Nel's New Day

November 18, 2015

Ryan Abandons Promises, Moves Bill against Syrian Refugees

Filed under: Immigration — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
Tags: , , ,

ryan

How long does it take for the new House Speaker to break his promises? It depends on how long Congress is in recess. In this case, Paul Ryan (R-WI) started his job by leading a fairly quiet session for the first week of November. Dana Milbank wrote, “It was nice while it lasted.” I’m now at the place where I appreciate recesses because the GOP seems to cause less damage when they wandering around trying to look important rather than making stupid decisions.

While campaigning for the job that Ryan said he didn’t want, Ryan promised “regular order”: the House of Representatives would operate by deliberation rather than fiat, and the House members could amend and shape legislation. Ryan said, “The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation…. When we rush to pass bills, a lot of us do not understand we are not doing our job.”

After a week off, the members returned day before yesterday. Last night Ryan put a “rush job” onto a bill to keep Syrian refugees out of the United States.   At 10:15 pm, House leaders presented a brand new piece of legislation, written during the day, to rewrite mandates for the U.S. refugees from Syria and Iraq. No hearings, no expert testimony, no consultation with any agencies, no committee action, no amendments, nothing. The vote is planned for tomorrow.

In his first address as speaker, Ryan said:

“The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. … We are supposed to study up and do the homework that [the people] cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order—when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand– we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.”

H.R. 4038, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act” (SAFE Act because the GOP loves to give things the opposite name of what they mean) may make people feel “safe” because of new vetting requirements. Yet current rules demand an 18-to-24 month rigorous examination of refugees to certify that they are not security threats. Is the new one better? No one knows because there have been no hearings. The new bureaucracy of the proposed SAFE Act , however, shuts down the refugee program for years. This from the party that hates federal intervention.

President Obama has promised to veto the bill, which would first need to survive the Senate, so the GOP “emergency” is simply to get push more Republicans into getting elected in 2016. Ryan refused to allow a vote on an alternative Syrian refugee bill.

Today House and Senate negotiators gathered together to somewhat harmoniously blend their versions of a transportation bill. The bill had cleared the House by a large majority during Ryan’s first week when he permitted over 100 amendments. Actually compromising on bills with amendments and hard work is exhausting, which may be why Ryan made the Syrian refugee bill the 45th “closed rule” of the year, establishing a record for the number of bills on the House floor without the possibility of amendment.

Ryan is following the leadership style of former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who resigned as of Halloween. Boehner’s promises of “regular order” also began with allowing over 100 amendments on a bill before he broke this promise of “openness.” Ryan made promises to get his job—such as refusing to work with the president on immigration reform—but his only vision was what he wouldn’t do. On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Ryan what the one thing he could accomplish in six months. Ryan detoured the question by talking about working families falling behind and the disaster of “Obamacare.”

One thing Ryan did accomplish: he gets to go home every weekend to be with his family instead of doing the Speaker’s job of fundraising and campaigning for GOP congressional candidates. Family values are important to Ryan unless they include paid child care, sick leave, and maternity/paternity care for people in the United States, one of just three countries–out of 185—without guaranteed paid maternity leave. Amanda Marcotte wrote that Ryan “sees a family life as a privilege for the elite, instead of a right for all.” Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, who expressed herself as a feminist in her book Lean In, praised Ryan for his desire to parent. Only the wealthy deserve such advantages as family time, according to the powerful.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., arrives at a news conference following a House Republican meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Ryan told GOP lawmakers that he will run for speaker, but only if they embrace him by week's end as their consensus candidate, an ambitious bid to impose unity on a disordered and divided House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Not every GOP House member was pleased with Ryan’s demands. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) compared Ryan to a maid applying for a job who says “I don’t clean windows, I don’t do floors, I don’t do beds, these are the hours I’ll work.”  For many years, the Speaker was a prestigious job; now it’s comparable to being a “maid.”

Before the faux crisis of the Syrian refugees, the House had passed another partial repeal of The Affordable Care Act, but the Senate has had to shelve it because he may not be able to get even 51 necessary signatures. Of the 54 GOP Senators, three of them may refuse to vote against it because the House bill defunds Planned Parenthood, and other object because it doesn’t repeal the entire law. Even the House members who voted in favor of the bill are having buyers’ remorse because it repeals only six of the 419 provisions—1.4 percent of the law.

Next year, Congress will have less time to mess up: they’ve assigned themselves a two-day work week with only 111 days in session. That’s over $1,500 a day for all those GOP legislators who think that $15 an hour is too much for hard work. The GOP must become the “proposition” party; it’s not enough to be an opposition party, said the new speaker. He’s found his vision and “proposition” in trying to keep all desperate Syrian refugees out of the United States. And he may get the bill passed in two days, leaving him another 109 days to save the United States.

Ryan called the attacks in Paris “an act of war” and said that the annual National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday requires the president to have a plan to defeat ISIS. The U.S. Constitution requires Congress to authorize the president to engage in war, something that this Congress has avoided for over a year. If the House can put together a bill to stop Syrian refugees from coming into the country in less than a week, they have time to work on a plan of “war.”

In the past, the Speaker of the House of Representatives sometimes served all the people in the United States, not the GOP. It’s time to return to that practice. Ryan is right: the House is broken. And with Ryan at the helm, it’s still broken.

October 13, 2015

House Members Search for a Speaker

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his resignation, Republicans went into a tizzy, trying to figure out who would replace him. That tizzy moved into chaos last week when the House Freedom Caucus revolted against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), inept heir apparent to the top job. McCarthy claims that he took himself out of the running because he wanted more than the obligatory 218 votes, but rumors allege that he has been having a long-term affair with a colleague, perhaps Rep.Renee Ellmers (R-NC). Before McCarthy took himself out of the running, the 40 Tea Party “Freedom” voters had promised to vote in a block for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL). The loss of 40 votes means that the “establishment” GOP would have only 207 votes unless Democrats decide to join them in selecting someone other than Webster.

The Freedom Caucus says that they want “democracy” in the House, but a “questionnaire” from the group shows what its expectations for the next speaker. Freedom’s Speaker must tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The debt limit arrives on November 5; without an increase, the U.S. could default on its obligations, sending both the country’s and the world’s economy into a tailspin. When the Tea Party contemplated not raising the debt ceiling in 2013, the Treasury Department reported that “default could result in recession comparable to or worse than 2008 financial crisis.”

Another requirement for a new speaker, according to the Freedom Caucus, is to not fund the government without an agreement to defund “Planned Parenthood, unconstitutional amnesty, the Iran deal, and Obamacare.” December 11 is the deadline to pass a budget to keep the government from shutting down. The Freedom Caucus also requires the next speaker to oppose any “omnibus” bill and instead fund the government by separate bills.

Joan Walsh explained the background for the House GOP chaos following Boehner’s decision not to lead the motley crew that state gerrymandering has sent to Washington. After wealthy billionaires led Tea Party members in their position of hating government, governing, and compromise, the GOP establishment decided that these people would be useful. To keep their leadership, Boehner and his sidekicks offered the possibility of repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, hold the debt ceiling hostage, defund Planned Parenthood, stop the Iran deal, and other radically extremist views. Along with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP leaders even recruited the extremists through their “Young Guns” program.

Every failure for Boehner sent him to Democrats for a bailout from disaster, leading the angry Freedom Caucus to feel a greater and greater sense of power. Unfortunately, Boehner didn’t look for bipartisanship often enough. If he had involved Demcrats business such as voting on the Senate’s immigration bill and other measures, he could have shown the extremists that they were not in charge of the House while doing the nation’s business.

Highly conservative, Webster presided over both chambers in Florida’s legislature when it overrode a veto restricting “partial birth” abortions, created “Choose Life” license plates, and required doctors to notify parents of minors seeking abortions. The legislature also passed bills mandating pre-marriage and pre-divorce counseling. Webster supported legalization of homeschooling to spare children in evangelical families from a “Godless” public education.

Webster’s alignment with the Religious Right puts him in alignment with groups and people who want to apply biblical law to law, including wives submitting to their husbands. His history with Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) shows his belief that God has made sure that he got elected. Gothard’s teachings with their emphasis on a culture of fear and extreme patriarchialism influenced the home education of the Duggars (19 Kids and Counting), and, like the oldest Duggar son, Gothard has been accused of multiple sexual harassment and abuse.

In the U.S. House, Webster has had little effect, introducing only 18 bills. Of these only two had co-sponsors, and none passed. He will most likely not be reelected to the house because of the likely dismantling of his Orlando district, but Webster is counting on God’s help. In the past, he said that he prayed for anyone considering a run in his district to “lose interest,” saying “that hedge of thorns has protected me all these years.”

Another person with “some support” from Freedom voters is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who headed up the Planned Parenthood hearing debacle where Cecile Richards was grilled for five hours and interrupted 51 times—ten times each hour—with sexist remarks and character attacks. In his bid for Speaker, Chaffetz promised to default on the debt and shut down the government if the GOP didn’t get what they wanted.  He also demanded that the White House appoint a special prosecutor to open up “a criminal probe” investigating his claim that the Secret Service leaked his personal information to intimidate him. The issue was a leak to media outlets about Chaffetz’s rejected application for a Secret Service job in 2003 and the particulars surrounding the decision.

One desperate method of selecting a speaker came from Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) for a “bipartisan coalition,” again asking the Democrats for a bailout by expecting Democrats to vote for a Republican House Speaker. Before they go that far, however, the less extreme—but still conservative—Republicans are literally begging Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to take the position.

Thus far, Ryan has largely ignored the suggestion, obviously knowing that to do so would end his career for any other political position. In New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait  wrote, “No other figure within the party combines Ryan’s philosophical radicalism and tactical pragmatism” and called him “the president of Republican America.” If Chait is right, “America” is in big trouble.

Ryan came into power with a strong opposition to abortion and Todd Akin-like comments about rape that kept the Missouri candidate out of Washington. He then advocated Social Security privatization and the Iraq War. His horrific budget blueprint brought criticism from Catholic leaders because of its harshness toward the poor, who he describes as “lazy.” Ryan was a big part of Mitt Romney’s failure with his campaign of huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy compared with austerity for the poor. The Ryan/Romney ticket couldn’t even win Ryan’s home district.

Ryan held his celebration, after he won his congressional race, at The Cottonpicker in Burlington (WI) highlighting his exploitation of racial divisions, union collapse, and economic anxiety. His Ayn Rand view of economics focuses on “makers and takers” that appeals to angry white people. Ryan talks about the “catch and release” of Mexican immigrants, derides “anchor babies,” and makes other insensitive and inflammatory remarks in his town hall meetings and campaign appearances.

And the Tea Party members call him too “left-wing” to represent them!

In an effort to wield the Tea Party power, the Freedom chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said that his caucus would “look favorably” on Ryan for speaker if he does what they want. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) said that the Freedom caucus won’t drop support for Webster for an undeclared candidate. The Tea Party demands a Speaker who will never compromise—on anything! They want a “leader” who will shut down the government until they get what they want.

Only 22 percent of people in the U.S. agreed with the Tea Party agenda, according to last month’s CBS News/New York Times poll. Chris Christie, GOP presidential candidate, claims that “nobody cares” who the House speaker is. “What they want is a Congress who is actually going to do something,” he said. To Christie, doing anything—even if it’s wrong—is better than doing nothing. Right now, the House is doing nothing because they’ve left Washington for a ten-day recess. Upon their return, they have two weeks to avert a government default on its debts.

Speaker Nathaniel Prentice Banks, 1855-1857, required 133 ballots to get accepted at a time when the House could not agree on slavery. If the current House follows this pattern, Boehner may decide to remain. If he doesn’t, or if he’s thrown out in a coup, Boehner can select a person to be Speaker pro tempore.  Right now at least 21 House members have said that they want to be Speaker, four of them from Texas. Will all but one back down with consensus for the last man standing? Or will it be a free-for-all? We won’t know for at least a week because the GOP House members want a vacation this week.

June 13, 2015

TPP, McKinney – Updates

My sincerest apologies to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Last week, I accused her of caving into voting for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Instead she might be the reason that it failed–thus far. As usual, she provides great leadership for her caucus while House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), can’t, according to Rachel Maddow, lead a hungry puppy to a hamburger.

pelosi

On the House floor before the vote, Pelosi said, “You cannot separate commerce and environment” in reference to the trade agreement allowing corporations to sue governments that “interfere” with their business—even if the government wants carbon reduction goals and other environmental legislation. She referenced Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) amendment that would “ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change.”

The option to fast-track the TPP passed by two votes more than needed, 219-211, but fast-track can’t move forward without the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that provides inadequate assistance to workers who would lose jobs or be injured by the TPP bill. That bill failed by a 302-126 vote. The GOP has called for a re-vote on Tuesday, but if it fails again, the option may die. If the entire package doesn’t pass, the bill goes to a joint conference committee to resolve differences between the House and the Senate. Each chamber will have to again vote on the compromise bill. Opposition to the TPP is increasing with a coalition of more than 2,000 groups opposed to Fast Track and the TPP—including women’s rights, labor, LGBT, environmental, civil rights, senior citizen’s groups and more—redoubling its efforts for next week’s fight.

A chief argument from proponents of the TPP is that it isn’t actually secret—although every legislator who has read it states that the document is classified. Ryan, however, finally admitted just how secret the TPP is. During his House Rules testimony, he said, “It’s declassified and made public once it’s agreed to.” He actually meant that the TPP would be declassified after Congress agrees to the fast-track option, but the fast-track up-or-down vote with no amendments and a pass by a majority of 51 in the Senate provides little oversight. The next two agreements being negotiated, TiSA and TTIP, are not even available to members of Congress who must go to a secret room to read the TPP.

Another big chunk of news last week came after twelve law enforcement officials went to a swimming pool because of a report from 911 about a fight. Eric Casebolt, the police officer supervising the other 11 police officers, resigned after videos of his brutalizing a teenage-girl in a bikini and his drawing his gun on other teenagers in bathing suits went viral.

Fox network dived into the pool fight by defending the police officer and denigrating all the black teens at the party, despite the fact that many of them lived near the pool and had passes to get in. One of the chief witnesses on Fox, cheered on by Sean Hannity, was Sean Toon, who claimed that “the police did nothing wrong” and that there were no racial overtones in the incident.

McKinney whte woman 2Further examination of videos taken on the day show that Toon and his wife, Shannon Barber Toon, most likely started the confrontation. Barber Toon was with the two women who called the teens “black f*ckers” and other slurs before initiating a physical attack on a 19-year-old girl. Grace Stone, a 14-year-old white McKinney resident, heard Toon say, “You should go back to the Section 8 [public] housing where you’re from because you don’t belong in our neighborhood.” Stone does live in the neighborhood.

When Toon was 18, he and friends abused and murdered animals housed in a rival high school’s agriculture center. A teacher in the program said, “Cows and pigs were cut and bruised, apparently beaten with wooden boards. And baby turkeys were slain, their limbs torn apart. It was brutal. There’s no way to describe it. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Toon was fined $300 and sentenced to 285 days in jail. The same year he was charged with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” and made a plea deal for 75 days in jail.

Tracey-Carver Allbritton, a woman involved in the attacks on the teens who started punching the top of the girl’s head while shouting racial slurs, was found through a Facebook profile linking her to the incident. She worked for a contractor with the Bank of America, that conducted an investigation to see if she was a bank employee. Allbritton’s employer, CoreLogic Inc, has provided financial and home loan information services to Bank of America since 2011, when it settled a $335 million lawsuit for racially discriminating against Blacks and Latinos in home mortgage lending. She is now on administrative leave.

In another fallout from the pool problem in McKinney, Karen Fitzgibbons, a fourth-grade teacher in Lubbock (TX) has been relieved of her duties after she posted this reaction to Casebolt’s resignation on Facebook:

“This makes me ANGRY! This officer should not have to resign. I’m going to just go ahead and say it…the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this ‘racial tension.’ I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin…GO! #imnotreacist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasagatedcommunity”

Fox also invited Kisa Jackson to appear on the network after she blamed parents for the problems and justified Casebolt’s actions in a video. “It’s about, again, the parents, and teaching our children to respect authority figures.” She told host Fox host Steve Doocy that the parents needed to “take ownership” of their children’s actions. Omitted from the segment was the problem that police in Baton Rouge (LA) had in arresting Jackson’s son, Jalen Mills, after he punched a woman in the mouth. Investigators issued a felony arrest warrant for Mills, a defensive back on the Louisiana State University football team, after he failed to show up for a scheduled appointment and didn’t return phone calls. He was initially charged with second-degree battery and suspended from the team, but the charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor because prosecutors could not prove the woman suffered “permanent disfigurement or unconsciousness.”

That’s it: one temporary success and one vindication after Fox went quiet about the McKinney pool party.

March 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, ‘Obamacare’

Today is the Affordable Care Act’s fifth birthday. For five years, most of the GOP legislators have been making predictions about the law’s leading the entire country to wrack and ruin. The following dozen failed predictions show how all these people have been wrong:

happy birthday Failed Prediction #1 – Americans won’t enroll in the ACA: The demand was so great that the website sometimes crashed from the heavy usage. About 8 million people signed up for private insurance coverage in 2014, and the number rose to 11.4 million in 2015. While it was hard to sign up for health care on the exchanges last year, it was harder to be uninsured or underinsured.

Failed Prediction #2 – The ACA won’t meet its enrollment goals: In its first two years, enrollment totals exceeded preliminary projections.

Failed Prediction #3 – Insurers will want no part of the ACA system: Many insurers see the ACA as a major growth opportunity that lets them expand in the individual market.

Failed Prediction #4 – The ACA will cause the economy to suffer and kill jobs: In one press conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) used the phrase “job-killing” an average of every two minutes while talking about the ACA. Yet the U.S. has had 59 consecutive months of job growth since October 2010, the longest stretch of time in history.  National data also shows no indication of employers hiring people under 30 hours a week to avoid the ACA insurance mandate. The average length of the work-week, which dropped during the recession, recently matched pre-2010 levels. Using interviews with major U.S. employers, Bloomberg found that the law “is putting such a small dent in the profits of U.S. companies that many refer to its impact as “not material” or “not significant.” It decided that “the biggest entitlement legislation in a generation is causing barely a ripple in corporate America.”

Failed Prediction #5 – People who enrolled wouldn’t pay their premiums: Again the GOP was wrong. Five months into last year, over 91% of the 8 million consumers who enrolled through an ACA exchange marketplace paid their premiums.

Failed Prediction #6: People would see exorbitant premiums: Those who qualify for tax credits through the insurance exchange pay an average of $82 per month for premiums—one-fourth of the expenditure without financial help. More people who changed from individual insurance to exchanges have lower premiums.

Failed Prediction #7 – Premiums will shoot up next year: State-by-state information shows that more insurers coming to the market are pressuring prices to go down. In 2015, premiums for the ACA’s mid-level plans rose by an average of 2 percent. In 48 major cities, prices for these benchmark plans actually fell by 0.2 percent, compared to the 10-percent increases before the ACA.

Failed Prediction #8 – The ACA helps only those with coverage: Republicans are wrong.

Failed Prediction #9 – The ACA will lead to a “net loss” on overall coverage: Boehner argued that fewer people had health insurance after the health law’s insurance expansion than prior to it, but the uninsured rate has dropped by one-fourth. In Minnesota it’s gone down by 40 percent, and in some cities the number will shrink by 60 percent in cities with expanded Medicaid. People who would not get subsidies still got the same insurance plans by going to an insurance broker. Boehner also ignored the expansion of 9.1 million enrollees on Medicaid.

Failed Prediction #10 – The ACA will lead to higher deficits and a weaker fiscal footing for the nation: The GOP, the party that actually raises the deficit, told the country that “Obamacare” would “bankrupt” the country. In April 2014, the Congressional Budget Office reduced its budget forecast by $100 billion, less than it expected to spend during the first projection in January 2010. The CBO reduced its 10-year estimate of ACA cost by 20 percent and its Medicaid costs attributable to the law by 8 percent, partly because people with health insurance no longer rely on the emergency room for health care.

Failed Prediction #11 – Americans will end up hating the coverage they receive through the ACA: A new Gallup poll shows that 71 percent find their coverage through exchanges to be good or excellent, and another 19 percent said the coverage was fair. Only 9 percent gave it a poor rating.

Failed Prediction #12 – “Obamacare” will mostly sign up people who already have insurance:  A Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that 57 percent of enrollees previously lacked insurance.

More failed projections: there is no “death spiral,” or “death panels,” or “rate shock.” Not one prediction has lived up to scrutiny. And not one prominent Republican is willing to admit the failed predictions or even explanations for these mistakes and misjudgments. Instead, they’re still busy trying to repeal the law.

Facts will not change the minds of many in opposition, as Jonathan Chait pointed out:

“Suppose you strongly objected to the idea that your city should own a bunch of buildings where people can go borrow books for free. (Some people do!) If you couldn’t persuade a majority of fellow citizens of your conceptual objections to libraries, you might try arguing that the library scheme was doomed to collapse in cost overruns, or that nobody would ever use them, or that shelves of heavy books would be routinely toppling over and killing small children. But the fact is that running buildings where people can check out books, and running exchanges where people can purchase basic health insurance packages, are both things that governments can do.”

One GOP complaint is that “Obamacare” helps only the poor. It is true that the poorest people get free Medicaid, and those up to an income of $94,000 a year for a family of four can get tax credits. People who receive insurance from their employees are having their coverage paid by “other people’s money.”

Employer-sponsored insurance get tax deductions, giving the largest benefits to those who earn the most money as compared to the ACA which gives the most to those who earn the least. For example, newly-announced presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) premiums, up to $40,000 for the year for his family, were paid by his wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs. Cruz will be shopping for health insurance because his wife has taken an unpaid leave while he runs for president.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) may have summarized the GOP complaints with this comment on the floor of the Senate: “It’s time for the White House to stop celebrating [the ACA] and start thinking about the people.” Huh?

What’s ahead for the Affordable Care Act?  After voting dozens of time to repeal the ACA, the GOP is trying to pass a budget that would double the uninsured rate and eliminate $1 trillion in tax revenue that pays for the law. Republicans have no plan to help the millions of families losing affordable medical care if they succeed. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has only one suggestion: he urged state lawmakers to stop state insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court rules that this as a requirement for the ACA. That’s what he told state legislators last week during a conference call organized by the conservative think tank Foundation for Government Accountability.

If the Supreme Court were to rule for mandated state exchanges, subsidies in the mostly blue states would continue while millions of consumers in GOP-run states would go without. Michigan and Ohio are intending to set up the exchanges that Ryan warns against because no one should do what the White House wants, even if it puts constituents in jeopardy.

Missouri is a prime example of problems with GOP legislators. GOP legislators have threatened to filibuster any Medicaid expansion bill and Bob Onder, a new state senator, has proposed a bill to keep an insurance company from selling policies in the state if it accepts federal subsidies sold on the federal health exchange. The state refuses to accept billions of federal dollars to offer Medicaid coverage to approximately 300,000 uninsured residents. Onder said, “To expand Medicaid would only put further stress on a system that’s already strained,” Onder said. A single mother with two children must make less than $3,700 to get Medicaid, and rural hospitals are facing either huge cutbacks or closure because the state refuses Medicaid expansion.

aca cowThe GOP-led legislature, however, has passed a bill to insure cows in the state. It would subsidize up to 70 percent of farmers’ premium payments for dairy insurance. The House passed it by 110 to 49, and the Senate did better at 31-2. Rep. Jeremy LaFaver (D-MO) called it the “Affordable Cow Act” because insurance subsidies for cows are fine but “not for people.”

Maybe some day, Republicans will figure out that “Obamacare” should be called “GOP Cares.”

Republican_Obamacare

September 1, 2014

GOP Doesn’t Understand Labor Day

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:19 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Today is Labor Day, a time to commemorate the successes of trade and labor organizations that created eight-hour work days and other working conditions that the U.S. accept as status quo. The day has been celebrated 132 years, first in New York City and then becoming a federal holiday 120 years ago. At one time, labor unions raised the standard of living in the United States and supported political democracy.

Two years ago, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tried to shift the celebration to the people who build businesses and “earned their own success”—maybe like the Koch brothers who actually inherited the foundation of their empire. Cantor’s speech repeated his aim “to keeping taxes low … and ensure a thriving economy for the future.” Cantor is gone, voted out by an unhappy constituency, but his legacy of austerity from low taxes on the wealthy still takes a big hit on the nation’s economy.

The House “take from the poor and give to the rich” guru Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a new brand of snake oil in his new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea. During his recent interview on NPR, the heavily Koch brothers-supported “public radio,” he demonstrated his need to display a fake “attitude adjustment” toward wooing a broader audience for his presidential run. Trying to convince voters that he has mellowed, he has developed a plan that would combine 11 benefit programs and give the money to the states in an effort to “reintegrate people into our communities.”

In the past, Ryan has described people in the U.S. as either “makers,” taxpayers, or “takers,” people receiving government benefits. He never seemed to grasp the fact that some people fit into both categories at the same time. Now he describes his maker/taker categories as a “sort of a callous generalization … disparaging people where I really didn’t mean to do that.” Asked about whether the GOP thought about poverty the wrong way, he blamed the Democrats equally with the Republicans. Then he launched into explaining that after spending time with religious social services groups, he’s decided that “the federal government should not be dictating the front lines in the war on poverty.” Ryan’s position is that religion should be running government benefits.

His other prong of reducing poverty is “accountability.” That means hiring lots of people to follow poor people around to make sure that they live up to their “contracts.”

Ryan claims that he wants “a culture of inclusion” because “we have marginalized the poor in many ways.” Unfortunately for him, he marginalized them last March in his accusation that poverty comes from“the culture of the inner city.” Accused of racism, he claimed that he was only talking about the “work ethic … to try and reinvigorate and reintegrate people in work.” His “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” statement might have been more convincing if he hadn’t cited Charles Murray as an expert–the man who purports that blacks are, as a population, less genetically less intelligent whites and the problem of poverty exists because “a lot of poor people are born lazy.”

In keeping with Ryan’s and the GOP’s arrogant assumption that they understand the reasons for poverty—i.e., the “culture of the inner city,” Ryan ignored the following:

  • Stagnant and declining wages from bad policy decisions including the attack on unions and the failure of the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.
  • Lack of balance for workers in managing both work and parenting.
  • Disparities of wages for whites and minorities.
  • Weak retirement security, partly through the failed 401(k) system.

A major reason for poverty is the low minimum wage. One in four—25 percent—of workers earn less than $10 per hour. More than one-third of workers making less than $10.50 are at least 40 years old, more than half work full-time, and the average minimum-wage worker earns half of his or her family’s total income.

The percentage of low-wage workers with at least some college education is 43.2 percent, 71 percent higher than 35 years ago. An increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 would cost $35 billion, and the economy would grow by about $22 billion, creating roughly 85,000 new jobs. Raising the minimum wage in just Los Angeles would create more than 50,000 jobs. Washington, the state with the highest statewide minimum wage, also has the highest percentage of annual job growth. Doubling the minimum wage at McDonalds would take many employees off public benefits but cost people only between $.14 and $.68 for a Big Mac. Taxpayers would save $4.6 billion a year in just food stamps if Walmart increased its wages to $12 per hour. Shoppers would pay only one percent more–$10.01 for an item now costing $10.

Two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are not employed by small businesses, and three out of five small business owners favor raising the minimum wage. The demise of unions raised corporate profits but failed to create jobs.

One of Ryan’s solutions to getting out of poverty is marriage, but married parents with children are 56 percent more likely to live in poverty than married adults without children. Another is education. Seventy percent of adults living below the poverty line have a high school diploma, and almost half of them have some college or a bachelor’s degree.

Ryan also claimed on Face the Nation that last year’s government shutdown was “flawed from beginning to end … a suicide mission.” Bob Schieffer didn’t give Ryan a pass the way that the NPR’s Steve Inskeep did in the interview about poverty.

When Schieffer asked Ryan why he didn’t say that last October, the Congressman replied, “Because I want party unity.” If the GOP decides to shut down the government this month to get their own way, Ryan will need to decide whether he cares more about his “party unity” or his country. GOP leaders are threatening another shutdown without a “clean” (aka no Democrat requests) funding bill and a short-term (aka kick-the-can-down-the-road) reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Funding ends on September 30, 10 Congressional “working” days from now.

In neighboring Michigan, income tax records show that multi-millionaire and senate candidate, Terry Lynn Land, paid only 3 percent income tax last year as compared to her opponent, Rep. Gary Peters, who paid 18 or 19 percent during the past three years. She claimed she made $90,000 last year but donated $3 million to her campaign. Land is another candidate who wants to take from the poor and give to the rich.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) is upset with his Democratic opponent, Brad Ashford, for proposing a 10-percent cut in congressional salaries. Terry complained that Congress hasn’t had a COLA since 2008 and that he already gives 10 percent of his salary to charities. Back in March 2013, Terry joined fellow Republicans to unanimously vote against an increase of the federal minimum wage. He was also one of those criticized during the 2013 GOP government shutdown because he wouldn’t give up his $174,000 salary. His reason: “I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has laid out the GOP agenda up front and center in his speech at Americans For Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream Summit” in Dallas and denying the poor.

  •  “Number one, no amnesty.”
  • “[Repeal] every word of ObamaCare.”
  • “We ought to bomb [ISIS fighters] back to the stone age.”
  • “[Focus on] defending constitutional rights,” with a list of social issues including gun control, education, birth control and privacy

Jesse Benton, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) former campaign manager, spent Labor Day looking for a new job. He quickly resigned after the scandal broke about his involvement in bribing an Iowa legislator to switch from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul during their presidential campaigns. Benton said he loved both Kentucky and McConnell who “is a friend, a mentor and a great man this commonwealth desperately needs.” Benton’s love for McConnell is newfound because last year a recording surfaced in which Benton said he was “holding my nose” working for the Senate minority leader’s campaign to benefit Rand Paul in 2016.

 

August 17, 2014

Paul Ryan v. the Pope

The summer has brought struggles in Iraq, Israel/Gaza, and closer to home in Ferguson (MO) to the media, and Congress has gone into full-time fundraising. When they return, the budget will again hit the news media. As chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be front and center of the discussion. While fundamentalist Christians use their religion as the main reason for their votes, Ryan, a Catholic, opposes the values that Pope Francis espouses when addressing the nation’s priorities in spending.

His favorite spin on removing the safety net for the poor in the past was that “the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life.” Two years ago, 60 theologians, priests, nuns, and social justice leaders protested the claim that his budget represented Catholic values.  They and many other Catholics feel that Ryan has betrayed his religious positions of helping vulnerable people, just taxation, and using the government for the common good. As Father Thomas J. Reese explained, “Our problem with Representative Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching. This is nonsense.”

Failing to persuade people that giving to the rich and abandoning the poor is a basic tenet of the Catholic church, Ryan decided to drop the religious approach in his more recent plan, “Expanding Opportunity in America.” He proposes “block grants,” although he doesn’t call them this, to states to replace the federal safety net. In addition, the program would be far more structured, forcing aid recipients to meet with case managers and sign contracts for short- and long-term goal. Paying for this new administrative bureaucracy will take benefits away from those who need them.

States wouldn’t do a better job of helping the poor. Politicians know that the federal government is vital in solving problems as indicated by the demand for federal aid to disasters such as super storms or tornadoes or chemical plant explosions. Congress created federal safety net programs because states were unable to solve these social problems. If Ryan succeeded in moving money to the states, the most conservative and anti-Washington ones would get more federal funding than the others. Of the 20 states with the highest levels of food stamp costs, 16 voted for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.

In fact, states have a history of funneling federal monies for specific purposes into their general coffers. For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used $17.4 billion of the stimulus bill he hated so much to solve his deficit problems. Minnesota and Wisconsin were among states using the same tactic.

According to Pope Francis, “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.” His proposal is to dismantle unjust economic and social systems, doing away with an unfettered capitalist market and any other system that uses people rather than serves them. He has prayed for “more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.” Ryan doesn’t fit into this category.

As a PR move, Ryan toured schools, churches, and other groups to determine how they are trying to solve the problem of poverty. After this experience, he talked about stereotypic causes of poverty—drug abuse, teen parents, single mothers, absentee fathers, prison time, no higher education—in short, “a lack of productive habits.” Missing from his picture of poverty are college graduates unable to find work, longer-term unemployed without unemployment insurance, older people unable to get jobs because of their age, and people unable to support themselves and their children because of low minimum wages.

Ryan’s conclusion is still that people are poor because they made bad personal choices. He fails to understand that poverty in the United States today comes from a huge inequality in income. Ryan used social security benefits after his father died so that he could go to school; he should understand its importance.

As Bill Moyers pointed out, “Claiming you can solve poverty without money is like claiming you can solve drought without water.” Conservatives believe that the only way to have a strong national defense is to give vast amounts of money to defense contractors, but they think they can solve the problem of poverty by giving low-income people less funding. Low-income people spend most of the money on basic necessities like housing, food, fuel, health care and education; wealthy people take a large percentage of their money out of the country.

Ryan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The best anti-poverty program is economic growth.” Yet while the economy has grown 147 percent per capita since the 1970s, the average U.S. worker earns about exactly the same as 30 years ago when wages are adjusted for inflation. The 15-percent share of people in poverty is higher than in the early 1970s. Almost all the gains since that time went to the top: the richest 1 percent went from 9 percent of total income 40 years ago to over 20 percent now.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has joined Ryan in lying about poverty. He denies that raising the minimum wage or giving the poor more assistance would address poverty. Instead he wants “reforms that encourage and reward work.” That follows Ronald Reagan’s line that the best social program is a job, a theory that has contributed to the nation’s downfall. Jobs are important, both to economic well-being and self-esteem, but the number of working poor in the United States has steadily been growing. For almost 20 years, people on government assistance have been required to have jobs, meaning that more poor people have jobs. Approximately one-fourth of all American workers have jobs paying below what a full-time, full-year worker needs in order to live above the federally defined poverty line for a family of four.

A favorite mantra of conservatives is that poor people have no ambition. Yet many people work long hours at backbreaking jobs and still need a safety net. Poor people actually lack opportunity, beginning with good schools. The United States is one of three advanced countries that spend less on educating poor children and rich ones. Israel and Turkey are the only other two countries that have more teachers and less crowded classrooms in schools with more privileged students. The other countries have exactly the reverse.

Ryan’s budget would slash food stamp programs, leaving people hungry. It would cut scholarships, keeping poor youth out of higher education. It would only make life easier for the wealthy. It would reverse the Affordable Care Act, leaving people without any health care. It would eliminate low-income programs that work, including the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program that helps low-income pregnant women and children obtain fresh produce at farmers’ markets.

Ryan’s religion is the Republican party.

April 28, 2014

Tea Party Follows Fallacies of Ayn Rand

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:26 PM
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is once again on the campaign trail, trying to convince people that he has great concern for the poor—although it’s their fault if they live in an inner city. Ryan gets his ideas from Ayn Rand’s books, and Matt Yglesias has superbly summarized the Ryan policy to help the poor: “Rich people should pay lower taxes, middle class and working class people should pay more taxes, and poor people should get less food, medicine, and college tuition.”

It’s been over 50 years since I read Atlas Shrugged, but the book just won’t disappear, thanks to the irrational desires of white males to elevate Ayn Rand to sainthood. In a nutshell, Rand depicts corporate CEOs and one-percenters as the selfless heroes who will save society with all other people villains because they’re trying to drag down the rich instead of worshipping them in gratitude.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) required campaign staffers to read the book until he ran for president and felt he had to repudiate Rand’s atheism. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who drove the country into a recession, was part of Rand’s inner circle. His reason for opposition to regulation of financial markets came from her maxim that business greed protected the public, that old fairy tale that the wealthy are job-creators. After he left office, Greenspan admitted he got it all wrong before he tried to cover his tracks and give excuses for his damage to the country.

Adam Lee has provided ten lessons that Atlas Shrugged teaches:

All  good and trustworthy people are handsome, and all evil people are ugly. The heroes are distinctively Aryan with steely blue eyes and ash-blond hair.

A great businessman typically sneers at the idea of public safety. Heroic and decisive capitalists dive into dangerous situations and use only their gut for decisions. As heroine Dagny Taggart said, “When I see things, I see them.” Rand’s morality includes the success of bribing officials.

Democracy rewards bad guys, and violence rewards good guys. Members of Congress—the villains—voted for the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, forcing big companies to break up. The good guy, however, killed a state legislator before he could vote to pass a law stopping the good guy from finishing his railroad track and then threw a government official down three flights of stairs for offering him a loan.  Another Rand hero blows up his own oil fields because the government passed new regulations on rail shipping.

The government has never invented anything or done any good for anyone. Everyone who works for the government is a leech or bumbling incompetent. No mention of radar, space flight, nuclear power, GPS, computers, and the Internet brought about by government research.

Violent jealousy and degradation are signs of true love. Dagny’s first lover physically abuses and rapes her; her second one is a married man who leaves her bruised and bloody before he calls her a whore. Both men are Rand’s heroes; in her world, women are meant to be subservient to men. “The most feminine of all aspects [is] the look of being chained.” To Rand, a woman being the dominant partner in a relationship was “metaphysically inappropriate.”

All natural resources are limitless. To Rand, there is no end to land for homesteading, trees for cutting, coal for mining, and fossil fuels for drilling. Government bureaucrats invent environmental laws to punish and destroy successful businessmen. Fiction supercedes the laws of thermodynamics as Rand’s protagonists discover a motor that produces limitless energy for free because it runs on “atmospheric static electricity.”

Pollution and advertisements are beautiful; wilderness is ugly and useless. Rand describes New York City as cradled in “sacred fires” from the surrounding smokestacks and heavy industrial plants. In the pristine wilderness of Wisconsin, Rand’s hero says, “What I’d like to see is a billboard.”

Crime doesn’t exist, even in areas of extreme poverty. The only violence in Atlas Shrugged is government employees’ stealing the wealth of the rich at gunpoint to give to the poor. No burglary, no muggings, no bread riots, no street crime—although society circles down into poverty and economic depression. None of the wealthy worries about personal safety while the members of the elite mysteriously disappear.

The only thing that matters is success at making money.

“There’s nothing of any importance in life — except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It’s the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they’ll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that’s on a gold standard.”

Smoking is good for you. Like Rand, most of the novels’ heroes smoke, for good reason, according to a cigarette vendor:

“I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips … When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind—and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”

A heavy smoker, Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged before she developed lung cancer and had a lung removed with the help of government funding.  Worth today’s equivalent of $1.2 million when she died, she still took Social Security and Medicare because she needed the system for help.

In Business Insider, Max Nisen pointed out ways in which businessmen shouldn’t hold up Atlas Shrugged as a model:

Return to the gold standard: Ben Bernanke, former chair of the Federal Reserve, said that the wild fluctuations in inflation would return under the gold standard because it is unstable and bad for business.

The belief that successful people are inherently superior and frequently victims: Helping people achieve instead of looking down on them is true leadership.

Suggestion that people can and should be motivated only by money or trade: Many people are better motivated by doing something they consider worthwhile, including giving help to people. Any business owner who fails to understand this will lose talented employees.

A contemptuous view of customers: Rand promotes the idea that anyone who takes assistance is contemptible and should be avoided at all costs, not a good business model.

The perception of government as antagonist: Like the rest of the novel, government is a caricature. Good businessmen know that their success depends on infrastructure and property laws, especially intellectual property laws. That’s what they get from government.

A new generation will now be introduced to the third part of Atlas Shrugged as a new movie, including Rob Morrow, is scheduled to be released on September 12 of this year. The producer hopes “to draw a connection between the political implications in Atlas to the midterm elections and use the film as an opportunity to show their support for Atlas’ message of freedom and the rights of the individual.” Because the first two parts did badly at the box office, the movie had to be partially funded by donations from the general public.

A close attachment to Rand, however, may be awkward for conservatives. She was pro-abortion, supporting sexual freedom, and, worst of all for conservatives, an atheist. Her rejection of self-sacrifice included the idea of a god to whom a person should be subservient. The concept of Original Sin requires guilt, mandating atonement by attending to the “rotting sores” of others. To Rand, all altruism is evil. Rand described Jesus’ teachings as “the best kindergarten for Communism.”

The problem with Rand’s books, other than the fact that they are badly written, is that they are not balanced. Individual freedom and equality are prized by Western democracies but not at the cost of creating a huge gulf in equality. Large disparity in power eliminates individual freedom and equality because there is no longer ability for everyone to act freely.

Rand’s form of libertarianism and objectivism acts as a cult because it requires power differentials between leader and follower. No one is allowed to criticize. Libertarians claim “Reason,” using the term so that anyone who disagrees is “unreasonable.” Objectivism is simply a form of hedonism, not an objective approach. Both are absolute, allowing no possibility for thinking and change.

People love Rand’s polemics because they can behave selfishly without guilt. Following Rand, however, would only lead to the crumbling of the nation’s entire infrastructure and the destruction of the planet because the wealthy and the corporations only want the instant gratification of making more and more money. In truth, they are the leeches on the rest of us because they take everything from the people who actually work. Generally, the role of government, no matter how much some people hate it, is to keep the rich from taking everything from everyone else.

April 9, 2014

The ACA: Hell Freezes Over

I never thought it would happen: hell just froze over! After voting at least 51 times to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, House  GOP members voted to expand coverage choices as part of the legislation that stopped cuts for doctors’ Medicare payments. The bill, passed by the Senate and promptly signed into law, eliminated a cap on deductibles for small group policies in both federal and state exchanges.

The attitude change isn’t permanent, and hell is warming up. Until the ACA, major laws were always tweaked for improvement—Social Security, Medicare, even Massachusetts’ “Romneycare.” All the GOP wanted to do to ACA, however, was eliminate all its benefits. When Mitt Romney’s choice of news source, the extremist far-right Drudge Report, condemned this tweak, Speaker John Boeher’s (R-OH) office tried to explain that the new law actually repealed part of the ACA.

Image: CPAC's Annual Conference in Maryland

[Republican Governor from Louisiana Bobby Jindal at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, USA, 06 March 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA]

Republicans are woefully short on ideas about changing the ACA, as Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, demonstrates. Almost a year ago, he told the GOP that they had to stop being “the stupid party” before he joined the stupid curve to be considered as a presidential candidate. His new ideas for a healthcare plan are just plain confusing.

Jindal sticks with conservative positions of Medicaid block grants, Medicare vouchers for private plans, and limiting malpractice lawsuits, but he recommends cutting tax breaks for employer healthcare plans and using the revenue to provide deductions for individuals to buy insurance. He also wants to set aside $100 billion for pre-existing conditions with federal funding instead of the current practice of spreading these costs across the market through n insurance mandate.

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study of Jindal’s ideas found that replacing the tax exclusion with a deduction “would likely cause employer-based health coverage to seriously erode by encouraging employers to discontinue their coverage.” Conservative health policy experts James Capretta and Tom Miller estimate that high-risk pools aimed at covering up to 4 million people would cost between $150 to $200 billion over 10 years showing how low Jindal’s figure is. The governor’s policy director said that states, already saddled with far more costs than a decade ago, could pay the rest of the money.

Before the GOP turned farther right, Republicans promoted an individual mandate. Only after President Obama supported their model did the GOP reject the idea. Jindal is dreaming if he thinks that the House Republicans would support high-risk pools. Last year, it turned down a bill from Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) for just $3.6 billion on high risk pools that would be fully paid for with cuts to Obamacare.

Jindal’s plan would repeal the ACA, cancel millions of healthcare plans, do away with more insurance plans by eliminating employer-based care, and erase the ACA financing while at the same time making Medicare into a voucher scheme. Even the ultra-conservative National Review found Jindal’s plan “too disruptive.”

In the House, GOP leaders are avoiding any concrete healthcare ideas. After waiting almost five years, all people  hear is that the plan is being delayed “at least a month,” as Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Bloomberg News this week. The GOP has an excellent reason for their procrastination. A “congressional GOP health aide” anonymously said that they can’t come up with an alternative that doesn’t look like the existing healthcare plan.

The Republicans know what the rest of the country is learning: people hate the word Obamacare, but they love everything about it. In a discussion about healthcare, they ask if repeal means that the popular parts will be gone. The answer is “yes.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) took the bull by the horns and said that the GOP can’t reinstate these popular provisions because they are too expensive. On Bloomberg’s Political Capital with Al Hunt, Ryan was asked about specific provisions: coverage for pre-existing conditions, parents’ insurance covering children until they are 26, the ban on annual and lifetime caps, different rates for people whose jobs include physical labor, etc. He said that these reforms “basically make it impossible to underwrite insurance.” He admitted that the GOP wants to erase healthcare coverage for millions and eliminate consumer protections for the rest of the people who manage to keep insurance.

Popular provisions would be too expensive under GOP policy because they will kill the individual mandate. Under GOP rule, insurance companies could go back to elaborate underwriting forms that demand answers to private details of health histories so that they can discriminate against people with health issues. All the ACA asks is age and tobacco use.

The biggest fears that people have about the ACA is its cost and its ability to refuse people insurance. Ann Coulter tried to tell a horrifying story about a “friend’s sister” who supposedly died of cancer because Obamacare took away her insurance. Politifact rated her tale as “pants on fire,” saying that if Coulter’s story was accurate, then the woman elected to drop her coverage.

A new piece on the internet blames drastic increases in premiums on the ACA. It started with a Forbes column from Scott Gottlieb, connected to the American Enterprise Institute. He refers to a non-existent survey and has no background information for his assertions. No right-wing major newspaper repeated this information, showing that they think it is fraudulent. The only premium increases are “off-exchange” and non-employer plans. PwC’s Health Research Institute reports that the average cost of premiums on ACA exchanges are 4 percent less than employer-provided plans with comparable benefits. Another “pants on fire.”

Yesterday, the Rand Corp. released its study of the ACA’s effect on health insurance coverage:

  • At least 9.3 million more people in the United States have health insurance than in September 2013, almost all of them because of the law.
  • The number of people getting insurance through their employers increased by 8.2 million.
  • Of the 3.9 million people counted by Rand as obtaining insurance on the individual exchange market, 36% were previously uninsured. That ratio is expected to rise when the late signups are factored in. Medicaid enrollment increased by 5.9 million, the majority of whom did not have insurance before signing up.

And this is just the beginning. Experts expect more enrollments as other changes occur.

The Medicaid increase comes from only half the states because the other half have refused to take federal funding for the program to insure their indigent, uninsured people. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped design the healthcare systems in both Massachusetts and the United States, talked about the conservatives in the states that rejected Medicaid:

“[They] are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.”

Gruber described it as “nothing short of political malpractice.” Virginia is a prime example of this evil. Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigned on Medicaid expansion, but the commonwealth’s legislature blocks these benefits for 400,000 lower-income Virginians in the healthcare coverage gap, those who can’t afford to buy healthcare but make too much money for the extremely low Medicaid qualifications.

charlene dillIn a real story about a real person, 32-year-old Charlene Dill, mother of three who worked three part-time jobs to make $9,000 a year, dropped dead at one of her jobs having no health insurance for her chronic heart condition. She was in the coverage gap. GOP legislators are literally murderers in half the states.

The other evil-doers are the huge corporations who are making money while trying to keep people from having health care. While Koch Industries and other conglomerates are spending millions against the ACA, they are benefiting because the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program pays health insurance costs for those not covered by Medicare. Other companies benefiting from ACA are UPS, Union Pacific Railroad, Altria Client Services, AT&T, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline—all companies that paid to elect anti-healthcare legislators. These corporations are also murderers.

Although a variety of polls show that a little more than half the people support or oppose the ACA, the surveys do not indicate the reasons for opposition. Personally I and many others would opposed it to get universal healthcare. I try to imagine what the polls would have said if the conservatives had not sent billions of negative messages about the ACA.

April 3, 2014

Ryan’s Budget: Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich

paulryanspeaking630x354Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man who thinks that the country’s problems would be solved if only men in the inner city would get to work, has released his fourth annual budget proposal, again full of welfare subsidies for the wealthy. Today the man with a position that even the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have condemned as immoral received an award for public service from the Catholic Marquette University. People are paying up to $25,000 for tickets and sponsorships for its fancy luncheon.

Budgets reflect a political party’s priorities and values. Ryan (public service award winner) has created that cuts $5.1 trillion over ten years by increasing defense spending, giving money to the wealthy, and taking money from the rest of the people in the country:

  • Reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent and drop the highest income tax bracketed (90 percent in the 1950s) from 39.6 percent to 25 percent with any necessary taxes taken from middle-class taxpayers.
  • Protection of $45 billion in tax subsidies over 10 years to oil companies, the top five of which already reaped $93 billion in profits from 2013 alone.
  • Repeal of the Medicaid expansion provision in the Affordable Care Act by eliminating $1.5 trillion over ten years from the program that covered 67 million people in 2012, including 32 million children.
  • Cuts of $125 billion over ten years from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), also called food stamps.
  • Erasure of the ACA. Medicare staying the same for those receiving it at this time but future Medicare plans coming from an exchange of private insurers—just like ACA. Policing of these private sector plays “to avoid cherry-picking and ensure that Medicare’s sickest and highest-cost beneficiaries receive coverage.” Just like the ACA. Medicare forcing 55-year-olds into a new voucher system that would increase Medicare premiums by 50 percent, according to the CBO.
  • Massive cuts to infrastructure, science, medical research, college loans, education etc. past the current disastrous level caused by sequestration despite the fact that austerity has been proved to fail as shown by the damaged economy from the George W. Bush austerity. In Europe, the deeper the austerity, the higher the unemployment; Ryan’s budget could lose 1.1 million jobs in one year. Difference between unemployment with and without the GOP austerity.

Austerity comparison

  • Huge unspecified cuts in low-income programs such as school lunches, child nutrition programs, and Supplemental Security Income which helps severely poor disabled and elderly people as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which Ryan praised in his recent poverty report while saving farm programs.

(more…)

March 4, 2014

Republicans, from Stability to Ryan

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:39 PM
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Twenty-seven years ago, a U.S. House member died trying to help the homeless, a growing problem after Reagan cut low-income housing and deinstitutionalized psychiatric hospitals. In 1987 when almost no federal money addressed the growing problem of homeless people, activists succeeded in passing the only new social program enacted during the Reagan administration. Rep. Stewart McKinney from Connecticut was an instrumental part of passing the landmark legislation.

The first Republican to publicly declare the need for a federal initiative to help the homeless, McKinney and other representatives introduced the Urgent Relief for the Homeless Act, later renamed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Joined by such celebrities as Martin Sheen and Dennis Quaid, he and a dozen other members of Congress held the Great American Sleep-Out with homeless people who slept outside every night on March 3, 1987.

McKinney had suffered from AIDS for the eight years. Although doctors and colleagues urged him to not sleep outside in below-freezing temperatures, McKinney was willing to risk his life for this important issue. Two months later, he died from AIDS-related pneumonia. During that time, both Congressional chambers passed the bill with sufficient majority that Reagan couldn’t veto it.

The law has saved countless other lives and helped thousands more to regain stability. It created over a dozen programs that provide homeless services and allotted $1 billion in funding for emergency shelters, job training, housing vouchers, etc.  In addition, the law supports the rights of the homeless, including that of children to receive an education.

That was 27 years ago. Now Paul Ryan (R-WI) represent GOP members in Congress. As chair of the House Budget Committee, he just released a 204-page report called “The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later.”

In his self-identified goal to “help” low-income families, he is using his report to show the failure of federal efforts to reduce poverty on his road to further shred the safety net for those low-income families. Ryan continues to argue that poverty in the United States comes from “the poverty trap” of federal programs. His own report, however, shows success in federal programs (material in quotes from Ryan’s report):

 

  • Veterans Health Administration: “effective in providing access to inexpensive health care for low-income veterans.”
  • Child Tax Credit (assistance to families with children): “protected about 2.9 million people from falling into poverty, including about 1.5 million children.”
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (cash assistance to low-income working families): “an effective tool for encouraging and rewarding work among lower-income individuals, particularly single mothers.”
  • Rural Housing Assistance Grants: “allow very low-income elderly homeowners on a fixed budget to remain at home and independent.”
  • Title X Family Planning: “women who utilize Title X (Family Planning program) services as their primary source of health care have significantly greater odds of receiving contraceptive services and/or care for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than women who utilize private physicians or HMOs.”
  • Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program: “has been shown to fill gaps in Medicaid’s HIV/AIDS services and delivery programs.”
  • Housing Opportunities For Persons With AIDS: “effective” in “assisting a vulnerable population to achieve beneficial outcome.”
  • Federal Health Centers (grants to outpatient primary-care facilities): “fewer racial and ethnic disparities at community health centers” and “perform better than private-practice primary case in some cases.” The report also reveals medical expenses for health center patients were found to be lower compared to patients who receive care elsewhere.
  • Homeless Assistance Grants: shown to “decrease homeless and reduce costs related to health care and institutionalization.”
  • Low income subsidy for Medicare Part D (medications for low-income seniors): “A 2012 study compared two groups of seniors with similar commodities and found that seniors taking advantage of the LIS subsidy were significantly more likely to take medically necessary medications than the group not enrolled in the LIS program.”
  • The Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant (to reduce infant mortality): rated “effective.”.
  • Elderly Nutrition Program (group meals and home-delivered meals for senior citizens): “well targeted towards the low-income elderly and to those with increased risk for nutrition and health problems.”
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children: “increases birth weights for low-income women.”
  • School Breakfast Program: increases “both nutrition and academic achievement among low-income children.”
  • Education For Homeless Children and Youth: “provides funding for states to create programs to ensure homeless children and youth have access to public education” and improves “student performance.”
  • Child Care and Development Fund: subsidies “increase the likelihood of participation in the labor force” and “encourage single mothers to pursue education.”

 

The editorial board of the New York Times described Ryan’s complaints as “small and tired”:

“It’s easy to find flaws or waste in any government program, but the proper response is to fix those flaws, not throw entire programs away as Mr. Ryan and his party have repeatedly proposed. It might be possible, for example, to consolidate some of the 20 different low-income housing programs identified in the report, but Congressional Democrats have no reason to negotiate with a party that fundamentally doesn’t believe government should play a significant role in reducing poverty. (Similarly, Republicans complain endlessly about flaws in health care reform, but their sole solution is to repeal the entire program, not improve it.)

“The report notes that some programs, including the earned-income tax credit, have been effective, but it fails to draw the proper lessons from those examples. The most successful programs, including the tax credit, Medicaid and food stamps, have been those that are carefully designed, properly managed and well-financed. For all their glossy reports, Republicans have shown no interest in making these or any other social programs work better.”

Further analysis of the report shows that Ryan’s report misrepresented its data. The Fiscal Times’ Rob Garver interviewed economists used to prove Ryan’s points. Their responses:

Jane Waldfogel: Ryan omitted two of the most successful years of the war on poverty on a December study from the Columbia Research Center measuring the decline in poverty after the start of the “war on poverty.” The study found that the poverty rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012, but Ryan’s data starts in 1969 and ignores 36 percent of the decline. Waldfogel said, “It’s technically correct, but it’s an odd way to cite the research. In my experience, usually you use all of the available data. There’s no justification given. It’s unfortunate because it really understates the progress we’ve made in reducing poverty.”

 

  • Columbia researcher Chris Wimer: Ryan’s manipulated his work in discussing the 1996 welfare-reform law.
  • University of Wisconsin at Madison professor Barbara Wolfe: Ryan’s report “misstated” her findings on housing assistance and mischaracterized her research on Medicaid.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Jeffrey Brown: Ryan’s report ignored relevant caveats when he highlighted Brown’s scholarship on Medicaid.

 

Almost 60 years ago, a Republican president initiated the 46,000-mile interstate highway system. Dwight D. Eisenhower supported the implementation of school de-segregation in Little Rock (AK), helped the low-income people through farm subsidies (when most farmers really were poor), expanded Social Security, and added funding to the Federal Housing Administration so that people could buy their own homes. He left taxes higher for the wealthy, and times were prosperous. When Eisenhower left the presidency, he warned people about the “military–industrial complex,” causing today’s debt crisis.

Over 40 years ago, Richard Nixon developed diplomatic relationships with China and the Soviet Union, halting the Cold War, and created the EPA to address rampant pollution. During his time in the office, man walked on the moon, and Congress passed Title IX to fight inequality for girls in education. Endorsing the ERA, Nixon was also the first president to explicitly advance women’s rights in his administration.

During Gerald Ford’s brief administration, the GOP began its downward  spiral into a cold, calculating party,  ignorant about successful economic principles. When Christian fundamentalists put Reagan into office four years later, he started to wipe out unions and shred the people’s safety net. At the same time Reagan drastically built up the military and slashed the top income taxes by more than 60 percent. His tax-cut policies forced him to borrow heavily, driving the national debt from $700 billion to $3 trillion.

In less than a half century, the GOP has gone from a party that supports the poor, unions, women’s and civil rights, equitable taxes, education, lack of military intervention, and, indeed all the people in the United States to Ryan’s “war on the 99 percent.”

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