Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sherrod Brown


Regarding the congressional hearings being held in the House with respect to the technical difficulty, that people have experienced on line signing people up for Affordable Health Care Act, Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said: “Well, I don’t think there was much interest in that hearing in getting to the bottom and sorting it out.

“Look, first of all, there is far too much contracting out in this government.  You can look at NSA, you can look at Iraq, the privatization of far too much of the armed forces.  You know, from foodservice to soldiers and you can look at contracting out here.

“The fact is, the administration, of course, should have been better prepared, but the opponent to Obamacare, the ones that shut the government down to get rid of it are now saying delay it, delay it, delay it.  They’re of course going to try to do that.

“In fact, the issue is the president and the White House and HHS have got to fix this.  They’ve got to make it work.  A million seniors in my state have already benefited from free checkups and screenings; 100,000 young people have benefited by being on their parent’s health plan.  Thousands of families have benefited already because they’re not denied coverage because of a child’s pre-existing conditions.

“I just spoke to the head of the biggest Medicare company in the state, today.  They are going to sign up at least 100,000 people, come January in the first few months of next year, that didn’t have insurance before.  This is going to work, we’re going to look back on this five years from now and wonder what the fight was about.  It’s just like Medicare.  There was opposition in the beginning and people become very satisfied with it over time.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sheldon Adelson


Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent millions on Republican candidates in the 2012 elections.  He recently gave a speech at Yeshiva University in New York City, in which he gave a glimpse into an apocalyptic chain of future events, that is not as farfetched as you might think.

American Orthodox Rabbi Smueley Boteach asked Adelson: “So, you would support negotiations with Iran currently as long as they first ceased all enrichment of uranium?”

Adelson answered: “No. What do you mean support negotiations?  What are we going to negotiate about?  What I would say is see is -- Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.

“You pick up your cell phone, even at traveling rates.  You pick up your cellphone, and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK, let it go.’

“So, there’s an atomic weapon on a ballistic missile exploding in the middle of a desert that does not hurt a soul.  Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes and scorpions or whatever.

“And, then you say, See.  The next one is in the middle of Tehran.  So, we mean business.  You want to be wiped out, go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.  You want to be peaceful, just reverse it all and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, for energy purposes.”

First, an examination of a population density map of Iran will show that a nuclear strike on Iran’s desert would kill a lot of people.  And, second, you don’t use a nuclear weapon to deliver a warning shot, and send a message. 

This isn’t ranting coming from a powerless old crank, or wing-nut internet blogger.  These are the words of an extremely rich and incredibly powerful conservative Republican, who poured almost $100 million into last year’s election.

What is so scary about Sheldon Adelson is that he is a primary influential donor, not just to the Republican Party, but to mainstream Jewish organizations, and he was in New York City at Yeshiva University getting applause for suggesting the United States launch a first strike nuclear attack on another country.

He’s using his influence to spread the fantasy that with enough power, there is no need for negotiation, or diplomacy.  That solutions comes through conquest and bullying, which seems to have become the hallmark of the Republican Party. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Implementation Undermined


 Conservatives wanted the states to be allow to set up their own exchanges, and the law was written to give them the right to do so.

Democrats thought the conservatives states would be eager to do it, but instead they decided to let the federal government do it for them.  However, House Republicans refused to give our federal government the resources to do the job as well as it could be done.  Obviously, there’s a bit of hypocrisy in some of their now complaining.

Furthermore, it’s ironic that Republicans are rejecting the part of Affordable Healthcare Act, that uses private health insurance market to expand insurance coverage, since that is a Republican idea promoted originally by the Heritage Foundation.

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin explained: “For the last three years, on my Appropriations Committee I’ve tried to get the money in there that they needed to get these private contractors to set this system up.  I’ve been denied that money.  So, they had to scrimp and try to figure it out.”

They tried to do it in house, but didn’t have all the expertise, or the money they should have had to get the private sector to set it up, because of congressional Republicans wouldn’t fund it.

John McDonough, who was the architect of Massachusetts’ “Romneycare” admits: “It was very controversial.  It had lots of people throwing political rocks on it from all directions.  It didn’t go quickly out of the gate it took time to build up.  People had to become familiar with it. People needed time to shop, to look, to understand their choices.  And five to six years later the law is working well.

“We’re actually feeling a little lonely up here in Massachusetts these days, seen it for the five years after it passed it seemed like the Wall Street Journal and the conservative media had to have at least one big article a week telling everybody how bad it was and since the election a year ago, we feel a little bit like the Maytag repairmen now, because
it’s very clear in Massachusetts the law is working well and I think that’s what the country can look forward to with the Affordable Care Act once we get over this very difficult and complicated implementation process.”

The first month of “Romneycare” saw only 123 of the individuals who paid premiums sign up for health insurance in Massachusetts.  


Monday, October 28, 2013

JP Morgan Settlement


JPMorgan suffered a $2 billion loss in early 2012, Elizabeth Warren the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Massachusetts commented: “They crashed the economy in 2008.  We had to bail them out.  What happened was that the companies that brought the economy to its knees did not take any responsibility.  They lost that fight.  But then they just moved to a war and it was to send in armies of lobbyists to lobby Congress, to weaken the rules, to go light, to describe to the regulators that really intended less and less regulation and to go after the regulators, and they just say to the regulators, you know, you’ve got to do less, let’s create this little technical part over here, another loophole over there.  Let’s delay implementation.
“The problem now is that JPMorgan has had to admit that, it really did take on a whole lot of risk and that it really got bitten by that risk, but it still wants to hold off any form of regulation.” 
In May 2012, President Obama insisted: “Congress should back reforms such as those enacted nearly two years ago because we can't afford to go back to an era of weak regulation and little oversight where excessive risk-taking on Wall Street and a lack of basic oversight in Washington nearly destroyed our economy."
At issue are claims that JPMorgan sold risky mortgages and mortgage securities while misrepresenting their quality.
Just last week, JPMorgan agreed to pay $5.1 billion to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to resolve claims stemming from the housing bubble, federal housing regulators announced.
The bank has also been in talks with the Justice Department and other government officials over another potential settlement based on similar claims.  That settlement will likely be even more expensive for the bank.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Post Shutdown Poll


“Americans for Prosperity” orchestrated a supposedly spontaneous grassroots campaign against healthcare reform before the bill ever passed Congress, thanks to the guidance and cash from their benefactors Charles and David Koch.

The combined wealth of these billionaire brothers’ make them the richest men in America.  Individually, they’re halfway down the top 10 list.  They got that way because they inherited a privately owned oil and chemical corporation from their father.

They’ve used that immense fortune to try to create the impression that large numbers of grassroots Americans believe that what is best for America is also what is best for Koch industries.

Recently, the Koch brothers had a new campaign going, that had been funding the groups that brought America the government shutdown. 

Now, Koch Industries declaims any responsibility for the shutdown, but Koch brothers groups were funded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.  The major groups that pressured congressional Republicans to shut down the government were all funded by the Koch brothers.

A new CNN poll shows that a majority of Americans don’t want Republicans controlling the Congress.  The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party continues to insists that the shutdown was worth it.

The government shutdown had no effect on users trying to sign up for Obamacare because money designated for the launch was approved in a previous session of Congress and didn't have to be approved again.

Republicans attacked the law on several fronts, demanding first that the government defund Obamacare, and then that it be delayed for a year. But when the government reopened, the GOP did come away me with a concession related to Obamacare.  They'll get is a report detailing the income checks the insurance exchanges will use, and a second report that reviews how effective the verification procedures are.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Marketplaces

With few exceptions, every American must have health insurance by March 31, 2014, or pay a penalty fee.  The marketplaces that are central to the Affordable Care Act launched on October 1, and despite the government shutdown it’s still the law.

People who have health insurance through their employer, or through Medicare or Medicaid, can continue to get it that way.  But the more than 48 million Americans without health insurance must enroll in one of the insurance marketplaces by December 15 in order to have their coverage start on January 1, 2014.

Although, states were given the option to set up their own marketplaces most refused.  The site our government set up for them is HealthCare.gov .  It has stumbled, but many of these individual states are doing better.  New York State and 14 other states, plus the District of Columbia are running their own sign-up sites.  New York’s site can be accessed at nystateofhealth.ny.gov/ or 1-855-355-5777.

The Department of Health and Human Services won't release enrollment figures before November, but a CNN canvass of the states running their own sign-up sites, indicates as of Oct. 18, at least 257,000 people had signed up for new insurance plans.

More than half of those are in New York state, with 134,000 new sign-ups. The states of Washington and Kentucky, each reported more than 45,000 new sign-ups.  Not all the states responded to data requests, and the numbers don't include those who have sought assistance or enrolled over the phone or via paper application.

Before the insurance exchanges were activated, it was unclear how much health care was going to cost consumers in each state.  The Manhattan Institute has released an online map showing insurance premiums before and after Obamacare based on age and sex.  In Oregon, rates for 40-year-old men have increased 24 percent, but in Ohio, they have dropped 22 percent.

The White House predicts, that once tax credits are factored in, about 6 in 10 individuals will be able to find insurance for less than $100 a month.

In states like New York, insurance markets were already regulated to not allow insurers to discriminate against the sick.  In those states, premiums will fall by as much as 50 percent, but in some southern states where insurers were allowed to discriminate against the sick, ending that discrimination will result in premiums going up.

Friday, October 25, 2013

BTW


Antonia Maioni an associate professor at McGill University wrote:
“Despite the partisan war in Washington that shut down the federal government this week, President Barack Obama has succeeded in implementing the first major health reform in the United States in nearly 50 years, as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into effect.  Even though its most virulent critics raise the spectre of ‘Canadian-style’ health care, ‘Obamacare’ does little to change the enduring differences between the two health care system.  What, exactly, does ‘Obamacare’ look like compared to Canada?
“It’s not single-payer.  Canadian critics tend to rail against ‘two-tiered’ medicine, but in fact, the U.S. has a multi-tiered system.  And despite the hype on both sides of the Congressional aisles, Obamacare keeps the same complex structure in place, while adding another layer through the introduction of health care ‘exchanges’ for uninsured Americans.  But the majority of Americans will continue to access care through a variety of health insurance plans made available or subsidized by their employer; nearly 50 million elderly and disabled through the federal Medicare program; another 60 million lowest-income through state-federal Medicaid arrangements.
“It’s not universal coverage.  Health care in Canada is based on a simple proposition: every legal resident is covered through a publicly-financed provincial or territorial plan.  The individual mandate, derived from a Republican precedent in Massachusetts, stands in stark contrast to Canada’s universality principle.  Even though Obamacare broadens coverage, the individual mandate relies on a fundamental insurance principle – care depends on type of coverage – and compels Americans to purchase insurance to access care.  Americans now have more affordable insurance options and subsidies to cover their costs, and the lowest-income may be eligible for public coverage through the expansion of Medicaid.  Still, despite the crush of online traffic as enrollment began Tuesday, only half of the estimated 40-plus million uninsured will be affected by Obamacare.
“It’s not ‘national’ health insurance.  One of the hallmarks of health care in Canada is that, although each province and territory administers a health plan, everyone can expect to be covered for a comprehensive range of services, no matter where they live.  And the federal government is expected to chip in to provincial coffers to make this happen.  There’s plenty of intergovernmental friction as a result, but nothing like the fractured federalism of the United States.  The implementation of Obamacare will further exacerbate regional and state differences, mainly as a result of the Supreme Court decision to curtail the federal government’s obligation for states to expand their Medicaid coverage.  As a result, only about half of the states have chosen to sign on to the new Medicaid program.
“It’s not equal access.  There’s been some controversy in Canada lately over wait times and access to timely care, but this pales in comparison to the wide gulf that exists in access to care in the United States.  Obamacare tries to address this in its provisions for insurance reform, such as lifting pre-existing conditions and limits on co-payment.  But for all of the emphasis on affordable care, the new law reinforces the notion that access depends on how much you can afford, not how much you need.  In the health insurance exchanges, the price of premiums will depend on your age, health, income, and on whether you opt for a bronze, silver, gold or platinum coverage.  In Canada, access to necessary health care services is not a competitive sport.
“It’s not cost control.  The sharpest critics of Obamacare argue it does little to address the fundamental challenge of cost control. The new law includes a review of Medicare reimbursement and the expansion of Accountable Care Organizations to reward cost-effective care.  But it doesn’t grapple in a systematic fashion with the overall inefficiencies in health care delivery and financing, the administrative burden of multiple payers, providers and plans, and the cost pressures of defensive medicine.  Governments in Canada know that health care is a searing financial responsibility, but they have at their disposal cost containment measures – monopoly fee negotiations with providers, global budgets for hospitals – that remain unfathomable in the American context.
“Obamacare is a huge step in American health reform and, if it seen to improve the system, will represent a major victory for Democrats.  Like other major reforms of the past, however, it will entrench the private nature of the system, and likely render national health insurance, or anything remotely like ‘Canadian-style’ health care, impossible to attain.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Showdown Politics


We’ve witnessed the politics of a shutdown, and hopefully recognized that there were no winners.  Although, a Standard and Poor's report estimated the 16 days of partial government shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy, we still don’t know the full scope of the damage. 
Innocent people went without paychecks and services they depended on, consumers cut back on spending, and small business loans were put on hold.  Half of all CEOs said that the threat of a shutdown set back their plans to hire over the next six months.  And just the threat of America not paying its bills on time, increased our borrowing costs, and added to the deficit.  
Over the past four years, our economy grew, our businesses created more jobs, and our deficits were cut in half.  At a time, when our economic recovery requires more jobs, we experienced another self-inflicted crisis.  In fact, nothing has done more to undermine our economy over the past three years than the these manufactured crises. 
The same politicians, who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claimed their actions were needed to get America back on the right track.  Actually, nothing has done more damage to America's credibility in the world, than the spectacle of the shutdown and a threatened default.
We'll bounce back, because we’re the safest place to invest.  We’ve earned that reputation because historically we’ve met our obligations.  Our businesses and the rest of the world needs to be reassured that the full faith and credit of our country remains unquestioned.
Senator Bernie Sanders insists: “What you cannot have is a president where a minority can say we are prepared to shutdown government, we’re prepared to default and drive the entire world economy into a recession, unless you give us what we want.” 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What is Possible


Regarding yesterday’s post entitled “FYI,” I feel obligated to remind readers, that Bismarck said: “Politics is the art of the possible.”

Some have accused President Obama of selling out to the Republicans because he didn’t insist on a single payer health care plan, but there wasn’t any evidence that Congress would pass such a bill.  

Obama wanted to be a transformational president and the 2008 election provided him with that rare opportunity.  The Democratic party dominated both houses of Congress.

Neither, Obama nor Speaker of the House Pelosi were interested in short-term political gain, but took on hard legislative fights.  Although, they favored a single payer healthcare system, it soon became apparent, that the votes weren’t there in the Senate.  Fortunately, Obama and Pelosi didn’t give up easily, because they’re pragmatist, who don’t allow the perfect to become they enemy of the good. 

The health insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry were spending billions of dollars on public relations every year to deny Americans affordable health care. 

Democratic Senator Max Baucus, was the Chairman of Senate Finance Committee, and he refused to allow advocates for a single payer national health policy to testify at the Senate Finance Committee hearings.

The Senate Finance Committee was corrupted by corporate health industry lobbyist.  The integrity of both Senator Baucus and Republican Senator Grassley was questionable, because Grassley had received over $2 million from the drug and health insurance industry since 2003, and Baucus received $1.5 million in two years.

President Obama has informed every governors in the country, that waivers would be available three years earlier than health reform originally promised if a state’s plan covers as many people as federal health reform with at least the same level of coverage in a way that doesn’t add to the federal deficit.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

FYI


“The ACA is the Wrong Direction, Time for Medicare for All,” by Margaret Flowers, M.D.
“In what is perhaps the greatest corporate scam ever, not only did the health insurance corporations write the federal health law, called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to enhance their profits, but now they also have the government and non-profit groups doing the work of marketing their shoddy products.  The foundation of the ACA, the mandate that uninsured individuals purchase private insurance if they do not qualify for public insurance, begins in 2014 and the state health insurance exchanges where people can purchase that insurance opened on October 1.  A new non-profit organization called Enroll America was created to organize and train grassroots activists to seek out the uninsured (they even provide maps) and assist them in using the exchanges.
“Billions of public dollars and tremendous efforts are being spent to create new health insurance markets, advertise them, subsidize their products and actively solicit buyers for them.  But the United States, as the only industrialized nation to use a market-based health care system, has already proven over the past 40 years, that this system doesn’t work.  It is the most expensive, leaves the most out and leads to poor health outcomes.  It means that people only receive the health care they can afford, not what they need.
“Market competition does not improve health outcomes because it consists of health insurance corporations competing for profit by selling policies to those who are the healthiest and denying and restricting payment for care.  And regulation of insurers doesn’t work either.  Although rules in the ACA give the appearance of changing insurance company behavior, insurers are already working around them.
“Defense of the ACA ignores the long history of private insurance influence and domination and is based on the hope that this time things will be different.  But the ACA has not changed the fact that private insurance companies view their plans as products and have no more allegiance to human health than does Big Energy which will stop at nothing to drill, frack and blow-up the planet for profits.
“Experience at the state level with previous similar reforms and a look at current health trends show that the ACA will leave tens of millions without insurance, will increase the percentage of people who are underinsured, will increase financial barriers to necessary care and will further privatize health care.  Cutting out the multitudes of insurers and creating a single publicly-financed universal health care system, Medicare for all, is the only way to solve our health care crisis.
“The ACA leaves tens of millions without coverage.  There are currently 48 million uninsured people in the US. At its best, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the ACA will leave 31 million people without health insurance when it is completely rolled out.  And even that estimate may be too low.  Experience at the state level showed that none of the similar plans hailed as comprehensive met their coverage goals before they failed due to costs.  Without effective cost controls, care remains unaffordable.
“The ACA lowers the bar on what is considered to be acceptable insurance coverage. Plans sold through the new health insurance exchanges will pay for as little as 60 to 70 percent of covered services and carry high out-of-pocket costs.  Because subsidies towards the purchase of insurance are inadequate, most people who are currently uninsured will be forced into the low coverage plans.
“The ACA continues the problem of financial barriers to care. Considering that 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck without significant savings, the money simply isn’t there to pay the out-of-pocket costs for visits to the doctor, tests or prescriptions.  A health survey by the Commonwealth Fund last year found that 80 million people reported not getting care due to cost, 75 million were having difficulty paying medical bills and 4 million (over 2 years) went into bankruptcy as a result.
“The ACA will circumvent the requirement to cover people with pre-existing conditions. One way that insurance companies are doing this is by restricting their networks to avoid places where sick people go such as large medical centers and public hospitals and by limiting the number of providers.  This will push people to use out-of-network providers and bear more or all of the cost.  Another method will be to raise premiums or stop selling insurance plans in areas where they do not make a profit.  Insurers can’t charge more for policies because of pre-existing conditions, but they can charge more based on age and location.
“The ACA allows insurers to receive waivers from provisions in the law.  Since the ACA was passed in 2010, insurers and others have received thousands of waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to exempt them from requirements. One of the most recent was to waive the cap on out-of-pocket spending because insurers claimed that their computer systems were not ready to handle the caps.   We will watch and see what insurers do over the coming years.  We can expect them to justify charging higher premiums and to push for lower levels of coverage or fewer required services. And we can expect that HHS and state insurance commissioners will be compliant, as they have been.
“The ACA moves our health system towards greater privatization.  The ACA lacks provisions to stop the consolidation of ownership of health facilities by large for-profit entities, something that large insurers are doing more.  It also cuts funding to safety net hospitals and shifts those funds to subsidize private insurance.  In Massachusetts where a similar health law was passed in 2006, the need for safety net programs has not fallen as people, even with insurance, face financial barriers to necessary care.
“Under the ACA, public insurances are being privatized.  More states are moving their Medicaid patients into managed care organizations (MCOs). MCOS are for-profit administrators that compete with each other to cover the healthiest patients and are incentivized to cut care.  Currently 75 percent of Medicaid patients are in MCOs and that number is expected to increase further under the ACA.  And one of the early goals of the ACA was to cut back on Medicare Advantage plans which are essentially private insurance plans paid for through Medicare.  The Advantage plans primarily insure the healthiest seniors and cost more than traditional Medicare.  Instead of cutting back, the Obama Administration boosted payment to the Advantage plans.  And enrollment in the plans has increased by 30 percent since 2010.
“Looking at the ACA from a distance, it is difficult to see it as anything more than a law designed by and for the health industries that profit from the current health system.  The regulations can be circumvented or waived.  The insurers can continue to find innovative ways to avoid the sick and paying for care.  And overall the system is becoming more privatized, which is the opposite direction from the real solution, Medicare for all.
“The United States is already spending more per person each year on health care than any other industrialized nation.  We are spending enough to provide lifelong high-quality comprehensive care to every person living in the US.  If we see the US market-based health care system as an experiment, it has failed and should be ended for ethical reasons.
“If we move immediately to a publicly-funded national Medicare for all, there would be no need for insurance exchanges and the massive increase in bureaucracy that goes with them.  Every person would be in the health system.  Any person who sought care would be covered without requirements for payment before care.  Medicare for all is the most effective, most efficient and fastest way to create a health care system that is about health rather than profit.  It is also the most just.
“We cannot cross our fingers and hope that the ACA ‘works.’  That attitude means hundreds of thousands will suffer and die from preventable causes and millions of families each year will continue to go bankrupt because of medical illness and costs.  The moral imperative is to realize that health care never has been and never will be a commodity and to stop treating it as such by taking it out of the marketplace altogether.  We need Medicare for all now.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Joseph C. Stillman


Joseph C. Stillman’s very enlightening letter to the editor of the Oneonta Daily Star was recently published.  
He pointed out: “You’d think that after two elections in which their presidential candidates have lost on a health care mandate, more than 40 congressional attempts to end or amend  Obamacare, a Supreme Court ruling upholding that law and now a government  shutdown, the Republican Congress would have learned something, but it hasn’t — intentionally.
“Instead, we now have a bunch of clowns whose self-interests and gerrymandered districts assure their re-elections without regard for the jobs they were voted to perform and the constituents they are supposed to represent. 
“New York Congressmen Richard Hanna and Chris Gibson could learn a thing or two from Sherwood Boehlert about moderate principles and governing from a centrist rather than an extremist political position.  The congressional shutdown has cost our country more than $300 million a day and the havoc it is having on our veterans, seniors and furloughed workers, among others, is totally irresponsible and they know it.
“We can thank tea party extremists who have taken over the Grand Old Party for this mess.  But in reality, it’s leaders like John Boehner and others who should have stopped this nonsense long before it got to this point.  Congressional Republicans should be ashamed of this latest stunt, but they aren’t.  Is this an example of leadership and their vision for America?  I think not.   We, as Americans, need to recognize this shutdown for what it is … a cheap, stupid political tactic intended to upend the Affordable Care Act and tarnish the president.  Stunts like this have consequences, and the GOP will pay dearly at the voting booth for years to come.
“Corruption exists in both political parties but some Republicans have taken this to a new low and a folly of this magnitude will once again cost taxpayers as a result.”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kerry Lynch


Recently, the Oneonta Daily Star published a letter to the editor submitted by Kerry Lynch, who criticizes remarks made by tea party conservative Chuck Pinkey in his most recent bi-weekly column.
“Regarding his column criticizing Obamacare, Chuck Pinkey is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.  He warns that Obamacare will pay as little as 70 percent of health care bills and leave patients to pay the rest, which could add up to ‘hundreds of thousands’ for major medical care.  But he is mistaken.  Obamacare sets a cap on annual out-of-pocket expenses — $6,350 for individuals and $13,700 for families.  No matter how high the bills, insured people will not pay more than this.
“It’s ironic that Mr. Pinkey warns about the risk of huge medical bills, because this is exactly the kind of problem that Obamacare was designed to address.  Before Obamacare, many people faced financial ruin if they became seriously ill.  Now, they don’t. 
“Our old employer-based health insurance system has been dying a slow death for years, and it left millions of people with no option for getting affordable insurance or access to health care (aside from emergency rooms).  Policymakers of all stripes tried for decades to fix the system, without success.
“Obamacare, whatever its shortcomings, will finally allow these people to get insurance and health care.  Why is this such a terrible thing?  And how would defunding Obamacare, as Mr. Pinkey recommends, help these people?”

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ever Changing Ransom Demands


After the Republican had partially shutdown our government, they didn’t seem to know what to do next.  They achieved their shutdown, but Democrats wouldn’t agree to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act.  Consequently, they attempted to force congressional Democrats to giving them something in exchange for holding the country hostage. 

Republicans couldn’t get Obamacare repealed, so they tried to get it de-fund or delayed.   They sought to delay the specific individual mandates in the law, but Democrats continued to say: “No.”
Next, Republican came up with a list of demands, that included denying health care insurance coverage specifically to the President and Vice President.  Then, they wanted to deny the health insurance for members of the president’s cabinet, and people who work for members of Congress. 

Eventually, they wanted to make it so birth control wasn’t covered by people’s health insurance anymore.  Then, they wanted to force Obama to open the keystone pipeline, means testing Medicare, changing the pensions of federal employees,  expanding oil drilling on federal lands, and discontinue the EPA’s pollution rules for the new coal-powered plants.  Again and again Democrats said “No.” 

Paul Ryan demanded that he get all the proposed tax code changes, he made when running for vice president.  They demanded the administration get rid of coal ash regulations.  They demanded to change the tax on medical devices.  It ended by Republicans demanding the Treasury Department’s rules be changed to make the next debt ceiling crisis worse than this one.

After Republicans took back the House in 2011, they began using the threat of not raising the debt ceiling.  Two years ago, it worked when Obama negotiated with them over the debt ceiling.  This time, after all of the constantly changing list of randsom demands that Republicans made, they got nothing.



Friday, October 18, 2013

Government Service


Yesterday, President Obama concluded his remarks regarding the ending of the partial government with the following message:
“I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed.  Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues.  And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided -- that’s putting it mildly.  That’s okay.  That’s democracy.  That’s how it works.  We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process. 
“And sometimes, we'll be just too far apart to forge an agreement.  But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree.  We shouldn’t fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don’t think it's good politics; just because the extremes in our party don’t like the word ‘compromise.’ 
“I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done.  And there's no good reason why we can't govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.  In fact, one of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important.  It matters.  I think the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people's lives.
“We hear all the time about how government is the problem.  Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways.  Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries.  It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe.  It helps folks rebuild after a storm.  It conserves our natural resources.  It finances startups.  It helps to sell our products overseas.  It provides security to our diplomats abroad. 
“So let's work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse.  That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government.  You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position.  Go out there and win an election.  Push to change it. But don’t break it.  Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.  That's not being faithful to what this country is about.
“And that brings me to one last point.  I’ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either worked without pay or been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you.  Thanks for your service.  Welcome back.  What you do is important.  It matters.
“You defend our country overseas.  You deliver benefits to our troops who’ve earned them when they come home.  You guard our borders.  You protect our civil rights.  You help businesses grow and gain footholds in overseas markets.  You protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink.  And you push the boundaries of science and space, and you guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country. Thank you.  What you do is important.  And don't let anybody else tell you different.  Especially the young people who come to this city to serve -- believe that it matters.  Well, you know what, you’re right.  It does.
“And those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job as best we can.  We come from different parties, but we are Americans first.  And that’s why disagreement cannot mean dysfunction.  It can't degenerate into hatred.  The American people’s hopes and dreams are what matters, not ours.  Our obligations are to them.  Our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation –- one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Temporary Bandage


President Obama has signed a bill that ends the 16 day partial government shutdown and raises the debt ceiling.

Republicans waited close to the midnight debt ceiling deadline, even though they were warned weeks ago, that the government could run out of money to pay its bills if it didn't raise the debt ceiling by midnight.

The director of the Office of Management and Budget announced that federal workers should expect to return to work this morning, 

The Republican controlled House eventually approved the Senate bill by passing it by a 285 to 144 vote.  A majority of the Republican party's caucus voted against the measure, which only passed because of overwhelming Democratic support.

The bill is merely a temporary bandage, because the current spending levels were only authorized through January 15, and the debt ceiling was extended through February 7.

Contentious issues regarding changes to entitlement programs and tax reform continue to divide Democrats and Republicans.  The heads of the Senate and House budget committees, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan will begin addressing these budget issues. They intended to come up with a broader spending plan for the rest of fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30.

According, to a Standard and Poor's estimate the past 16 days of partial government shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy.  John Chambers, managing director of Standard and Poor's rating service pointed out: "We think that we'll be back here in January debating the same issues.  This is, I fear, a permanent feature of our budgetary process."

Republicans might claim, that they got an “Obamacare” concession, that requires the government to confirm the eligibility of people receiving federal subsidies under Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, but that requirement is already in the law.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

People Are Suffering


President Obama has met with Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress in an effort to reopen our government and remove the danger of default from our economy.  Many House Republicans agreed, that we need to avoid the economic consequences of not meeting our country’s commitments to pay our debts. 
Seven and a half million new jobs have been created in the past three and a half years, and we’ve cut our deficits in half over the past four years.  Now, we need to do it in a more balanced way that allows our economy to grow.  We should agree that there is no reason people should be suffering through this shutdown. 
Innovative small business owners have already lost contracts, customers, and put hiring on hold.  It’s hurting the citizens that our government exists to serve.  A growing number of reasonable Republicans believe the shutdown should end, but others suggest, that we kick the debt ceiling can down road a couple months, and attempt to deal with the first intentional default in the middle of the holiday shopping season.
Damage to America’s credit rating wouldn’t just disrupt global markets, it would become more expensive for everyone to borrow money.  Students paying for college.  Newlyweds buying a home.  It would amount to a Republican default tax on every family and business. 
Manufacturing crises to extract massive concessions isn’t how our democracy is supposed to work.  Politics is a battle of ideas, but we should be attempting to advance those ideas through elections and legislation, not extortion.  Most Americans are frustrated by what they see in our nation’s capital right.  Our government is closed for the first time in 17 years.  Not only is it dangerous, but it inflicts unnecessary pain on people, and threatens our nation’s credit and standing in the world.
The hundreds of thousands of hardworking public employees who are going without pay will continue to worry every day, that they won’t be able to pay their bills, and their own creditworthiness will be ruined for no good reason at all.
Our government must pass a budget, put people back to work, and end this Republican shutdown.  As a nation we should pay our bills, and let our public employees get back to the work.  Members of Congress need to be focusing their energies on creating more jobs, educating our children, and reforming our broken immigration system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Republican Playbook


The fiscal negotiation playbook for John Boehner and congressional Republicans has been to threaten to do something extreme or to allow something extreme to happen.  The prospect of a debt default is a perfect example. 

This isn’t the first time, since Republicans took back the House in 2011, that they used the threat of not raising the debt ceiling.  Two years ago, it worked when President Obama negotiated with them over the debt ceiling.  By doing so, he sent a message that they could dangle the prospect of the catastrophic default and extract meaningful concessions by doing so.  

In 2011, the first part of the raising the debt ceiling agreement was cutting about $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.  Those were cuts that both parties had agreed to early on in the process. 

The second part of that agreement was to establishes a bipartisan committee of 12 members of Congress to report back with a proposal to further reduce the deficit, which then went to Congress for an up or down vote.  Eventually, that agreement led to sequestration.  

The same Republican playbook has now led us into a government shutdown and to the brink of default.  The damage of a debt default is real, because it can send the value of the dollar crashing, cause interest rates to soar, freeze credit markets around the world, and stock markets to crash.   It could send our economy into a recession even worse than the one that we’re still struggling to crawl out from.  

A lot has happened in the two-plus years since that last debt ceiling showdown.  Obama was willing to negotiate and make concessions in the name of averting a threat to drive the U.S. economy off a cliff.  What concessions must he make this time?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Boomeranged Against Them


Robert Draper’s book about Republicans in the Obama era led with the opening scene of what Republicans in Washington did on inauguration night when President Obama was first sworn in.  Republicans held a meeting at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., where they made their plans to block every single thing he wanted to accomplish as president and to make his presidency a failure.

After Obama was inaugurated the second time, there was a similar meeting by Republicans to plan their second term anti-Obama strategy.  The second term anti-Obama strategy was to shutdown the government.  The meeting was led by Reagan era attorney general, Ed Meese, and their plan was that there would be no funding of the federal government unless Obama agreed to repeal health care reform.

"The New York Times" has reported how more than three dozen conservative groups joined forces on the shutdown strategy.  Although that initial meeting was convened by Ed Meese, "The Times" pieced together information that much of the money involved in the shutdown effort was traced back to billionaires Charles and David Koch.

NBC News latest poll show that when asked who they blame most for the government shutdown, 53 percent said Republicans in Congress. and just 31 percent said Obama.

Likewise, 70 percent of Americans say Congressional Republicans are putting their own political agenda ahead of what’s good for the country.

When asked what they want the makeup of the next Congress to look like, 39 percent say they want it to be Republican-controlled, while nearly 50 percent say they want the Democrats back in charge.

The shutdown has been an unmitigated political disaster for  Republicans.  Hostility toward the health care law has lessened, and everything that this shutdown was supposed to be about for Republicans has boomeranged against them.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Not Starting Now


Congress needs raise the debt ceiling so the Treasury can pay the bills that Congress has already spent.  Raising the debt ceiling is a routine procedure, that has been done more than 40 times since Ronald Reagan was President.  Never before has it been used in the kind of ways that some congressional Republicans have been talking about.   Those right wing extremist are using the threat of an economic catastrophe in the midst of budget negotiations.  
Only Congress can authorize the Treasury to pay our bill, pass a budget, end the government shutdown, and prevent an economic shutdown.  President Obama wants to negotiate with Republicans on how to create more jobs, grow the economy, boost manufacturing, and deal with our long-term fiscal situation. 
The president has put forth a budget that specifically lays out his vision for how we're going to grow this economy.  However, federal employees shouldn’t be hurt, in order for Republicans to think they’re going to have more leverage in those negotiations.
A short-term funding bill that was presented to end the government shutdown reflects Republican budget priorities.  The funding levels of the continuing resolution bill are far lower than what Democrats think they should be.  However, Senate Democrats are prepared to compromise, and put the bill up for a majority of vote in order to reopen the government.  
Indeed, Democrats are willing to pass a bill that reflects the Republicans’ priorities in terms of funding levels.  That's a very significant compromise, but what they're not willing to do is to create a permanent pattern in which unless you get your way the government is shut down or America defaults.  That's not the way Congress has done business in the pass, and as far a President Obama is concerned were not going to start now.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Let Democracy Rule


Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernie Sanders insists: “Democrats have already compromised by bringing forth a budget that the Republicans wanted.  Second of all, everybody understands that the issue here is the Republicans want to destroy or scale back the Affordable Care Act which was passed by the United States Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court and validated in the last election.  What you cannot have is a president where a minority can say we are prepared to shutdown government, we’re prepared to default and drive the entire world economy into a recession, unless you give us what we want.  Because if you do it now, I promise you they will be back next year and the year after, elections will mean nothing.  And it will simply be a situation where people can hold the American people hostage.”

The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act passed the House by a 407-0 vote.  The 800,000 workers, that have been furloughed will be paid after the shutdown ends, so it’s not going to save money.

Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi insists: “It will take some coming together on the Republican side.  It’s very hard to negotiate with the Republicans when they can’t negotiate with themselves.

Actually, the attack on Obamacare is just one small part of a right-wing libertarian extremist ideology which intends to repeal virtually every piece of progressive legislation passed in our country in the last 80 years.  Legislation that has protected the interest, of the elderly, the children, the sick, the poor, women, and the environment.  That is their ultimate agenda.

Moderate conservative Republicans must stand up to Speaker Boehner and tell him, that although they don’t like Obamacare, we don’t think the government should be shut down, and that they’re prepared to vote for a clean continuing resolution.  However, when moderate Republicans stand up to Boehner, the extreme right-wing of the party reminds them, that they have the billionaire Koch Brothers behind them, with hundreds of millions of dollars. and if they vote in support of a clean continuing resolution, they’ll be oppose in the primary.

Citizens United is all about giving billionaires, like the Koch Brothers the incredible power to tell members of Congress what they can and cannot do.

Let Democracy rule, because we should be creating millions of new jobs not furloughing and laying off millions of federal employees.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Personal Wish List


On “Face The Nation,” Bob Schieffer asked Republican Senator John Cornyn about the government shutdown.
Cornyn blamed President Obama for refusing to negotiate on defunding or delaying the Affordable Care Act in exchange for raising the debt ceiling and ending the government shutdown.  Cornyn claimed Obama was "AWOL."
Schieffer inquired: "Don't Republicans also have to do their job?  It's almost like I’m going to throw a brick through your window unless you give me $20."
The CBS host pointed out: “The law has been passed.  Why not keep the government running and then everybody can sit down and decide what they want to do about it?"
After, Senator Cornyn again tried to lay the blame on Democrats for not allowing Obamacare cuts to be part of a shutdown solution, Schieffer responded: "Senator, isn’t there something wrong when you say ‘I won’t fund the government unless I can attach my personal wish list to the legislation every time we vote?’  I’d love to see the government find a cure for cancer, but I don’t think you can say I’m not going to pass and pass any funds for the rest of the government until the NIH finds a cure for cancer.  I mean, isn’t that just kind of the same thing here?"
President Obama has insisted: “The American people are not pawns in some political game.  You don't get to demand some ransom in exchange for keeping the government running.  You don't get to demand ransom in exchange for keeping the economy running.  You don't get to demand ransom for doing your most basic job.”
Apparently, congressional Republican’s are disappointed that in the past 3 years, our businesses have added 7.5 million jobs, deficits are falling, the housing market is healing, manufacturing is growing, and the auto industry is back.    

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Congressman Butterfield


Congressman Butterfield represents Elizabeth City, N.C.  He’s a former voting rights attorney, and a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice.

Butterfield explains: “Down through the years we have been a progressive state.  The Republicans have been locked out of state government in North Carolina for many years. 
“There were three things standing in their way up until recently.  First of all, they didn’t control the legislature.  They didn’t have governor’s mansion.  They had Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act standing in their way.

“President Obama had an unexpected victory here in North Carolina in 2008.  After President Obama’s victory, they were determined to seize power. 2010, they won the state legislature, and in 2012, Governor McCrory was elected.  And on June 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Section 5 could not be enforced because of the coverage formula.

“They recognize, that the only way they’re going to be able to maintain power in this state, is to diminish and to dilute African- American votes in North Carolina.  The African-American vote has been the margin of victory for the Democratic Party, and this is all about suppressing the black vote.  We see right through it.  We know exactly
what’s happening.

That’s why I called on Attorney General Eric Holder to not only consider suing the state of Texas, which he did, but to bring a Section 2 lawsuit in North Carolina.  There is intentional discrimination ongoing and it certainly has a discriminatory effect.

“North Carolina is right for this type of case. There is no question that we could successfully prove in North Carolina intentional discrimination as well as discriminatory impact.  We’ve got to move in North Carolina.  We’ve got to show the Republicans you just don’t reverse 30 years of progress with the stroke of a pen.”

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

We’d Rather Work


The House voted unanimously to retroactively back pay federal workers who are not receiving a paycheck because of the government shutdown.  The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act passed 407-0 vote, with 25 members not voting.  Approximately, 800,000 workers have been furloughed, but they won’t be paid until the shutdown ends.

The vote was a rare showing of bipartisanship over the first shutdown in 17 years.  In the debate preceding the vote, Republicans sought to score points in the broader fight by arguing that Democrats were more interested in ensuring that workers were paid than in opening the government. 

The White House and Democrats have opposed several piecemeal measures to open the government, by arguing, that House Republicans should pass a clean continuing resolution to fund the entire government, not just selected portions of it.

The vote was seen as a defensive move by Republican leaders, who have come under pressure from some of their members, who have many government workers in his districts. 

Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings and others said they’ll continue to oppose attempt, by Republicans to pass smaller bills, because the only reason the government has closed is because Republicans are attempting to undermine Obamacare.

Next week, Republicans intend to pass more smaller spending bills, that include proposals to fund intelligence activities, the Food and Drug Administration, border security, and education.   So far, the Senate has refused to even call for a vote on any of the GOP's "mini" spending proposals. 

Our son has been furloughed.  His response to the House bill was the following comment on facebook: “Dear Congress, you have no problem paying us to do nothing? Why don't you just end the shutdown and have us work for a living.  My coworkers would rather work.  Meanwhile, your fiscal irresponsibility really knows no end.”

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Call a Vote

President Obama clarified his position regarding the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis:

“Right now, Congress should do what’s in the best interest of the economy and the American people, and that’s move beyond this manufactured crisis and work together to focus on growth, jobs, and providing the vital services that Americans all across the country depend on, including the services that FEMA provides.
“I heard a lot of talk over the weekend that the real problem is, is that the President will not negotiate.  Well, let me tell you something -- I have said from the start of the year that I’m happy to talk to Republicans about anything related to the budget.  There’s not a subject that I am not willing to engage in, work on, negotiate, and come up with common-sense compromises on.
“What I’ve said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don’t get 100 percent of their way, they’re going to either shut down the government or they are going to default on America’s debt so that America for the first time in history does not pay its bills.  That is not something I will do.  We’re not going to establish that pattern.
“We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families.  We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want.  We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America’s obligations.
“Now, the other thing I heard over the weekend was this notion that Congress doesn’t have the capacity to end this shutdown.  The truth of the matter is there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives right now to end this shutdown immediately, with no partisan strings attached.  The House should hold that vote today.  If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it.  Let the bill go to the floor and let’s see what happens.  Just vote.  Let every member of Congress vote their conscience and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down.
“My suspicion is -- my very strong suspicion is that there are enough votes there.  And the reason that Speaker Boehner hasn’t called a vote on it is because he doesn’t, apparently, want to see the government shutdown end at the moment unless he’s able to extract concessions that don't have anything to do with the budget.  Well, I think the American people simply want government to work.  And there’s no reason that there has to be a shutdown in order for the kinds of negotiations Speaker Boehner says he wants to proceed.  Hold a vote.  Call a vote right now, and let’s see what happens.” 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Thin Ice


In an interview President Obama said: “I’m exasperated, because this is entirely unnecessary.  We have a situation where John Boehner, the speaker of the House, puts a bill out on the floor to reopen the government, at current funding levels, so that we can then negotiate on a real budget that allows us to stop negotiating from crisis to crisis, it would pass.  The only thing that’s stopping it, is that John Boehner right now has not been willing to say no to a faction of the Republican Party that are willing to burn the house down because of an obsession over my health care initiative.”

The government shutdown is usually described as a fight between Democrats and Republicans, but it’s just as much if not more so a fight between Speaker Boehner and the far right of the Republican Party.

The idea of any Republican legislative leader being powerful is archaic in the era of the Tea Party.  Boehner happened to hold the next in line position to be speaker when the Tea Party sent dozens of new Tea Party backed lawmakers to Congress in 2010.

Boehner had been a Washington insider, who was first elected to Congress in 1990.  He rose through the ranks, fell down, but climbed back, and he finally became Speaker three years ago.  However, his problem is that he’s exactly the sort of Republican politician, that set in motion the Tea Party’s rise to power to begin with.

The Tea Party is a movement that is fighting a two-front war.  It’s in an  all-out partisan war with Obama and Democrats, but on the other front it’s an intra-party purge, within the Republican Party, against ideological impurity, but also the idea of the party establishment.  Speaker Boehner is treading on thin ice.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Disrespected


In 1995, the prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.  The U.S. contingent for that funeral included President Clinton, but also former Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush.  They traveled on Air Force One, along with a large congressional delegation that included the Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich had been invited aboard Air Force One to fly to the funeral, but with a budget crisis pending, he expected that Clinton would take time out during the fight to talk to him about a possible solution.  However, Clinton stayed up front in a cabin with former Presidents Carter and Bush.  On the return trips when the plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base, the congressional delegation including Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole were asked to deplane by the rear door.

A few days into the 1995 government shutdown, Gingrich told reporters: "I think that’s part of why you ended up with us sending down a tougher budget resolution.  I’m going to say up front it’s petty, but I think it’s human.  Where is their sense of manners, where is their sense of courtesy?"

Recently, President Obama quoted a House Republican, who said: "We’re not going to be disrespected, we have to get something out of this, and I don’t know what that even is."

Obama responded: “You have already gotten the opportunity to serve the American people.  There’s no higher honor than that.  You’ve already gotten the opportunity to help businesses like this one.  Workers like these.  So, the American people aren’t in the mood to give you a goody bag to go with it.

“What you get is our intelligence professionals being back on the job.  What you get is our medical researchers back on the job.  What you get are little kids back into Head Start.  What you get are our national parks and monuments open again.  What you get is the economy not stalling, but continuing to grow.  What you get are workers continuing to be hired.

“That’s what you get!  That’s what you should be asking for!  Take a vote, stop this farce, and end this shutdown right now!  If you’re being disrespected, it’s because of that attitude you’ve got, that you deserve to get something for doing your job!” 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Hurt Feelings


Five years ago, we were in the midst of a financial catastrophe, when Wall Street was melting down.  Bush's appointee, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke the Chairman of the Federal Reserve went to Congress and asked for $700 billion.

The Bush administration wanted Congress to immediately give them $700 billion virtually unrestricted.  Their arrogant request to Congress stated: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

One of the most dramatic moments in that entire financial collapse was when House Republicans unexpectedly voted against a rescue package for Wall Street to try to stop the meltdown.  Consequently, the stock market plunged 777 points, which was largest point plunge in history.

Republicans thought they had the votes, but as Rep. John Boehner explained: “I do believe that we could have gotten there today had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House.  I mean, we’ve put everything we had into getting the votes, to get there today.  But the speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get to go south.”

They could’ve voted to save our nation from financial catastrophe, but they found themselves unable to cast those votes, because somebody else’s speech hurt their feelings.

Rep. Barney Frank commented: “There’s a terrible crisis affecting the American economy.  We had to come together on a bill to alleviate the crisis, and because somebody hurt their feelings, they decided to punish the country.  Somebody hurt my feelings, so I will punish the country.  I mean, that’s hardly plausible.

“And there are 12 Republican members who are ready to stand up for the economic interests of America, but not if anybody insult them.  I’ll make an offer.  Give me those 12 people’s names and I will go talk, uncharacteristically nicely to them.  And tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they’ll now think about the country.”



Friday, October 04, 2013

May God Have Mercy


On the day the shutdown of our government began, my nephew Michael O’Leary posted:  “The Affordable Care Act passed both houses of Congress, was signed by the President, was upheld by the Supreme Court, became the central issue in an election where that President was re-elected, and has survived 40 attempts at repeal.  House Republicans: you have had your chances and you have been roundly defeated.  Move on and get back to work - you're embarrassing yourselves.”

Michael’s twin brother James pointed out that Senator Elizabeth Warren announced: "These [Republican] threats may continue, but they are not working and they will never work because this is democracy, and in a democracy hostage tactics are for those who can't win their fights through elections, can't win their fights in Congress, can't win their fights for the presidency, and can't win their fights in the courts.  For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left, a last gasp of those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy.”

Indeed, Obamacare has been passed, signed into law, and upheld by the Supreme Court, but Republicans are still doing everything they can to fight the law.  They’ve spent millions airing deceitful ads, even suggesting that Obamacare is like getting sexually assaulted. 

Some of the idiotic comments made regarding the Affordable Health Care Act remind me of a scene from the movie, “Billy Madison,” in which a character said: “What you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things that I’ve ever heard.  At no point, in your rumbling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.  Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.  I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.”