Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Mashup (4/19/11)

  • The next time Gary Weckselblatt or someone else from the Bucks County Courier Times decides to fluff “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick over his opposition to “Obama care,” I’d appreciate it if they’d mention this story to him. It has to do with recovering U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her plea for our soldiers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury on the battlefield to receive something approximating the care she has received while recovering from her gunshot wound to the head (it speaks volumes to me, by the way, that someone dealing with the difficulties faced by Congresswoman Giffords can find a way to advocate for others facing struggles similar to what she is facing).

    As the Daily Beast story by Peter J. Boyer tells us…
    Most military personnel, however, are covered by an insurance plan called TRICARE, which does not cover key elements of cognitive rehabilitation therapy. As revealed in a series of investigative reports by the non-profit news enterprise, ProPublica, TRICARE claims that the benefits of cognitive rehabilitation therapy are not well enough established to warrant providing it to troops. TRICARE bases this assertion on the findings of a study commissioned by TRICARE itself, and which ProPublica’s reporting has found to be “deeply flawed.”

    Coverage of treatment for brain-injured patients has inevitably become a political issue. On the military side, money is an ongoing worry for the Pentagon, which is being “eaten alive,” as Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, by health-care costs.

    The case for civilians was made earlier this month by the office of (Congresswoman) Giffords, which joined in a plea to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, to include brain trauma rehabilitation among the essential benefits mandated by the health-care reform law. Immediate action seems unlikely.

    “We greatly appreciate the thoughtful ideas provided by Congresswoman Giffords’ staff and will certainly take them into account as we work to develop rules describing an essential benefits package,” says Richard Sorian, HHS assistant secretary for Public Affairs. “HHS will be engaging in a public process later this year to get broad input for the process of establishing essential benefits.”
    So, in the event that cognitive rehabilitation therapy was to be covered for our military, it would be provided by TRICARE. And seeking that our PA-08 rep voted against expanding TRICARE access on behalf of thousands of Reservist and National Guard members, even though 20 percent of all reservists do not have health insurance, and 40 percent of reservists aged 19 to 35 lack health coverage, as noted here...well, let’s just say that I’m not optimistic.

    And by the way, I would consider the fact that the Pentagon is being “eaten alive” by health care costs as another good reason to end the damn wars and bring everybody home, wouldn’t you say?

  • Next, it seems that Ramesh Ponnuru of Irrational Spew Online haz a sad over those nasty Dems targeting GOP House members and their votes for “RyanCare” (here).

    Well, at least the Dems would be pointing out the truth, unlike what the Repugs and their pals did in the last election, targeting Democrats for supposedly cutting Medicare, a tactic used by the thoroughly odious Ron Johnson, among others (here).

  • Finally, if it’s one of three days of the week, then that means that it’s time for more local pundit sludge from J.D. Mullane of the Courier Times (here – today’s subject is the abuse of New Jersey’s 1964 Farmland Assessment Act by one of Long Branch, New Jersey’s most famous sons)…
    The story about "fake farmers" using the Farmland Assessment Act of 1964 to decrease their property taxes was laid out in the Asbury Park newspaper in December. In February, a TV news station in New York City revealed how Springsteen is among the fake farmers and pays a fraction of taxes on prime real estate in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the Garden State.

    Fox 5 New York found that while (Bruce) Springsteen pays $138,000 in taxes on his house on three acres, the surrounding 200 acres of buffer, owned by Springsteen through a trust, paid just $4,638.67.

    That's less tax than working stiffs in blue collar Willingboro pay on their quarter-acre estates along Levitt Parkway.

    Springsteen gets the tax break by having a farmer grow organic vegetables on part of the land, according to the news report.

    Who knew organic arugula could taste so sweet?

    Springsteen's other working class neighbor, Jon Bon Jovi, has a similar deal, Fox 5 found.

    Bon Jovi pays $296,000 in taxes on his house and some of the land it's on. But he pays a mere $104 on an additional seven surrounding acres. Bon Jovi pays someone to raise honeybees on his property, triggering the lower assessment.

    It must be swell to be Bruce Springsteen, living an idly rich life in horsey country, knocking around your mansion, strumming your guitar, pondering the poor.

    But where do economic geniuses like The Boss think New Jersey is going to get the money to pay for social programs? Honeybees?

    New Jersey has an $11 billion budget deficit - the largest of any state.
    Shockingly, J.D. has stumbled into the truth regarding New Jersey’s deficit. However, as noted here, Governor Bully and his pals allowed a surcharge to expire on those making $400 grand or more anyway (more “do as I say, not as I do” Repug self-entitlement...and when it comes to Christie-related hagiography, let's not forget this).

    And yes, the situation with the Farmland Assessment Act is a legitimate issue. That’s why New Jersey State Senators Stephen Sweeney (Dem) and Jennifer Beck (Repug) have promised to do something about it.

    And as noted here, many others have taken advantage of the Farmland Assessment Act, including “Steve” Forbes, magnate Vernon Hill formerly of Commerce Bank, and the husband of former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.

    Oh, and do you know who else takes advantage of the Farmland Assessment Act? Why, none other than Ol’ Jon Runyan, that’s who. As noted here…
    (Runyan) was the owner of a 25 acre estate which legally qualified for reduced property taxes under farmland assessment. Runyan's qualification for farmland assessment amounted to four mules, and about $800 in profit selling firewood. Four mules and $800 in annual profit may sound like a poor excuse for a farm, but according to the current law it does qualify for assessment as a farm.
    I have a lot less of a problem with a rock star taking advantage of a bogus law than I do with a sitting member of the U.S. Congress.

    Just chalk this up to more failed punditry by J.D. (recalling Springsteen songs, I have a hard time considering which is more appropriate for Mullane, “Brilliant Disguise,” “You’re Missing,” or “I’m Goin’ Down,” but after careful consideration, I settled on “Part Man, Part Monkey”).
  • No comments: