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tv   AB Cs World News With Charles Gibson  WJLA  September 21, 2009 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT

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about and the vulnerabilities of these areas. there hasn't been a specific linkage made between the arrests and those warnings that went out from homeland security today. >> woodruff: david johnston, when you say that there is a sense that they moved more quickly than they wanted to, what do you think precipitated that? >> well, there's no doubt, i think, that the information that was communicated to mr. afzali and his conversation with mr. zazi was precipitating event that forced the hands of the authorities to take this investigation public, so to speak. >> woodruff: by there afzali.... >> that's the imam in new york. >> woodruff: in new york. bruce finley, what are the authorizes there telling you about where this goes from here? >> well, we don't have any
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confirmation that the surveillance may be targeting more individuals. there's a hint of that. we interviewed an operator of a storage facility who said that they agent came showing four photos. two of men, two of women. that was on monday. there's nothing more than that hint though that there would be more people under surveillance here. certainly if there's any municipal, you know, police operation in the country that would want to keep an operation covert rather than go overt, you would think it would be the one in new york. and the whole case is certainly interesting to be playing out now when some in congress are discussing the surveillance powers and reviewing some of those measures put in place after 9/11. >> woodruff: david johnston, at your end, what are you hearing about where it goes from here? >> the f.b.i. is expressing confidence that in the end
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that they will have greater clarity than we now have on what it is that was really going to be unfolding here. i think it's fairly clear that this investigation will continue, that there will be other people who will come under scrutiny, that they will look both at the united states and they'll be investigating overseas in pakistan to try to get a fix on this. and that the charges in court are going to move from these, in a sense, place holder false statements charges to more than likely more serious criminal charges. >> woodruff: all right. david johnston with the "new york times," bruce finley with the denver post, thank you both. >> thank you. >> lehrer: next tonight, mandating health insurance. gwen ifill has the story.
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>> ifill: as the health care debate rages, one key common feature has emerged in plans emerging from the house, the senate and the white house: all would require americans who are not covered by employers to purchase insurance on their own, in some instances with government help. those who don't, would pay a penalty. under the senate version being hashed out in senator max baucus' finance committee this week, uninsured individuals with incomes of between 100% and 300% of the federal poverty level-- up to about $32,000 a year-- would be subject to up to $750 per year in penalties. families of four earning up to roughly $66,000 could be fined up to $1,500 a year if they remain uncovered. higher earners could be fined $950 a year for individuals or up to $3,800 a year for families. the house version would penalize uninsured individuals and families 2.5% of their adjusted gross income, topping out at about $4,800 for an individual.
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both measures would offer subsidies to low and moderate- income americans to offset the cost. in a round of sunday morning interviews yesterday, abc's george stephanopoulos asked president obama, who supports the insurance mandate, whether the new proposed penalties amounted to a new tax. >> here's what's happening. you and i are both paying $900 bucks on average-- our families- - in higher premiums because of uncompensated care. now, what i've said is that if you can't afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn't be punished for that. that's just piling on. if, on the other hand, we're giving tax credits, we've set up an exchange, you are now part of a big pool, we've driven down the costs, we've done everything we can, and you actually can afford health insurance, but you've just decided, "you know what, i want to take my chances," and then you get hit by a bus and you and i have to pay for the emergency room care,
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that's... >> that may be, but it's still a tax increase. >> no. that's not true, george. the... for us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. what it's saying is, is that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you any more than the fact that right now everybody in america, just about, has to get auto insurance. nobody considers that a tax increase. people say to themselves that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car that i'm not covering all the costs. my critics say i'm taking over every sector of the economy. you know that. look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we'll have an individual mandate or not. >> you reject it. >> i absolutely reject that notion. >> ifill: at least one democrat sees it differently. in the max baucus proposal the penalty provision is explicitly and repeatedly referred to as an excise tax. so how essential is it to require individuals to purchase
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insurance, and would that be a tax? for that we turn to jonathan gruber, a health economist at the massachusetts institute of technology-- he supported a 2006 massachusetts health reform law that included a mandate; and michael cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian cato institute. let's start with the pros and cons, jonathan gruber of mandating health coverage. what do you think? >> i think the major pro is allowing to under take the insurance market reforms that are so essential to health care reforms. right now for most individuals in america, if they're sick or become sick, they can be denied insurance or be charged exorbitant prices. you can't fix that problem until you get everyone into the insurance pool. so the mandate allows insurance market reform to be possible. the second pro is that we're now spending a lot of money on those who don't have health insurance who choose not to buy it through uncompensated care. you end those costs by having insurance coverage. the third benefit is that, quite frankly, the number of individuals who would be
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better off with low-cost insurance coverage who are choosing not to take it and we help them move towards what would be better for them. on the other hand, the cons are the mandate only works if it's affordable. that's one con. a second con is the mandate only works if it's administerable. i think we have strong evidence from massachusetts that it is. and the third is more of a philosophical issue, as the president said, between whether it's appropriate or not for the government to impose this mandate. >> ifill: michael cannon, let's start with the cons and then the pros for you. how is that? >> this really is the most sweeping element of allñr the bills before congress. never before has congress made it compulsory to purchase a particular product just to live in the united states. rather than liken this mandate to auto insurance, the congressional budget office has said the closest law is the draft rather than anything else in federal law. so it is the most sweeping.... >> ifill: if you are a driver you don't have to have a car.
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>> you can avoid the auto insurance mandate by divesting yourself of a car. it's much harder to divest yourself of of a body which is what you would need to do to avoid the health insurance mandate. jonathan raised an important point which is the philosophical problem that people have with this. people will lose their freedom not to purchase health insurance. it doesn't matter to aate low of people. a lot of people want to purchase health insurance. but even those who want to purchase health insurance will lose the freedom to choose what type of health insurance to purchase. we see what has happened in massachusetts where they have guls sor health insurance is the government has to define a minimum level of coverage you have to purchase is a that you know if you're comply ing with the mandate. what happens is that power is inevitably captured by health care providers who want to force you to purchase coverage for their services. since mandate... since massachusetts has enacted its mandate. it's required residents to purchase 16 additional types of coverage. it has limited the amount of cost-sharing that they can have which increases their
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premiums by making them purchase more coverage. the legislature has 70 bills that are on the docket right now that would require residents to purchase even more coverage. so premiums actually go up when you have compulsory health insurance rather than down. >> ifill: let me ask jonathan gruber in massachusetts if that's the way you see the way the bill has become law. >> actually not. in fact, in massachusetts we had some of the most generous insurance in the coverage... in the country voluntarily before this law. what we mandated and to be fair-- i'm on the board that set is up these minimum stand arts-- what our board mandated was an insurance package that was less generous than virtually anyone in the state had. we carefully designed the insurance package so it would minimize the number of people who would have to buy up. moreover what we've seen for individuals is the cost of buying health insurance has fallen dramatically. it's not gone up. it's fallen because by mandating insurance we fix the problem with our insurance market. here's the key issue. >> ifill: go ahead.
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>> the key issue is a number of states have tried to reform their insurance markets without a mandate. they've universally failed. both mr. cannon and i would agree on that. they've ended up with incredibley high prices and very small markets. the mandate is the only way to make insurance market reform effective and lower prices. >> ifill: how about the discussion which the president was having over the weekend and max baucus doesn't agree with him on is whether this constitutes a tax. when you fine people for not buying something they would buy. is that a tax. >> let's be clear. the mandate itself is not a tax. now, you can take... mr. cannon and i can debate the linguistics of that but there's only one authority that matters here which is the congressional budget office. the congressional budget office decides whether or not this qualifies as a tax. they've explicitly said this is not a tax. >> ifill: let me ask mr. cannon, is this linguistics. >> first if i can respond to something that jonathan said previously. health insurance in
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massachusetts are growing 20 to 40% faster in the rest of the country. they are not falling. there are projections that came out recently that premiums will grow by 10% in massachusetts in 2010. next year. whereas they're going to grow probably about 5-7% projected for the rest of the country. health insurance premiums are not falling in massachusetts. the opposite is happening. as for whether a mandate is a tax, the president... what the president said was nobody thinks it's a tax. actually i think most economists would agree that it is a tax. the president was overlooking the writings of princeton health insurance reinhart, his own advisor larry summers who has written that mandates are like a benefits tax or i'm sorry a public programs finance by a benefits tack. his own appointee to the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the department of health and human services has written that mandates are like a tax. the congressional budget office has said that the penalties for not comply ing with the mandate are a tax. >> ifill: professor gruber, let me ask you a little bit about how this would work.
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for instance, if you don't make enough to qualify... if you make too much to qualify for a subsidy but not enough to buy private health insurance on your own, where do you fall? is this universal coverage if you fall into that gray area? >> well, this comes to the number one issue with a mandate which is affordability. basically what could happen is you come up with a range of people who do not make enough to afford insurance, who have high enough income they can't get subsidies. that's why the baucus bill would have a mandate exemption at 10% of income. individuals who had to spend more than 10% of their income to get insurance would be massachusetts, there would be some uninsured individuals exempted to make it affordable. but the results in massachusetts is we've covered about 85% of the uninsured, about 85% are subject to the mandate. it's true it's a shame we've left out 15%. but the victory of covering the 85% i think compensates for that. >> ifill: are some of those 15% people who have simply decided just like some drivers
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decide to drive uninsured that it won't abide by any of the rules? is it enforceable? >> it's absolutely enforceable. most of the people who remain uninsured are people who are exempt under our rules, which allow people who have to spend more than a certain amount of income to be exempt. but many are people who are simply paying the penalty rather than face the mandate. individuals have that choice. if they would rather pay the penalty, the $1,000 a year under the baucus bill rather than have health insurance that's a choice we can make. let me be clear. >> ifill: i just wanted to turn to michael cannon before we run out of time. >> they don't have a choice to avoid the mandate and avoid the penalty which is what they have right now which is why compulsory health insurance scheme amounts to a tax. and professor gruber mentioned that no one will have to pay more than 10% of their earnings in health insurance premiums. under the baucus bill you could pay up to 13% or more. and because the mandate is itself a tax and because the amount that you would have to...
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you would be required to spend on health insurance rises with income, you get these strange tax effects called marginal effective tax rates under the baucus bill which combined with current law would give you tax rates of 60% marginal effective tax rates for some middle income families. >> ifill: that's just a part of this argument about which individuals have to pay. we'll talk at a later date about what corporations have to do. jonathan gruber, m.i.t., in massachusetts and michael cannon from the indicate owe institute, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. >> lehrer: you can listen to a series of conversations about health care reform on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. online now is our interview with the author of an article titled "how american health care killed my father." finally tonight, a novel take on the future. jeffrey brown talks with author margaret atwood.
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>> brown: in a beautiful leafy neighborhood of toronto, margaret atwood tends her garden. cutting back the overgrown lemon balm and pepper mint. on this day the world seemed more than fine. but in a new novel atwood conjures up a nasty future in ich a religious cult called god's gardeners struggles to survive. biological experiments run amok, a diminishing food supply and a pandemic that leads to the end of the world as we know it. the book is entitled "the year of the flood," part of a genre atwood calls speculative fiction. >> the only reason i use that term is science fiction often means to people planet x, talking cabbages, very far-out things, the attack of blizzard- men. that's not what i write. by speculative fiction, i mean planet earth tech technology
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that we have today or are developing, stuff we could actually do, things that might really... could conceivably happen. >> brown: atwood is a prolific master of many genres, 17 volumes of poetry, essays, criticism and short stories and 12 novels including the 2000 booker award winning "the blind assassin." she's perhaps best known still for her first foray into speculative fiction, a 1985 novel "the hand maid's tale" later made into a film which portrayed a future world in which women were sub gated and some owned by men for the sole purpose of bearing children. her recent novel and now the year of the flood look at what could happen as humans medal with nature. >> my material comes from reading quite a bit of what i called pop science which means.... >> brown: pop science.
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>> which means i don't have to do the map. your novel set in the future but we're reading deadly headlines about swooin flu and sars. >> was i basing it on anything particular? no. because you don't need to. it's out there. the one in my book is genetics alteration. one of the scary things about the time we live in right now is that we can combine genetic materials from different species. >> brown: the mix of science and nature comes quite naturally to atwood. both her parents were sign tiffs. she spent much of her childhood in a cabin in the woods of northern ontario. in her new novel, she takes great delights in making up names of bioengineered biocreatures, a racoon, skunk mix and a combination lion and lamb. >> a bit of a stretch. but it's not totally out of the question.
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the lion and the lamb in my book is commissioned by a religious group who is basing themselves on isiah, the lion shall lie down with the lamb. they have made a blend of lion and lamb. unfortunately it did not turn out to be a vegetarian. >> brown: oops. >> well, there are a lot of oopss in the world of biological manipulation. there's quite a few oopses. >> brown: atwood shares her concerns with the environment with her partner of more than 40 years, graham gibson, a conservationist and fellow writer. >> there's an oriole. >> brown: the two also share a passion for bird-watching, as well as watching what's on the menu when they eat out. >> when you are thinking about what you're eating in restaurants and if you know what is on the endangered fish list, what else are they going to put on thisñr menu? the ivory-billed woodpecker.
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>> brown: in your book you've created the secret burger. >> nobody knows what's in it. you just don't know. >> brown: in fact, atwood the writer knows that even if there's a message to get across about what we're doing to our world, it's the story and the style that will draw in readers. >> what i'm really doing is writing a book that you can live the experience with and through. and then ask yourself if it's what you would do. if it's only instruction we get bored and annoyed. if it's only entertainment we think the person is being frivolous. i leave it to you, mr. reader, how much do you think is enough? ♪ >> brown: ambitious in her story-telling, atwood also thinks big when it comes to the traditional book tour. in several cities including recently in london, she put together a dramatic
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presentation of parts of the year of the flood. here the charismatic cult leader adam one preaches to his followers. >> dear friends, dear fellow creatures, dear fellow mammals, on creation day five years ago, this roof-top garden of ours was a sizzling wasteland. >> brown: and hymns that atwood wrote for the book were set to music. ♪ 40 years after the publication of her first novel with legions of fans margaret atwood has come a long way in the young canadian world she herself says was looked on as something of a freak. you were becoming a writer at the time when there really were no role models for it. >> there were but they're dead.
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there weren't any immediate ones for me. i couldn't sit down with one. in 1960 there were five novels published in english canada by canadian publishers in the whole year. in the whole year. >> thank you. for being here. >> brown: having helped raise the profile of writing in her country, atwood says she'll continue to raise a literacy warning cry for the rest of us. she plans to turn her latest futuristic fiction into a trilogy. you can watch more of jeff's interview with margaret atwood and more of the london theatrical reading on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. you can also listen to atwood's partner, graeme gibson, talk about his new collection of poetry and short stories, "the bedside book of beasts."
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again, the major developments of the day: in a confidential report, the u.s. commander in afghanistan warned he needs more troops. general stanley mcchrystal said the war could be lost unless something changes. on the newshour this evening, secretary of state clinton said president obama won't decide on sending more troops until the afghan election is resolved. and the deposed president of honduras, manuel zelaya, claimed he has returned home. and again to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the iraq and afghanistan conflicts. we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are eight more.
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we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. i'm jim lehrer. thank you and good night. major funding for the newshour with jim lehrer is provided by:
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