White House putting off budget update


Posted on 20th July 2009 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Healthcare reform, Wallstreet’s collapse and rebirth, unemployment and huge deficits. A hell of a time to finally get the kind of leader this country has needed for a decade. Money and American politics, money in American politics should be on center stage this summer. But it has been a big news cycle of deaths and so far from any upcoming election that only the wonks really seem to notice.

Here are the facts: our economy is in decline and unless we can find ways in which to generate greater economic activity at home, we are going to continue to fall further and further behind. 10% unemployment isn’t a surprise, unless you really believed what the politicians were saying (even Obama) when things looked the darkest. Wall Street can recover, but that doesn’t mean the American economy will recovery. Most of Wall Street’s numbers are based on trading, not production and what production these American companies are doing is overseas.

Regardless of how deep of a hole it seems to put us in we must have economic stimulus from the Federal Government. The complex issue is how we turn that stimulus not only into short term American jobs, but into making the American economy stronger, more competitive, greener. It seems such a logical thing to combine Obama’s idealism on these green issues with the economic needs of our country. But economic planning is complex and thwarted at every turn by special interests.

Time for true leadership in Washington and lets start by telling the truth.

Attorney Gordon Johnson

Date: 7/20/2009 10:08 AM

TOM RAUM,Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is being forced to acknowledge the wide gap between its once-upbeat predictions about the economy and today’s bleak landscape.

The administration’s annual midsummer budget update is sure to show higher deficits and unemployment and slower growth than projected in President Barack Obama’s budget in February and update in May, and that could complicate his efforts to get his signature health care and global-warming proposals through Congress.

The release of the update — usually scheduled for mid-July — has been put off until the middle of next month, giving rise to speculation the White House is delaying the bad news at least until Congress leaves town on its August 7 summer recess.

The administration is pressing for votes before then on its $1 trillion health care initiative, which lawmakers are arguing over how to finance.

The White House budget director, Peter Orszag, said on Sunday that the administration believes the “chances are high” of getting a health care bill by then. But new analyses showing runaway costs are jeopardizing Senate passage.

“Instead of a dream, this routine report could be a nightmare,” Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department official and White House spokesman under President George W. Bush, said of the delayed budget update. “There are some things that can’t be escaped.”

The administration earlier this year predicted that unemployment would peak at about 9 percent without a big stimulus package and 8 percent with one. Congress did pass a $787 billion two-year stimulus measure, yet unemployment soared to 9.5 percent in June and appears headed for double digits.

Obama’s current forecast anticipates 3.2 percent growth next year, then 4 percent or higher growth from 2011 to 2013. Private forecasts are less optimistic, especially for next year.

Any downward revision in growth or revenue projections would mean that budget deficits would be far higher than the administration is now suggesting.

Setting the stage for bleaker projections, Vice President Joe Biden recently conceded, “We misread how bad the economy was” in January. Obama modified that by suggesting the White House had “incomplete” information.

The new budget update comes as the public and members of Congress are becoming increasingly anxious over Obama’s economic policies.

A Washington Post-ABC News survey released Monday shows approval of Obama’s handling of health-care reform slipping below 50 percent for the first time. The poll also found support eroding on how Obama is dealing with other issues that are important to Americans right now — the economy, unemployment and the swelling budget deficit.

The Democratic-controlled Congress is reeling from last week’s testimony by the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, that the main health care proposals Congress is considering would not reduce costs — as Obama has insisted — but “significantly expand” the federal financial responsibility for health care.

That gave ammunition to Republican critics of the bill.

Citing the CBO testimony, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Monday accused Democrats of “burying this budget update until after Congress leaves town next month.” He called the budget-update postponment “an attempt to hide a record-breaking deficit as Democratic leaders break arms to rush through a government takeover of health care.”

Late last week, Obama vowed anew that “health insurance reform cannot add to our deficit over the next decade and I mean it.”

The nation’s debt — the total of accumulated annual budget deficits — now stands at $11.6 trillion. In the scheme of things, that’s more important than talking about the “deficit,” which only looks at a one-year slice of bookkeeping and totally ignores previous indebtedness that is still outstanding.

Even so, the administration has projected that the annual deficit for the current budget year will hit $1.84 trillion, four times the size of last year’s deficit of $455 billion. Private forecasters suggest that shortfall may actually top $2 trillion.

The administration has projected that the annual deficit for the current budget year will hit $1.84 trillion, four times the size of last year’s deficit of $455 billion. Private forecasters suggest that shortfall may top $2 trillion.

If a higher deficit and lower growth numbers are not part of the administration’s budget update, that will lead to charges that the White House is manipulating its figures to offer too rosy an outlook — the same criticism leveled at previous administrations.

The midsession review by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will likely reflect weaker numbers. But where is it?

White House officials say it is now expected in mid-August. They blame the delay on the fact that this is a transition year between presidencies and note that Obama didn’t release his full budget until early May — instead of the first week in February, when he put out just an outline.

Still, the update mainly involves plugging in changes in economic indicators, not revising program-by-program details. And indicators such as unemployment and gross domestic product changes have been public knowledge for some time.

Standard & Poor’s chief economist David Wyss said part of the problem with the administration’s earlier numbers is that “they were just stale,” essentially put together by budget number-crunchers at the end of last year, before the sharp drop in the economy.

Wyss, like many other economists, says he expects the recession to last at least until September or October. “We’re looking for basically a zero second half (of 2009). And then sluggish recovery,” he said.

Orszag, making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, insisted the economy at the end of last year, which the White House used for its optimistic budget forecasts, “was weaker at that time than anyone anticipated.” He cited a “sense of free fall” not fully recognized at the time.

“It’s going to take time to work our way out of it,” the White House budget director told “Fox News Sunday.”

Even as it prepares to put larger deficit and smaller growth figures into its official forecast, the administration is looking for signs of improvement.

“If we were at the brink of catastrophe at the beginning of the year, we have walked some substantial distance back from the abyss,” said Lawrence Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Busy Gupta performs brain surgery, reports for CNN


Posted on 7th January 2009 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 1/7/2009

AP Television Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — If Barack Obama wants a surgeon general with visibility to promote health issues in his administration, it can’t hurt to hire a CNN correspondent called one of People magazine’s “sexiest men alive.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon and one of CNN’s busiest personalities, is under consideration by the president-elect for the job. Should the offer come, CNN said Gupta has indicated he is likely to take it. Obama will have a man who has interrupted a TV assignment to perform emergency brain surgery and gotten into it on air with Michael Moore.

He has a weekend health show on CNN and has traveled across the country for a series on the dangers of obesity called “Fit Nation.” Soon he may have the chance to do something similar for the government.

Gupta, 39, grew up in the Detroit area, the son of parents who moved from India in the 1960s to work at a Ford plant. He earned undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan.

While he works at CNN and for CBS News, Gupta is also a faculty member at the neurology department at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He performs surgery at Emory University Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital.

Gupta’s no stranger to the White House; he was one of 15 White House fellows appointed in 1997 and he advised Hillary Rodham Clinton while she was first lady.

Gupta joined CNN in 2001 as a health correspondent. In addition to efforts like “Fit Nation” and 2008 documentaries on the health toll taken on presidents, Gupta has talked about health angles of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. Since 2006, he’s also had a contract with CBS News to do health stories on the “CBS Evening News.”

“He’s an amazing communicator,” said CBS News President Sean McManus. “He has a way of breaking down the most complicated medical and health issues into language that everyone understands. He’s very, very likable and he has the ultimate credibility in that he is literally a brain surgeon.”

When reporting for CNN on a U.S. Navy medical team in Iraq in 2003, Gupta unexpectedly became part of the story when he was called upon to conduct emergency brain surgery on a 2-year-old Iraqi boy shot by U.S. Marines when he was in a car that did not stop at a checkpoint. The boy did not survive.

“Medically and morally, I thought it was absolutely the right thing to do,” Gupta told The Associated Press at the time. “It was a heroic — it was not an elective operation, it was a heroic attempt to try to save the child’s life.”

Gupta took on “Sicko” filmmaker Moore in 2007, saying in a fact-checking report that Moore had fudged some facts in his documentary on the health care system. It led to an angry on-air confrontation between them. “I and others are going to be a lot more skeptical with what I see on CNN,” Moore said.

People magazine named Gupta one of its sexiest men in 2003, two years before he married his longtime girlfriend Rebecca Olson. People said Gupta lived dangerously by sometimes driving his Jaguar XK8 too fast and had fans who called themselves the Gupta Girls.

He has made a handful of political donations to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In a 2005 segment on CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now” on health problems that were surfacing with widely used prescription drugs such as Vioxx, Gupta talked about drug companies’ efforts to woo physicians by offering everything from free pens to free trips. He admitted that he had accepted pens from time to time.

“If you take a pen, are you going to prescribe that drug more often? I haven’t seen a situation where the drug company says, listen, we’ll only give you X if you prescribe the drug so many times. I haven’t seen that, that transparent a sort of thing,” Gupta told Zahn.

“But there is a sort of more implicit sort of understanding between the pharmaceutical companies and doctors, I think. It is not so clear that they’ll say, OK, you got to do X number of procedures and we’ll give you a trip to Aspen, or you got to prescribe the drug so many times and we’ll give a free lunch. You don’t see that. But there is a sort of, again, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.”

Gupta’s show “House Call” airs Saturday and Sunday mornings. He also does a global health program for CNN International.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.