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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Fight over Afghanistan; Rating Obama; Losing Support?; Cutting Medicare?
Aired October 20, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you. A new election now set for Afghanistan promises that a new war plan will be with us soon. Critics say the administration is losing credibility. Why is it taking so long for President Obama to decide on a course forward in Afghanistan?
And rating President Obama -- new polls show that for the first time Americans disagree with the president on important issues. And he's not even the most popular person now in his own administration. We'll tell you who is.
Also, new swine flu fears. Widespread outbreaks are being reported across the country. Young people are being the hardest hit. Doctors warn they have no vaccine. Why is there so much chaos and is it too late for that vaccine already?
Also tonight, Senator Chuck Grassley, one of the Republican point-men on health care, joins us to tell us whether or not a government-run health care plan will happen.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Tuesday, October 20th. Live from New York, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. A new election set in Afghanistan, but no new war strategy. President Obama welcoming the decision by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to hold a run-off election after serious pressure was applied as a U.N. investigation into the August presidential election uncovered rampant fraud.
Nearly a third of Karzai's votes were thrown out. The new election will occur on the 7th of November. Regardless of the outcome of that vote, the White House is once again saying that a decision on troop levels will be made in the coming weeks. Dan Lothian has our report.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama used an oval office meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki to applaud a small but critical victory in Afghanistan.
PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN (through translator): So I call upon our nation to change this into an opportunity.
LOTHIAN: President Hamid Karzai bowing to pressure, accepting a run-off vote.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a reflection of a commitment to rule of law and an insistence that the Afghanistan people's will should be done. And so I express the American people's appreciation for this step.
LOTHIAN: Getting President Karzai on board required behind the scenes arm twisting and public pressure. Leading the way, U.S. Ambassador Carl Ikenberry (ph) and his team, along with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who spent several days in Afghanistan pushing for a resolution.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's our privilege to be able to embrace a moment of promise.
LOTHIAN: Mr. Obama called his effort quote "extraordinarily constructive." The disputed elections had created a problem for the U.S.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: If you want a legitimate government, you can't get that out of a fraudulent election, so you've got to have some resolution to this process that is seen as abiding by the law.
LOTHIAN: White House officials acknowledge that a legitimate credible government is necessary for any new strategy in Afghanistan to be successful.
DOBBS: Well, Dan Lothian reporting. And a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds the majority of Americans now disagree with the president on important issues for the first time since Mr. Obama took office, but it is not all bad news for the president and his administration as Candy Crowley now reports.
OBAMA: What did I say during the campaign? I said change is hard. And big change is harder.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And he's got the polls to prove it. As the president navigates his way through a series of issues as controversial as they are vital, he's getting a yellow flag from the American people. New polling finds for the first time fewer than half of Americans agree with the president on issues important to them. A majority, 51 percent, disagree. That's a 10 point jump since April.
OBAMA: It's all -- I love you back.
CROWLEY: Despite the majority disagreement on issues, the CNN- Opinion Research Corporation poll also found the president's approval rating remains in the healthy mid-50s, and two-thirds of Americans say he has the personal qualities a president should have. PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's awfully early yet, but this president might be shaping up to be a little like Ronald Reagan where people actually didn't often agree with Ronald Reagan's ideas, but they loved the guy.
CROWLEY: A popular president who is less popular on the issues. There's a way to work this.
KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: They still like the messenger. That's important for Obama because he'll be able to look presidential and Americans may respond to that as he's trying to make a pitch for his health care plan financial reform, whatever he decided to do in Afghanistan and Iran.
CROWLEY: And about that Nobel Prize, even the president seemed stunned he got.
OBAMA: To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize.
CROWLEY: Americans agree. Only about a third believe the president deserve the prize. Fifty-six percent say they disapprove of the decision by the Nobel Prize Committee to give it to him. Still, there's a hometown hero effect here with almost 70 percent of people saying they're proud an American won it.
And in further proof of that old adage that Americans like their politicians most when they're not running for anything, the most popular person in the Obama administration is not the still popular president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.
CROWLEY: It's his secretary of state, you remember her, once seen as a sharply divisive politician, the also-ran of the 2008 primary season, Hillary Clinton is now viewed favorably by 65 percent of Americans, outshining even Michelle Obama.
CROWLEY: And in those numbers for the secretary of state is the fundamentally vary of public opinion. It changes. Most Democrats eyeing the 2010 election cycle believe that a health care reform bill signed, sealed, and delivered will turn around what has been steadily declining numbers on a variety of issues. Lou?
DOBBS: Candy, you have to imagine the secretary of state can only wish that she had these poll numbers about one year ago. What do you think?
CROWLEY: Yes. I imagine she is, but she says she never thinks about that -- that she's loving her job and she doesn't think about wanting to be president and et cetera, et cetera.
DOBBS: Et cetera, et cetera. Another interesting poll out today, and that is, Candy, the Gallup tracking poll showing President Obama's again hit his -- tide his low of 50 percent, which he's hit several times. What do you make of that?
CROWLEY: I do make of that that governing is a lot harder to keep people liking you than when you're politicking. And I think that we have seen in many administrations that a president starts out popular and the minute he gets down to the nitty-gritty, this health care reform bill has not been nice to the president's numbers. We have seen that.
We also are now still seeing in some polls that are out today, increases in the number of people who support a public option. I expect that will help him in those daily trackings as well. But it is -- it is definitely what happens to a president. That is the longer he governs, the more people begin to say how is this going to affect me? And it's no longer sort of filling in who they think the president will be, as happens in a campaign. It's looking at the president that they've got.
DOBBS: The president they've got, but health care proposals that we don't. We've got here -- I'm going to -- if you can get this again, I want to show this 1,502 pages, 400 pages of committee report, the legislation itself, I mean nobody knows what this is. And by the way, the public option, when you look at this, Candy, they're taking polls about something that's not in here. It's nowhere in here -- 1,502 pages and it's not in here. What are they saying they like about it?
CROWLEY: Well, you know, and it's also in definition. It's a little bit -- I think if you ask people what do you think the public option is, you will get a variety of answers. So it's not until we actually see what's going to be in it and what happens that you really know how people feel about it. But I have to tell you that none of these polls will compare to what happens when a health care reform bill is put into place and when it starts to take effect. That's, you know as they say, where the rubber meets the road here. I mean people are going to like the president's policies if they work for them, and it's as simple as that.
DOBBS: All right, and maybe just a hint of actually what they are before we take the next poll. Candy...
CROWLEY: Transparency -- it's all about transparency.
DOBBS: And openness, of course -- thank you very much Candy -- Candy Crowley.
DOBBS: Another question asked in our poll today, when asked whether President Obama had done anything to make your angry, 48 percent of the poll said yes. Fifty-two percent said no. That is within a healthy margin of error.
Well, turning now to the president's headlining of a lavish Democratic fundraiser -- it's going on tonight right here in n New York City, right here in the Time Warner Center in fact. This is the same administration decrying all of those fabulous pay packages, those egregiously excessive bonuses and right now, 200 donors in this very building paying the maximum allowed by law, $30,400 for dinner, for the privilege of the president's company.
That's about six million in total. Not a bad -- not a bad collection plate. You would expect the New York City event to be filled with leaders of course from the financial industry, banking, Wall Street, but a lot of the bankers apparently decided this isn't a good time. Firms that took government bailouts by the tens of billions of dollars like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup, reportedly worried that it might look like they were paying something back to the Obama administration for that $30,000 -- billions for 30,000.
After tonight's events, President Obama will have attended 22 fundraisers since he took office exactly nine months ago tonight. President George W. Bush, by the way, in the same period, did six political fundraisers during his entire first year in office actually, and the Republicans are stepping up their fundraising efforts as well going into the midterm elections next year, possibly even beating the Democrats.
The Republican National Committee reporting that September was a big month for the Republicans pulling in almost $9 million, about a million more than in August -- many of the new donations coming from small grassroots donors, similar to the way the Obama campaign raised so much money last year. The Republican National Committee says it averaged 2,400 new donors per day in September. That's a record for a non-election year.
The Democratic Party hasn't released its official fundraising numbers for September, some reports, however, say the Democrats raised just over seven million in September. I would repeat with our math applied we're looking at the president tonight alone raising about $6 million.
Up next, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce breaking lobbying records, spending tens of millions of dollars to block the administration's policies. Will they succeed?
And it looks as though the White House is at war with not only FOX News but also the Chamber of Commerce. We'll have that story and criticism from the left. Now the president's own base is after him for not coming through on some key issues. We'll return in one moment.
DOBBS: President Obama today met with the Iraqi prime minister and said the United States still plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2011. But critics and supporters of the president want to know what the plan is for Afghanistan. From that war to health care, climate change, trade, illegal immigration and gay rights, the president is facing fierce criticism from his own base. Lisa Sylvester has our report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Obama administration is engaged in a public conflict with one of the most influential groups in Washington, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The two sides not seeing eye-to-eye on issues like health care and climate change, but it's not just conservative groups that are butting heads with the White House. Some liberal groups are also disgruntled.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.
SYLVESTER: Protestors gathered outside the White House last month rallying for a public option in the health care plan. Some of the demonstrators are former Obama campaign workers upset with their Democratic president.
MIKE ELK, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN WORKER: I think if the president compromises on public option, he hasn't just let me down. He let down my entire generation.
SYLVESTER: Many liberals are also upset about talk of increasing troops in Afghanistan. Only 23 percent of Democrats surveyed in a CNN-Opinion Research poll support the war in Afghanistan.
CRAIG GORDON, POLITICO: The White House is making a very clear political calculation here. They believe that some of the most liberal members of the Democratic Party, union members, anti-war activists, gay rights activists are also disappointed with Obama are really not going to vote Republican in 2010 or 2012 and so they seem kind of willing to disappoint them a little bit.
SYLVESTER: Other issues that have frustrated Obama supporters, immigration and trade. Candidate Obama promised to address comprehensive immigration reform in his first year and take on China on accusations of currency manipulation practices that hurt U.S. manufacturers and American workers -- hasn't happened, though. Critics see little change from the previous administration.
ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: In its broad outlines President Obama's trade policy not only looks exactly like President Bush's trade policy, but President Obama's trade rhetoric and the trade rhetoric of his leading economic advisers sounds exactly like the rhetoric of their predecessors under President Bush.
SYLVESTER: Democrats may be disgruntled, but they're not abandoning ship yet. The Democratic base is still keeping the president's approval rating at 55 percent.
SYLVESTER: But if the Democratic base becomes too disillusioned over health care, Afghanistan, and other issues and feeling like there are just too many broken promises that might end up hurting congressional Democrats up for re-election next year. Lou?
DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Lisa Sylvester.
Well the very public feud between the administration and the Chamber of Commerce is escalating. The White House now says the Chamber of Commerce is aggressively trying to block the White House on signature issues like health care and the environment. A White House spokesman says the Chamber of Commerce quote "continues to throw millions of dollars against productive efforts that are essential to the growth and recover of our economy."
The Chamber in fact spends more on lobbying than any other lobbying organization. It spent $34.7 million on lobbying in the third quarter alone. That's three times more than the previous quarter. And over the past decade the Chamber of Commerce has spent almost $500 billion on lobbyists.
The next highest spending organization, by the way, is the American Medical Association. It spent less than half that amount, 208 million. Well, another high-ranking White House appointee extolling the virtues of Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung (ph). When White House manufacturing czar Ron Bloom was an executive at the United Steelworkers Union, he addressed a 2008 forum on the union role in bankruptcy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP-FROM YOUTUBE 2008)
RON BLOOM, UNITED STEEL WORKERS: Generally speaking, we get the joke. We know that the free market is nonsense. We know that the whole point is to game the system, to beat the market or at least find someone who will pay you a lot of money because they're convinced that there is a free lunch. We know this is largely about power. That it's an adults' only, no limit game. We kind of agree with Mao that political power comes largely from the barrel of a gun, and we get it that if you want a friend, you should get a dog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: White House Communication Director Anita Dunn (ph) last June also cited Mao as one of the great political philosophers in her life. Mao was the leader of communist China from his founding to his death in 1976. His policies and purges (ph) believed to have caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, as many as 100 million.
Well to hear more of my thoughts on all the president's czars and their fascination with Mao Tse-Tung (ph), please join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 radio here in New York City. Go to loudobbs.com to get the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show", subscribe to our daily Podcast. Check out our store. Follow me on Twitter at loudobbsnews on Twitter.com.
Up next, influential Republican Senator Chuck Grassley on health care, the fight over government run health care, and will this country's middle class bear the burden of the health care proposals? That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate here tonight.
And we'll report on what the state of Hawaii -- man, if you thought California was in trouble, wait until you find out what is happening in Hawaii. Stay with us.
DOBBS: State and local governments are taking dramatic steps trying to close big budget deficits. In Hawaii, schools there will now be closed most Fridays this year as the state government struggles with nearly half a billion dollars of education budget cuts. In a deal reached with its union, the teachers will take 17 unpaid days off. That will result in an eight percent pay cut, but there will be no layoffs, teacher holidays will not be affected, and that means students will be only attending school for 163 days a year.
That's fewer than the national average of 180. Hawaiian students, by the way, already score well below national averages on just math and science and reading. The cuts come at an awkward time for President Obama who is a native of Hawaii. He's been calling on students to spend more time in the class room, trying to boost achievement, and by the way, Hawaii ranks in the bottom of just about every measure of education in the country.
Meanwhile, the president's adopted hometown of Chicago, there Mayor Richard Daley says he would ask all non-union city managers to take nearly five weeks of unpaid leave next year. Chicago faces again of just about $500 billion budget deficit. More than half of the state governments are considering furloughs now for state workers trying to deal with their budget deficits. Let's take a look now at some of your thoughts.
Don in Arizona said: "I commend you for displaying concern for our men and women doing a job for this country that only they themselves understand the minute by minute dangers threatening their lives and pride. My youngest son shall complete his third deployment soon, I pray." We join with you.
And Gordon in California: -- "About the only public option that I will support would be the option for the public to vote all of these elected politicians out of office at the next election." Now, there is an option.
And Richard writes: "I have been watching a slow but steady move on your part to fall in line with the Obama Administration."
Gale writes: "You have ceased to even try to report a fair analysis of President Obama. You look for reasons to undermine his presidency and it seems like you have taken up Republican banter."
Well now we have a choice. I'm either with him or I'm against him. And Richard in New Jersey "In recent months I found your TV broadcast. I want to congratulate you on having the most unbiased reporting I've heard in years. Continue to hold their feet to the fire regardless of political party."
We guarantee that. Thank you. We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read receives a copy of my book "Independents Day". You also receive our brand new "Independent American" t-shirt. Up next, Republican Chuck Grassley, he'll tell us whether the Democrats have the votes to push through government run health care just as an option.
And doctors warning that further Medicare cuts could hurt patients. How will the new health care deal -- deal with that problem?
And new swine flu concerns tonight -- young people most at risk catching the virus at an alarming rate -- the vaccine still not available widely. Most of it, by the way, made overseas, so are most of the pieces of equipment necessary for medical care in this country. We'll tell you all about it here next. Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: Here again, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: New efforts tonight by Senate Democrats trying to remove Medicare cuts from that health care proposal. Doctors across the country are claiming that Medicare cuts will in fact injure their patients. The Democrats are clearly willing to make some deals with the medical profession. But they seem less clear about how they would pay for the new deals. Dana Bash has our report from Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say ah (INAUDIBLE)?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barbara Fusco (ph) is one of dozens of Medicare patients Dr. Steve Zimmet and his partners will see today.
DR. STEVEN ZIMMET, INTERNIST: Medicare accounts for 48 percent of our practice revenue on an...
BASH (on camera): That's half of your...
ZIMMET: That is half of my practice and it's huge.
BASH (voice-over): That's why he says a looming 21 percent cut in government payments doctors get from Medicare recipients would hurt his practice and his patients.
ZIMMET: That's unsustainable.
BASH: Doctors have fought for years to stop annual Medicare cuts permanently and failed. Now, suddenly, Senate Democratic leaders are listening and pushing a whopping $250 billion fix. It's a surprise move announced after a closed-door meeting right here in the Senate. CNN is told by two sources in the room that Senate majority leader Harry Reid told doctors' groups he would try to stop Medicare cuts that made clear in return he expected them to support Democrats' health care overhaul. Several sources tell CNN there was no explicit deal, but the head of the powerful American Medical Association on Capitol Hill lobbying senators carefully puts it this way. DR. JAMES ROHACK, PRES., AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: This is very important. If people are serious about health system reform, we have to get this bill passed.
BASH: To get that bill passed, Democrats are engaging in what some call budget trickery. They're separating the doctor fix from the long-care health care overhaul. If the Senate healthcare proposal costs roughly $900 billion. Add $250 billion, and the price tag would exceed $1 trillion, above what the president wants. And the $250 billion cost is not paid for and adds to the deficit which conservative Democrats call a non-starter.
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: We should pay for it. We shouldn't just tack it on to the debt.
BASH: Because of that kind of opposition in the ranks, Democratic leadership sources admit to CNN they do not have the votes to permanently stop cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need a permanent solution to make sure seniors get the stability and security they deserve.
BASH: And they're hoping a multimillion dollar lobbying campaign will change that.
Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.
DOBBS: Well, can the Democrats' plan solve the nation's health care issues? That's the subject of the face-off debate here tonight. Joining me now is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, he is a former director of the Congressional budget office, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Great to have you with us, and Maggie Mahar, a fellow at the Century Foundation. Also author of "Money-Driven Medicine, the Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much." Good to have you both with us.
My god, that's a transparent deal, apparently, between the leadership of the Democratically led Congress and the AMA.
MAGGIE MAHAR, CENTURY FOUNDATION: This is a non-story. I have to say this. This is a non-story because everyone knew that there was not going to be a 20 percent cut across the board in doctors' fees. That's not what they're talking about when they talk about Medicare cuts. Why do I say this? Because the president's budget at the very beginning of the year did not include those cuts. Each year before that, President Bush's budget, each year would include these cuts that we were supposed to be making in doctors' fees under Medicare and that Congress was never willing to make, but they were always in the budget. This year, Obama said I'm not going to put them in the budget because I know we're not going to make those cuts, and he knew this is a very crude solution to health care spending. You don't want to cut W.A.C., doctor's fees across the board.
DOBBS: Especially when you're trying to get the AMA to go along with your deal. MAHAR: Especially if you're trying to improve health care. You're going to make it harder to find a primary care doctor. That's a bad thing for patients. What we need to do is cut the fat out of the system with a scalpel, not with an ax.
DOBBS: All right. Doctor?
DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: It's $250 billion real money. This could lead to an enormous amount of debt and we're going to leave it behind for our kids. It's important to move from the theory of what health care reform would have been to what these bills contain. These bills don't bend the cost curve. They don't fulfill the promise of quality care at a lower host. They do have immediately higher costs, $250 billion on fees we pass on to the consumers. $250 billion in fees that we pass on to the consumers. We know that 90 percent of that is going to be on the middle class. We get increased cost, no real health care reform, and a pile of debt at the end of this.
MAHAR: I'm afraid if you read the bills, is just isn't true. First of all, the charge for Cadillac insurance policies is only in the Senate finance bill. It's one of the least popular divisions of the bill.
DOBBS: This is the 1,500 pages?
MAHAR: Yes, I read it. That's what I do for a living.
DOBBS: You read this?
DOBBS: When did you read this?
DOBBS: When, not where?
MAHAR: I have read it several times as it evolved.
DOBBS: You had to have a running start.
DOBBS: By our calculation, reading each page in some detail would take you at least a week.
MAHAR: I'm a fast reader.
DOBBS: I know you are. And you have a great deal of stamina, but John Conyers doesn't have that stamina nor interest and we couldn't find a single senator or Congressman who showed a lust to read it.
MAHAR: But you know what? Behind every senator and Congressperson, there's someone on staff usually a woman, who has read it. As a reporter, you know that. When you call, you don't want the senator. You want the person on staff who actually has the facts.
DOBBS: Why don't we just let them vote? You have basically said that the Congress of the United States is comprised of absolute idiots because they're relying on staff for a document of 1,502 pages to make a determination whether or not they should read it.
MAHAR: No senator could read all the bills. Let me just say that.
DOBBS: They don't read 95 percent -- excuse me.
MAHAR: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
DOBBS: They don't read 95 percent of the legislation.
MAHAR: Yes, it is true. You're talking about the Senate finance bill. There are three bills at least on the table right now, Senate finance, Senate health, and house. Only one of them has the taxes that you're talking about on Cadillac insurance plans. The house bill would raise money two ways, first, by cutting unnecessary hazardous treatments under Medicare. Medicare has already started doing that. They just slashed fees for MRIs because they know we're getting too much radiation because the number of MRIs doubled between 2000 and 2007. The other thing the House bill would do is raise taxes on the wealthiest 1.5 percent of Americans. They have seen their income go up 232 percent since 1975.
HOLTZ-EAKIN: Let's be clear, the House bill very clearly the CBO said did not bend the cost curve and added to the long-run deficit. It failed that test. The Senate bills grow at exactly the same 8 percent rate as the House bills. They failed the same tests. They have simply disguised this fact better. It's about a billion dollars a page quite frankly by promising to do provider cuts that you just said are undesirable and bad for medicine for a decade in the future. So they'll leave behind for our children a bigger entitlement problem, no health care system, and a pile of debt. That's not a good route for the government to go.
MAHAR: The director was pressed by Republicans a few days ago as to how much these bills would -- specifically the Senate house finance bill would add to the cost of health care. He said there is no way we could estimate that. I'm quoting. This is quoted in the "Washington Post." He said there are so many conflicting variables involved --
DOBBS: It was also in his assessment of the concept by the Senate finance committee, a lot of news organizations chose not to pay attention to it. But you have said no one has no idea what we're talking about.
MAHAR: That's absolutely right. Speaking on mark ups, we all know are traditionally false.
DOBBS: Rather than getting into a history lesson or an institutional analysis, the fact is we have legislation here that everyone is talking about as being $829 billion when --
MAHAR: No one knows.
DOBBS: The Senate majority leaders think $1.25 trillion.
HOLTZ-EAKIN: You know that, this bill is well over a trillion dollars because they have disguised it by taking the fix out.
MAHAR: How do you know?
HOLTZ-EAKIN: That's the case because if you look at the history of CBO, which I actually know a little bit about, you'll see they typically underestimate bills that heavily rely on government programs. The only place we have overestimated a cost is in a drug bill that used a competitive bidding mechanism. If we wanted to make progress, we would employ some genuine competitive bidding, more broadly in Medicare; lower the bill for seniors and taxpayers. That's not what we're doing here. This unfortunately is not health care reform. This is an exercise in taxing people to write checks. It's not an improvement on the system we have.
MAHAR: There's no tax on the middle class in the House bill. There's no tax on the middle class in the Senate finance bill unless you believe employers are going to continue to buy Cadillac insurance plans knowing the tax would be passed on to them. They're absolutely not going to do that. The tax in the House bill is on the wealthiest 1.5 percent. These are the people who can best afford to help pay the cost of health care. This is not to say they have an obligation, but they can best afford. That's where the money is.
HOLTZ-EAKIN: Over the $900 billion line that this president declared.
MAHAR: He doesn't know, OK?
DOBBS: May I interrupt? I think this is important.
OK, I can't interrupt either of you. I'm just the host.
HOLTZ-EAKIN: The house bill is not going to pass. Let's talk about the reality.
DOBBS: Can we do this? We'll go one, then two. You first, very succinctly, please.
MAHAR: The senior analyst at CBO who is in charge of marking up the plans, said yesterday in the Washington Post, we may be off by 20 percent. We really don't know what the numbers are. Period.
HOLTZ-EAKIN: That's an exercise in hope. This is an exercise in reality. The reality is expensive, goes the wrong direction in health care costs and is something the nation shouldn't do.
MAHAR: Could I ask a question?
DOBBS: It's your show.
MAHAR: Thank you. What do you think about the loan section on Medicare reform in the bill? Specifically, talk about the points about Medicare reform?
HOLTZ-EAKIN: There are an enormous amount of small pilots which are of the type that many analysts, myself included, believe would be desirable and would be the centerpiece of the right health care, which is entitlement reform when you get savings and don't bankrupt the bank. That's not the bill, though.
MAHAR: That is the bill, and that's the heart of the bill.
DOBBS: May I? May I?
DOBBS: Thank you for being here. Thank you for letting me -- thank you very much. I appreciate the kindness.
MAHAR: Thank you, this has been fun.
DOBBS: Me, too. The part where I got to participate.
Still ahead, young people, the biggest targets for the swine flu. Where is the vaccine?
And tonight, new concerns about our reliance on foreign companies for the medicals supplies we so desperately need. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: Alarming new statistics on the swine flu today from the centers for disease control. Young people are increasingly at risk, and they are the hardest hit. More than half of those hospitalized for the swine flu are under the age of 25. Tens of thousands of college students are coming down with the swine flu each week. But college campuses still apparently have no idea when they will receive their vaccines and how soon they will be able to vaccinate their students. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More than half the people who end up in the hospital with severe complications from swine flu are young people under the age of 25. Since the fall college semester began in the beginning of September, the CDC has recorded 5,000 hospitalizations, 53 percent of them under the age of 25. Of the nearly 300 deaths from swine flu underreport the problem because they only have reliable data from 27 states. Even so, most people have no hope of getting a swine flu vaccine for days or even weeks.
DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION: We know people are interested in being vaccinated and can't find at much as they would like near them. We're working closely with the states and cities to work out some of the bumps or hurdles that we're seeing.
PILGRIM: Dr. James Turner of the University of Virginia is head of an organization that represents 900 colleges and 3,000 health care workers on college campuses. In tracking the flu over the last eight weeks, he estimates nationally, college campuses are seeing some 35,000 to 40,000 cases a week. But to his knowledge, very little swine flu vaccine has made its way to college campuses.
DR. JAMES TURNER, AMERICAN COLLEGE HEALTH ASSN.: I have 21,000 students, it's difficult to make those plans until you know when your vaccine is available.
PILGRIM: Of the estimated 250 million doses needed nationally, only 12.8 million are available so far.
TURNER: We don't have much h1n1 vaccine yet. Very little has actually reached college campuses. The college students are in that age group that is the priority. However, they're the lowest in that priority group.
PILGRIM: Well, Dr. Turner mentioned to us that 21,000 students on the University of Virginia campus, he's trying to schedule vaccinations, he's blocked out four or five days in November, but he has no idea if the vaccines will be available at that time and says the university of Virginia hospital has used up 1,000 doses of vaccine they have received.
DOBBS: I'm sorry, the University of Virginia got 1,000?
PILGRIM: The hospital got 1,000 for 5,000 health care workers.
DOBBS: The hospital at the University of Virginia?
DOBBS: This is peculiar. We don't have a CDC or anyone calculating the number of cases. Nationwide. You report 35,000 a week, but that's an improbable --
PILGRIM: Just his guess.
DOBBS: Just about everything we're seeing is a guess and I don't know. We had such assurance and such composure on the part of the CDC, the NIH, anyone on this thing, and now nobody knows, and in the peak of the swine flu season, the seasonal flu, is --
PILGRIM: Much later than now.
DOBBS: Where are we headed?
PILGRIM: The CDC said they're getting data from 27 states. They're not even getting data from all the states. It's impossible to calculate numbers and outbreaks the way they would like to do.
DOBBS: Do they have any idea as to when they think the peak of the swine flu will be?
PILGRIM: They said they couldn't extrapolate. They were thinking there might be two peaks. One now and one in the spring. They really --
DOBBS: I get it. Thanks very much, Kitty. Appreciate it. Kitty Pilgrim.
Up next, bipartisan agreement on health care reform. It's not going to happen according to Senator Chuck Grassley who is my guest here next. We'll be back.
DOBBS: Tonight, a leading Republican in the Senate says there's not much hope for bipartisanship in the fight over health care legislation. Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, he's on the Senate Finance Committee to pass one version of the health care overhaul without a so-called public option. Senator Grassley joins us now.
Senator, good to have you with us.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Glad to be with you.
DOBBS: This -- I've got 1796 in front of me here, 1,502 pages, and that's without a public option. Is the public option so-called dead or not?
GRASSLEY: Well, I don't know for sure. You know the vast majority of the Democratic caucus wants it put in. I've heard Harry Reid wants it in. Senator Baucus has been arguing that it shouldn't be in, Senator Conrad has. But now you're asking me, I'm a Republican, this ought to be a bipartisan bill, but the Senate health bill, the Senate finance committee bill is being put together into one bill. And at this point, I don't know whether it'll include a public option or not. But I'll bet the further down the road it'll move more left ward and include a public option.
DOBBS: Well, you know, I'd like to get your reaction to the chairman of the Senate finance committee. And this is Senator Max Baucus talking today about how transparent the process to create 1796 was. I want you to listen and give us your reaction.
GRASSLEY: I am so proud that this -- how transparent we have been in this open process we have in enacting this bill. Finance committee, health committee, countless hearings, all public, all in the open. Senators from both sides able to offer amendments.
DOBBS: Did he capture the spirit of the thing you think, accurately?
GRASSLEY: Well, the answer is yes for the 1,502 pages of that bill. It was more open. You know, plenty of hearings, opportunities to discuss among members, open sessions. Being on the internet for a period of time. All the amendments put out for public inspection, I don't think the committee's ever done that. But now you go to a process of merging that bill with the Senate health bill -- health committee bill and I believe that's being entirely done behind closed doors and you want to remember what President Obama said during the campaign that we're going to deal with health care where it's going to be on c-span, Republicans at the table, Democrats at the table, it's going to be open, stake holders there, it's going to be an open process. But right now, that's being -- that's not being done or followed at all. I think it'd be a good thing if the president would intervene with Senator Reid and tell him what he promised during the campaign and have Senator Reid deliver on that and have this merger of these two bills be much more transparent.
DOBBS: What do you think the odds are of that happening, senator?
DOBBS: I thought we might as well get a reality check while we were at it. This legislation, we just had two leading experts on legislation on health care and legislation say to us basically that the scoring by the Congressional budget office of this particular piece of legislation doesn't amount to a hill of beans. We've heard the Senate majority leaders say the Senate health care will cost. No one figured out if it's a slip of the tongue, a Freudian slip or an open transparency on the part of your colleague and majority leader Harry Reid. What in the world is going on? We had demonstrations all across the country. In town hall meetings. Did all of this -- did all of the Senate leadership suddenly forget about those town hall meetings?
GRASSLEY: They've got a president that was elected. This is his number one goal. There's 60 senators, there's an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives. The president is taking this very personally. He wants this. It'll be considered a defeat for his administration if he doesn't get it. If those 60 Democrats stick together, they will get it. And in that sense, then the grass roots of America is represented by those town meetings and I had some big turnouts at my town meetings will be ignored. Now here's what you've got to think about. It isn't too late for the people to rare up again in reaction and opposition. We're going to be on this bill several weeks in the United States Senate. And they start phoning that are Congressmen, maybe people will still have meetings, write their Congressman an e-mail, there can be a tremendous turnout that's going to make a difference yet in this debate. I'm saying to the people of this country; don't give up on the fact that you can make an impact.
DOBBS: Senator Chuck Grassley. Appreciate it.
GRASSLEY: Thank you.
DOBBS: Up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown. Campbell, welcome back.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Lou.
Tonight we're going to talk about the outrage over Wall Street executives who took bailout money now raking in huge bonuses and perks. Just a few minutes ago President Obama asked some of those same execs not to fight him on financial reforms. So how likely is it that anything's actually going to change? We'll get into that in just a few minutes.
Plus, we continue our special series the FBI's new most wanted. We are revealing it right here. You will see the latest criminal to make the list and see if you can help catch a killer.
Also ahead, tonight's intriguing person, "30 Rock's" Tracy Morgan is here. You're not going to want to miss that.
DOBBS: And we won't.
And we'll be right back. Stay with us.
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We thank you for being with us tonight. For all of us here, good night from New York.
Coming up next right here on CNN, Campbell Brown.