Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Dinner With The President

I think Governor Schweitzer was the first to ask why President Bush is pushing a program reform that is fine until 2042 when we have problems that exist today, but he hasn't been the only one.

Oh-eighter Bill Richardson asked why Washington is examining the tax code and Social Security, which has until 2042 before becoming insolvent, when there are more pressing needs on health care and education.

How were things at the Governors conference anyway? Dinner sounds lovely...

In honor of "Sideways" winning best adapted screenplay last night, a look at the wines served at last night's White House dinner for the nation's governors.

Accompanying the wild rice soup with pheasant, the White House served the Patz & Hall Chardonnay "Alder Springs" 2003 (about $55 a bottle), which the winery describes as "just a little less fruity than it is big and bombastic. . . . It trades first on toast and minerality, and it shows a fair bit of heat in the finish."

Accompanying the tenderloin of beef in a Texas marinade, the White House served the Caymus Cabernet "Napa" 2002 (about $80 a bottle), which one reviewer described as "solidly fruity at its heart . . . quite ripe, fairly full in the mouth and surprisingly supple."

Then, with the wild raspberry apple pie and cinnamon ice cream came a dessert wine, the Bonny Doon Muscat "Vin de Glaciere" 2003 (about $18 a half-bottle). The vineyard says it has "racy and exaggerated notes of apricot, elderflower and rampant pineapple-ocity" that "sent shivers down our spines."

I didn't expect the President to serve the Governors the notoriously chintzy fare he served his donors on the campaign trail when he was spending his money, but he's calling for huge budget cuts now. What kind of message does it send to spend $43.00 a head for wine during a business dinner?

Let's compare that to the temporary cash assistance a single parent with two children recieves, shall we? About $13.00 a day to pay rent, buy diapers, transportation, toiletries and school supplies. $13.00 for a family to live on vs $43.00 for three glasses of wine.

All that wine didn't dull Governor Schweitzer one bit.

"Schweitzer compared Bush's promotion of Social Security changes to a magician with a hat in his right hand that he is waving around with "wide gestures" to distract his audience.

"Today we're talking about Social Security, something that might happen 20, 30, 40 years from now," Schweitzer said. "But guess what's really happening, over in the left hand? We're cutting Medicaid. We're cutting programs in the heartland."

What does a more seasoned Governor have to say about it? [I was unable to debunk the rumor that Judy did the interview shaking pom poms and wearing saddle shoes.]
WOODRUFF: All right. Governor, let's talk about what the meeting, the governors' meeting today was all about.

A lot of focus on Medicaid. We know the president, the administration's proposing to cut something like $60 billion out of Medicaid over the next 10 years or so. The administration argues this is -- this is money that absolutely should come out, it's waste, fraud and abuse

"Mission Accomplished" cost us more than a million dollars.

WARNER: We categorically disagree with that. The fact of the matter is, Medicaid now provides health care for 53 million Americans, more Americans than are on Social Security. And if Social Security may or may not go bankrupt in 2042, let me assure you, unless we can fix Medicaid, it's going to bankrupt the states long before that, probably within the next decade.

So what we've got to do is we understand that Medicaid as it's currently structured has to be -- has to be changed. We can no longer allow the kind of cost shifts, the way the president is proposing, moving $60 billion down to the cost of the states, or the way that employers continue to cut off health insurance for their employees, pushing them onto Medicaid, or the fact that seniors -- and Medicaid is not about poor people anymore -- 60 percent of seniors who are in nursing homes are on Medicaid, continue to divest of their assets to go on Medicaid. So we've got to make those changes.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's an example of abuse, isn't it? And, I mean, isn't it right to look at that and say let's end it and save money that way?

We paid for Tom Delay to have his eyes lifted and she never even whispered the words waste, fraud or abuse!

WARNER: Well, I think looking at how we can avoid seniors divesting of their assets before they go into long-term care absolutely ought to be discussed. But is it discussed in a way where we've got to -- we get back into a budget number, or can we engage with the administration?

And let me say, Mike Leavitt, the new secretary of Health and Human Services, is the best news possible in terms of getting Medicaid reform because he understands the problem. But can we back into an issue like divestiture of assets in a way that says can we provide tax credits for people to buy long-term care insurance? Can we look at look-backs? Yes, but can we also perhaps allow seniors to keep something to pass on to their kids and grandkids?

So the devil's in the details on all of these issues.

WOODRUFF: But frankly, if you're a citizen sitting out there and you're not personally receiving Medicaid, and you can be a little bit objective, you say, what difference does it make whether you back in because of a number or whether you plan it some other way? I mean, they just -- the argument is, let's get the money's worth here.

Remind me again what we are getting out of the President's $250,000,000.00 propoganda spending spree.

WARNER: Because what we're talking about is 53 million Americans and a growing number who receive their basic health care from Medicaid. What we've got to do is we're willing to engage with the administration on Medicaid reform. And I think for the first time in a long time governors in both parties absolutely realize the system's got to change.

But what it shouldn't be driven by is a budget number that's in a congressional reconciliation process that has to happen within a couple weeks. What we want to do is work with the administration on their ideas for reform, some of the ideas that we as governors are going to put forward.

Part of those are our greater flexibility, part of those may be tax credits. But that discussion is going to take place over the coming weeks.

WOODRUFF: But meanwhile, you've got the president doing most of his public speaking these days on Social Security.

What are all his trips costing the taxpayer anyway? What about blatantly illegal use of a government agency to promote a political party, how much to systematically altered agency publications, press releases, PowerPoint presentations, website content, and even its annual statements to foster the impression that Social Security is 'unsustainable' and 'must change.'

WARNER: Again, one of the concerns that a lot of us have that says we wish -- we think the president maybe has picked the wrong crisis. The immediacy of the crisis in Medicaid, the fact of the matter is in Medicaid right now nationally, Medicaid costs outdistance education costs at the state level. So what we've done now is we've put governors in the position where they've got to pick between grandma and the grandkids in terms of state priorities. So we do need Medicaid reform, but it ought to be driven through a reform process, not by a budget number.

The Governors arent the only ones crinkling their nose at this one.


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