Friday, March 1, 2013

A Thank You Goes a Long Way

I was doing a little spring cleaning last year, moving boxes around here and there, creating space for yet more boxes.  Filled with stuff I can never quite throw away, they are things from my past that have been tucked away for years, nearly forgotten.  A life condensed to a pile of boxes; that was my thought.  My son was helping me and whenever he saw something interesting, he'd stop and take a look.  It was slowing down the process.

"Hey, Dad, what's this?"  He'd  already done this several times that day, but I walked over, took a look and chuckled, "Oh, yeah, I remember that."  This time, however, he wanted to know more about it.  "Is this for real?"  He asked in the astonished tone of voice that comes from a kid who discovers something new about his parent.  "Sure, it's real."  "Wow," he said.  Sensing an opportunity to talk with my son, I decided to stop and tell him the story.

It was the night of July 4th, 1988, it was late.  I had just finished playing a holiday concert at a festival on the riverfront in St. Louis, near the Gateway Arch.  I had driven down earlier that day from Chicago and was told to arrive early to get a parking spot near the outdoor stage set on the riverbank.  As I negotiated my way through the parking lots that afternoon, when stopped by a parking attendant, I'd simply say the magic words, "I'm in the band."  Authorities hear those words and they let you right through.  They pointed me down one aisle after another until, finally, I parked close to the stage.  I played the rehearsal, waited around a few hours, played the concert - no problem - I'd done it so often, it had become routine; another gig, another paycheck.

The general rule for parking lots is this:  first one in, last one to leave.  Knowing this, I packed up quickly after the gig and headed to my car.  I figured people would stay for the fireworks show, so I thought I could get out before the crowd.  Except, I couldn't.

I looked down the aisle and saw a police barricade.  A bunch of official looking cars were parked in the aisle and my path to the exit was blocked.  After cursing to myself, I walked down and asked one of the policemen, "Listen, I'm in the band, I've just finished playing.  Is there any way I can get out of here?"  "No, not right now."  "How long will I have to wait?"  "Dunno," he replied.  I knew I was stuck; in a few minutes, thousands of people would head to their cars.  It was going to take forever to get back on the road to Chicago.  Frustrated, I walked back to the car, threw my equipment in the trunk, cracked open a cooler, leaned against the car and settled in for a long wait.

I spotted a couple of guys in suits walk toward me down the aisle with flashlights, looking at every parked car.  When they finally got to me, one guy flashed a badge and said, "United States Secret Service.  This is a secure area.  What are you doing here?"  So, I said the magic words, "I'm in the band.  I just finished playing.  I'm waiting to get out of the lot."  He said, "Unless you submit to a search, you're going to have to leave the area.  Do you consent to a search?"  "Yeah, sure."  So, he patted me down, I opened the trunk, he looked in my equipment bags, then turned to his partner and said, "This guy's ok."  They moved on down the aisle as I began to watch the group that followed.  When they passed me, one tall guy separated himself from the group, walked over, smiled and stuck out his hand, "Hi.  I'm George Bush."

I had a moment alone with the Vice-President of the United States, a man in the midst of a presidential campaign.  We couldn't have talked more than a couple of minutes, but when you talk to someone that important, it seems longer.  He was sincere, down to earth; I noticed the kindness in his eyes.  He seemed genuinely interested in talking with me.  There was nothing political about the conversation.  He asked about my family, he told me about his.  He asked the names of my wife and kids.  He asked about my career.  He told me he had heard a bit of the concert and it sounded great.  He also didn't seem to be in a hurry, but he finally looked around and said, "It was a pleasure talking with you, Larry, but I've got to get out of this parking lot before the traffic."  I said, "I've got the same thought."  The Vice-President paused, then said, "Hey, why don't you pull your car right up behind mine and we'll go out together.  I'll tell them you're with me and you'll get right out of here."  And, that's what I did.

A woman came up to me as Mr. Bush was walking away and asked, "Do you mind giving us your name and address?  The Vice-President likes to keep records on every person he meets."  So, I did and after a couple of weeks, a small letter appeared in my mail box, the size of a thank you note.  I didn't recognize it at first; the envelope was hand written and the return address was simply: Number One Observatory Circle, Washington, D.C.  Inside was a hand written note that read:

"Dear Larry,
It was my pleasure to meet you the other night in St. Louis.  I enjoyed hearing about you, your lovely wife, Judy, and your two wonderful children, Jennifer and Elizabeth.  Barbara and I wish you much success in the future.
George Bush"

Apparently, I had never told that story to my son, John, who was holding the letter that day cleaning out the closet.  He asked, "You met George Bush?"  "Sure I did."  "Did he write this personally," John asked?  "Well...I think he did, John.  That's his signature."  "How do you know he really signed it?"  "If someone else had signed his name, they'd have put their initials underneath," I said.  "I'm quite sure he wrote the note himself."  "Wow," John exclaimed. 

I read an article later about George H.W. Bush and his habit of sending thank you notes.  He'd kept up the practice his entire career. Bush suggested that the simple act of a thank you has a powerful effect.  It worked with me - I voted for him.  And, years later, my son thinks greater of me because of it.  A thank you goes a long way.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Copyright Alert System Will Hurt You

On Monday, February 25th, 2013, the "Copyright Alert System" (CAS) was quietly implemented by five Internet Service Providers (ISPs):  AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner and Verizon.  Those five ISPs provide internet service to 75% of Americans.  A trade association called "Center for Copyright Information" (CCI) is coordinating the system on behalf of large content providers like the Recording Industry of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.

I suspect everyone who uses the above mentioned ISPs will soon get an innocuous looking letter indicating their Terms of Service have changed.  Buried somewhere in the small print of that document may be a description of the new CAS.  It is an arbitrary system that allows content providers and your ISP to control your access to the internet.  

Large content providers have hired "thug" companies to monitor public use of the web.  If a surveillance company believes you are illegally downloading copyrighted material, they flag your IP (Internet Protocol) address and forward it to your ISP.  Content providers and ISPs have developed a "six strike rule."  Each time a subscriber is flagged, they receive a penalty.  It could start with a warning from your ISP.  Additional flags might cause your ISP to slow down your internet speed or temporarily suspend your service.  Finally, after five or six flags, they can accuse you of repeated copyright infringement and may terminate your internet service entirely.

Someone might say, "Hey, this doesn't apply to me.  I don't illegally download music or movies.  What have I got to worry about?"  Well...plenty.  Surveillance companies can't actually tell what you are downloading.  They make an educated guess.  Monitoring companies use software programs that determine the likelihood that your downloads are illegal.  And, according to the website Daily Dot,  they get it wrong a lot of the time.
Perhaps, you are downloading a manual for your furnace or a video of your grandchildren posted to a cloud site.  You could be downloading files under the "fair use" exemption in copyright law.  You might have digitized your LP music library and are downloading your own legal copies from an online storage site.  You could be a small business that uploads and downloads large files to and from clients.  You might operate or use a public wi-fi system like those commonly found in small coffee shops or libraries.  It doesn't matter.  Content providers and your ISP don't have to legally prove you're engaging in illegal activity to deny you internet service.   

Do you have any recourse once you're flagged?  Yes, according to the CCI website.  You pay a $35 fee to appeal to what the CCI calls "an independent review board" (hired by content providers) where you must prove your internet activity is legal.  Surely, this is not what Congress intended when they passed the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in 1998. 

How has the CCI convinced ISPs to penalize their own subscribers?  The CCI has taken the position that if ISPs do not implement the "Copyright Alert System," ISPs lose their "safe harbor" protection under the DMCA.  In other words, CCI claims if ISPs do not have a termination policy for repeat copyright offenders, they lose their protection from prosecution under the law.  

What can you do about it?  First, your email attachments are probably safe.  Surveillance companies that work for content providers are not monitoring email traffic.  But, here are some steps you can take to guard your internet privacy:  If you have a wireless network in your home, password protect it so others cannot use it for illegal purposes.  Assume that any bit torrent type of data transfer will be monitored.  Do not trust that proxy servers or switch proxy settings on your browser will protect your internet privacy.  To be completely safe, do what tech savvy Chinese and Iranians do to circumvent their national firewalls:  Get a VPN.  Google the search string "What is a VPN" and learn about virtual private networks.  Using a VPN is easy, inexpensive, protects your privacy and won't slow your internet speed.  Protect yourself from the surveillance monitoring and false accusations from your ISP.  Get a VPN!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No Greater Moral Imperative

Behind my house is a dense wooded area surrounding a creek that flows into a lake near my home.  Deer often make their way up the creek bed during winter searching for food.  Gaunt and weak, they come out of the woods at night to pick at the tree bark and eat branches off shrubs in my yard.

As they crowd around me on those cold, bleak, snowy nights, they stick their noses in the feed bucket as I pour a mixture of rolled oats and corn onto the ground.  Feeding the deer is not nature's way, but nature didn't surround them with sub-divisions either.  The city accuses me of contributing to an overpopulation of deer, but I reject that.  If there is a deer problem in my area, it's because the city and county do not have a wildlife plan.  Starvation is not a plan, it's the result of no plan. 

In a similar fashion, I was shocked the other day to learn of a new public relations campaign in Kansas City encouraging community and church organizations to stop feeding the homeless.  Led by the Police Department and officials at City Hall,  the city council is threatening to pass an ordinance making feeding the homeless illegal.  As incredible as their logic seems, the city contends that feeding the homeless contributes to a homeless problem.  Does the city actually believe people are willing to give up their homes and live on the streets just to receive a free sandwich on cold February nights?

Each evening, food trucks roll out of community centers and churches, passing out blankets, shoes, coats and food to the homeless.  However, to hear community leaders talk, that should be a crime.  Quoting Leslie Caplan, president of a local neighborhood association (Kansas City Star, 2/2/13), "It's killing our wonderful neighborhoods and historic homes."  Sean O'Byrne, of the Kansas City Downtown Council, says, "Throwing a sandwich to someone in a park is getting redemption on the cheap."  Thankfully, community and church organizations are refusing to comply.  Neal Jorgenson, of the Salvation Army, explained it this way, "We are not enabling them.  We are keeping them alive tonight."

Eric Cantor (R-Va), the House Majority Leader, said in a speech last week before the American Enterprise Institute (2/5/13), "There is no greater moral imperative than to reduce the mountain of debt facing us..." It's the idea that if America can't afford to fund it's obligations, we should start by cutting social programs, instituting a sort of economic triage.  Let's save the people who have jobs, who have money, while depriving the poor of food, shelter and medical care.  That's not a moral imperative, it's the absence of one.  

Funding social programs doesn't make the United States a welfare state.  It is precisely those government programs, large in scope, that give our nation it's most effective tools to address problems in a cost effective way.  For instance, only FEMA can bring to bear the overall resources needed in an emergency.  Yet, the GOP finds it difficult to fund disaster relief at all.  In the final passage of the recent Hurricane Sandy relief bill, 179 Republicans in the House, nearly 80% of their caucus, voted against it. 

For all the faith in God that conservative Republicans profess to have, they conveniently forget that Christ had his budget problems, too.  Yet, He managed to feed a multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish.  How is that different from the Food Stamp program feeding 32 million children?  Perhaps, our budget problems would disappear if we built our society from the bottom up instead of the top down.  Feed the hungry, heal the sick and give shelter to the homeless.  There is no greater moral imperative.

Eric Cantor, who wants to exact his pound of flesh from the poor to avoid paying higher taxes, would do well to heed Portia's admonition to Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I:

"The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God's
When mercy seasons justice."


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How could anyone be THAT Wrong?

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports LLC, a national polling firm, is an active conservative author, speaker and columnist.  The GOP relied heavily on Scott's company to produce polling numbers during the election season.  Scott's polls became daily headlines on conservative websites like The Drudge Report.  Fox News outsourced all their polling to Rasmussen.  His polls were used repeatedly by conservative media types such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham.  Scott was the darling of conservatives, an advocate who appeared often on Fox and in conservative print media.

It was Rasmussen's poll numbers that helped give the illusion of widespread momentum toward Republicans in the weeks leading up to the election.  After the first debate, all of a sudden, it was 2004 all over again.  Rasmussen Reports showed Romney surging to the lead in swing states.  Republicans had the big "Mo" - Momentum.  Except, they didn't.  On election night, it wasn't even close.  Democrats won the presidency and gained seats in the Senate and House.  And, GOP political pundits had few explanations for what happened.  Scott Rasmussen's polls turned out to be a total fraud - so badly wrong that it begs the question - how could a professional pollster be THAT wrong?

In Senate races, Rasmussen had Missouri candidate Todd Akin (R) closing the gap on incumbent Claire McCaskill (D).  Todd Akin, if you remember, was the candidate who uttered the phrase "legitimate rape."  After Rasmussen's polling supported Akin's internal polling that showed him down by only 3, GOP super-pac money poured into Missouri.  In the final week, Newt Gingrich toured the state with Akin.  McCaskill destroyed Akin by 16 points.

In Florida, Rasmussen had incumbent Bill Nelson (D) ahead of Connie Mack (R) by only 3, within the margin of error.  Nelson won by 13, well beyond the margin of error.  Rasmussen had the Wisconsin Senate race tied.  Tammy Baldwin (D) beat Tommy Thompson (R) by 6.  In Connecticut, Rasmussen had Murphy (D) winning by 6 over McMahon (R).  Murphy won by 12.  In Ohio, Rasmussen showed Brown (D) and Mandel (R) tied; Brown won by 5.  And, Rasmussen's presidential polling was just as inaccurate.

The weekend before the election, Rasmussen had Romney winning Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Iowa, with Wisconsin and Ohio tied.  Obama won all of them, many beyond Rasmussen's margin of error.  For instance, Rasmussen had Romney winning Colorado by 3, yet Obama won by 5.  In Rasmussen's presidential popular vote tracking poll, Romney led Obama twelve straight days before the election, and up by an average of 6 points in swing states.  So, how could a professional pollster get the election so wrong?

Rasmussen polled only landlines, a huge mistake.  Most polling organizations include a mix of cellphones because they skew toward younger voters while landlines over represent older voters.  Rasmussen's explanation was that he included results from online polling.  That is grossly inadequate -  online polling represents a different methodology and there's little to prevent a landline voter from being polled twice.

Since many Tea Party members identify themselves as independents, Rasmussen's polls over represented Romney's strength among true, unaffiliated independents.  When Rasmussen compared his sample data with past voting histories of districts, counties, and states, he came up with overall totals that consistently skewed Republican.

Rasmussen was unable to identify demographic trends that altered historic voting patterns.  White voters, as a percentage of the total vote, dropped from 77% in 2004 to 72% in 2012.   Rasmussen's robocalls could not keep people on the phone long enough to ask follow up questions.  It's not as though Rasmussen's sample size was so large, polling couldn't have been conducted by real people.  Rasmussen's samples were as small as 500.

Yet, in spite of producing different results than most polling organizations, Republicans believed Rasmussen's polls to be accurate.  Republicans have this perception, promulgated by conservative talk show hosts, commentators and libertarian think tanks, that there is a vast liberal conspiracy at work in the country.  It's a conspiracy that includes the mainstream media, polling organizations, even going so far as to say educational institutions brainwash college students to be liberal.  In other words, according to Republicans, the other polls were biased toward Democrats.

It is clear the composition of the American electorate is changing.  On issues such as immigration and continued support for social programs, voters endorsed the Democratic point of view.  There is irrefutable evidence that the GOP must modify it's positions on key issues and address demographic changes or risk continued losses in national elections.  One would expect a polling organization to identify these trends well in advance.  In the case of Scott Rasmussen and his company, Rasmussen Reports LLC, apparently not.   

After being so wrong, if I were Scott Rasmussen, I'd consider another line of work.  Oh, I forgot - Scott doesn't need a job; he's rich.  He's a co-founder of the ESPN Sports Network.  Why is a sports network guy doing political polling?  I have no idea.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

E pluribus unum - Out of Many, One

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mitt Romney's comments at a GOP debate in June echo loudly.  Asked by John King (CNN moderator) about the how the federal government should deal with natural disasters, Romney said this:  "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better."  Offered a chance to back off that statement, King followed up, "Including disaster relief, though?"  Romney responded, "We cannot afford to do those things..."

Disaster relief has always been bipartisan because only the federal government is strong enough to address large scale emergencies.  Not anymore; disaster relief has become something of a political football.  House and Senate Republicans have attempted to eliminate FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) numerous times over the last two years, while Democrats have fought to preserve it.
Today, however, there are no Republicans or Democrats on the East Coast.  There are only survivors.  When lives are at stake, people work together, regardless of political affiliation. 

Republican Governor Chris Christie's comments today regarding President Obama's efforts (taken from the New York Times, 10/30/12):  "Wonderful,” “excellent” and “outstanding” were among the adjectives Mr. Christie chose.  And, while national Republicans complained about Christie's remarks, the governor said, "I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics."

President Obama's comments today:  "America is with you. If they are getting no for an answer somewhere in the federal government, they can call me personally at the White House,” adding: “Get resources where they are needed as fast as possible, as hard as possible, and for the duration."  He offered praise for Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Governor Christie of New Jersey for "the extraordinary work they have done."

This is the way we have always handled emergencies - together, as one.  And, this is the way we should handle our fiscal crisis, too - as one.  

However, Mitt Romney's approach sounds more like a budget manager than a statesman.  Here's what Romney told the Weekly Standard in an interview published April 2nd, 2012:  "...I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So will there be some that get eliminated...? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now."   That should give you a clue about the real Mitt Romney:

"Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market... Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt...and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale."  David Stockman - October 15, 2012, The Daily Beast

The question should not be what departments and agencies will be eliminated.  Mitt Romney does not make our country stronger by eliminating FEMA, unemployment benefits, food stamps, pushing Medicare seniors into private insurance, privatizing Social Security and cutting Medicaid and education - while at the same time eliminating taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends.     

The question should be this:  How do we keep EVERYTHING and still keep our country strong.  Everything is important and everyone is important.  The answer is everyone contributes a little more and everyone sacrifices a little more.  Whether it's a corporation or a person (is there a difference these days?), let's make it patriotic to support our society - all of it.  We don't balance the budget on the backs of any one group - we don't cut the support out from under seniors and the poor.  And, we don't prohibit people from making a fortune, either.  We simply ask everyone to sacrifice a little more, while asking everyone to accept a little less.

Whatever the challenges are, whether it be a national emergency, or whether it is solving government deficits, we do it together, each person making the contribution they are able, while sacrificing what they can, moving toward a better future as one people, as one nation.  Let's take our motto seriously - E pluibus unum.  Out of many, one.

And, that is a view from Missouri.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Don't Tax Me, Bro!

One of the main elements of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign is his proposal to cut personal income tax rates by 20%.  Romney is careful to point out he intends to offset the rate cut by eliminating individual deductions, such as home mortgage, but somehow it's all going to work out:  Taxpayers will pay less, but the government will receive the same amount of revenue.  It isn't true, of course, and Democrats are correct to point out Romney's proposal doesn't add up. 

Here's what Romney's proposal means for individual taxpayers:

70% of taxpayers do not itemize deductions, which appears to mean the larger portion of taxpayers can simply receive full credit for a 20% rate reduction on their taxes.  Not true because of three words:  Alternative Minimum Tax.  A 20% reduction in tax rates pushes the AMT farther down into middle class wage earners.  Be aware that the Romney proposal does not address the AMT.  If you're thinking Congress will pass an AMT patch (which raises the AMT minimum income eligibility), as they have done in previous years, forget about it.  The AMT patch is being held hostage by dueling spending bills in Congress.

If you are among the 30% who do itemize deductions, deductions will be capped, except for people in the highest tax brackets because Romney also proposes eliminating all capital gains, interest and dividend taxes.  In 2011, middle income wage earners received only 3% of their income from capital assets, while 70% came from wages.  By contrast, the top 1% received 35% of their income from capital assets, while only 30% came from wages.  Since Mitt Romney reported no income from wages on his tax return last year, the effective tax rate for him, and others like him, would fall to near zero under his proposal.

Romney's 20% across the board rate reduction is actually a plan to allow the wealthy to pay less tax while shifting more of the tax burden to the middle class.

Here's what Romney's proposal means for government revenues:    

Even the most conservative economists admit the elimination of deductions, even if all of them were to be eliminated, does not pay for a 20% across-the-board reduction in tax rates.  Estimates of a government shortfall go as high as 5 trillion dollars.  What Romney is counting on is that tax cuts will promote economic growth to make up the difference.  There is no data that supply side economics actually works.  There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, however.

The history of tax cuts does not favor the Romney proposal.  The Reagan tax reform act of 1986 slowed the economy to negative economic growth.  George H.W. Bush and Clinton both raised taxes and the economy boomed.  The George W. Bush tax cuts, over time, contributed to economic collapse.  Romney's proposal is a recipe for disaster, both for individual taxpayers and the economy. 

Bruce Bartlett, who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, may have said it best, "I think he (Romney) and his advisers simply made up a proposal that was everything to everybody without checking for internal consistency." (NY Times, Aug. 21, 2012)

And, that is a view from Missouri.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are These Guys Out of their Mind?

The reason many childhood diseases have been eliminated from the United States is simple:  All schools, public and private, require immunizations.  Children can't attend school without them.  As a result of mass immunizations, once feared childhood diseases have been eradicated.  This is an example of great health policy - complete coverage for the protection of everyone at the lowest cost.

That is why Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan must be out of their minds when Romney says, "When I'm elected president, my first day in office, I will repeal ObamaCare."  The key to great public health is to cover everyone.  Over the long term, it produces a better result at less cost.

If a "cover everyone" system is cheaper and healthier, why hasn't it been adopted until now?  Health care didn't start out as a national program in the same way that Social Security did.  As a result, health insurance came to be regulated by the states instead of the federal government.  While health insurance companies have grown into corporations that transact business across state lines, state insurance departments don't regulate across state lines.  Without a national health care policy, companies have held states hostage by unilaterally setting rates, defining coverages, and if state insurance departments refuse to accept the terms, companies pull out.  As costs have escalated out of control, health insurance companies have become effective lobbyists, political contributors and no president has had the political will to take on the health insurance industry and establish a national health care policy.

The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is not a government take over of the health care system, but rather a coordination of health care policy that sets minimum standards for consumers and insurance companies across the country.  It fills the coverage gaps that private insurers have failed to address.  Republicans readily accept such national policy coordination over the entire spectrum of business and industry.  With health care costs approaching 20% of the entire economy, isn't a national health care policy needed?

Medicaid and Medicare are also big parts of the health care system, but the G.O.P. doesn't like those improvements, either.  Republicans claim the Obama administration would cut 716 billion dollars from the Medicare program.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Obama administration would slow the future growth in Medicare costs by 716 billion without any cut in services to beneficiaries.  Romney claims controlling costs in Medicare would force hospitals to refuse to accept Medicare.  Again, not true.  Any hospital which has accepted any federal funds for any purpose whatsoever is required by law to accept Medicare.  Romney claims doctors will stop accepting Medicare.  Again, not true.  Physicians are already free to accept or decline any health plan.  The real problem is not the lack of doctors who accept Medicare, it's a basic shortage of primary care physicians.  Many primary care practices are closed to new patients, no matter what insurance plan they have.  That will be made worse by Romney, who plans cuts to the student loan program, something which is essential to pay medical school costs that are nearly $250,000 for every graduate.

While the Obama administration has used some of the savings created by the Affordable Care Act to increase coverage to low income seniors, children and the disabled through Medicaid payments, Republicans have fought the adjustments.  Republican governors have declined to accept funding increases even though they are fully paid for by the federal government through 2016 and 90% funded through 2020.  Romney would actually cut the program in half by 2030.  Quoting the Congressional Budge Office: "Because of the magnitude of the reduction in federal Medicaid spending under the (Romney/Ryan) proposal... states would face significant challenges in achieving sufficient cost savings through efficiencies to mitigate the loss of federal funding. To maintain current service levels in the Medicaid program, states would probably need to consider additional changes, such as reducing their spending on other programs or raising additional revenues."

The Obama administration has done what no other president has been able to accomplish: put the nation on a course toward a national health policy that reduces costs and increases care.  I'm sure Governor Romney agrees since he helped pass a nearly identical plan as governor of Massachusetts.  But, candidate Romney doesn't - he's running for president.

And, that is a view from Missouri.