with the world's least efficient medical delivery system....nope, that was too much. We could have...we could have....we could have....

All of us have needs, individually and for our businesses. None of us like taxes, individually or for our business. So here we are, in possession of the greatest system of self-government in the history of the world, waiting for "the market" to fix what ails us. There is nothing quite like the Status Quo, and the Status Quo is nothing like progress. Previous generation realized that the United States needed to grow, and that the growth would eventually pay for itself. The Apollo program was far more expensive, in real dollars, than anything ever attempted by a government (anywhere) in peacetime. I would suggest that if you think it would have been better to let the Soviets get to the Moon first rather than "saddle our children with that debt", then the Communist we need to worry about is not, in fact, in the White House. The simple point being, that we used to take on big challenges with the confidence that we Americans would make it work. Over the last 30 years, most politicians' idea of a big challenge has been to figure out how not to do anything productive.

I guess that is why I am so confused...we used to be selfless and brave in this country.

The rational middle is waiting...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sustainable Profits

Business and politics have been in open warfare since late July, when the insurance industry opened hostilities against the idea of health reform. Over the next several months, the conflict will escalate over another idea; cap and trade. Cap and trade is another in a long line of environmental action attempted by those crazy, tree-hugging, environmental wackos.

Environmental wackos like Linda Greer of the Natural Resource Defense Council. At a conference in 2003, Ms. Greer was disappointed to reveal that 67 firms had rejected her request to work with the NRDC after she related the results of a project at Dow Chemical. Working at one plant in Midland, Michigan, the crazies were able to cut toxic emissions by 37%...but it cost Dow....

Wait a moment...the operation saved $5.6 million per year! Hmm. Why would companies not want to save money on operations costs while making the world a better place to live in? I am afraid that I lack the intelligence to answer that question. Dow, of course, is no corporate angel. But the firm has made a point of being proactive on the environmental front, and using the green movement to generate efficiency in its operations. They got ahead of the curve on CFC's in the seventies, and have embraced a variety of techniques since that have strengthened its corporate position while providing social benefit. They pick the low hanging fruit.

The question on the mind of the rational middle, is why don't other firms do the same? Why do firms and individuals insist on sticking their heads in the sand? People, and companies, are afraid of change. For most of human history, the world has been so big, and we humans so small, that it was natural to see the world and its resources as infinite; and the world's ability to absorb our waste as absolute. In more direct terms, we thought it was ok to pee in the river as long as we got our drinking water upstream!

It is time to grow up. How many times do you hear, or speak yourself, the phrase "It is a small world"? Take that phrase at face value, because it is the truth.

Most regular folks have the idea that big companies are smart enough when it comes to their own self-interest. If AIG, GM, CITI, Merril, and the rest aren't enough to disabuse us all of that notion, then there isn't much left to say. Big companies, like the rest of us, sometimes miss the boat. Most estimates of remaining oil reserves state that the world will run dry in this century. The absolute effects of global warming as described by Al Gore's film have been disputed by people on the basis that there is not enough fossil fuel left in the Earth to produce enough CO2 to make the scenario happen. Despite this, BP's chief economist Peter Davies insists that they don't believe there is an absolute resource constraint...they are thinking or acting as if the tap will never run dry.

I mention these stories as a reminder that when you see someone on the news sagely lecturing the nation on what is in the interests of business, that they are just as full of vinegar as the rest of the world. We, as consumers, need to push sustainability on our businesses and in our lives. We need to let legislators know that the corporate world needs to be both responsible and efficient. The Japanese and Europeans have a legacy of voluntary agreements between government and industry to address environmental issues that have been very successful, but the great management thinker Michael Porter has found that corporations become better operators in the face of government regulations. Either way, by carrot or stick, our corporate world needs to embrace sustainable operations.

Materials flow accounting, total quality environmental management, and all of the elements of environmental managerial accounting can be leveraged to find environmental benefit that pays for itself. I could list hundreds of companies that have achieved successes of the same magnitude as the one enjoyed by Dow and Linda Greer, but none of them would change the basic need.

Whether it is health care delivery, energy policy, or our nation's infrastructure, when are we going to stop running from every challenge that comes our way? When are we going to stand up and embrace the opportunity to move the country forward?

The rational middle looks forward to your thoughts....

Monday, October 5, 2009

Repetition Matters

When you are building a brand, repetition matters. People need to hear something over and over, and in different contexts, before they fully internalize the information. In politics, as well, repetition matters. Politics is, after all, branding. So what brands have the different "producers" created over the past forty years or so?

Democrats/Liberals are pro-choice, pro-peace, pro-social welfare, pro-arts, pro-diversity, pro-science, pro-education, pro-negotiation, pro-labor, and pro-environment.


Democrats/Liberals are baby-killing, gun-hating, loafer-supporting, Hollywood worshipping, anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-self reliance, soft on defense, anti-corporation, and anti-human in the face of seals and spotted owls.

Republicans/Conservatives are pro-life, pro-business, pro-liberty, pro-individual, pro-morality, pro-American, pro-Christian, pro-private sector, pro-military, and pro people before nature.


Republicans/Conservatives are bigoted, misogynistic, chauvinist, gun-loving, warmongering, greedy, fascist polluters.

So much for party identification. One brand that a majority of Americans have bought into is the "Government is the problem" brand. What a shame. The miracle of America, the dream of America, the promise of America, and the challenge of America, was and is the notion that people can come together to govern themselves for the benefit of a common good. This very simple notion stood in stark contrast to the idea that was pervasive in humanity throughout recorded history; men needed to be governed by some power, whether religious or royalty.

A group of very brave people broke away from their colonial masters 230 years ago and proceeded to prove to the world that men did not need a king. They proved that governance could be shared through the mechanism of participatory democracy. They, and we, showed the way to the rest of the world. The effort took compromise then as well as now. The effort also took people who were willing to accept that all would not always go their way. This spirit is, I fear, a minority ideal.

We have adopted the "brand" is a tool for governance. We believe now that our brand must beat the others, Coke after all can't join Pepsi for mutual benefit; why then would Republicans and Democrats do something as silly as that? We have drawn a line around "business' and "the people" and insisted they be held separate. We have adopted the mentality of angry drivers screaming at traffic when we look at legislation. We have accepted that "the government" and "the people" are not the same thing.

There can not be another more Un-American notion than that; the miracle of America is that people vote in and define their own government. Naive, you say? No. Our government will never be perfect, as our business, sports, religion, relationships, and the rest will never be perfect. I have yet to see anyone at Fox News or MSNBC get out of a boat on a lake and walk on the water. You wouldn't guess that from the way that news outlets act.

People can and do influence legislation. It is happening right now. A nearly unprecedented majority was elected to the House and Senate in the same party as the President last year. All of those sent to Washington went with a mandate from those who voted, a total that represents the largest percentage of living Americans to vote for a party and its candidates since Reagan and the GOP dominated in 1984. The mandate was clear, and it included four fundamental pillars; fix the greed in our financial system, fix our foreign policy and refocus our military on international terrorism, align our environmental efforts with the rest of the enlightened industrialized world, and fix our corrupt and ineffective health care system.

People have wanted the health care system fixed every year for decades now. There hasn't been a month go by that I don't hear of someone who is fighting with an insurance company for a drug, or a diagnostic procedure, or a surgery, or the right to go to a specialist. Up until about three months ago, three fourths of the country wanted a comprehensive health care reform law passed; the insurance companies and the drug industry even talked the talk of finding cost savings and helping government fix the problems.

Then the branding began; "death panels", "granny killers", "government-run health care", "Marxism", "the Founder's intent", and "Obama-care" became the slogans on people's lips. Despite these slogans, a majority of Americans want reform, and more than 40% want a public option to provide competition to the insurance companies. Contrary then, to the majority's wishes, nothing has been passed, and the bill about to come out of the Senate looks to be a windfall for insurance companies. It is every bit the disaster that opponents of health reform have claimed, but for the wrong reasons. The bill will mandate coverage and force the burden of lousy insurance company bureaucracy on everyone without competition. It will be a disaster because people, convinced by an insurance company ad campaign, have spoken to (and sometimes yelled at) their representatives. It is with humorless irony that I note those who have insisted that government doesn't listen to the people are the very same who have made Senators...listen to some people.

Insurance companies and their allies have spent more than $380 million dollars fighting this concept this year alone. That is a total that describes an industry desperate to avoid losing its monopoly. That is a total that eclipses the number given to the financial sector during the first phase of the bailout. Think about that total in the context of how hard your parents had to fight to get the drugs their doctor prescribed them onto the formulary. Think about the total when you consider opening your own business but can't because you can only afford coverage through your current employer. Think about that total the next time you think you are above the impulse of advertising geeks!

Government-imposed caps or floors on prices are counter-productive. Government-forced solutions to environmental issues are less likely to succeed than aggressive carrot and stick work with industrial groups and business people. There are areas that the people, acting through their government, would do well to leave alone, but we have recognized throughout our history that monopolies are bad for the nation. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican icon, was famous for "busting the trusts".

Insurance companies act as a monopoly, and there is no market incentive to cover the entire U.S. market. Public health is a utility; without it, business does not operate and consumers do not have cash for growth. Add those two facts up, and the need for action is obvious. Do the math, think of your own experience with insurance companies, think about your costs going forward, and try to guess why an industry would spend almost half a billion....that's BILLION with a B...fighting a bill that would help its customers.

Stamp the American brand back on the government, and remember that our corporation, The United States of America, is the one that matters. We are the sole owners and operators, and corporations big and small exist to serve their customers.

The rational middle is listening for your comments...