Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Heritage's Mike Lee: What's next for conservatives?

You know me, I'm all about equal time and the Fairness Doctrine, so I'm linking here in full a speech on October 29 by former Senator Mike Lee, the director of the Heritage Foundation.

Very quickly, Lee has taken Heritage from a right-wing think tank to an activist wing of the Tea Party; and many on the Right call Lee the leader of the Tea Party movement.  He very much positions himself as outside the "Republican establishment," whatever that is. 

(Everybody except John Boehner and Mitch McConnell? I guess "outside the establishment" is what you call yourself instead of "outside the Beltway" when you're actually located inside the Beltway, like Heritage is.)

Just a few interesting lines I'd like to point out that sound OK on the surface, until you get to the ideas part. Such as:

It’s hard to believe, but by the time we reach November 2016, we will be about as far – chronologically speaking – from Reagan’s election as Reagan’s election was from D-Day! Yet as the decades pass and a new generation of Americans faces a new generation of problems, the party establishment clings to its 1970s agenda like a security blanket.

The result is that to many Americans today, especially to the underprivileged and middle class, or those who have come of age or immigrated since Reagan left office the Republican Party may not seem to have much of a relevant reform message at all.

This is the reason the G.O.P. can seem so out of touch. And it is also the reason we find ourselves in such internal disarray.

And here's Lee's guidepost:

Where do we begin? A generation ago, conservatives forged an agenda to meet the great challenges facing Americans in the late 1970s: inflation, poor growth, Soviet aggression,along with a dispiriting pessimism about the future of the nation and their own families.

I submit that the great challenge of our generation is America’s growing crisis of stagnation and sclerosis – a crisis that comes down to a shortage of opportunities.

This opportunity crisis presents itself in three principal ways: immobility among the poor, trapped in poverty; insecurity in the middle class, where families just can’t seem to get ahead; and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic elites unfairly profit at everyone else’s expense.

OK, so far, so good. Sounds like good 'ole liberal rhetoric, I'm liking it.

Lee goes on to talk about breaking up corrupt cronyism of business and government elites, of backing the "little guy" again, and helping the middle class with one of its biggest expenses: health care.  (Lee supports "a comprehensive health reform plan proposed by Representatives Steve Scalise and Phil Roe" that I'm sure you all heard about when it was rolled out in September...?) 

Lee says there are, "[F]our leading challenges facing middle-class families today: the cost of raising children; the difficulties of work-life balance; the time Americans lose away from work and home, stuck in traffic; and the rising costs of and restricted access to quality higher education."  

OK, maybe those aren't America's top four problems, but they're definitely up there, so I'm liking the rhetoric.

He says the Republicans have proposed legislation to address these four challenges.  Now we get into the problems....

To address the cost of raising children -- about $300,000 per child, cites Lee -- he proposes (yep, you guessed it), a tax cut for the middle class.  Yet more right-wing social engineering through the tax system.  I'm against trying to do policy through the tax code.  That's what our tax code is so darn complicated.  Moreover, what's to say the right won't turn around and call these same middle-class families "moochers" and part of the "47 percent" that doesn't pay net income tax?  

Anyhow, Mike Lee says the middle class should keep more of its own money, "not give parents more of other people's money."  That's just dandy, but the median U.S. income is $25,000. Double that and a two-income family with two children would owe only about $500 in income tax anyway.  So what good would a $5,000 tax cut do them?

Mike Lee has the answer: a $2,500 per-child tax credit that can offset income and payroll taxes.  Now he's talking about taking the 47 percent of moochers and exempting them from the only taxes they do pay, Social Security and Medicare.  What about our yawning deficits? What about, "You should pay taxes if you want to participate in our democracy"? No answer. It's just more conservative voodoo economics: cut everybody's taxes, then cry about deficits. And then call the middle-class beneficiaries of this tax system a bunch of moochers.

Next, Lee proposes old-school liberal policies: mandatory flex-time for working parents; and more investment in infrastructure and mass transit, so that people don't spend so much time in traffic.  Fine!  Great!  Welcome to the Democratic Party.  

But there's always a "but."  Mike Lee proposes to to build new highways and mass transit... but by cutting taxes (you knew that had to be part of it!) and shifting responsibility for infrastructure projects to the states.  That's not a solution; that's passing the buck. That's magical thinking.

Finally, Lee proposes opening up the accreditation system for higher education and vocational training. This is a pretty complicated subject and I won't go into it now, except to say that accreditation for alternative forms of education like apprenticeships and e-learning matters because only accredited institutions are eligible to participate in federal student loan programs. In other words, Lee wants to allow more educational-training providers to benefit from federally subsidized student loans. This could be good or bad -- bad if it ends up as a federal subsidy for businesses to provide training to their employees, which would not really be the intention.

Lee concludes in very un-Tea Party-like fashion [emphasis mine]:

Especially in the wake of recent controversies, many conservatives are more frustrated with the establishment than ever before. And we have every reason to be. But however  justified, frustration is not a platform. Anger is not an agenda. And outrage, as a habit, is not even conservative. Outrage, resentment, and intolerance are gargoyles of the Left. For us, optimism is not just a message – it’s a principle. American conservatism, at its core, is about gratitude, and cooperation, and trust, and above all hope. It is also about inclusion. [Ha! -- That made me LOL. -- J]  Successful political movements are about identifying converts, not heretics.

But anger sure can pack a town hall meeting!  A message of exclusion -- of welfare-mooching minorities, gate-crashing illegals, and culture-subverting gays and intellectuals -- sure turns 'em out at the polls!  Indeed, Lee's message here is not hopeful -- it's hypocritical and delusional. Anger and fear are the real drivers of today's Republican Party, not optimism.

Interestingly, in a recent highly quoted interview about politics, English comedian Russell Brand quoted the same phrase: that the Left's problem is that it is always looking for heretics -- those who are not pure enough -- while the Right is looking for allies. That may be true of Britain, but the opposite is true in the U.S. right now. The Tea Party is on a perpetual RINO hunt; whereas Democrats are too embarrassed to even call themselves "liberal" anymore; they're grateful to let any politician put a [D] behind his name, even he's a Republican by 1991 standards.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cheater nation: The scam that is the U.S. nonprofit sector

In the U.S., charity is becoming big business:

More than 1.6 million nonprofit groups are registered with the federal government, and they control more than $4.5 trillion in assets.... From 2000 to 2010, the number of registered nonprofits increased by 24 percent, according to an Urban Institute study. Annual revenue at such organizations, adjusted for inflation, grew by 41 percent.

And just as in Big Business, cheating is rife.

According to a Washington Post analysis, from 2008 to 2012, more than 1,000 nonprofits declared to the IRS that they had "significant diversion" of assets -- theft, fraud, embezzlement, etc.  And those are only the ones that owned up!

Moreover, the IRS is pretty lax about what "diversions" must be disclosed: only amounts more than $250,000 or those identified as having exceeded 5 percent of an organization’s annual gross receipts or total assets. 

We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars being misspent or just plain stolen.

We'd be better off trusting the U.S. Government to do the poverty-alleviation work of many of these nonprofits. With it comes Congressional oversight, stringent public procurement rules, rigorous accounting and Inspector General audits.

By Joe Stephens
October 26, 2013 | Washington Post

Friday, October 18, 2013

Americans are staying put, and that's bad


Americans are moving far less often than in the past, and when they do migrate it is typically no longer from places with low wages to places with higher wages. Rather, it’s the reverse. That helps explain why, since the 1970s, income inequality has gone up and upward mobility has (depending on who you ask) either stagnated or gone down.

Americans are getting more sedentary, and not just when it comes to their couches:

In the early 1950s, about 3.5 percent of all American households moved from one state to another in any given year. This proportion held up through the 1970s, and then started to fall around 1980. By 2006 interstate migration had dropped to 2 percent, and by 2010 to just 1.4 percent, or less than half the rate of the early 1950s. The latest available data, for 2011-12, shows interstate migration still stuck at a mere 1.7 percent. Though it may not square with our national self-image, America today is a nation of people who tend to stay put, with a population that is no more mobile than that of Denmark or Finland.

So what isn't the explanation for all this, according to Tim Noah?  Not aging Baby Boomers. Not two-income-earner households. Not "housing lock" due to underwater mortgages.  Not telecommuting.  Not state income tax rates.  And certainly not an abundance of jobs at home:

But while unemployed people remain likelier to migrate than employed people, they are much less likely to migrate than in previous decades. In 1956, for example, 7.6 percent of unemployed males moved from one state to another during the previous year. Subsequently that rate fell to 7 percent (1966), 5.9 percent (1976), 5.3 percent (1986), 4.4 percent (1996), 4.3 percent (2006), and, finally, 2.7 percent (2012).

It gets worse:

The larger picture is one in which migration is not only declining but also tends to be away from places where, according to recent studies, young adults have the best chances of moving up the income scale.

In essence, we're talking about a failure of the free market for labor, in the fourth most efficient labor market in the world (efficient from employers' point of view):

If labor markets were operating efficiently, construction workers, along with electricians, plumbers, nurses, nannies, elementary school teachers, and other working-class Americans, would receive enough compensation to live near the places where their work is most needed. But our labor markets are not efficient; rather, they are rigged and skewed, offering too much compensation to people with some skill sets (merging companies and writing derivatives, for example) and not enough to others whose skills are often just as hard to learn (e.g., brick laying and teaching children to read) and often more vital to society.

So we're dealing with a factual counter-intuitive, the kind of thing that drives conservatives nuts because it doesn't fit into their ideological cookie-cutter:

In 1940, the income of “lower-skilled” workers captured 88 cents of every dollar increase in state per capita income. That share began to decline in the 1970s, and by 2010 it was down to 36 cents. Put another way, working-class people in the richest regions of the country have a much lower share of the income around them than they once did. That, more than any other reason, is why they have such a hard time moving to where incomes are highest. Incomes aren’t high for them.

Yogi Berra supposedly once said, “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore. It’s too crowded.” We might similarly observe, “Nobody moves to that state anymore. It offers too much economic opportunity.” It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s life in our present post-migration era. For all his historic foresight, Greeley could never have imagined an outcome so undemocratic and economically perverse.

You can also check out an interview with the author Timothy Noah here.

By Timothy Noah
November/December 2013 | Washington Monthly

Thursday, October 17, 2013

GOP cost U.S. nearly 1 million jobs in 3 years

Before my Republican friends roll their eyes and dismiss this study as some lib'rul media/Media Matters hack job, please note that this study was commissioned by the Peterson Foundation, the founder of the "Fix the Debt CEOs" group that wants to cut the U.S. federal safety net in order to decrease the national debt.  

Republicans can't be trusted as stewards of the U.S. economy. They've got two tricks in their bag: tax cuts and deregulation. But after they've cut taxes to the bone and given business license to do anything, anywhere, to anybody... they're worthless.

By Mark Gongloff
October 15, 2013 | Huffington Post

Bernie Sanders tells it like it is on GOP shutdown

Zakaria: Beware the dark side of conservatism

Zakaria may tend to lift material from other journalists, but even so, he's lifting the right stuff. This one gets posted in full!  I mean, this is simply epic. Check it out [emphasis mine]:

But compared with almost any period in U.S. history, we live in bourgeois times, in a culture that values family, religion, work and, above all, business. Young people today aspire to become Mark Zuckerberg. They quote the aphorisms of Warren Buffett and read the Twitter feed of Bill Gates. Even after the worst recession since the Great Depression, there are no obvious radicals, anarchists, Black Panthers or other revolutionary movements — save the tea party.

And here's the upshot of his smackdown:

The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives makes its peace with today’s America. They are misty-eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, quasi-capitalist democracy that has been around for half a century — a fifth of our country’s history. At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?

Ouch!  And so... as my Tea Party friends dust themselves off and wipe the figurative blood from their noses, here's a stylistic note for my journo colleagues: it really is incorrect and misleading to refer to the "tea party" in the singular. They should always be referred to in the plural. They have no overarching organization, leadership, common platform, or even history of playing nicely with each other. They run the gamut from billionaire-funded astro-turf operations like Americans For Prosperity to local coffee klatches in Flyoverville, MO.  

This is why blithering, bilious idiots like Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint or Ted Cruz can rightly claim to speak for the Tea Parties: they have just as valid a claim to leadership of this brainless millipede of an "organization" as anybody does. To be totally honest, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have the most legitimate claim. They speak directly to the Tea Parties everyday, and humor their every paranoid anti-government fantasy.  

By Fareed Zakaria
October 17, 2013 | Washington Post

The crisis has been resolved, but this respite is temporary. We are bound to have more standoffs and brinkmanship in the months and years ahead. To understand why, you must recognize that, for the tea party, the stakes could not be higher. The movement is animated and energized by a fear that soon America will be beyond rescue.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) put it plainly at the recent Values Voter Summit in Washington: “We’re nearing the edge of a cliff, and our window to turn things around, my friends, I don’t think it is long. I don’t think it is 10 years. We have a couple of years to turn the country around or we go off the cliff to oblivion.”

Cruz dominated the summit’s straw poll, taking 42 percent of the vote, more than three times his nearest rival. His fundraising committees reported this week that they took in $1.19 million in the third quarter, double the total in the preceding quarter. Cruz’s national approval rating may be an abysmal 14 percent, but to the base of the Republican Party he is an idol.

The current fear derives from Obamacare, but that is only the most recent cause for alarm. Modern American conservatism was founded on a diet of despair. In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. began the movement with a famous first editorial in National Review declaring that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” John Boehner tries to tie into this tradition of opposition when he says in exasperation, “The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years!

But what has been the result over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income. Over the past 60 years, America has built highways and universities, funded science and space research, and — along the way — ushered in the rise of the most productive and powerful private sector the world has ever known.

At the end of the 1961 speech that launched his political career, Ronald Reagan said, “If I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” But the menace Reagan warned about — Medicare — was enacted. It has provided security to the elderly. There have been problems regarding cost, but that’s hardly the same as killing freedom.

For most Americans, even most conservatives, yesterday’s deepest causes are often quietly forgotten. Consider that by Reagan’s definition, all other industrial democracies are tyrannies. Yet every year, the right-wing Heritage Foundation ranks several of these countries — such as Switzerland — as “more free” than the United States, despite the fact that they have universal health care.

For many conservatives, the “rot” to be excoriated is not about economics and health care but about culture. A persistent theme of conservative intellectuals and commentators — in print and on Fox News — is the cultural decay of the country. But compared with almost any period in U.S. history, we live in bourgeois times, in a culture that values family, religion, work and, above all, business. Young people today aspire to become Mark Zuckerberg. They quote the aphorisms of Warren Buffett and read the Twitter feed of Bill Gates. Even after the worst recession since the Great Depression, there are no obvious radicals, anarchists, Black Panthers or other revolutionary movements — save the tea party.

For some tacticians and consultants, extreme rhetoric is just a way to keep the troops fired up. But rhetoric gives meaning and shape to a political movement. Over the past six decades, conservatism’s language of decay, despair and decline have created a powerful group of Americans who believe fervently in this dark narrative and are determined to stop the country from plunging into imminent oblivion. They aren’t going to give up just yet.

The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives makes its peace with today’s America. They are misty-eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, quasi-capitalist democracy that has been around for half a century — a fifth of our country’s history. At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What 'recognizing Israel' really means

I know another place that insisted on putting one's ethnic background in one's passport: the Soviet Union. Israel is in good company.

Israel is not a free and democratic country by Western standards.

By Charlotte Silver
October 10, 2013 | Al Jazeera

Frum: 'Tea Parties, don't let the door hit you on the way out'

Boo-ya!  Republican David Frum unloads with both barrels on the Tea Parties:

Right now, tea party extremism contaminates the whole Republican brand. It's a very interesting question whether a tea party bolt from the GOP might not just liberate the party to slide back to the political center -- and liberate Republicans from identification with the Sarah Palins and the Ted Cruzes who have done so much harm to their hopes over the past three election cycles.

It's worth repeating over and over again. Add Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska -- and you have half a dozen Senate races lost to the GOP by extremist nominations.

Maybe the right answer to the threat, "Shut down the government or we quit" is: "So sad you feel that way. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Nevertheless, if it hurts the GOP if the Tea Parties stay in, then as a Democratic "hack," I think the TPs should stay.  The TP pirates will keep on cutting the throats of GOP "RINOs" even as the Republican ship sinks to the bottom.  We liberals should let their lust for anarchy wreak its havoc on the Republican Party. 

By David Frum
October 14, 2013 | CNN

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Obama-scare?: Wal-Mart restores 35,000 full-time jobs

BOO!  Obamacare's gonna get ya!

But not if you work at Wal-Mart!?....

Can't believe I missed this story back in September.  Better late than never!....

Pentagon is largest U.S. employer

Yes, the federal government is too big, and this proves it: the Pentagon has 400,000 civilian employees

This is not counting the 700,000 or so civilian contractors who also work for the Defense Department.

Nor does it count, of course, our 1.4 million active-duty members of the armed services, and 850,000 reservists and National Guard troops.

So altogether, about one percent of the U.S. population works for the Pentagon.

That may not sound like a lot, but that makes it America's largest employer with about 3.3 million. By comparison, America's largest private employer Walmart has only 1.3 million workers.

Furthermore, the Pentagon's annual "income" from taxpayers dwarfs Walmart's in the U.S. by 25 times: $682 billion vs. $27 billion!  (2012 figures).

So why aren't my fellow Americans in the Tea Parties complaining and agitating to shrink America's bloated defense budget?  

P.S. -- To head off some predictable retorts, first check out this fact sheet from the Center for International Policy, "Myths vs. Realities of Pentagon Spending."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Zakaria: It's about democracy, not Obamacare

Some of my Republicans friends ask me, "Why can't Obama compromise just a little?"  His consistent refusal to negotiate on repealing, delaying or denuding Obamacare is the real problem, some of them honestly -- and mistakenly -- believe. 

Zakaria sums up best why President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid must not negotiate:

But what cannot be allowed to stand is the notion that if a group of legislators cannot convince a majority in both houses and the president to agree with them, they will shut down the government or threaten to default until they can get their way. That is extortion, not democracy.

I would be happy to see President Obama compromise on the budget, taxes, spending – even healthcare. But he cannot compromise on the principal that the rules of democracy must be respected, whatever the outcome. If Democrats had threatened to shut down the government to force the repeal of the Bush tax cuts or defund the Iraq War, I would have hoped President Bush would have also been uncompromising.

In our political system, negotiating is what you do when you don't have the votes to get everything you want. Obama has the votes to keep Obamacare. Republicans don't have the votes to repeal it. So why should Obama negotiate to defund or diminish a law he believes in, and has the votes to keep?  

For the sake of our republican democracy, Obama and Reid cannot establish a precedent by giving in to extortion. The Founding Fathers did not envisage Congress repealing laws through the budgeting process. If they get their way now, Republicans will do it again. You know it, I know it. If Obama caves and the Tea Party Republicans get their way, even Democrats might try this tactic one day, who knows?  

And it's not just about us -- it's about how others see us, warns Zakaria:

If American politicians start playing fast and loose with the rules, doing whatever it takes to get the results that they want, what does that say to people in Russia, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela who get pious lectures on the rules of democracy? It tells them that something is deeply wrong with the American system these days.

We don't negotiate with hostage-takers, period. That's the lesson. There can be no waffling on this point. It will only encourage more unacceptable behavior.

By Fareed Zakaria
October 3, 2013 | CNN

It is the defining moment of a democracy – an outgoing leader celebrates the election of a new one, from the opposing party. Think of George H.W. Bush welcoming Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter doing the same for Ronald Reagan. Across the world, this is the acid test of a real democracy. Mexicans will tell you that they knew that they had gotten there when President Ernesto Zedillo, after seventy years of one-party rule, allowed free elections and stood with his newly-elected successor and affirmed his legitimacy.

The basic and powerful idea behind this ritual is that in a democracy, the process is more important than the outcome. If a genuine democratic process has been followed, we have to accept the results, regardless of how much we dislike the outcome. The ultimate example of this in recent American history might be Al Gore’s elegant acceptance of the process – complicated, politicized, but utterly constitutional – that put George W. Bush in the White House.

It must also have been difficult for Richard Nixon to grin and accept the results of the 1960 election – a poll marred by voter fraud that John F. Kennedy won by a narrow margin – but he did. And as vice president, he reported the results to the Senate, saying:

“This is the first time in 100 years that a candidate for the presidency announced the result of an election in which he was defeated and announced the victory of his opponent. I do not think we could have a more striking example of the stability of our constitutional system and of the proud tradition of the American people of developing, respecting and honoring institutions of self-government. In our campaigns, no matter how hard fought they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win.”

That is what is at stake in Washington this week. The debate going on there is not trivial, not transitory – and not about Obamacare. Whatever you think about the Affordable Care Act, it is a law that was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, then signed by the president, and then validated by the Supreme Court as constitutional. This does not mean it cannot be repealed. Of course it can be repealed, as can most laws. But to do so, it would need another piece of legislation – one that says quite simply “The Affordable Care Act is hereby repealed in its entirely” – that passes the House and Senate and is then signed into law by the president.

But what cannot be allowed to stand is the notion that if a group of legislators cannot convince a majority in both houses and the president to agree with them, they will shut down the government or threaten to default until they can get their way.That is extortion, not democracy.

I would be happy to see President Obama compromise on the budget, taxes, spending – even healthcare. But he cannot compromise on the principal that the rules of democracy must be respected, whatever the outcome. If Democrats had threatened to shut down the government to force the repeal of the Bush tax cuts or defund the Iraq War, I would have hoped President Bush would have also been uncompromising.

So, how to solve the crisis? Many have wondered when the grown-ups in the Republican Party will force the House minority to call off this campaign. But that misunderstands the changed nature of American government. There are no more “grown-ups” in Washington, in the sense of a powerful political establishment that can get younger members of Congress in line. There are, instead, 535 political entrepreneurs, each seeking reelection and worried only about his or her fate.

Consider what happened with immigration reform, when almost the entire Republican establishment wanted to make a deal with the Democrats and yet a minority of House members once again were able to derail things. John Boehner is not leading his party, he is being led by its most passionate and radical wing. This crisis can only end when members of that wing understand that what they are doing is anti-democratic and harmful to the country.

Meanwhile, there is a way to turn this crisis into an opportunity. The debt ceiling is an absurd anachronism that should not anyway exist. Only a handful of countries around the world have anything like it. And the president cannot actually make sense of it.

Brookings Institution scholar Henry Aaron points out that were Congress to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, the president would have to choose between two Congressional mandates on him. First, Congress passed spending and taxation levels for the year, which the president must faithfully execute. But then it does not raise the debt ceiling. So either the president must ignore the Congressional action requiring him to spend and tax at the levels they have set, or he has to ignore the fact that they did not raise the debt ceiling. Were this to happen, the president should declare that he is going to obey the more substantive law – actually asking him to spend money and levy taxes – and ignore the procedural one. He would then borrow the money he needed to, to enforce Congress’ will.

Were President Obama to do this, it would solve the current crisis, and also end the prospect that the crux of America’s financial power – its sovereign debt and the dollar’s role of the world’s reserve currency – could ever again be held hostage through thoroughly undemocratic parliamentary games.

Finance aside, America’s global influence derives in large measure from the strength of its democracy. If American politicians start playing fast and loose with the rules, doing whatever it takes to get the results that they want, what does that say to people in Russia, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela who get pious lectures on the rules of democracy? It tells them that something is deeply wrong with the American system these days.

Friday, October 4, 2013

CNBC's ridiculous bias on Dimon, JPMorgan

GOP governors leave 8 million uninsured

We shouldn't be surprised.  The GOP despises poor people, especially if they're black.

Also check out this interactive map that displays the full ruthlessness of Republican states.

By Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff
October 2, 2013 | New York Times

A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance, the very kinds of people that the program was intended to help, according to an analysis of census data by The New York Times.

Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help. The federal government will pay for the expansion through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of costs in later years.


The 26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion are home to about half of the country’s population, but about 68 percent of poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. About 60 percent of the country’s uninsured working poor are in those states. Among those excluded are about 435,000 cashiers, 341,000 cooks and 253,000 nurses’ aides.

“The irony is that these states that are rejecting Medicaid expansion — many of them Southern — are the very places where the concentration of poverty and lack of health insurance are the most acute,” said Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a founder of the community health center model. “It is their populations that have the highest burden of illness and costs to the entire health care system.”

The disproportionate impact on poor blacks introduces the prickly issue of race into the already politically charged atmosphere around the health care law. Race was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the state-level debates about the Medicaid expansion. But the issue courses just below the surface, civil rights leaders say, pointing to the pattern of exclusion.

Every state in the Deep South, with the exception of Arkansas, has rejected the expansion. Opponents of the expansion say they are against it on exclusively economic grounds, and that the demographics of the South — with its large share of poor blacks — make it easy to say race is an issue when it is not.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sanders: Single-payer cure for ailing America

This is just to edumacate you Tea Partiers what real liberals want, and it's not Obamacare. From the start, Obamacare was a concession to private insurance companies and Big Pharma -- Republicans' idea of free markets. Single-payer was never on the table. 

Funnily enough, Republicans liked Obamacare when the Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney proposed it. Yet it became damned socialism and worth shutting down our government and destroying the full faith and credit of the United States after a black Democrat signed it into law.

By Bernie Sanders
September 30, 2013 | Guardian

I start my approach to healthcare from two very basic premises. First, healthcare must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the healthcare they need regardless of their income. Second, we must create a national healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for all in the most cost-effective way possible.

Tragically, the United States is failing in both areas.

It is unconscionable that in one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are nearly 50 million people who lack health insurance and millions more who have burdensome co-payments and deductibles. In fact, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not get to a doctor when they should. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and otherhealth outcomes, the United States lags behind almost every other advanced country.

Despite this unimpressive record, the US spends almost twice as much per person on healthcare as any other nation. As a result of an incredibly wasteful, bureaucratic, profit-making and complicated system, the US spends 17% of its gross domestic product – approximately $2.7tn annually– on healthcare. While insurance companiesdrug companies, private hospitals and medical equipment suppliers make huge profits, Americans spend more and get less for their healthcare dollars.

What should the US be doing to improve this abysmal situation?

President Obama's Affordable Care Act is a start. It prevents insurance companies from denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions, allows people up to age 26 to stay on their parents' insurance, sets minimum standards for what insurance must cover and helps lower-income Americans afford health insurance. When the marketplace exchanges open for enrollment on Tuesday, many Americans will find the premiums will be lower than the ones they're paying now. Others will find the coverage is much more comprehensive than their current plans.

Most importantly, another 20 million Americans will receive health insurance. This is a modest step forward. But if we are serious about providing quality care for all, much more needs to be done.

The only long-term solution to America's healthcare crisis is a single-payer national healthcare program.

The good news is that, in fact, a large-scale single-payer system already exists in the United States and its enrollees love it. It is called Medicare. Open to all Americans over 65 years of age, the program has been a resounding success since its introduction 48 years ago. Medicare should be expanded to cover all Americans.

Such a single-payer system would address one of the major deficiencies in the current system: the huge amount of moneywasted on billing and administrationHospitals and independent medical practices routinely employ more billing specialists than doctors – and that's not the end of it. Patients and their families spend an enormous amount of time and effort arguing with insurance companies and bill collectors over what is covered and what they owe. Drug companies and hospitals spend billions advertising their products and services.

Creating a simple system with one payer, covering all Americans, would result in an enormous reduction in administrative expenses. We would be spending our money on healthcare and disease prevention, not on paper-pushing and debt collection.

Further, a single-payer system will expand employment opportunities and lift a financial weight off of businesses encumbered by employee health expenses. Many Americans remain at their current jobs because of the decent health insurance provided by their employer. Without the worry of losing benefits, those Americans will be free to explore other, more productive opportunities as they desire. For business owners, lifting the burden of employee healthcare expenditures will free them to invest in growing their businesses.

Congressman Jim McDermott and I have introduced the American Health Security Act. Our bill will provide every American with healthcare coverage and services through a state-administered, single-payer program, including dental and mental health coverage and low-cost prescription drugs. It would require the government to develop national policies and guidelines, as well as minimum national criteria, while giving each state the flexibility to adapt the program as needed. It would also completely overhaul the health coverage system, creating a single federal payer of state-administered health plans.

The American people understand that our current healthcare system is not working. But the time is long overdue for them to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong when the US remains the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee healthcare to all its people.

Healthcare is a right and we must ensure provision of that right for Americans. A single-payer system will be good for the average American, good for businesses, good for workers and good for our overall economy.