Sunday, August 19, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

This is a real GOPer-laffer: "In a brutal Rolling Stone editorial, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello calls Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's recent vice presidential pick, the 'embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.' The 42-year-old Ryan has touted his Rage fandom in the past, a curious choice given the band's ferocious advocacy for unions, immigrants and social justice." "Tom Morello rips Rage Against the Machine fan Paul Ryan". Mr. Ryan has apparently neglected to read the lyrics.

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Southern electorate not easily pigeon-holed"

"The 'Solid South' was a political fact, benefiting Democrats for generations and then Republicans, with Bible Belt and racial politics ruling the day."

But demographic changes and recent election results reveal a more nuanced landscape now as the two major parties prepare for their national conventions. Republicans will convene Aug. 27 in Florida, well established as a melting-pot battleground state, to nominate Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Democrats will toast President Barack Obama the following week in North Carolina, the perfect example of a Southern electorate not so easily pigeon-holed.

Obama won both states and Virginia four years ago, propelled by young voters, nonwhites and suburban independents. Virginia, long a two-party state in down-ballot races, had not sided with Democrats on the presidency since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Jimmy Carter in 1976 had been the last Democratic nominee to win North Carolina. Each state is in play again, with Romney needing to reclaim Florida and at least one of the others to reach the White House.
"New citizens, birth rates, and migration patterns of native-born Americans make high-growth areas less white, less conservative or both. There is increasing urban concentration in many areas. African-American families are moving back to the South after generations in Chicago, New York or other northern cities."
Young religious voters are less likely than their parents to align with Republicans on abortion and same-sex unions. Younger voters generally are up for grabs on fundamental questions like the role of the federal government in the marketplace.
Much more here: "'Solid South' no longer just all-red or all-blue".

Ryan's Medicare voucher plan

Zac Anderson: "On Saturday, on his first trip to Florida as the Republican vice presidential candidate, Ryan was eager to reassure Florida’s powerful senior voting bloc it will not be affected by his Medicare reform plan. The congressman spoke at The Villages, the sprawling retirement community near Ocala, in front of a banner reading 'Protect and Strengthen Medicare.' His 78-year-old mother, a Florida resident and Medicare beneficiary, was at his side."

But for younger voters tuning into the Medicare debate, the message is less reassuring.

Under Ryan’s plan — largely adopted by Romney as the ticket’s official platform — people now under age 55 would receive a lump sum to purchase private health insurance when they become eligible for Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the voucher will be about $8,000 for a 65-year-old if the plan takes effect by 2022.

The voucher system would reduce federal spending because Medicare would not be on the hook for unlimited expenses.

But the CBO and other independent analysts predict that out-of-pocket costs for average consumers would increase substantially because the voucher payments wouldn’t keep pace with the premiums charged by private insurance companies and tied to rising health care costs.
"Medicare vote could turn on younger boomers".

What fraud?

The right-wing Tampa Tribune editorial board write that "Voter ID law stops fraud". What fraud?

Florida drowning in corporate cash

Scott Maxwell: "Florida is so flush with special-interest cash that our state is drowning in it." "Megadonors taint Florida politics, appointments".

Maxwell can't bring himself to call it what it is: "corporate cash", not "special-interest cash"

Several candidates for president have released fewer than 12 tax returns

"PolitiFact Florida checked out Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that major presidential candidates in modern times have released 12 years of tax returns."

Wasserman Schultz said: “Mitt Romney is the first major party candidate for president of the United States in modern times not to release at least 12 years of tax returns.”

There are several examples of major party candidates for president in modern times who released fewer than 12 tax returns. And those examples have been highlighted in recent news articles. Wasserman Schultz’s claim is not correct, and we rate the statement False.
"Debbie Wasserman Schul’ claim about release of tax returns of major candidates is false, says PolitiFact Florida".

Medicare dynamic

"Ryan didn’t just inject Medicare smack into the presidential race in swing-state Florida. He also created a new dynamic in the contest between Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Connie Mack — a race that could help determine who controls the Senate." "Medicare shaping tight Florida Senate race".

The Miami Herald editorial board: "GOP ticket should push real debate on Medicare".

Medicare flip-flop

"Paul Ryan, introduced his 78-year-old mother — a part-time Florida resident — to seniors in The Villages and spoke passionately about Medicare, a program that has provided old-age security for generations of his own family." "Paul Ryan talks entitlement reform during campaign stop in The Villages". See also "Paul Ryan at The Villages: Let's protect Medicare". Related: "Obama tees off on Ryan's tax and Medicare proposals".

Tax break initiative for companies has a "major loophole"

"A state program created to redevelop polluted areas is doling out tax breaks for companies that lease offices in downtown high-rises, build on pastureland and open restaurants on busy highways, even when there is no proof they are on contaminated land." "'Brownfield' companies get tax break without proof of pollution".

Florida is the nation's Medicare fraud capital

The Miami Herald editorial board: "If, as many Americans believe, the current system of federal funding for healthcare is unsustainable, alarming allegations out of South Florida are a big, costly part of the reason why."

Unfortunately, fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry are longstanding here. More troubling is that too many in charge of overseeing how these taxpayer dollars are spent are falling down on the job, allowing funds to be misappropriated — stolen, basically — but also putting patients’ health and well-being at risk.

Earlier this month The Miami Herald reported that the long-time director of the Miami Beach Community Health Center, Kathryn Abbate, allegedly stole almost $7 million from the center. Given that the center’s funding comes from federal grants, that’s $7 million of our money.

And Ms. Abbate, who’s been fired, had help: According the center’s board, Diego Martinez, the center’s chief compliance officer — a laughable title in this case — cashed thousands of dollars in checks for his boss. Mr. Martinez has resigned. So have the chief financial officer and the human resources director, both of whom, the board determined, “facilitated” the alleged embezzlement. And get this: the CFO admits that he knew of Abbate’s activities but didn’t alert the board. That’s a shameful dereliction of duty.

Ms. Abbate’s alleged thievery dates back to 2008. Who knows how many patients could have received care for that $7 million? However, there is evidence of an even more egregious money grab at hospitals that are part of the HCA powerhouse. As reported in The New York Times, the chain discovered, after a whistleblower complained, that some of its cardiologists were performing unnecessary heart procedures. This, of course, drove up costs — and profits. Doctors were unable to justify many of the procedures performed. HCA is the nation’s largest hospital chain, with 163 facilities. Florida, it seems needless to say, was Ground Zero for these offenses. The former Cedars Medical Center was among those involved.

HCA was mum as to whether it has contacted Medicare, Medicaid or private insurers about its findings. Nor has it said whether patients who underwent procedures needlessly were alerted.

With the sort of evidence unearthed, why should it be up to the violator to contact the authorities to say “my bad?” Rather, the feds should be all over such companies, doggedly pursuing reimbursement — and civil or criminal charges if any laws were broken.

These types of cases undercut the beneficial work of the federal programs that have kept seniors, children and some of the neediest among us in good health.

When it comes to Medicare, specifically, South Florida is the fraud capital of the nation.
"Get the schemers and the scammers".

"Shame on Braman"

"The incumbent Miami-Dade commissioners who defeated challengers backed by Norman Braman in last week’s election had powerful friends of their own battling the wealthy Miami auto magnate."

While Braman aired attack ads against Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Dennis Moss, a maze of political committees campaigned against Braman — bankrolled in part by unions, the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Marlins.

Braman, who engineered last year’s recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez, targeted the four commissioners up for reelection who voted for the new $634 million Marlins ballpark in Little Havana. Braman generally opposes using public money for sports facilities; the Dolphins have their eye on a roof for Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.

The anti-Braman effort wasn’t limited to ads. A union group funded in part by the Dolphins and Marlins staged two protests at Braman’s auto dealerships and one near his Indian Creek home, and tried to link him to an ongoing absentee-ballot fraud investigation, though there is no evidence to back that up.

The most visible portion of the campaign: a television ad featuring Braman as a puppet master pulling the strings of the candidates he supported: Luis Garcia, Alison Austin, Shirley Gibson and Alice Pena. Garcia narrowly secured a runoff against Barreiro; Austin failed to make a runoff against Edmonson; and Gibson and Pena lost to Jordan and Moss, respectively.

“Shame on Norman Braman for trying to hijack democracy, trying to buy the election, trying to put his cronies in office, trying to bully the commission,” the ad said.
"Marlins, Dolphins, unions bankrolled anti-Braman campaign in Miami-Dade Commission races".

FPL rate increase

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Regulators right to reject deal on FPL rate increase".

Slim odds of hurricane during Tampa RNC

"The worst hurricane ever to hit Tampa pretty much drowned the site of the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled for the end of the month — at the very height of hurricane season." "Odds of hurricane during Republican National Convention in Tampa: slim".

Related: "Convention doubles as pep rally for party faithful", "Tampa police arrest 16 in prostitution crackdown before RNC" and "Private security will fill void".