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Ron Wyden
Sen. Ron Wyden

Among the oddities of the budget deal are those things that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget (the unprecedented congressional removal of gray wolves from the Endangered Species list? Thanks, Jon Tester and Max Baucus!). Here's a surprising one: Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) Affordable Care Act provision that would allow more flexibility for lower-income workers in health insurance has been sacrificed as part of the deal, even though it has no budget impact in this year's budget.

Wyden's Free Choice vouchers would allow qualifying low-income workers access to the health insurance exchange where they could shop for more affordable insurance programs. He writes about it at HuffPo:

Under the new health law, Americans whose income falls below 400 percent of the federal poverty level and whose employer-sponsored health insurance premiums are between 8 and 9.8 percent of their total income will be exempt from having to purchase health coverage but will not be able to access the exchanges or qualify for government assistance to buy insurance.

If an employee's share of their health insurance premiums rise to 9.9 percent of their total income, they would be allowed to shop for more affordable health insurance in the new health insurance exchanges, with a taxpayer-funded subsidy. But again, at 9.8 percent and below their only options will be to pay for their employer-sponsored coverage or to go without health insurance altogether.

Had Free Choice Vouchers survived, they would have given this group a third option: to take the tax free money that their employer would otherwise contribute to the cost of their health insurance and use it to buy a more affordable health insurance plan at the exchange. This provision would have meant that fewer Americans would have to go without health insurance and by leveraging private dollars versus relying solely on taxpayer funded subsidies, it would have ultimately saved money. If employer premiums continued to rise, more and more Americans would have become eligible for this option and more choice and competition would have been injected into the health insurance market....

Not every employer likes this idea that Americans might be able to get good health insurance outside of their job or union. Which is why some of the most powerful interest groups spent most of 2009 fighting the inclusion of even this small version of Free Choice Vouchers into the health reform law.

There's no budget saving in 2011 by sacrificing this program. It's not operational until the exchanges are, in 2014. As far as reform goes, it was pretty small bore, creating a modicum of competition for this group of people. But what it did do was, for the first time, decouple health insurance and the workplace, an idea that many employers objected to on the theory that they'd lose younger and healthier employees in their plans. If health insurance reform works the way it is supposed to, that won't be a problem for employers; they'll still be able to afford coverage for all employees. The real problem seems to be in ceding a captive group of employees, who would have more freedom if they had more choice.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I thought all Friday afternoon was when bad news (10+ / 0-)

    gets dumped on us.

    They only call it Class War when we fight back.

    by lineatus on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:28:11 AM PDT

  •  Obama and Reid are amazing negotiators. (14+ / 0-)

    Gave up trying to figure it out, and my head got lost along the way.

    by Beelzebud on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:29:27 AM PDT

    •  yep, and yet (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bay of arizona, esquimaux

      Pelosi is the one that got "demoted".  I've seen better leadership refereeing Chief Jay Strongbow's wrestling matches.

      "Pelosi was the only damn one of the entire lot who showed any ounce of leadership the last two years"-- The Dead Man

      by musicalhair on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:47:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hate to break it to you, but she isn't much better (0+ / 0-)

        Way too many things were "off the table" during her leadership.    She's part of the reason why we did nothing with that solid majority.  

        Gave up trying to figure it out, and my head got lost along the way.

        by Beelzebud on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 01:22:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't want to get into a (0+ / 0-)

          debate over "much".  I agree with you about what and where she went wrong, but I do truly think Reid and Obama were so very much worse than her.  She would've been a disappointment to me if I wasn't so disheartened by Reid and Obama.

          "Pelosi was the only damn one of the entire lot who showed any ounce of leadership the last two years"-- The Dead Man

          by musicalhair on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 01:40:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Like releasing the 2011 budget (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mcmom

          the ultimate dereliction of duty by the democratic party. Now we're in this HUGE mess because the Dems -- when they had the majority in House and Senate -- decided back in June 2010 not to release a 2011 budget. Why? They wanted to protect the blue dogs in their reelection campaigns. That worked out.

          An Inspirational Poem: Follow me on Twitter @Sloopydrew! Tell me you're from DKos and I'll also follow you!

          by sloopydrew on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 04:58:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Gray wolves!?!? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bear83, sloopydrew

      This idiocy has to be screamed from rooftops!

      The public has to be made aware of this lunacy. The GOP was threatening a shutdown over killing wolves!! Anyone who thinks that this was really about money needs to be shown this diary!

      Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are worthless. -Edward Abbey

      by beefydaddy18 on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:54:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Obama Cuts For Lower income people.. (9+ / 0-)

    So the Rich keep the Obama Tax Cut of 2010.

    There's the Election right there..

    And with Medicare and SS cuts coming down the pike, Sooner rather than later..

    Amazingly Dumb, Shortsighted, and this was a cornerstone of his Health Insurance Unlimited Perpetual Mandated profit Act.

    Amazing..

    What else does the American People Lose so Obama gets HIS Top 25 tax cut to be kept, and expanded..

    Sickening.

    Simply Sickening..

    Thank goodness he can get Aetna, Goldman Sachs, and every other bank and Insurance Company to get him re-elected.  He can count on his constituency..

  •  Any freedom or ability to organize (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, HoundDog, esquimaux, sloopydrew

    is always bad. BAD. Really BAD. Don't believe me? Ask your friendly authoritarian GOPer.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:32:46 AM PDT

  •  I am getting close to ALL OUT. (8+ / 0-)

    EOM

    Rick
    -9.63 -6.92
    Fox News - We Distort, You Deride

    by rick on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:32:51 AM PDT

    •  Every day (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mchestnutjr, 714day, sloopydrew, mcmom

      it seems to be something else that just sucks the passion right out of my soul...

      I've always known the Dems were largely tools of the corporatocracy, but I at least figured that if they were in charge, I wouldn't hate every single thing done in DC. But these congressional dems (with a few notable exceptions) has gone so right of center since Obama took office, that I have no desire to support them.

      Now, I know the argument about incremental steps and all the obstacles...but still I just want to scream, Get some balls! Stand for something! Have convictions!

      And now that Social Security and Medicare are in the White House's sites...I'm sure more good news is coming our way...aaauuuugh.

      Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are worthless. -Edward Abbey

      by beefydaddy18 on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:03:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's a getting closer (0+ / 0-)

        going faster than a roller-coaster.
        Cuts to the poor will surely come our way.
        A-hey. A-hey, hey!

        An Inspirational Poem: Follow me on Twitter @Sloopydrew! Tell me you're from DKos and I'll also follow you!

        by sloopydrew on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 05:01:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  After the great giveaway of no single payer (6+ / 0-)

    all this is insignificant.

    Democrats sold themselves real cheap on that one, even by Democratic standards.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:39:14 AM PDT

  •  I hope there will (12+ / 0-)

    be intelligent debate re: the ramifications of the de-listing a species via Congressional mandate rather than pursuant to the Act.  Fundamentally, this rider has neutered the entire Endangered Species Act.  Rather than the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce having authority (as stated in the ESA) over listing and de-listing based on science, Congress can now cherry-pick which animals can be de-listed based on politics.

    I wonder if there is an argument the delegation of authority clause of the ESA would have to be changed for Congress to de-list any species.  There seems to be tension between two branches of the government.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:40:16 AM PDT

    •  We are not far (5+ / 0-)

      Babanistan where politicians decide what is science and religion and billionaires decide who is politician.

      •  Here's my problem with (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        smiley7, bear83, Iberian, mcmom

        this rider -- Congress has the authority to write and pass legislation -- they did that with the ESA.  The Act specifically delegates authority to the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to create regulations regarding listing and de-listing.  The regulatory scheme is part of the executive branch.  Administrative law is very specific as to how regulations are created or deleted.  Congress should have zero authority over the regulatory process which requires notice and comment.  

        Changing the ESA for this specific animal without changing Interior's and Commerce's authority is utter bullshite.

        " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

        by gchaucer2 on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:53:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Something you glossed over (13+ / 0-)

    Those Montanan Senators who fought to make endangered gray wolves not endangered anymore so Montanans go get their wolf pelt trophies without big guv'ment getting their way? Both Democrats. From the link in your a diary:

    Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, said the budget bill included his proposal to remove gray wolves in Montana and Idaho from the federal list of endangered species. This would enable the two states to manage their wolf populations and to allow hunting of the animals if they choose.

    “This wolf fix isn’t about one party’s agenda,” Mr. Tester said. “It’s about what’s right for Montana and the West.”

    Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, had urged Mr. Obama to remove the gray wolf from the list as part of any budget agreement.

    “Montanans don’t need D.C. bureaucrats telling us how to manage wolves in our state,” Mr. Baucus said.

    Now, see why gray wolves have to die via human-induced unnatural selection without any federal oversight:

    Montana officials want to conduct a regulated hunt of wolves, which prey on elk and other big game in the western part of the state.

    "Big game." Not "other wildlife"--"big game." More elk and other big game means more dollars in revenue from hunting. It has nothing to do with the environment or protecting these animals. It's all about who gets to kill the animals--wolves or humans--and who gets to profit from that. And the wolves lost.

    Thank you Democratic Senators Baucus and Tester. I'd expect this kind of red-neck, short-sighted , destroy-the-environment attitude from a teabagger. But I guess whatever will get you re-elected, huh?

    •  Yes, they do suck. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, beefydaddy18, bear83, smiley7

      The entire country is for nothing but financial profit. Mammon rules and everything decent is declared unnecessary and counterproductive. Any special interest group with two quarters to rub together can buy a congressman or senator from either party. Not all of them, but enough of them. They must be taught to fear something worse than reduced profit for their masters.

    •  Not to mention... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, bear83, smiley7, schnecke21

      ...that the elk herd is healthier when culled by wolves, invariably focusing on the weak (due to age and/or health) rather than rack size, the focus of hunters as a group.

    •  So is Ken Salazar! A BAD Democrat. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

      by Catskill Julie on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:54:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What's So Sacred About Wolves? (0+ / 0-)

      I agree that they shouldn't be exterminated, but as long as they've recovered enough to survive and thrive, I really don't see why they can't be hunted. It's a judgment call for sure, so I could be persuaded by the evidence.

      If you expect to return to 1850, it's not gonna happen. Americans want their beef, and yeah, some want to hunt big game. For me, yes to the beef, but I'm not a hunter. I don't have anything against them, though.

      In fact, without the hunters, a whole lot environmentalism simply wouldn't happen. Example: If you love wetlands, you should pause to say a prayer of thanks to Ducks Unlimited. Yup, they shoot ducks. Who require wetlands.

  •  No budget saving (11+ / 0-)

    "There's no budget saving in 2011 by sacrificing this program."

    This should be a clue that 'deficit reduction' is a phony smokescreen to launch an all out attack on programs benefitting the poor.  

    Go ahead bet against us. We're getting rolled.

    by Pacific Blue on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:44:52 AM PDT

  •  The United States Government is now openly an (9+ / 0-)

    instrument, a weapon of class war, wielded with equally bloody effectiveness by both the right and left hand...your taxes are the sixpence the condemned pays the executioner for his work. You keep paying and he'll keep chopping.

    •  How sad. The government is suppossed to be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      socalmonk, mcmom

      the one social instrument that advances the common good, against the free market efforts of special interest groups, businesses, and even private citizens trying to maximize their own interests.

      Demming tell us that 'if we optimize sub-systems, we will sub-optimize the whole.'    And, 'only by deliberately trading-off, and sub-optimizing the sub-systems, can we optimize the whole system.'

      What happens if we have no public institutions that will even attempt to "optimize" the system for the common good of all?

      Perhaps, our only hope, is education, to get the powerful special interest groups, to realize that if they help us improve the common good of all, the public good, they will get a slightly smaller piece of a much bigger pie.

      But, how realistic is this, if we can't even get Democratic representatives to mention that defense spending cuts are an alternative additional way to reduce the deficit, other than just savage cuts to social  programs.

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:53:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  From an employers POV, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, wsexson, mcmom

    one of the key features of our "healthcare" system is that it effectively keeps most of the peons in line. Lose your job, lose your healthcare. (Just try making the COBRA payments).  Any assault on this system, giving workers more "mobility" is a threat to the employers keeping workers complacent and effectively in their place.

    "Education is dangerous - Every educated person is a future enemy" Hermann Goering (NRSC?)

    by irate on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:46:52 AM PDT

  •  ah. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beefydaddy18, bear83, mcmom

    And we hope this guy will go to the mat for medicare and social security?

    fat. fucking. chance.

  •  War on Wolves thanks also go to Ken Salazar, (6+ / 0-)

    the mining-loving, grazing-loving cabinet Secretary who is turning Interior (even more) into a Department by and for private corporate interests who exploit PUBLIC land to profit the few, while paying virtually nothing for it.  

    Along with Senators Tester and Baucus, Secretary Salazar is not very interested in protecting OUR public land and wildlife for OUR children.

    Just another business-friendly, anti-environmental appointment by this Administration. I can't believe I just got an email from the League of Conservation Voters asking me to thank Obama!
    NY Times: Wolf Delisting survives Budget Fight
    Nature:
    Budget deal dumps wolf from endangered list - April 11, 2011t

    Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

    by Catskill Julie on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:48:46 AM PDT

  •  "Step by Step by Step," Lucille Ball (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 11:53:51 AM PDT

  •  so the GOP is opposed to (5+ / 0-)

    a free market mechanism where a consumer can buy insurance from any provider he wants to?

    I don't quite get it.

    Shall we return to "company towns" where you have to buy your house from your employer and finance it with payroll deductions?

    •  I think the ideal the GOP is aiming for is that we (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux

      will all be in free-market prisions, thereby saving  us a lot on housing.

      Somewhere around 1800s - early 1900s  prisioners somewhere had to work all day on "stairmaster" like devices that produced electricity.

      I saw some photo's and, at first, thought it was a snark.

      But, maybe this is why the GOP is not worried about global warming.

      Almost half our population occassionally experiments with illegal drugs.  If we can just get all these people in prisions, on modern electrical power generating bicycles, imagine how much power, and profit we could generate?

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:01:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jesus Christ. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux, mcmom

    This was my only hope to get an insurance plan that was reasonably affordable.  Now I'm stuck with wage slavery until I die, which under my current health insurance plan might be sooner rather than later.

    That can mean only one thing: Republicans think all the jobs are trapped inside women's uteruses. - BiPM

    by Jensequitur on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:02:18 PM PDT

  •  It's not small bore. A bit more details: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bay of arizona, shanikka

    I wouldn't call the free choice voucher small bore. When you consider the totality of the reform, it was actually a pretty big deal.

    First, the reform applied only to employees of large employers who have lots of low-wage workers. Large retail establishments come to mind, for example. Those big corporations who offered healthcare plans to their workers that they couldn't really afford, would get the voucher.

    So, for example, lets say you work at Wal-mart and make $8 an hour. You take home $1280 a month. Then Wal-mart offers a lowest cost healthcare plan that costs you $200 per month in premiums. That's still more than the 9% of income cap that the ACA requires.

    The employer then has to kick in a voucher for you to go buy insurance on the exchange. The great thing is that the voucher has to be equal to the HIGHEST QUALITY PLAN the employer offers. So in other words, if the best plan at walmart costs a walmart exec $5000 per year, you get a $5000 voucher.

    Then if you go out and find a plan on the exchange that costs you $1200 a year, YOU GET TO POCKET THE DIFFERENCE. That's a fat $3800 bonus for the worker and they get their insurance. That is the reason big business hated it.

    This was one of the best nuggets in the ACA for the working poor.

    •  They were a lot of good nuggets in the ACA (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shanikka, esquimaux

      they were all delayed for years and Dems never defended it.

      "Only vigilance and resistance to this baby dictator, Barack Hussein Obama, can prevent the Khmer Rouge from appearing in this country." Michael Savage

      by bay of arizona on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:21:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  At least they can still get in the exchanges (0+ / 0-)

      The major sticking point, of course, was over who would subsidize it. The Wal-Mart worker will now get a fat taxpayer subsidy instead of an employer subsidy. But they will still get their insurance, which is the most important thing.

      Wally World will also be on the hook for the employer penalty for every worker who rejects their crap insurance and joins the exchanges ($2,000?).

      (-2.38, -3.28) Independent thinker

      by TrueBlueDem on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:26:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excuse me. I have to go throw a temper tantrum. (0+ / 0-)

    "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing." - Thomas Paine

    by blueoregon on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:09:58 PM PDT

    •  I wrote a letter to our local paper (0+ / 0-)

      yesterday, mostly about the 'agreement' that prevented a govenment shut down. As soon as I hit 'send, ' I thought, this will never get printed - it's too angry.
      Well, that's how I feel these days, very angry, and disgusted and frustrated,  - with our govenment and the direction we're heading.

  •  All the more reason to work like hell to get Dems (0+ / 0-)

    elected in 2012 and put all of the provisions we want and more back into law.

    It's not over unless we make it over by not voting or not being focused on getting Dems elected.

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." ~Albert Einstein

    by ParkRanger on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:23:04 PM PDT

  •  Going without is a real possibility (0+ / 0-)

    with pre-existing condition reforms kicking in at the same time.  Until there is some indication of how real consumers will react, much about the future of health care in America, including the funding of Medicare, is speculative.

  •  The Grey Wolf will be protected (0+ / 0-)

    not by the Obama government but by citizens and NGO's.

    http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/...

    The Feds delisting them does declare "open season, shoot on sight" for ranchers and any gun owner. How many will be slaughtered while the legal action is ongoing, we do not know.

    This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

    by Agathena on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:30:31 PM PDT

    •  Wolves in Idaho and Montana (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenbastard, Jake Johnson

      are delisted, left for States to control, hunters to shoot. Those two states border Yellowston Park where the wolves are protected and of course they wonder across the park borders into these two states.

      This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

      by Agathena on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 12:38:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If They're Not Endangered ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... then I see no reason to treat them as if they are. The population can be tracked, and at some point hunting can resume. It reminds me a little bit of alligators. When I was a kid, they were thought to be either threatened or endangered. These days, I believe the population is a million just in Florida.

        I think some people just don't like hunting or hunters at all. I'm not a hunter, but I have nothing against them.

        •  The wild pop is 1 million? or are you including (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jake Johnson

          alligator farms?

          This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

          by Agathena on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 03:51:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If they were not endangered the Center for (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jake Johnson

          Biodiversity would not be alarmed, would not be suing against the de-listing.

          This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

          by Agathena on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 03:52:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'd Like More Data (0+ / 0-)

            Wolves are popular these days. You know, Kevin Costner and all that. I'm not "anti-wolf," but I'm also not automatically in love with every wolf on the Back Forty, either. Pretty easy for the city dwellers to wax eloquent about the majesty of the wolves, until ...

            Same goes for cougars, by the way. Oregon has prohibited the use of dogs to hunt cougars, which has effectively made it impossible to hunt them. As a result, the cougar population is growing very rapidly. In some counties out east, the deer population is down by one-third, and the ranchers pack heat just in case.

            I think that's another case of people assuming that these animals don't recover. Everything's a balance. I'm not sure I want to be the endangered species on the trail, myself. Same goes for the grizzlies. I don't blame the people in Idaho who are resisting the reintroduction of grizzlies to the Sawtooth Mountains.

      •  From the Center for Biodiversity, (0+ / 0-)
        If the rider isn't stripped from the budget bill, the Idaho state government is committed to killing as many wolves as possible through methods that could include aerial gunning of radio-collared wolves, trapping and poisoning. In Oregon, where the eastern part of the state may be part of congressionally mandated wolf delisting, livestock interests are demanding "zero tolerance" and carte blanche to kill the state's two wolf packs.

        This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

        by Agathena on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 03:50:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  All the Accomplishments (0+ / 0-)

    of this administration and the Democrat's voted in as a peaceful change of power are drifting away like smoke always does. What's left once the smoke has cleared is the devastation done to our country, the people, the law and our representative system. Tell me again why this is the lesser of two evils or better then. It's undemocratic and needs to go. What do we win when we support a party or a pol who's agenda is the destruction of the general welfare and the very principles and laws our republic was founded on. This is not pragmatic  politically it's ass backwards. What the point of enabling the real enemies of the people and the earth? Nobody wins except the same enemies of humanity that always proclaim the inevitability of their winning the future. How cowardly to call this our only choice.          

  •  Well maybe not. (0+ / 0-)
    There's no budget saving in 2011 by sacrificing this program. It's not operational until the exchanges are, in 2014

    But it does look like a chink in the "obamacare" wall that the GOP said they would dismantle, even though HIR is just a rickety fence anyway. It's the symbolism.
    'Budget savings' isn't what this is all about now is it?

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