Mojo - July 2009

CIA Seeks a Few Good Doctors

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 4:52 PM EDT

Verbatim from the "Careers" section of the CIA website (but the links are ours):

Medical Officer
Work Schedule: Full Time
Salary: $124,526
Location: Washington, DC metropolitan area

Join us on the world stage. As a premier agency responsible for intelligence about the ever-changing global political, social, economic, technological and military environment, the CIA has never offered more exciting and challenging opportunities for new employees. Are you up to the challenge? The Office of Medical Services is hiring individuals with medical degrees and broad [sic: board] certification in primary care specialties to provide medical care and advice to Agency employees, dependents and assets. Positions are available for overseas assignments.

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Sen. Sessions: Crackhead?

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 4:08 PM EDT

A lighter moment from today's Sotomayor hearing courtesy of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and our friends over at UpTake:

Even the Wall Street Journal Hates Goldman Now

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 3:25 PM EDT

After announcing second-quarter profits of $3.44 billion, Goldman Sachs is set to pay out well over $10 billion in compensation this year. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, of all people, makes the key point that all those profits, and all that money for Goldman employees, comes on the back of an insurance policy provided by you, the taxpayer:

What the Goldmans of the world have in addition to profits is the widespread belief that they are too big to fail.... Goldman will surely deny that its risk-taking is subsidized by the taxpayer—but then so did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, right up to the bitter end. An implicit government guarantee is only free until it's not, and when the bill comes due it tends to be huge. So for the moment, Goldman Sachs—or should we say Goldie Mac?—enjoys the best of both worlds: outsize profits for its traders and shareholders and a taxpayer backstop should anything go wrong.

The Journal proposes a new tax (probably one of the first times it's ever done so) on "too-big-to-fail" institutions to pay for potential bailouts. It's a nice idea, but a more free-market solution (and one the Journal doesn't mention) would be even better. Instead of taxing companies to provide for future bailouts, the government could decide not to bail out any more companies. But what about the companies that are "too big to fail?" The government could and should break them up. If a company is too big to fail, it's too big to exist. That might make Goldman unhappy, so it probably won't happen. The New York Times' Joe Nocera has written about that dilemma before:

If Mr. Obama hopes to create a regulatory environment that stands for another six decades, he is going to have to do what Roosevelt did once upon a time. He is going to have make some bankers mad.

Does the Obama administration have the political will to break up financial giants? If the government's continuing transfer of wealth from ordinary taxpayers to Goldman partners is any indication, probably not.

Unrealistic, Impractical, Utopian Health Care Reform Plans

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 1:56 PM EDT

While we're talking about unrealistic, impractical, utopian health care reform plans, I should mention that Brad Delong has offered up his own. Yglesias summarizes:

1. Taxes on public health hazards (booze, sweeteners, etc.)

2. An army of publicly employed doctors and nurses working in clinics and vans and such roaming the country dispensing preventive care and lifestyle advice to all and sundry.

3. 15 percent of your income is automatically plunked into a Health Savings Account.

4. When you want health care services that aren’t covered by the clinics, you pay out of your HSA.

5. If there’s money left in your HSA at the end of the year, it gets plunked into your IRA unless you specifically fill in an opt-out form.

6. If you run out of money in your HSA and need more health care, the government pays for it.

7. On top of the 15 percent HSA deduction, there’s a 5 percent tax to pay for 6.

Have your own plans? Leave them in the comments.

Video: David Corn on Sotomayor

Thu Jul. 16, 2009 1:09 PM EDT

Watch David Corn, MoJo's DC Bureau Chief, dish on the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, torture, and prosecuting Bush, below:

Video: Goldman Sachs' Coup

Thu Jul. 16, 2009 12:46 PM EDT

Many are lauding Goldman Sachs' willingness to take risks. But is this really a good thing? And why do they have so much power over Beltway policy decisions?

Watch Matt Taibbi, contributing editor at Rolling Stone, and Michael Lux, co-director of Progressive Strategies, discuss below:

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Why We Must Ration Care

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 12:41 PM EDT

In a long piece in this week's New York Times Magazine, Peter Singer explains why American politicians' fear of "rationing" health care is ridiculous: health care is a scarce resource, and like all scarce resources, it's already rationed:

[T]he U.S. system also results in people going without life-saving treatment...  American patients, even if they are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, often cannot afford the copayments for drugs. That’s rationing too, by ability to pay.

[...]

[E]ven in emergency rooms, people without health insurance may receive less health care than those with insurance. Joseph Doyle, a professor of economics at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T., studied the records of people in Wisconsin who were injured in severe automobile accidents and had no choice but to go to the hospital. He estimated that those who had no health insurance received 20 percent less care and had a death rate 37 percent higher than those with health insurance. This difference held up even when those without health insurance were compared with those without automobile insurance, and with those on Medicaid — groups with whom they share some characteristics that might affect treatment. The lack of insurance seems to be what caused the greater number of deaths.

If we're already rationing, shouldn't we try to figure out how to do it in the fairest, most effective way possible? Singer suggests that could mean creating a system of "Medicare for All" (a plan many liberals support) that only pays for the most cost-effective treatments (as opposed to Medicare's current setup, which pays for many of the treatments doctors choose without regard to their cost-effectiveness). Those who could afford it would be able to get private insurance, too, or pay out-of-pocket, if they wanted a procedure or medicine that had proven less cost-effective.

Of course, something like Singer's suggestion is very unlikely to be adopted: instead, we're apparently getting a system that expands health insurance coverage but does little to reduce costs. That's mostly because it's against the interests of the health care industry (and the members of Congress it bought and paid for) to actually ration care effectively. But just because it's against the industry's interest to ration care effectively doesn't mean it's not in your interest, or the country's.

The Sotomayor Hearings, Day Four

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 9:23 AM EDT

Our D.C. bureau Legal Affairs reporter Stephanie Mencimer is reporting live from inside the Sotomayor confirmation hearings this week. You can watch day four using our video and live blog here, or follow Stephanie's and David Corn's coverage on Twitter. If you missed Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, check out the wrap-ups: Pride and Prejudice, Where Did Sotomayor's Empathy Go?, and Sotomayor Slips Up

Sotomayor Video: Al Franken's Perry Mason Joke

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 1:46 AM EDT

MoJo D.C. bureau Legal Affairs reporter Stephanie Mencimer is reporting live from inside the Sotomayor confirmation hearings this week. If you missed Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, check out the wrap-ups: Pride and Prejudice, Where Did Sotomayor's Empathy Go?, and Sotomayor Slips Up. For the latest analysis, watch our video and live blog here, or follow Stephanie's and David Corn's coverage on Twitter.

Stephanie Mencimer: Wednesday, Sonia Sotomayor confessed that she was inspired to become a prosecutor by the TV show "Perry Mason." It was the rare candid admission by the Supreme Court nominee, and naturally, at least one member of Congress pounced on it.

Watch the video below to see Sen. Al Franken's probing questions.

War Criminal Charles Taylor: I'm the Victim

| Wed Jul. 15, 2009 7:10 PM EDT

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor took the stand Tuesday to testify before an international court at The Hague, which is probing his alleged war crimes. Taylor is charged with multiple heinous crimes, including sending invasions into Sierra Leone "to terrorize the civilian population" and wrest control of the West African country's diamond mines, and ordering the rape and murder of girls and women and the forced conscription of boys and men.

The criminal trial, which began in 2006, has heard the testimony of more than 90 witnesses of Taylor's crimes, and the defense plans to call more than 200 witnesses to argue Taylor's innocence. Though Taylor admitted that he knew such atrocities were occurring, he said that he "never, never, ever" would have condoned them. He also rejected the means by which he was arrested and tried. "The prosecution, because of disinformation, misinformation, lies, rumours, would associate me with such titles or descriptions," he said.

If the court finds Taylor guilty, West Africa will take a giant step toward repairing the blemish of ethnic violence and injustice that has plagued the region since Western countries began jockeying for control hundreds of years ago.

Read more on Taylor's troubling history below the jump.