Nel's New Day

September 30, 2013

Gleeful GOP Guts Economy with Shutdown

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:24 PM
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Today the Senate sent a cleaned up version of the Continuing Resolution to the House who returned the CR to the Senate with more anti-Obamacare language. The good news–for a very few–is that members of Congress will continue to be paid because they are considered “essential.” The bad news for most of the people is the GOP extortion will tear at the fragile economy of the United States.

In a satiric column, Andy Borowitz summarized the position of the House GOP regarding the vote that will shut down many parts of the federal government tomorrow:

“In a special Sunday radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivered a health tip to the American people, advising them to delay getting cancer for a year. ‘We’re involved in a high-stakes fight over our freedom from centralized government control of our lives,’ said Mr. Boehner, speaking on behalf of his House colleagues. ‘You can do your part by delaying getting cancer.’ He added that heart disease, emphysema, and diabetes were among a laundry list of conditions that would be ‘patriotic to avoid for a year.’

“’If you delay getting any of these things for the next twelve months, together we will win this fight,’ he said. In closing, he reassured the American people that in the event of a government shutdown, members of Congress’ health benefits would remain intact: ‘We want to be in tip-top shape to continue to do the excellent job we’re doing for you.'”

The back-and-forth started ten days ago when the House sent a Continuing Resolution to continue funding the federal government with attachments that would defund Obamacare and eliminate the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices. The Senate returned a “clean” CR to continue funding the federal government, and the House retaliated with a CR that kept the anti-Obamacare provisions. As that CR was debated into early Sunday morning, Rep. Matt Salmon described the House mood as “ecstatic.”

Polls consistently show that people oppose a shutdown and are annoyed with political grandstanding, but Salmon said that the situation is “a win-win all the way around.” The New York Times described the mood of the GOP House members as “downright giddy.” Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) described his part in the closed-door meeting: “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!’ ” Part of the “giddy” may have come from the alcoholic “spirits” that witnesses believed were being imbibed.

The Senate voted down additional provisions in the CR this morning. The House took the CR, added the anti-Obamacare provisions, and sent it back this afternoon. The Senate bounced the CR, minus the Obamacare provisions, back to the House this evening.

On Sunday morning Meet the Press, David  Gregory continually asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)  about his inability to change people’s minds about Obamacare despite a 21-hour speech. Cruz only repeated, “I’m just trying to fight for 26 million Texans.” Of those 26 million Texans, 28.8 percent lack health insurance, compared to the 4.5 percent in Massachusetts with “Romneycare.” That’s at least 7,488,000 Texans who Cruz doesn’t represent. Cruz’s appearance today is a week after the Fox network, with the help of Karl Rove, eviscerated the man who wants to be president.

A government shutdown separates all federal workers into “essential” and “non-essential”—or more politely “excepted” and “non-excepted.” Managers at all federal agencies were directed to separate employees into these two categories. With a shutdown, essential workers stay without pay; non-essential workers close up shop for a half day and then go home.

Essential categories include national security, public safety, or programs in permanent or multi-year law such as Social Security and some veterans’ benefits. The U.S. military keeps operating, and air traffic controllers stay on the job. So do people in the areas of emergency medical care, food-safety inspections, border patrol, federal prisons, law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system (such as it is), operating the power grid, and guarding federal property.

Agencies with independent sources of funding, such as the U.S. Postal Service and Federal Reserve, keep running. Congressional members keep getting paid although their aides won’t unless they have specific appropriations. Essential workers won’t get retroactive pay for the shutdown unless Congress votes to give this to them.

Despite Salmon’s belief that this is a “win-win” situation, here are the losers:

  • In 2011, the government estimated furloughs without pay for 1.2 million federal employees in case of a shutdown. That’s 50 percent more than the 800,000 people sent home in the last round of 1995-1996.
  • People should forget getting visas, passports, entry into at least 400 national parks, monuments, and museums—the lights are off. That means the loss of millions—maybe billions—to lodging, eating places, retain places, etc. because people won’t travel to those areas.
  • No student or small business loans means that all these people put their lives on hold until the GOP House members stop drinking and get back to reality.
  • Gun lovers can’t add to their arsenals because the shutdown stops the processing of permits.
  • Nobody gets a federal loan for a house until the GOP decides to lift the government’s shutdown.
  • The National Institutes of Health won’t accept new patients for clinical research or answer hotline calls about medial questions, and the Centers for Disease Control stops monitoring disease.
  • Investigations into bankruptcy and child-support cases cease.
  • With no regulators, the EPA shuts down as do the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
  • People might get their Social Security checks, but they won’t get their questions answered or their addresses changed.
  • A backlog of veterans’ requests of benefits shrank from 600,000 to 450,000 in September. The shutdown reverses that trend.
  • IRS tax refunds along with farm loans and payments won’t exist during the shutdown.
  • A shutdown of more than one week would take money from public schools, that receive over 20 percent of their funds from the federal government, and the 14 million students on student grants and loans at over 6,600 schools.

And much, much more as identified in this 2011 memo from the White House when the GOP members in Congress played the same game. Congressional Research Service recently issued a 21-page document called “Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects.”

The mayor of Washington, D.C. is declaring all city services “essential” so the weekly 500 tons of garbage will get picked up as well as functioning in other city agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Public Works, and the D.C. Public Libraries.

What the country lost in the 1995-1996 shutdowns:

  • U.S. tourist industries and airlines lost millions of dollars from disruption of the passport and visa holdups and closed national parks. Business trips were also stopped, both here and abroad.
  • One-fifth, $3.7 billion, of federal contracts was put on hold with employees unpaid.
  • Drilling permits and processing applications for liquefied natural gas exports were stopped.
  • The FDA was spared in the last shutdown, but this time the review process for new drugs may be bogged down because the FDA is no longer considered “essential.”

One major system not impacted by a government shutdown is Obamacare, including the new online marketplaces that go into effect the same day as the shutdown. Medicaid expansion and federal tax credits helping with purchasing coverage both have mandatory funding.

Even scarier than the government shutdown from a lack of the CR is the possibility of disaster from the GOP not raising the debt ceiling. Former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-A) and Moody’s economist Mark Zandi testified at a joint congressional hearing earlier this month on “The Economic Costs of Debt-Ceiling Brinkmanship”:

“If you don’t do [raise the debt ceiling] in time, confidence will evaporate, consumer confidence will sharply decline, [as well as] investor confidence, business confidence. Businesses will stop hiring, consumers will stop spending, the stock market will fall significantly in value, borrowing costs for businesses and households will rise.”

The government has enough money to pay its bills, debts that Congress has already accrued, until October 17. GOP legislators don’t seem to understand that raising the debt ceiling means that the country pays the bills—expenditures caused by GOP’s reduction of taxes and excessive costs for at least two wars.

Responses from people in the United States to the GOP’s current hostage situation:

  • Only 7 percent back the GOP’s plan to delay and defund Obamacare.
  • Less than one-third (26 percent) support the GOP’s ultimate and oft-stated goal of completely repealing Obamacare.
  • On Obamacare, 68 percent want the law to move forward as is or with improvements.
  • The same percentage (68 percent) agree that shutting down the government for even a few days is “a bad thing for the country.”
  • Four-fifths agree agree that threatening a government shutdown is not an acceptable way to negotiate.

Over and over, GOP legislators say that Obamacare passed with the approval of only one party. They ignore the fact that only one party in the House has passed the last 40+ votes to overturn the law.  Ted Cruz has called on Republicans to “stand your ground.” Florida has that law, and we know how well that worked out for Trayvon Martin and thousands of other people.

If the GOP stands their ground and shuts down the government tomorrow, remember one thing: Congress will still get paid.

[Did you know that there was a “panda cam” at the National Zoo to show the new baby panda bear? Never mind. It’s been shut down along with lots of other things that the federal government provides. Okay, GOP, the government isn’t into shutdown. But Obamacare just started!]

 

September 26, 2013

Dumb & Dumber – The Gop Party Can’t Quit

After Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) got to make his long speech, ending yesterday, about defunding Obamacare, the Senate was supposed to vote on the Continuing Resolution. That didn’t happen, but lots of other things did.

The media had a field day comparing Cruz and the real Texas filibusterer Wendy Davis, who fought draconian anti-women state laws. Cruz is “aimless and self-destructive” (New York Times editorial board), elitist (GQ),  and likely guided more by presidential aspirations than principles (CNN). Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, called Cruz, his former Princeton colleague, an “arrogant jerk” — and worse.

Davis, Texas state senator, was the subject of a glowing Vogue profile and became a superstar on almost every major network.  She was the “Sunday Spotlight” for ABC’s This Week and was interviewed by Jeff Zeleny in the dinner theater where she once waited tables. Even conservative columnist Peggy Noonan described Davis as “so spirited, she has such energy and she seems to have such commitment.” As Dylan Byers wrote on Politico, “When a Democrat like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters against abortion restrictions, she is elevated to hero status, her tennis shoes become totems. When Cruz grandstands against Obamacare, he is a laughingstock in the eyes of many journalists on Twitter, an “embarrassment” in the eyes of The New York Times editorial board.”

Since Cruz’s speech, Huffington Post has discovered that he doesn’t accept government health insurance because his wife’s employment as a regional head of a Goldman Sachs division gives him top-notch health insurance. According to a 2009 New York Times report, top executive officers and managing directors at the bank participate in a health care program that costs Goldman more than $40,000 in annual premiums for each participant’s family.

what a tea partier looks likeAfter yesterday’s vote to move ahead on the Continuing Resolution to keep the government functioning past this coming Monday, GOP greed bogged down the process into inaction by demanding a bizarre set of conditions. Without these, they plan to shut down the government and send the economy into a tailspin. Originally conservatives (aka Tea Partiers to right)  just wanted to defund Obamacare, but their list has vastly expanded just five days before the U.S. shuts down:

  • Approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline: After 3,900 temporary jobs, the pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast would support 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs. Annual emissions would be “the equivalent of 6 million cars on the road,” according to the EPA.
  • Weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:  The GOP has had a strong yen to promote predatory lending practices from banks and financial institutions.
  • Cut $120 billion from federal health programs over the next decade:. In addition to repealing other benefits for health reform, this would increase Medicare costs.
  • Increase offshore oil drilling and energy production on federal lands: The GOP wants to have new drilling on the entire U.S. Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast off Southern California, and much of Alaska’s offshore space despite the fact that Congress refuses to make drilling safer after the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
  • Block federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions: In 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide under the 1973 Clean Air Act. With the discovery that exposure to air pollution kills about 200,000 people a year, the GOP wants to reverse the EPA control. Up to 3 million premature deaths could be avoided each year globally by 2100 if aggressive emissions cuts are made.
  • Restrict most forms of federal industry regulation: The GOP wants all major regulations to need Congressional votes and nullify any not approved within 70 days. Such a law would require federal agencies to have Congressional approval for changes  in vehicle safety standards, reductions in greenhouse emissions, or streamlining the FDA’s process for approving new drugs.
  • Pass a tax-reform blueprint that the GOP finds acceptable.
  • Block any ways to combat climate crisis. 
  • Eliminate Net Neutrality for a free and open Internet.
  • Extend destructive sequestration spending cuts.
  • Execute pro-corporatre tort reforms, including limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. 
  • Ban abortions after 20 weeks.

And there may be more! Meanwhile Democrats are asking for nothing except to keep the country functioning.

More Republicans are angry about the behavior of the ultra-conservative legislators. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) lambasted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) after they refused to agree to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) request to move up a cloture vote on a continuing resolution funding the government from Friday to Thursday evening. Corker argued that the Senate should act as soon as possible in order to give their House colleagues more time to avert a government shutdown, criticizing Cruz for putting on a “show” meant to attract attention instead. Corker said:

“It’s my understanding again, relative to this vote tonight happening tomorrow instead, is that my two colleagues, who I respect, have sent out e-mails around the world and turned this into a show possibly, and, therefore, they want people around the world to watch maybe them and others on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is also having a worse week than usual. Because U.S. senators present names to the president for appeals court potential nominees, Rubio and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-FL) are responsible for suggesting qualified professionals to serve on federal district courts in their state. They selected Judge William Thomas after subjecting him to a background check. President Obama’s team agreed, and Thomas was headed to be the first openly gay black man to serve as a federal judge. Rubio has now announced his opposition to the judicial nominee he selected for the position. Without the approval of both senators, Thomas has lost the nomination. Rubio must still want to be the 2016 GOP presidential candidate.

The GOP also had a bad day yesterday after  the Inspector’ General’s Office issued a report that there was no bias in the independent audit of the attack in Benghazi, contrary to the claims from Republican legislators. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has spent much of his political capital for the last year to prove that the State Department was trying to protect then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The report was overseen by  Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel, assigned to his role by Condoleezza Rice in 2008, and calls for GOP attacks on the Benghazi audit to stop.

ramboldToday is also the day that admitted rapist and former high school teacher Stacey “Sandy” Rambold, 54, walked out of the Montana State Prison after his 31-day sentence for raping 14-year-old Cherice Moralez. That was in 2007, three years after the school district that employed him had told him not to touch or be alone with female students.

BaughAfter the legal process of convicting him, District Judge G. Todd Baugh, said, “He’d suffered enough.” At the same sentencing, he said the victim, Cherice Moralez, was “older than her chronological age.” In response to public outcry, Baugh added, “Obviously a 14-year-old can’t consent.” But he continued that this wasn’t “some violent, forcible, horrible rape.” It wasn’t, said the judge, “this forcible beat-up rape.” He also stated that the 14-year-old was “as much in control of the situation” as the 49-year-old teacher.

In an almost incoherent defense of his actions, Baugh told the Billings Gazette:

“I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it in that way, it’s crazy. No wonder people are upset. I’d be upset, too, if that happened.”

Judge Baugh made it happen.

Just before her 17th birthday, Moralez, tormented by classmates, killed herself with a gun. After her suicide, the prosecution made a “deferred prosecution agreement” with Rambold. All charges, including the one to which Rambold admitted, would be dismissed if he completed a sex-offender treatment program and met other requirements including no contact with children. When the rapist failed to meet the conditions of the agreement, prosecutors asked the judge for a 20-year sentence. Baugh ruled that Rambold’s violations “were more technical and not the kind you would send someone to prison for.”

Hanlon said the pain of her daughter’s death hasn’t faded. Rambold made unauthorized visits with relatives’ children and failed to disclose he was in a sexual relationship with a Washington woman.

State prosecutors are appealing the sentence, claiming that Montana’s state law requires a minimum sentence of two years for Rambold. With no new offenses, however, he will stay out of prison pending the appeal which could take 12 to 18 months. Unless the original sentence if overruled, Rambold must register as a sex offender and stay on probation until 2028.

A formal complaint to remove Baugh from the bench for alleged bias is pending before the state Judicial Standards Commission.

If Baugh’s reaction were unique, it would be horrifying. But even worse, this is a common event. Defense lawyers used the same defense for a juvenile detention guard in Louisiana when he raped a 14-year-old girl in his care. The case won’t be heard again until March 24, 2014, because of a crowded court docket. In 2000, a South Caroline Circuit judge cut a 27-year-old youth minister’s sentence in half to six years because the  14-year-old girl’s body “was [at] an unusual stage of maturity.”

hw. bush witnessLast weekend, former President George H.W. Bush was the official witness at the wedding between Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, long-time friends of the Bushes. It was reported that the Bushes gave the newly-weds Target bake-ware as a gift.

 

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