The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
757 Third Avenue, Suite 17-02
New York, NY 10017
Dear Senator Schumer,
I am writing you for two purposes. The first is to ask you to vote AGAINST any healthcare plan that does not include a "public option" for people to buy healthcare coverage.
A healthcare plan that relies on state or regional co-ops to somehow bring healthcare costs under control and yet have a large enough pool of currently healthy participants to pay for any currently unhealthy participants -- as every insurance organization needs, whether for-profit, nonprofit, or governmental -- is nearly akin to telling people that if they don't like their choices among private insurers, they're always welcome to go start their own insurance company. As fellow New Yorkers, we both know that lip-service programs (such as "No Child Left Behind" and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue") ultimately do more harm than good. A collection of small insurance co-ops across the country will be similarly destined to fail. Please vote against any healthcare plan that does not include a "public option."
Second, but even more important, I am also writing you -- as my senator, as the vice-chair of the Joint Economic Committee, and in your roles on the Healthcare Subcommittee and the Securities, Insurance and Investment Subcommittee -- to ask you to consider a bill should the healthcare plan fail to include a public option. In that event, I'm hoping you and your fellow leaders in the Senate would work to save Medicare by introducing and passing a "Save Medicare Now" Act.
As we know, Medicare will be insolvent within a decade. Medicare is one of the most popular government programs today, and its bankruptcy would be disastrous to the many older Americans who depend on it for covering their healthcare costs. With the aging Baby Boomers, more and more Americans will be entering the age of Medicare-eligibilty, even as less funds are paid into the program by fewer younger, working taxpayers.
A Save Medicare Now Act would allow U.S. citizens not yet eligible for Medicare to buy Medicare coverage for themselves and their dependents by paying an annual fee (in addition to the contributions they already make via payroll withholding) perhaps equal to a flat 6% of their adjusted gross income. In addition, individuals and families with incomes less than two-times the poverty rate should be provided Medicare coverage as if they were already eligible at age 65.
Not only would such a simple-to-explain and simple-to-execute plan introduce a much larger potential pool of younger, healthier, paying people -- including many self-employed people and small business owners -- into the Medicare program, righting its finances, such a bill could be politically popular for a number of reasons:
- Medicare needs to be solvent, and America's seniors will be enthusiastic for Congress to save it.
- Medicare is universally popular; in surveys, over 60% of Americans think that saving Medicare from bankruptcy is a priority.
- By making it a flat fee, it could garner support from libertarians and those who normally oppose progressive taxation plans.
- By making it a bill to save Medicare, it could be more palatable to senators from states with a high percentage of older citizens. And particularly popular for senators from states with a high number of people approaching Medicare eligibility who may be very glad to have Medicare as an option if they were to lose or have lost their job so late in their career.
- Many employers, particularly small business owners, will be enthusiastic for the program, because it would allow them to finally get out of the healthcare business and focus their employee costs on their business strategies.
- Finally, a Save Medicare Now Act avoids introducing any new "public option" or "single payer" idea into the debate -- and at this point, the less said with those two terms, the better, regardless of their meaning.
And, as I know you are aware, because the purpose of the Save Medicare Now Act is to provide financing for a popular but increasingly insolvent federal program, it is a budget bill, and cannot be filibustered according to Senate rules.
I thank you for your consideration of such a bill, or a similar bill. I am also writing to Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Rangel with this request. I am proud to have the three of you representing me in the U.S. Congress, but I am troubled by the current direction the healthcare debate is taking and thus urge your support of a Save Medicare Now Act -- for the physical health of our senior citizens, the economic health of our medical system, and the moral health of our country.
Derek A. Baker
John McCain, Part 1
John McCain, Part 2
Barack Obama, Part 1
Barack Obama, Part 2
More recently, instruments that are more complex and less transparent--such as credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and credit-linked noteshave been developed and their use has grown very rapidly in recent years. The result? Improved credit-risk management together with more and better risk-management tools appear to have significantly reduced loan concentrations in telecommunications and, indeed, other areas and the associated stress on banks and other financial institutions.
Remarks by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan
Before the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.
November 19, 2002
Benjamin M. Friedman, author of "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth," recalled that when he worked at Morgan Stanley in the early 1970s, the firm’s annual reports were filled with photographs of factories and other tangible businesses. More recently, Wall Street’s annual reports tend to highlight not the businesses that firms were advising so much as finance for the sake of finance, showing upward-sloping graphs and photographs of traders.
"I have the sense that in many of these firms," Mr. Friedman said, "the activity has become further and further divorced from actual economic activity."
The classic measure of whether the stock market is overvalued is the price-earnings ratio, which divides stock prices by annual corporate earnings. At the height of the bubble, in 2000, companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were trading at 36 times their average earnings over the previous five years. It was the highest valuation since at least the 1880s, according to the economist Robert Shiller.
By 2004, surprisingly enough, the ratio had dropped only to about 26, still higher than at any point since the 1930s. At the start of last year, it was still 26.
But after the market closed on Friday, the ratio was down to roughly 17, which happens to be about its post-World War II average. At least by this one measure, stocks are no longer blatantly overvalued.
"Our moment is now. I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years re-fighting the same fights we had in the 1990s. I don't want to pit Red America against Blue America. I want to be President of the United States of America.
"And if those Republicans come at me with the same fear-mongering and swift-boating that they usually do, then I will take them head on. Because I believe the American people are tired of fear and tired of distractions and tired of diversions. We can make this election not about fear, but about the future. And that won't just be a Democratic victory; that will be an American victory."