Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out

Updated: Friday, October 25 2013, 12:16 AM EDT
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - As discontent in the Democratic party grows over the implementation of Obamacare, government officials say they’re bringing in experts from silicon valley to help find a way out of the fiasco that signing up has become.

Tonight, in Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says the administration’s handling of President Obama’s signature legislation is a “how-to” lesson in destroying credibility in record time.

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I’m not a big fan of sports analogies. But sometimes they work.

The late Casey Stengel comes to mind after watching President Obama and his team back-pedal, step up to the plate to accept responsibility, and then point the finger of blame at somebody else.

The administration has had three-and-a-half years to get things ready for this day—for this roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

Forty-two months to have developed and tested and retested the billion-dollar, new technology that would allow millions of people to effortlessly sign on to, in so many cases, get the the kind of healthcare they’ve never had before.

More than 15,000 days to develop a pretty good sense of how much it would cost to work with insurance companies to gauge whether it would be cheaper or more expensive; to explain  in authoritative detail after detail to a country still divided over the issue.

If Casey Stengel were able to comment today, I suspect it would be similar to what he said about his inept New York Mets in 1968.

“Been in this game a hundred years, “ he said. “But I see new ways to lose ‘em I never knew existed before.”

Where in the world were these people in our nation’s capitol? You know, if there had been only six months to lay all the groundwork, we could say, “well, they did the best they could in the time allowed.”

I know the issue became red meat for conservatives. I know it went to the Supreme Court before becoming the law of the land. I know that had to be distracting.

But good grief! If we have the technology to bug the phone of the Chancellor of Germany, listen in to conversation all over Brazil and in France and who knows where else, you’re telling me we can’t build an Obamacare web site that works?! That works from the beginning?

Instead, look at what we have. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointing her finger at the Canadian company who built the system.

Yeah, Canadian.

And that company pointing back at the administration and other companies who helped out.

Sebelius telling us no one—simply no one—and certainly not the President, knew before October 1st this thing would blow up as it did.

Only now is our government turning for advice to the world leaders in computer technology from Silicon Valley.

Today, we learn that we get an extra 45 days to sign up before facing a penalty. But not, we are told, because of the computer “glitch.” Of course not. It's because the public was confused about sign up dates. Really?

Meantime, insurance company insiders are telling CNN that they knew a long time ago that this thing was going to fall like a tent in a hurricane.

Also, today we learned that Sebelius and company are going to start a grassroots effort to boost enrollment in the system so many have already been turned away from.

Where was that effort six months—a year—ago? Honestly!

I believe our country is in desperate need of a well-run, cost-efficient, national healthcare system. But if what we’ve seen so far is any indication...Obamacare will be none of those things.

When he was with the Yankees, Casey Stengel sent a guy down to the minors because he was striking out too much. “Mister,” Stengel told a reporter, “that boy couldn’t hit the ground if he fell out an airplane.”

I think the same can be said about some key people in Washington. Its time to stop the strike outs and get some people on the team who can hit home runs. We’re obviously overdue.

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.
Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out
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Last Update on April 24, 2014 07:31 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

TOKYO (AP) -- Asian shares lacked a clear direction today as players took a mostly wait-and-see view ahead of talks between Japan's prime minister and visiting President Barack Obama.

The focus is on what Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may say about negotiations on a wide-reaching trans-Pacific trade agreement, despite resistance from local interests on both sides to wiping out tariffs.

Sentiments on Asian markets were dampened by worries about the U.S. economy, highlighted by a surprise drop in new home sales as well as dismal earnings.

The pessimism overshadowed confirmation from the European Union that Greece achieved a primary surplus in 2013 -- what's left when interest payments are stripped out.

The dollar fell against the euro and was little changed against the yen.

Benchmark crude oil fell but remains above $101.50.

ECONOMY- THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic reports scheduled for today

WASHINGTON -- The government's weekly jobless claims report comes out today.

Also, the government will release March durable goods numbers and Freddie Mac will report weekly mortgage rates.

A slew of quarterly earnings reports will be released today.

Before the market opens, investors will hear from Aetna, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Altria Group, General Motors, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, 3M , Caterpillar, Verizon, and UPS.

After the closing bell, Amazon.com, Starbucks, Visa and Microsoft will report their quarterly financial results.

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Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

NEW YORK (AP) -- Facebook's first-quarter earnings and revenue grew sharply, surpassing Wall Street's expectations thanks to an 82 percent increase in advertising revenue.

The social network says it earned $642 million, or 25 cents per share, in the January-March quarter, up from $219 million, or 9 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Adjusted earnings were $885 million or 34 cents per share.

Facebook says its revenue was $2.5 billion, up 71 percent from $1.46 billion in the same period a year ago.

Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 24 cents per share on revenue of $2.36 billion.

Facebook says its finance chief, David Ebersman, is leaving on June 1 after five years. He'll be replaced by David Wehner, currently vice president of corporate finance and business planning.

EARNS-TEXAS INSTRUMENTS

DALLAS (AP) -- Texas Instruments is giving an upbeat forecast for the current quarter after the chipmaker's first-quarter profit rose 35 percent.

Texas Instruments makes semiconductors used in consumer devices and industrial equipment and is reducing its reliance on chips used in smartphones and tablets. The company said that revenue from chips that convert analog signals to digital ones and from embedded technology such as microcontrollers accounted for 84 percent of first-quarter sales. Both segments grew by double-digit percentages.

Meanwhile, revenue from everything else tumbled by 28 percent.

Net income was $487 million, or 44 cents per share, including a gain of 2 cents per share from a sale that the company had not included in previous guidance to investors. The results compared with year-ago profit of $362 million, or 32 cents per share. Revenue grew 3 percent to $2.98 billion.

For the second quarter, the company predicted that earnings would be between 55 cents and 63 cents per share on revenue of $3.14 billion to $3.40 billion.

CHINA-INDUSTRY REFORM

BEIJING (AP) -- China's government says it will open 80 projects in eight state-run industries to private and foreign investors as part of efforts to make its slowing economy more efficient.

The Cabinet announcement is the latest in a series of policy changes aimed at carrying out the ruling Communist Party's promises to give entrepreneurs and foreign investors a bigger role in the state-dominated economy.

The statement late Wednesday gave no indication whether private investors would be given any control over the newly opened industries, which include oil and hydro power.

Other industries cited by the statement were wind power, natural gas storage and distribution, solar power, coal, railways and port operations.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

The proposed rules also call for enhanced scrutiny of such deals so they don't harm competition or limit free speech.

That's according to a senior FCC official familiar with the matter who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is to present the proposed rules to the other commissioners on Thursday.

The new rules are meant to replace the FCC's open Internet order from 2010, which was struck down by a federal appeals court in January.

While the older rules technically allowed for paid priority treatment, such dealings were discouraged.

TRAIN SAFETY-EMERGENCY ACTION

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the National Transportation Safety Board says the Obama administration needs to take steps immediately to protect the public from potentially catastrophic oil train accidents even if it means using emergency authority.

Deborah Hersman, wrapping up a two-day forum on the rail transport of oil and ethanol, said the Transportation Department shouldn't wait for the usual federal rulemaking process to run its course. She urged regulators to use their authority to issue emergency orders or interim rules to bring about tougher standards for tank cars used to haul oil and ethanol.

She said the risks of such accidents are clear and waiting will only lead to a "higher body count."

Hersman praised Canadian authorities who announced Wednesday that they banning or phasing out older, more dangerous tank cars.

WAL-MART STORES-EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

NEW YORK (AP) -- The pay of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s outgoing CEO fell 73 percent in 2013 because he didn't get stock awards that are given in anticipation of future performance as well as a lower performance-based bonus.

The world's largest retailer gave Mike Duke, 64, a compensation package worth about $5.6 million including a base salary of $1.4 million and a performance-based bonus of $2.8 million for the fiscal year that ended on Jan. 31.

Other compensation totaled $490,090, including retirement contributions and $144,586 for personal use of company aircraft.

The AP's calculation counts salary, bonuses, perks and stock and options awarded to the executive during the year.

COCA-COLA-BUFFETT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Warren Buffett says he disapproves of Coca-Cola's highly contested pay plan for its executives.

Buffett, the beverage maker's largest shareholder, called the plan "excessive" in an interview on CNBC after the plan was approved at the company's annual meeting.

But Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway abstained from voting against the pay plan because he believes in Coca-Cola's management and CEO Muhtar Kent.

The pay plan came under scrutiny after Wintergreen Advisers took public issue with it last month. Wintergreen CEO David Winters said the plan was a "raw deal" for shareholders that would transfer roughly $13 billion to management over the next four years. He urged Buffett to vote against the plan.

In a statement, Coca-Cola Co. says it respects Buffett's "philosophical stance on equity-based compensation."

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