Ringside Seat: The American People Will See!

Yet again, congressional Republicans have devoted time and energy to hitting the Obama administration over the incident in Benghazi, Libya, where a diplomat and several other State Department employees were killed in an assault by a heavily-armed group. The administration insists that this was a tragic accident, and an investigation has cleared officials of wrongdoing or serious mistakes. But Republicans continue to believe that this was mishandled, to the extent that administration officials are covering up key information. They point to inconsistent talking points from the White House—originally, the attacks were blamed on a video—and the question of security around the compound.

For the last nine months, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have tried to prove this point with constant hearings, each aimed at a different facet of the alleged cover-up. And each time, they find nothing. There’s no doubt the administration made mistakes in handling Benghazi, but there’s no evidence at all that the White House is trying to hide something.

Regardless, Benghazi has become a rallying cry for conservatives who are convinced of President Obama’s malevolence. Obviously he mismanaged American troops, and obviously he’s responsible for everything that happened. And the American people will see!

As soon as, you know, they find something.


So They Say

“It turns out that the same policies that President Bush followed were followed by President Obama. ... The irony is that I would be allowing what the FDA wanted. This has got to be one of the most unusual administrative law cases I have ever seen,” Korman said, adding, “I would have thought that on the day I handed down my decision, they would be drinking champagne at the FDA. ... You’re disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor—that’s the policy of the Obama administration?"

District Court Judge Edward Korman, in yesterday's hearing where the Obama administration defended their Plan B limits

Daily Meme: Charging an Arm and Leg

  • The Department of Health and Human Services did a big data dump today on what over 3,000 hospitals across the country charge Medicare for the 100 top inpatient services. 
  • It's the first time they've ever released this information, and they were probably prompted by Steven Brill's article on the same subject.
  • The New York Times has a pretty slick interactive feature letting you explore the data.
  • Some of the differences between what hospitals charge in the same geographic areas can be startling. "In Jackson, Miss., for example, the cost to treat heart failure for an inpatient ranges from $9,000 to $51,000."
  • "Take, Hartford, Conn., for instance, health insurance capital of the U.S. "Hartford Hospital, the biggest one in town, charges a tad over $15,000 to treat a Medicare patient diagnosed with chest pain and receives $4,975 for the service. Little Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, in nearby Torrington, charges Medicare about $7,000 and receives $3,713."
  • "In the District, George Washington University’s average bill for a patient on a ventilator was $115,000, while Providence Hospital’s average charge for the same service was just under $53,000."
  • "In New York City, the treatment of a hip or pelvis fracture without complications at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan averages $38,588. Fifteen miles away at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, the procedure was priced at $13,137 on average."
  • But, Medicare hardly ever pays these high-sticker prices. No, those are reserved for the uninsured, who don't know they can often get a discount.
  • So, what does this mean for future health care policy? Who knows, but having the data out there is the first step. "Just sort of getting information out there, even if it's not exactly what you want, it may have some use. It may make hospitals think a little bit harder about what they're doing.
  • As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today, "Hospitals that charge two or three times the going rate will rightfully face scrutiny." 

What We're Writing

  • A few years ago, law schools had to start reporting employment statistics on JDs, which is when we realized law school is a huge scam. Bryce Stucki reports that to make up tuition shortfalls, schools have been selling "LLMs," which are just as useless, but for which schools don't have to report statistics.
  • The economy might be on the upswing, but as Sharon Lerner tells us, funding for early-life education has fallen and keeps falling, without much hope of putting kindergarteners back in school

What We're Reading

  • Anarchists and horizontal activism have been on the rise in the U.S. ever since Occupy's two-month stay in Zuccotti Park, and The New Yorker's Kelefa Sanneh has taken an in-depth look at why.
  • Whereas other types of movements are clearly directed from above, like the gun enthusiasts whipped into a frenzy by the NRA's most recent push-poll propaganda pamphlet.
  • They've picked a day (July 4) for the armed march into Washington. On Metro PD's busiest day of the year, a thousand rifle-toting NRA nuts will walk across the bridge from Virginia. "we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington, & returning with the resolve that the politicians, bureaucrats, & enforcers of the federal government will not be welcome in the land of the free."
  • Or people up top run from below; Senator John Cornyn has taken a number of whopping donations from private prisons and now he's got an amendment for the immigration bill that would reimburse those same prisons for imprisoning immigrants.

Poll of the Day

Pew has found, amazingly, that Obama ranks way higher than anybody else on the scene by approval. The president scores a 51 percent while Democratic and Republican leaders got 32 and 22 percent approval, respectively. Likewise, 76 percent of Americans believe Obama stands up for what he believes in, but a much slimmer 49 percent believe that he can get things done.

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