McCain overstated his role in oversight bill
Sal Furnari wrote that John McCain had insisted: "If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market. I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this reform legislation."
Eventually, Senator McCain co-sponsored a bill that would have enhanced oversight of Freddie and Fannie. However, Sen. Chuck Hagel introduced that bill in January 2005, and McCain didn't sign on until May 2006, after an unfavorable federal report on accounting practices at Fannie Mae was released.
Fannie and Freddie quintupled in size between 1995 and 2004, as they joined Countrywide Financial in pioneering the practice of selling bundled mortgages in the form of securities. The Clinton and Bush administrations sought greater authority to regulate them, but were stymied by Congress.
Senate Democrats were willing to support stricter oversight, but they wouldn't support a provision in Hagel's bill that would limit the size of the company's portfolios. Negotiations stalled and the bill never made it to the floor. McCain exaggerated his role in pushing for Fannie and Freddie reform and continued to defended a deteriorating economy by reiterating that it was fundamentally strong, until the day the stock market dropped 500 points.
In 2000, Sen. Phil Gramm got legislation through Congress that set derivatives free from virtually all regulations. Warren Buffett said that the Gramm amendment enabled the creation of a shadow banking system, which allowed the creation of financial weapons of mass destruction, and that act directly contributed to the current mortgage foreclosure crisis.
In early 2008, McCain's economic adviser, former Senator Gramm, down-played the economy, despite it having been the top issue of concern to voters in public polling. He said: "We have sort of become a nation of whiners."
Prostate screening not all good
On May 14, I received a letter from Bassett Medical Center encouraging me to get screened for prostate cancer. Many of you who are older probably received the same letter. The missive made it sound as if prostate screening is completely non-controversial and has only a positive side. The letter also touted Bassett's medical care and its possession of the very latest in advanced technology for prostate cancer treatment _ the DaVinci for robotic surgery.
A column in the New York Times on March 9 of this year by Richard Ablin, who discovered the prostate-specific antigen upon which the test is based, eloquently gives the downside of this test. He refers to the test as a "hugely expensive public disaster" and states that "the test is hardly more effective than a coin toss." Ablin defends these statements by pointing out that the screening is not discreet enough to pinpoint those cancers that are quick-growing and deadly, as opposed to the slow-growing kinds that ultimately won't kill you. He believes these tests are driven by misinformed advocacy groups and the drug companies that are interested in making money from the tests.
Finally Ablin states, "I never dreamed that my discovery four decades ago would lead to such a profit-driven public health disaster. The medical community must confront reality and stop the inappropriate use of PSA screening. Doing so would save billions of dollars and rescue millions of men from unnecessary, debilitating treatments."
I don't know if treating prostate cancer is a profit center for Bassett, but I do know that sending letters to older men promoting the PSA test as an unquestionable good is at best misleading and at worst dangerous.
Richard E. Lowenstein