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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Growing in Debt; Losing Faith; Bracing for Hurricane Bill; Jobs Now; Swine Flu Explosion; Health Care in Ireland

Aired August 21, 2009 - 19:00   ET



Millions of residents on the East Coast of the United States tonight are bracing for Hurricane Bill. It is a monster storm over 100 miles wide with hurricane-force winds of 110 miles an hour.

Plus, another blow to President Obama's health care plans. New polls show confidence in the president's leadership is plunging to fresh lows. Also, new signs the recovery -- the economy is recovering from recession. Where are the jobs? And tonight we continue our series of special reports, "DOBBS and JOBS NOW!".

But first, President Obama's agenda from health care to energy to the economy is under fire tonight with new polls showing increasing opposition to his plans. After a tough week struggling to sell his agenda through town hall conferences -- conference calls, media interviews, the president leaves Washington for a 10-day vacation, and leaves behind an increasingly bitter fight over health care proposals and more. Ed Henry has our report from Washington -- Ed, there is a new setback for the administration tonight.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kitty. CNN has learned that next week the Obama administration will be revealing some more bad news about the long-term budget outlook that they have a new projection for the budget deficit for the next 10 years, and it will reach $9 trillion. That's $2 trillion worse than they had projected at the beginning of the year. They're saying it's due to the poor economic conditions in the country, but Republican officials are already saying this shows that the president is spending too much money early in his administration and that the country cannot afford a vast health reform package.

White House officials are trying to make the opposite argument. They say that unless you rein in health care costs long-term, you're never going to pay off the long-term U.S. national debt. Nevertheless, the president has got a problem, as you said, with these new polls. "Washington Post," if you look at when people were asked in this "Washington Post"/ABC News poll about confidence in the president to make the right decision, only 49 percent, less than a majority said they have a great deal or good amount of confidence in the president to make the right decisions, 50 percent some or no confidence.

Also asked, would you support the government in creating a health insurance plan? Big question -- back in June, 62 percent supported, 33 percent opposed. Now it's down 10 points -- only 52 percent supporting, 46 percent opposing. A 13 percent increase in the percentage who are opposing the president's efforts. What's also interesting is earlier today, on CNN Radio, I interviewed a key moderate Democratic senator, Ben Nelson, who said bottom line that back in his home state of Nebraska, people have been, in his words, traumatized by this whole debate.


SENATOR BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA (via phone): What I have found in Nebraska is that there is an awful lot of concern, fear, anxiety, frustration, the -- I think the Americans -- America has been traumatized by the debate because of the labeling of certain situations, such as the Hospice panel being called the death panel. You just -- there is an awful lot of misinformation out there, a lot of misunderstanding.


HENRY: Now Senator Nelson did have some good news for the president and saying that he saw it as a good sign that in recent days the president has shown more flexibility and potentially doing away with the public option in this whole plan. As a moderate conservative Democratic senator, Senator Nelson is saying that is a good sign, and he thinks that in the end, while he could not support a bill with a straight public option in it, he could support a bill that scaled down, that just does insurance reform, and includes the public option as sort of a secondary option if the insurance companies do not make the changes that Washington wants them to make.

So what's interesting is opening a door there for the president, that if he scales back his reform efforts, he might be able to get a scaled back bill through the Senate. So far, the White House is not showing any signals they're willing to do that. But that may very well be where this debate heads in the fall when the president gets back from his vacation, more and more moderate Democrats pushing him towards a more scaled-back bill -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: A very tough process this week -- thanks very much, Ed Henry.

HENRY: Thanks, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Well another possible setback for the president's health care plan now is health -- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tonight seemed to wobble on his commitment for a so-called public option. Saying it was just one aspect of an overall package. Now Hoyer's comments come just one day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would definitely not support a bill if it did not include the public option.

This week could be a turning point in the debate over health care in this country. The week began with back-pedaling from the White House following these statements from the administration on a public health insurance option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whether we have it or we don't have it is not the entirety of health care reform.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SEC.: What we don't know is exactly what the Senate Finance Committee is likely to come up with. They have been more focused on a co-op, not-for-profit co-op as a competitor, as opposed to a straight government-run program. And I think what's important is choice and competition. And I'm convinced at the end of the day the plan will have both of those. But that is not the essential element.


PILGRIM: Now these comments meant to apiece conservatives were immediately met with backlash from liberal Democrats.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: It's a deal-breaker, because the whole idea, the kind behind health care reform, is to bring down the cost. We cannot bring down the cost, unless there is a public option that will create competition.


PILGRIM: Now, on Tuesday, the Health and Human Services secretary tried to clear the air.


SEBELIUS: Bottom line -- absolutely nothing has changed. We continue to support the public option that will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice, and keep private insurers honest. If people have other ideas about how to accomplish these goals, we'll look at those, too. But the public option is a very good way to do this.


PILGRIM: But that didn't convince fellow Democrats to fall in line. Now, here's a key negotiator in the debate. Senate Democrat Kent Conrad, who is pushing for a co-op approach.


SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: There have never been the votes in the United States for a public option. That's just a fact.


PILGRIM: Republicans seized on the divide in the Democratic Party and on the backlash from the American people.


REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: Our president decided to try to cram a massive bureaucratic health bill down the throats of the American people, and it doesn't look to me like you all think that's a very good idea.


PILGRIM: Members of Congress also fired back as tension at the town hall meetings continued to mount.


REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.


PILGRIM: By Thursday, the mood among the Democratic leadership in Congress was turning desperate.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Let me just be very clear. This is an opportunity, not of a lifetime, of a century. If we don't pass this bill, with all the comprehensive aspects of it now, I don't know when we'll have a chance to do it.


PILGRIM: And we end the week with concern that the administration might go it alone without support from Republicans, Democrats or voters. So goes another week in Washington.

Turning overseas -- the two leading contenders for the presidency of Afghanistan each declared victory today. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah each made the claim without waiting for the vote totals. Now, initial vote results could come in, in a few days, but it could take weeks for a final tally.

Twenty-six people were killed by Taliban terrorists who were attempting to disrupt the elections. But millions of Afghans went to the polls anyway, and President Obama applauded the Afghans who turned out to vote.


OBAMA: We knew that the Taliban would try to derail this election. Yet even in the face of this brutality, millions of Afghans exercised the right to choose their leaders and determine their own destiny. And as I watched the election, I was struck by their courage in the face of intimidation, and their dignity in the face of disorder.


PILGRIM: International observers said there were reports of voting irregularities, but overall the election process was credible.

In Iran tonight, United Nations nuclear inspectors were allowed back inside two nuclear facilities. Now, the inspectors visited a uranium enrichment plant and a research reactor. Iran says the plant produces nuclear materials for medical use. But a recent report says it spent (ph) fuel could be reprocessed to produce plutonium. The United States has accused Iran of concealing a nuclear weapons program.

Back in this country, the East Coast is bracing for Hurricane Bill. The storm has weakened to a category two hurricane, but forecasters warn that it could regain strength as it barrels towards Bermuda. Dangerous waves, rip currents already hitting the United States, many states tonight are closing their beaches. Chad Myers has the very latest. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Kitty, that's probably a really good idea because I'm already calling up here WKMG (ph) is our affiliate out of Orlando, they have a shot for you from Daytona. And let me tell you I had this shot earlier, and we did not have this amount of white water out there, nor did we have waves breaking way out in the ocean, as well.

So we know that these waves are getting larger. We know what large waves do. They make rip currents. Well, how do they do that? They come in -- all the water wants could to come in with these waves all at one time and then there is a sand bar out here, that water spills over the sand bar and dumps itself right here on shore. And we like to play in this water right here. The problem is, when you lose a piece of the sand bar, let's say right there, all the water still comes in, but it only goes out in one place.

And that's the dangerous place. Let me show you -- we've made a graphic of all this, and I'll show you how it happens. There is a rip current, right there -- right through the middle -- going to hit play. Get this out of the way, and you will see the waves crashing on shore. You will see the sand bar, right there. The waves still come over. But now as the waves get bigger and bigger, we're expecting waves almost 15 feet tall to be coming on shore, especially in the Carolina coastal region, and then the sand bar breaks, all of that water goes straight out.

I don't believe it's going to be as big of a deal in Florida as it might be a little bit farther up the coast, because of the proximity. See -- look at the distance between here and here. There's still a couple of thousand miles between Florida, but then all of a sudden, it's closer to the Carolina coast, closer to the Delmarva, and then look how close it gets here to Maine and then really very close to Nova Scotia. So here's what you were talking about. You were talking about this category two -- that's where we are right now -- at 105 miles per hour.

But the water is very warm here. And this warm water is going to let it grow to a 115-storm, 115 miles per hour, like you can tell the difference between 105 and 115, but the ocean can. And we have seen waves out here almost 45 feet tall. You ever watch the movie or the show "Deadliest Catch" -- they have waves 30 feet tall and they're crashing over every boat that they know of. Well if you get 40- footers out here in the ocean and even if they come on shore and they break a little bit, you know there is always some type of a reef right long here, so the waves break a little bit off shore.

But with all of that water piling up on these beaches, we could see tides six feet over what you would expect in the bays and estuaries here, because that water, Kitty, just wants to pile in. It's just moving and moving. And piling in here and you know, I just -- you're just going to have to be very careful. If you're taking your kids to the beach, make sure you have a hotel with a pool. Tell them go in that water, and stay out of the ocean, because it's going to be dangerous this weekend.

PILGRIM: Chad, that's a great explanation. Now I really understand everything that's going on. Thanks very much -- Chad Myers.

MYERS: The water has so much force.


MYERS: You know you get hit by that wave and it can really just suck you right out.

PILGRIM: That's great. Thanks very much, Chad Myers.

MYERS: You're welcome.

PILGRIM: Thank you.

Still ahead the truth behind the off quoted number of 47 million uninsured in this country -- is that number right or wrong? Well, that is our "Face Off" and also we'll have special reports on health care in other countries. Tonight we're doing Ireland and the perils of a government-run system when the money runs out.

And new signs our economy is recovering. No sign the job market is, so what are our elected officials doing all about it? ""DOBBS AND JOBS NOW!" is next.


PILGRIM: Some good economic news today. Sales of existing homes posted their largest monthly gain in at least 10 years. As cheaper prices and low rates continue to entice buyers, sales in July rose more than seven percent. That's up for the fourth straight month. And that encouraging report helps us rally a -- spark a rally in stocks -- the major indexes all closed at their best levels of the year -- the Dow gaining 155 points, Nasdaq up 31, S&P rising about two percent.

And tonight we continue our series of special reports, "JOBS NOW!" The Labor Department reports there are 14.5 million unemployed Americans. But those numbers don't represent the total number of those who are out of work and unable to find jobs. That number, as Lisa reports -- Lisa Sylvester reports, is much higher.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cathy Hafer (ph) was an IT professional, who after being laid off took a temporary job for a while delivering food for a restaurant. Jusaier (ph) was a vice president at a major North Carolina bank until March. He now works doing contract sales work through a temp agency. Damian Birkel (ph) has 25 years of corporate experience, most of it in the textile industry. He now works six hours a week at a local community college. All three are underemployed, unable to find full-time work in their chosen profession.

DAMIAN BIRKEL, UNDEREMPLOYED WORKER: When I lost my job, it was a very hard pill to swallow. Then having to come home and tell my family what happened, was just crushing, crushing.

SYLVESTER: Birkel (ph) has formed a group called "Professionals in Transition" in North Carolina. Many of the members fall into the category of underemployed. It's a classification that is much broader than the traditional unemployment number -- those completely out of work, and actively looking for a new job. To get a true picture of those who want a full-time job in America, add to the 14.5 million unemployed, 8.8 million Americans who have part-time jobs, but can't find full-time work. Then there are 6.2 million more Americans who the Labor Department says have been out of work for so long, they have given up, even though they would still like a full-time job.

PROF. PHILIP HARVEY, RUTGERS SCHOOL OF LAW: You add them with the involuntary part-time workers and the unemployed you get a grand total of about 30 million people who want either jobs or more jobs, more work than they currently have.

SYLVESTER: So why would someone take a part-time job when they want full-time work -- because they have bills to pay and a family to feed. As these stopgap jobs become more common, wages are pushed lower, and the part-time jobs have fewer benefits, says Maryland University Professor Peter Morici.

PROF. PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Good jobs with benefits, impossible to get. The economy is melting down. The administration is focused on dividing the pie when the pie is disappearing.


SYLVESTER: The unemployment rate is officially 9.4 percent, but when you add in the number of underemployed and others wanting full- time work, the rate jumps up to 16 percent -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester. Thanks Lisa.

Well as Lisa just mentioned, the national unemployment rate in this country, 9.4 percent. But in some areas of the country, though, the rate is much higher. Las Vegas hit a new record high. The unemployment rate in Las Vegas hit 13.1 percent in July. That's according to the state of Nevada. And the unemployment rate in Vegas last July was just under seven percent. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia had jobless rates over 10 percent in July. Michigan had the highest, 15 percent unemployment.

Coming up, we continue our series of reports on health care around the world, and tonight we're doing Ireland. Also, the White House says there are 47 million uninsured, but are there really that many? Well, that's the topic of tonight's "Face Off" debate and new warnings of an explosion in the number of swine flu cases. Tonight we have a special report on the rush to produce a vaccine.


PILGRIM: The World Health Organization is warning of a, quote, "explosion" in swine flu cases. A regional director for the WHO warns that when flu season officially begins, many countries may see the number of swine flu cases double every few days. Nearly 1,800 people worldwide have died from swine flu, more than 500 of those deaths in the United States.

Health officials are trying to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine before the fall flu season hits. But as Maria Ines Ferre now reports, there are new concerns that the vaccine may have dangerous side effects.


MARIA INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The swine flu vaccine is just weeks into clinical trials and in many parts of the country schools are already back.

SEBELIUS: We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We are still optimistic that we'll have a vaccine available about the 15th of October, but the regimen will take about five weeks. First shot, three weeks delay, second shot, and then about two weeks for full immunities.

DR. MARGARET CHAN, WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: The world is now at the spot of the 2009 influenza pandemic.

FERRE: In June, the World Health Organization declared swine flu a pandemic. Countries around the world have been rushing to produce vaccines.

STEPHEN MORSE, COLUMBIA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: It's a slow process, and our vaccine capacity is very limited. So it's hard to make a lot of it quickly. Unfortunately, over the years, fewer and fewer companies have been making influenza vaccine.

FERRE: Then there's the question of safety. Medical authorities in England urged heightened awareness among neurologists of a rare brain disorder once mass vaccinations are under way. A vaccine administered in the U.S. in the '70s was blamed for cases of paralysis. Medical experts say the only way to know if there is a rare adverse effect is to vaccinate millions of people. Health officials tell CNN that since the trials began two weeks ago, no short term effects have been identified, adding that the CDC monitors people who are vaccinated and can halt a vaccine if something goes wrong.


FERRE: And you may see fewer schools closing this fall. The CDC recently relaxed guidelines, saying local officials must weigh reducing the number of swine flu-infected people with minimizing social disruption. In New York City, for example, where numerous schools were closed this spring, officials won't readily close their schools or disclose the number of swine flu cases. The city says it's unlikely to recommend widespread or prolonged school closures, in part because such closures won't stop the spread and the economic and social disruption would be substantial -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Maria Ines -- thank you.

In Chile, health officials tonight announced that turkeys in two farms were found infected with swine flu. Now this is the first reported case of the swine flu in birds. The flu is made up of a mixture of human, pig and bird genes and virus experts fear that if the swine flu combines with avian flu, it could become much more dangerous.

A controversial new law going into effect today in Mexico -- small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin and other drugs are now legal. The law outlaws personal use amounts. Anyone caught with drugs under that amount will not be prosecuted, but rather encouraged to seek treatment. Among the limits now allowed five grams of marijuana or a half of a gram of cocaine.

Coming up, important lessons from government-run health care overseas and tonight we can learn from Ireland.

Also ahead, who is telling the truth about the number of uninsured in this country? That's our "Face Off" tonight and terror politics, the bombshell revelations in a new book from our first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, and this from today's White House briefing...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does wee-weed up...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if I should do that from the podium.


PILGRIM: We'll discuss that and much more later in the broadcast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PILGRIM: We continue our coverage of health care systems around the world and what we can learn from them. And tonight we have a report on health care in Ireland. Now Ireland ranked 15th in a European survey of quality of health care. The life expectancy in Ireland is almost 80 years, almost two years longer than in this country. One of the problems facing Ireland is shrinking tax revenues and that's making it difficult for Ireland to pay for its health care reform plan.


PILGRIM (voice-over): Five years ago, flushed with prosperity, Ireland started to reform its health care system. It began centralizing health care and offering higher salaries to doctors to switch to the public system of health care and give up their private patients. Richard Saltman of Emory University has studied many European health care systems.

RICHARD SALTMAN, EMORY UNIV. SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Essentially what they did was increase the pay for hospital physicians, increase it quite a good deal, but in return, those hospital physicians had to restrict or eliminate seeing private patients in the hospitals and having them in private beds.

PILGRIM: Every citizen is covered under the public health plan, but 50 percent of the population buys supplemental private insurance to avoid the long wait times on elective surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the public sector, one can wait up to three years for a hip replacement or a corneal lens transplant.

PILGRIM: Patients in need of immediate care often flood emergency rooms says Bruce Pollack, who has studied health care in Ireland.

BRUCE POLLACK, ACADEMY FOR INTERNATIONAL HEALTH STUDIES: In hospitals, waiting times in emergency rooms for urgent or emergent care in Ireland is longer, perhaps, than I've seen it in any other developed nation.

PILGRIM: There is one doctor for every 333 people, compared to one for every 416 in the United States. Ireland spends 7.5 percent of its GDP on health care, compared to 16 percent in the United States. And $3,424 per person compared to $7,290 in the United States. Life expectancy, 79.7 years compared to 78 in the United States.

Costs are starting to strain the system as tax revenues decline in the current economic downturn. One thing Ireland has done well is foster the development of the pharmaceutical industry.

POLLACK: The government was providing significant tax benefits to entice the pharmaceutical industry to invest in the manufacture of chemicals in Ireland, it actually helped fuel the economic engine of the Celtic Tiger, and so there is a very congenial relationship between the ministry and the industry.


PILGRIM: Now, there has been so relief in demand for services in the last few years. Many of the legal immigrants that flooded Ireland in the boom times have now returned to their home countries after the recession wiped out their jobs. So that has taken some of the pressure off of the health care system.

We will continue our coverage with health care systems around the world next week, and we'll report on health care in Italy, Norway, Portugal, New Zealand and Turkey.

Meanwhile, in this country, President Obama continues to defend his health care plan, despite rising opposition. Among Obama's key selling points, those 47 million Americans that he says have no insurance. But, is that number accurate? Well, that is the subject of our "Face Off," tonight.

Igor Volsky with the Center for American Progress says the 47 million number may actually be too low. And Sally Pipes, the CEO of Pacific Research Institute meanwhile says citing the 47 million number is just a way for people to force their message.

So, thank you both for joining us. And let's get into it. Igor, I would like to actually start with you. Let's talk about the insurance numbers first. Break down this 47 million for us, and tell us what you believe is accurate.

IGOR VOLSKY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think 47 million, of course, the official census number is about 45.7 million, and that number is really too low because of the economic recession. We know that about 14,000 Americans lose health insurance every single day in if this economic environment, so that means that about between the August recess and Labor Day when Congress comes back, about half a million Americans would have lost their health care coverage. And 47 million, of course, is the number that includes young Americans, old Americans, and includes some undocumented Americans. It's in some ways a fluid number, but I think it's only one indicator of our very broken health care system.

PILGRIM: Let's take -- let's break out the numbers a little bit, and we do have a graphic to do that -- because it's very interesting where this number is. We have -- we have -- it's a census -- U.S. Census Bureau that said, what, 46 million apparently, or approximately 46 million have no health insurance, 15 percent of the population. But then when you really look at it, it's 10 to 25 million illegal immigrants are included. We have 14 million who are eligible for insurance, but have not signed up. We have 10 million who choose not to buy insurance and then 13 million, some say, are the true number of the uninsured. Sally, what do you think about...

VOLSKY: You know, Kit...

Well,-- let me just turn to Sally, Igor, for a second and get her thoughts on that -- Sally.

SALLY PIPES, PACIFIC RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, just because you don't have health insurance in this country doesn't mean that you don't get health care. But when you break down, as you have with the Census Bureau, there really -- you know, eight to 10 million Americans who are chronically ill without health insurance for two years or more.

But, I think it's interesting of that number, you know, about 14 million are people who are eligible for Medicaid and state children's health insurance and haven't signed up. And I think it's because a lot of people don't want to sign up with Medicaid, because they fear that they will have to, you know -- they'll have a hard time getting a doctor, because docs don't like the low reimbursement rates from government programs.

But, there are about 17 million Americans who are earning over $50,000 a year, and, you know, three quarters of them -- two-thirds of them are young people who are between 18 and 34, and because of the mandates on insurance companies, these invincible, the people who don't have a lot of assets, who don't -- probably won't get sick, they don't want to buy insurance, they think it's a bad deal.

So, that's a major fact that these people -- if we could reduce state mandates, we would have a lot more of these young people going into the insurance market, and into the individual market and getting insurance. But, the number -- are we going to throw out our health care system for the eight million who are chronically ill and without insurance for two years or more? Those are the people we have to care for.

PILGRIM: Igor, go ahead.

VOLSKY: Well, Kitty, Sally is talking about the individual health care market. We know from a common wealth study that about 12.6 million Americans were denied coverage in the individual markets, an inadequate solution. But, I don't want to get lost in these statistics. I think the reason why most Americans are uninsured is because health insurance is just too expensive. Premiums alone have increased by about 119 percent over the last 10 years. And 80 percent of that 47 million uninsured are a working class Americans, with a member of the family who has a full-time job. Americans can't afford health care coverage.

And I think in terms of Medicaid, Sally makes a good point, and states makes it easier for people to sign up for Medicaid. But I think it's again important to note that the number of insured, that 47 million, is just one sliver of the problem. We also have 25 million Americans with insurance, but they find their insurance inadequate, not enough to afford their health care bills. And, of course, we know that about 63 percent of Americans have filed for bankruptcy have medical bills as a factor that contributes to the reason for the -- the reason why they went into bankruptcy in the first place.

PILGRIM: Let me throw out -- I'm sorry, but let me throw out a question. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, it's called EMTALA, that actually requires that everyone gets emergency treatment if they go to a hospital. How does that factor into this whole debate, because really, everyone can get treated if they're in an emergency situation. Just -- how does that skew this debate? Let me turn to Sally for a second.

PIPES: Yes. EMTALA is a law that Pete Stark from California brought in, and it's true, no one can be denied health care in this country. They can turn up at an emergency room, a community hospital or a community clinic. You know, it's interesting a lot of people use emergency rooms and pay out of pocket. But when politicians start talking about the hidden tax that the uninsured are causing people with private insurance to pay a lot more, in fact, the uninsured only add about one percent to the cost of premiums from those people who have insurance. It's the Medicare and Medicaid low reimbursement rates that add 10 percent to the cost of those people who have insurance. So, it's a very important point. Government programs are not reimbursing.


VOLSKY: Well, I think that, you know -- I don't understand -- I don't know where Sally got her statistics for 10 percent. We know that the cost shift that each family pays in their premiums is about $1,100. It's not adequate, the emergency room, for Americans who don't have insurance. You don't to condition to get to a point where it requires emergency care.

If Americans have access to preventative care, they can treat a condition before it becomes a dire condition, before you need to go to an emergency room. I think we're all very proud to live in a country that treats Americans in an emergency room setting. Now we take that next step and treat Americans before the condition becomes so fatal that you need to go into an emergency room.

We can save money by preventing chronic conditions that we're not spending 80 percent of our health care dollars treating very expensive conditions like cancer. Let's prevent them and save this country, and improve Americans -- the health care of Americans.

PILGRIM: Sally, we have to make it quick.

PIPES: Yeah, 82 percent of Americans like the health care they have. We have a problem, because 64 percent of Americans get their health care through their employer. If you lose your job, you lose your insurance. We need portable health insurance. And one point on preventative care. The CBO has said that preventative care is not going to reduce the cost of health care. It's going to increase it. So I think Americans need universal choice in health care...


VOLSKY: Well, the CBO doesn't support savings in a health care system, Sally, you know that.

PILGRIM: All right. We really have to hold it there.


PILGRIM: OK, I'm sorry, we do have...

PIPES: Universal choice leads to universal coverage. Thank you.

PILGRIM: All right, thanks so much, Sally Pipes and Igor Volsky, thank you. .

Lisa Sylvester has an update on other stories we're following tonight -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Kitty. Hurricane Bill is now a Category 2 storm, but forecasters believe it could gain strength as it nears Bermuda. Bill is expected to pass between Bermuda and the United States. But, the east coast is already bracing for its impact. Many states have closed beaches because of the threat of dangerous waves and rip currents.

Car dealerships across the country are preparing for a very busy, busy weekend after the administration announced the Cash for Clunkers Program, it will end Monday night. The administration calls the program a success beyond anyone's imagination, but many dealerships complain, they have been too slow in receiving their rebates. More than 200 dealerships in New York pulled out of the program earlier this week.

And it was casual Friday today at the New York Stock Exchange. The Gap clothing store celebrated its 40th anniversary by giving jeans to more than 1,000 traders at the exchange. The traders had to keep the rest of the dress code, though -- a jacket and tie still there. The Gap, which is listed on the exchange as GPS, ended the day up more than three percent.

And those are some of the stories we're following tonight -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester.

Still to come, stunning new charges from the former secretary of Homeland Security about the political pressure, the terror alert level, and the election of 2004.

Also ahead tonight, charges of a conspiracy by republicans to block health care legislation.

And the head of the Federal Reserve says the world economy is headed out of recession. We'll have all of that and much more, next.


PILGRIM: Joining me now in Washington from "Politico" is Eamon Javers, and here in New York, editor of is James Taranto and columnist for, Dan Gerstein.

And gentleman, thank you so much for being here.

You know, we really have to start with the comments that President Obama made that had us all just wondering what he was talking about. Let's listen to what he said, first.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT: There is something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY: Let's do this in a way that is family friendly. I think it's when people get all nervous for no particular reason.


PILGRIM: All right, but Eamon, let's start with you. I mean, are we really at the time in August where we debate these kind of things?

EAMON JAVERS, POLITICO: Apparently. Apparently, we are. Yeah, look, I mean, wee-weed up is certainly a new one to me, but I think we all sort of understand what the president is trying to say there, that's sort of code for a somewhat more vulgar expression he was trying not to use and he was trying to make it family-friendly, and he did, and people have been having a chuckle about it ever since.

PILGRIM: But, it does speak to the debate -- James.

JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Well, I have an alternative explanation. I think what the president was trying to say was that in Washington, everyone tends to get wee-weed up about his level of incompetence. They call it the Peter Principle.

DAN GERSTEIN, FORBES.COM: I was going to say, I can't wait for the Jib-Jab video of "Yes, We Can," which is inevitable.

PILGRIM: You'll have to take credit for the line, though. Let's go on to what he was actually talking about, which is health care, and we do have something that Robert Gibbs said today, but it's pretty interesting. Let's listen to that.


GIBBS: He continues to be very resolved, to getting something done on this issue. The president continues to believe that the worst possible outcome is doing nothing.


PILGRIM: All right, but if this passes without a single Republican vote, I mean, would that be a victory -- Aemon, talk to me about it.

JAVERS: Yeah, in political terms, it would be. I mean, it would be giving up the opportunity for a big bipartisan victory. But at this point, the White House has got to start to decide brass tacks. Do you want a bipartisan defeat, or a partisan victory? They might be willing to settle for a partisan victory, if they can even get that, and there is no guarantees that they can corral all 60 senators in the United States Senate and get Democrats on board, all on the same plan, whatever it is. But, they might settle for a win of any kind here at this point, given the way this debate has gone south.

GERSTEIN: OK, I would say this is a moot debate, because the reality is the way the Blue Dog Democrats are, and the moderate caucus in the Senate, the president is not going to get votes without doing something like cutting off the public option, reducing the costs that will get moderate Republican support. How much moderate Republican support is hard to say. But I don't think you can pass a purely partisan bill, because if he can't get the moderate republicans, he won't get the centrist Democrats.

PILGRIM: What do you think, James?

TARANTO: And as a political matter it Pyrrhic victory if they won, because this would be the Democrats taking full responsibility, the Democrats would be -- would totally own this in the face of a public revolt against this legislation. And they would be taking responsibility for a bill that would be very expensive, that is very unpopular, and that is even potentially deadly.

PILGRIM: You know, I like to bring up two things. One is the poll that shows the government creating a health insurance plan. Would you support the government, and it's really slipping. We have -- in June, it was 62 percent that would support, and now it's 52 percent. We also have Nancy Pelosi at a press conference in San Francisco, saying the public option must be part of any of the health care legislation. Let's take a listen to what she said.


REP NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option.


PILGRIM: That's pretty intense -- Dan.

GERSTEIN: And what the really strange thing was, she was openly contradicted today by her House majority leader, Steny Hoyer who said I think we may have to get rid of the public option. And I think that perfectly encapsulates what's wrong with the House of Representatives, is they bungled this from the beginning and the big mistake President Obama was subcontracting the policymaking and the leadership on this to the House. He over learned the lessons of the Clinton's in the '93-'94 health care debate. And I think the only way he is going to rescue this is to reassert leadership, put out his own plan and explain to the American people what's in it.


JAVERS: Yeah, something just a little bit more subtle may be going on here which is that liberals are starting to realize that the public option is not really a viable option to pass, so they've got to use it as a bargaining chip here in the debate. So, it helps Nancy Pelosi to be going out there and drawing dramatic lines in the sand, right now, and saying how important this is to liberals and then when they give it up later, they can demand extreme concessions from the other side and say we're giving up one of our most important items, you got to give up something good, too. And so there's some horse trading going on, here. I think a lot of this is pre-deal positioning at this point.

PILGRIM: You know, we have to take a quick break, and we'll get to James on that, and we'll be back in just a second.


PILGRIM: We're back with our panel. And we were cutting off James at the end about Nancy Pelosi's comment.

TARANTO: Well, I just want to make the point that I think it's a mistake to see this and see this failure in progress purely in political terms. There are good, substantive reasons why this is failing. You know, let's cut past the jargon a bit and talk about the public option demands that the government basically becomes an insurance company, the federal government becomes an insurance company. It's like the post office competing with FedEx and UPS, to use the president's analogy.

There is a terrific YouTube video that has clips of various Democrats including Secretary Sebelius when she was still governor of Kansas , saying what they want is what they called single payer. This is a government monopoly on health insurance. The government would be the only insurer like they have in Canada. And I -- and that the public option is a way of putting private insurance companies out of business, and leading the way into single payer. So, there are good reasons why people are afraid of that. They don't want a government know monopoly.

PILGRIM: You know, Obama is accusing Republicans of basically standing in his way of any health care reform. Let's listen to what he had to say.


OBAMA: I think early on there was a decision made by the Republican leadership that said, look, let's not give them a victory. Maybe we can have a replay of 1993-'94 when Clinton came in. He failed on health care and we won in the midterm elections and we got the majority.


PILGRIM: That's a dark accusation -- Dan.

GERSTEIN: Well, you know, I think the problem is a classic Washington, there's a little bit of truth you go around everywhere. I think the president's right to a large degree. The Republicans made a calculation that the president was weakened, Democrats were weakened on this issue, we're going to go in for the kill, we're going to try to kill this bill. But one of the reasons Republicans are trying to kill the bill is because they honestly don't believe in it. And if you don't factor that into the equation and look at the fact that there are a lot of centrist Democrats who are skittish for the very same reasons, then you start to -- it gets a lot more complex and you got to separate the politics to the policy. And I think, to James' point, there is a fundamentally policy disagreement here. And one of the reasons we're in this bind is because there's so much confusion about the policy is. There's five bills going through the Congress.

PILGRIM: Yeah, no, that's true.

Eamon, the last word on this.

JAVERS: Well, you just have to look at the history, I mean, losing health care for Bill Clinton was so damaging to his presidency back in 1993, it led into really big losses in the 1994 congressional election for Democrats. Everybody in Washington now is looking at that history and trying to either replay it or totally avoid that scenario depending on where they stand.

PILGRIM: OK, James, last word.

TARANTO: But how can the Republicans be sinking this bill? Which party is it that has a 77-seat majority in the House and has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate? I'll give you two guesses and I'll give you a hint, it's not the Republicans.

PILGRIM: All right, on that note, Eamon Javers, James Taranto, and Dan Gerstein, thank you very much for being with us.

A reminder now to join Lou on the radio Monday through Friday for the LOU DOBBS SHOW and go online to find your local listings. You can also follow Lou at Lou Dobbs News on

Still ahead, he received a Bronze Star for training hundreds of Iraqi soldiers to become better fighters. Our "Hero" is next.


PILGRIM: And now "Heroes," it's our tribute to the men and women who serve the country in uniform. And tonight we honor Major Aaron Bert, a proud member of our National Guard. Five years ago, Bert was given the remarkable task of training hundreds of Iraqi soldiers. Bill Tucker has his story.


MAJ AARON BERT, WASHINGTON STATE NATIONAL GUARD: I want to get that decision made up today.

BILL TUCKER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aaron Bert has an innate desire to make a difference. As a citizen he manages capital projects in the Seattle Parks Department. As a soldier, he was in Baghdad in 2004. He was one of only four National Guard captains charged with training some 700 Iraqi security forces. BERT: We fought in an urban environment that was chaotic. And it was trying to adapt our thinking to a new fight, where reaching out, making connections with the populace, you know, the old adage of winning the hearts and minds, was coming into play, but it wasn't in vogue yet.

The job that we were doing was a job that normally Special Forces, you know, Green Berets, do. And yet here we're a bunch of national guardsmen. I was a finance analyst at the time with the city of Seattle. We had a schoolteacher with us. We had a mechanic who worked on high-end hot rod cars. We had a guy who was actually a sheriff's officer. I mean, we were like a motley band of, you know, the citizen soldier.

TUCKER: Aaron's return to civilian life was extremely difficult.

BERT: Trying to reintegrate with my family. I mean, my son at the time was two. I'd been gone for half his life already. My daughter was a little bit older. The friction of trying to reintegrate to a married life was difficult, as well.

TUCKER: In 2008, Aaron received orders to mobilize for Afghanistan, to train members of their police force.

BERT: There were ghosts on the payroll, people were being paid off, goods that the American people had paid for were being stolen outright. You have to show them what right looks like. They may not do it, but you set the conditions in which they can make those right choices.

TUCKER: Aaron blogged about his experience in Afghanistan for the "Seattle Times."

BERT: And they called it "the other war." What I tried to do with this blog is maybe take it to maybe just a little different level of observations about, you know, one soldier in the middle of something larger, and how it's impacting him.

TUCKER: Since returning, Aaron has been surprised by the lack of attention the war in Afghanistan has received.

BERT: We're entering year, what is it, nine almost in Afghanistan and there's no dialogue, and it just amazes me, because, what does it say about us as a society, as a democracy, if our citizens are not engaged, you know, in world affairs, where we have people overseas implementing the bill of our government. The silence amazes me.

TUCKER: His desire to win hearts and minds at home is just as important to Aaron as it is on the front lines.

Bill Tucker, CNN, Seattle.


PILGRIM: Our thanks to Major Bert and all of our brave men and women in uniform. Thanks for being with us tonight. Up next is CAMPBELL BROWN."