January 6th, 2012
"That is a forthright statement of a dictator.”
On his radio show last night, Mark Levin said that President Barack Obama has caused a “constitutional crisis” by appointing members to the National Labor Relations Board and a director to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without going through the constitutionally required Senate confirmation process.
“We have a constitutional crisis," Levin said. "It is in fact a constitutional crisis."
"The President of the United States is trashing the Constitution now day in and day out,” Levin said.
At one point, Levin likened the explanation Obama made yesterday for appointing these federal officials without Senate confrmation to the "forthright statement of a dictator."
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January 6th, 2012
By Patti Dom
Leland Bobbe | Stone | Getty Images
December’s jobs report, however, is expected to reinforce what appears to be a clear improvement in hiring, while still at a sluggish level. Economists are expecting nonfarm payroll growth for last month of about 155,000, when accounting for layoffs of roughly 25,000 public sector workers.
That compares to 120,000 in November, when the unemployment rate was reported at 8.6 percent. Economists expect unemployment to creep back up to 8.7 percent as more workers look for jobs.
“Tomorrow’s number should be pretty good,” said Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Tilton, who notes that job advertising and other indicators show an improved hiring picture. Weekly jobless claims, reported at 372,000 Thursday, continue to decline.
“In general, economic growth looks like it’s been a bit better in the last two to three months, so that’s generally correlated with hiring. Weather was very mild so that would tend to help things like construction hiring,” said Tilton. Goldman Sachs economists’ forecast of 175,000 nonfarm payrolls is among the highest for the December report, which will be released at 8:30am ET Friday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to get a pretty strong report in January” also, he said. “We’ve had low layoffs relative to where we were for the last few years. I would think the January report would be reasonably good and the economic data have been pretty good.”
But that trend could be overtaken by a weakening economy. “We’re reasonably cautious about first -half economic growth,” he said. “On average, for the year, we expect employment growth to be somewhat lower than we expect in this (December) report.”
Mesirow Financial chief economist Diane Swonk expects to see 155,000 jobs added to December nonfarm payrolls and an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent. “It’s a particular wild card this month because they are doing annual revisions of seasonal factors,” said Swonk, who notes the adjustment could add an unexpected boost for the numbers.
She too expects the December report to be better than those in some of the coming months, as Europe’s debt crisis continues and Washington budget and tax talks come back into focus.
“I’m looking at a slowdown in growth as we move into 2012 from the fourth quarter… we’ve gotten an uneven recovery that’s accelerating. That’s kind of like ‘a glass half full,’” she said. “I think we’re going to have some rocky months ahead. I think we’re going to have a slowdown in growth in the first half of the year with Europe still volatile, wreaking havoc on the stock market. Keeping volatility high just keeps people gun shy from hiring more.”
“If we can get between 100,000 and 200,000 (monthly nonfarm payrolls) for the whole year, that would make me extremely happy,” she said.
Economists are mostly dismissing the ADP report for December, which showed that 325,000 private-sector jobs were added. The report is impacted by seasonal factors and has been overinflated in December before. But Swonk said an important element of that report showed that more than 80 percent of the new jobs were from small business, a trend that was also apparent last month.
“That’s good news and that story continues to grow,” she said. “I think that’s very important, and it’s one we want to keep momentum on, and that’s small business formation … That’s seen a real turn.”
On the negative side, the layoffs of public workers continues and now it’s shifting back to the federal payroll as opposed to state and local government workers.
“We’ve got postal workers. We’ve got veterans. We’ve got defense coming,” she said. She estimates 25,000 public-sector layoffs will be included in the December employment report.
Credit Suisse economist Jonathan Basile said an area that may show improvement is transportation, reflecting holiday hiring by parcel-delivery services. “They hire massively in December and then they cut that workforce in January,” he said.
He expects to see a total of 150,000 nonfarm payrolls. Basile does see a positive in the unemployment claims, and he notes the weekly number is more closely tied to the employment report than it has been in the past. The number has been below 400,000 for the past month.
“When you dip below 360,000, it’s really in solid positive territory for jobs. It really diminishes the chances that jobs cuts are on the table,” he said.
Improvements in the jobs report has already come as the unemployment claims dipped. “It wasn’t the hiring side that was doing the work. It was the firing side,” he said.
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Follow Patti Domm on Twitter: @pattidomm
January 6th, 2012
If Barack Obama wins in 2012, America is headed for something worse than a failing European-style socialist state, top-rated radio host Michael Savage said on his nationally syndicated show today.
“I have to tell you that if this man, God forbid, is the next president of the United States, we’re going to be living in something along the lines of – people say Europe. I don’t believe it’s going to be like Europe – I think it will be closer to Chavez’s South American dictatorship,” he told his “Savage Nation” audience.
Recalling his background as the son of an immigrant from Russia, who has been around awhile and seen a number of administrations, Savage said that if he had one message to leave, it would be a warning about what he fears is on the horizon.
“This is the most corrupt, incompetent, dangerous tyrannical administration in American history,” he declared.
“It’s not politics as usual. It’s not just Democrats versus Republicans,” Savage said.
Obama, he said, is “not a Democrat,” noting the president’s history of ties to Marxists and other radicals documented in his book “Trickle Up Poverty.”
“Obama has a long history of being at odds with American values and with America itself and the core principles of this country.” Savage said.
Savage pointed to media as one of the areas in which “step by step, degree by degree, we’re losing our freedom.”
He cited a WND story by Aaron Klein about a non-profit journalism group funded by supporters of MoveOn.org and the ACLU that will supply news to NBC television affiliates.
“They don’t want government-sponsored opinions,” he said, “They only want government-sponsored “Pravda.’”
“Pravda,” which ironically means “truth” in Russian, he noted, was the official Communist Party newspaper in the old Soviet Union.
“That’s exactly what the government-media complex tells you on a daily basis – nothing but the government-media complex party line,” he said.
“Pay attention,” Savage concluded. “Your freedom may be at stake.”
Savage’s nationally syndicated show airs live Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern. It can be heard online through stations such as WTNT in the nation’s capital.
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January 5th, 2012
CR edit note:
We can take a great deal...
I was even willing to ride on the Santorum "choo-choo" for awhile. But when "any Republican" starts criticizing one of the best Presidents we have ever had, I am going to have to hop off of this particular Rino-train.
I would recommend a substantial retraction and quickly, Mr. Rick. The Conservative Long-Knives are very sharp, and are mostly unforgiving. You see, we get enough of this from the Left, or are you just dying for us to write hundreds of "kill-pieces" on your record?
What in the hell were you thinking and are you so stupid, on this point, that we should all perhaps write you off as a viable candidate? Did you even mention Obama in this little diatribe or were you soley dedicated to criticizing a man who is not even around to defend himself?
Look, you can criticize President Reagan, if you dare, but the simple fact is that if politicans, such as you, Mr. Santorum, who have been in congressional office for many years, had finally put a stop to the incessant raiding of the social security trust fund, "since" Reagan's tenure, this would not even be an issue at present, now would it?
I'm just sayin', as my late friend Jane Jamison always said.....read on Ladies and Gentlement, and by the way, The Daily Caller is not, at all, a left-leaning publication trying to kill a "Conservative" if that's what you were thinking, just so's you will know.
BRENTWOOD, N.H. — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum committed one of the gravest sins in Republican politics on Wednesday evening by knocking the revered former President Ronald Reagan at a packed town hall meeting.
While addressing America’s entitlement crisis at his first New Hampshire event since his stunning near-victory in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday, Santorum said Reagan contributed to the entitlement crisis by pushing Social Security’s sustainability issues down the road instead of dealing with them head-on in the 1983 bipartisan deal to fix Social Security.
“If Rick Santorum gets elected and we do what I said that we need to do, which is to deal with the entitlement programs now, not 10 to 20 years from now,” Santorum said.
“You’ll know — unlike Ronald Reagan who maybe was a better politician than me — you’ll know that it was Rick Santorum that worked together and got the American public to gather together to fix this problem. Why? Because it is our problem.”
Santorum was walking the audience through what he called the “ancient days of yesteryear” in a interminable and incredibly detailed response to a questioner. He explained that in the 1983 deal Reagan brokered with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil to fix Social Security, the retirement age was moved back to 67, but that change wasn’t slated to be enacted until the politicians responsible were out of office.
“This was the brilliance of the politicians that did this,” Santorum said sarcastically.
“They were absolutely brilliant. They passed a bill that didn’t take effect for 20 years so nobody blames them. It was brilliant. They increased the Social Security age by two years back in 1983 and it didn’t start phasing in, it doesn’t fully phase in for almost 40 years. And so Ronald Reagan did that. Most people have no idea — no one associates Ronald Reagan with raising the retirement age. Why? Because all of the people it affected were nowhere near retirement and they didn’t know about it.”
To another questioner, he continued his critique of Reagan for the Social Security deal.
“You know, I love Ronald Reagan, but if I would point to one thing during his administration that he did a serious wrong, it was this bill — it was this Social Security fix,” Santorum said.
“He bought the idea of increasing taxes now — that’s always what the left wants to do — increase taxes now, reduce benefits later. And that’s exactly what the bill did.”
Later Santorum invoked Reagan positively while explaining his plan to get rid of the tax code and create a new system with two rates: 10 percent and 28 percent.
Santorum said he chose 28 percent as the top rate, “Because that’s the top level Ronald Reagan put in place, and if it is good enough for Reagan on taxes, it’s good enough for me.”
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January 5th, 2012
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Doctors in America are harboring an embarrassing secret: Many of them are going broke. This quiet reality, which is spreading nationwide, is claiming a wide range of casualties, including family physicians, cardiologists and oncologists.
Industry watchers say the trend is worrisome. Half of all doctors in the nation operate a private practice. So if a cash crunch forces the death of an independent practice, it robs a community of a vital health care resource.
"A lot of independent practices are starting to see serious financial issues," said Marc Lion, CEO of Lion & Company CPAs, LLC, which advises independent doctor practices about their finances.
Doctors list shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, rising business and drug costs among the factors preventing them from keeping their practices afloat. But some experts counter that doctors' lack of business acumen is also to blame.
Loans to make payroll: Dr. William Pentz, 47, a cardiologist with a Philadelphia private practice, and his partners had to tap into their personal assets to make payroll for employees last year. "And we still barely made payroll last paycheck," he said. "Many of us are also skimping on our own pay."
Pentz said recent steep 35% to 40% cuts in Medicare reimbursements for key cardiovascular services, such as stress tests and echocardiograms, have taken a substantial toll on revenue. "Our total revenue was down about 9% last year compared to 2010," he said.
"These cuts have destabilized private cardiology practices," he said. "A third of our patients are on Medicare. So these Medicare cuts are by far the biggest factor. Private insurers follow Medicare rates. So those reimbursements are going down as well."
Pentz is thinking about an out. "If this continues, I might seriously consider leaving medicine," he said. "I can't keep working this way."
Also on his mind, the impending 27.4% Medicare pay cut for doctors. "If that goes through, it will put us under," he said.
Federal law requires that Medicare reimbursement rates be adjusted annually based on a formula tied to the health of the economy. That law says rates should be cut every year to keep Medicare financially sound.
Although Congress has blocked those cuts from happening 13 times over the past decade, most recently on Dec. 23 with a two-month temporary "patch," this dilemma continues to haunt doctors every year.
Beau Donegan, senior executive with a hospital cancer center in Newport Beach, Calif., is well aware of physicians' financial woes.
"Many are too proud to admit that they are on the verge of bankruptcy," she said. "These physicians see no way out of the downward spiral of reimbursement, escalating costs of treating patients and insurance companies deciding when and how much they will pay them."
Donegan knows an oncologist "with a stellar reputation in the community" who hasn't taken a salary from his private practice in over a year. He owes drug companies $1.6 million, which he wasn't reimbursed for.
Dr. Neil Barth is that oncologist. He has been in the top 10% of oncologists in his region, according to U.S. News Top Doctors' ranking. Still, he is contemplating personal bankruptcy.
That move could shutter his 31-year-old clinical practice and force 6,000 cancer patients to look for a new doctor.
Changes in drug reimbursements have hurt him badly. Until the mid-2000's, drugs sales were big profit generators for oncologists.
In oncology, doctors were allowed to profit from drug sales. So doctors would buy expensive cancer drugs at bulk prices from drugmakers and then sell them at much higher prices to their patients.
"I grew up in that system. I was spending $1.5 million a month on buying treatment drugs," he said. In 2005, Medicare revised the reimbursement guidelines for cancer drugs, which effectively made reimbursements for many expensive cancer drugs fall to less than the actual cost of the drugs.
"Our reimbursements plummeted," Barth said.
Still, Barth continued to push ahead with innovative research, treating patients with cutting-edge expensive therapies, accepting patients who were underinsured only to realize later that insurers would not pay him back for much of his care.
"I was $3.2 million in debt by mid 2010," said Barth. "It was a sickening feeling. I could no longer care for patients with catastrophic illnesses without scrutinizing every penny first."
He's since halved his debt and taken on a second job as a consultant to hospitals. But he's still struggling and considering closing his practice in the next six months.
"The economics of providing health care in this country need to change. It's too expensive for doctors," he said. "I love medicine. I will find a way to refinance my debt and not lose my home or my practice."
If he does declare bankruptcy, he loses all of it and has to find a way to start over at 60. Until then, he's turning away new patients whose care he can no longer subsidize.
"I recently got a call from a divorced woman with two kids who is unemployed, house in foreclosure with advanced breast cancer," he said. "The moment has come to this that you now say, 'sorry, we don't have the capacity to care for you.' "
Small business 101: A private practice is like a small business. "The only thing different is that a third party, and not the customer, is paying for the service," said Lion.
"Many times I shake my head," he said. "Doctors are trained in medicine but not how to run a business." His biggest challenge is getting doctors to realize where and how their profits are leaking.
"On average, there's a 10% to 15% profit leak in a private practice," he said. Much of that is tied to money owed to the practice by patients or insurers. "This is also why they are seeing a cash crunch."
Dr. Mike Gorman, a family physician in Loganvale, Nev., recently took out an SBA loan to keep his practice running and pay his five employees.
"It is embarrassing," he said. "Doctors don't want to talk about being in debt." But he's planning a new strategy to deal with his rising business expenses and falling reimbursements.
"I will see more patients, but I won't check all of their complaints at one time," he explained. "If I do, insurance will bundle my reimbursement into one payment." Patients will have to make repeat visits -- an arrangement that he acknowledges is "inconvenient."
"This system pits doctor against patient," he said. "But it's the only way to beat the system and get paid."
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