Tag: Medicaid

Apr 13

Death and Taxes

Donald Trump really wants you to die so he can give his billionaire buddies tax cuts. The failure of the Republican lead congress to come up with a plan to kill the Affordable Care Act really put a crimp in that plan. After their bill couldn’t even make it to the House floor, Trump decided …

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Nov 02

Medicaid Gap: A Matter of Life or Death

The presidential election is a year away, the host of HBO’s “Last week Tonight” John Oliver, brought attention to the need for voters to pay attention to local election. Those elections may well be a matter of life or death when it comes to the gap in Medicaid for low income families in states that …

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Dec 11

Add Bank Tellers to Underpaid Workers List

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

One would think that the person we speak to behind the bullet proof plexiglass at the bank was paid enough to own his/her own home, put food on the table, have a good pension plan and health care insurance. Apparently, that is a myth. In NYC, one in three bank tellers need some form of public assistance and the average pay is only $11.59 per hour, three dollars below what is considered a living wage in big cities where the cost of living is highest. The recent focus has been on Walmart and fast food workers, now we can add bank tellers to the list of the underpaid

Thirty-nine percent of NYC-based bank tellers and their families rely on at least one government assistance program, like Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit or food stamps, which costs the city a total of $112 million per year (pdf), according to the study from the New Day New York Coalition, a group of progressive organizations. Researchers arrived at their findings through government data, as well as interviews with 5,000 bank workers in the New York area, who answered questions about stress, working conditions, pay practices and how the industry has changed since 2008.  [..]

The study’s findings mirror trends nationwide and are yet another sign that the pool of so-called middle-class jobs is shrinking. Nearly one-third of the almost half-million bank tellers in the country rely on public assistance, according to an analysis by the University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center. The Labor Center’s Ken Jacobs estimates that these employees’ reliance on such programs costs taxpayers nationwide roughly $900 million per year. [..]

Activists have been quick to point out that if companies like Walmart, McDonald’s and now big banks paid their workers more, fewer of them would have to lean on public assistance, saving taxpayers money. More than half of frontline fast food workers rely on government assistance, costing the nation $7 billion, according to an October report. A single Walmart store’s low wages could cost taxpayers $900,000 per year, according to a May report from Senate Democrats.

Dec 01

Anti-capitalist Meetup: “Separate but Equal” Shuts Down Women’s Health Care by TPau

This week has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last four shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked here eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them.

Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to serve an area once supporting 10 obstetricians. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.

As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish-right here in the US. How did we get here?

Oct 29

Seven Seconds to Save the Social Safety Net

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

7 Reasons to Take 7 Seconds to Save Social Security and Medicare

by Richard (RJ) Eskow, The Huffington Post

A broad coalition of organizations, including the Campaign for America’s Future and Social Security Works, is joining Sen. Bernie Sanders in a petition drive to resist cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It only takes a few moments to sign; it’s that easy. [..]

The threat is very real, and these cuts could take place with very little warning. On a personal note: I signed. I did it because a lot of people would suffer needlessly by the kind of deal they’re cooking up. I did it because I think it’s wrong to allow the privileged and powerful to overrule the will of the people. And frankly, I did it because I’m scared. This deal could be done before most Americans even see it coming.

It’s fast and easy to sign this petition. It only took me seven seconds. Here are seven reasons why you should. [..]

1. Republicans are still demanding “entitlement cuts.”

[..]

2. Some of these cuts are in the President’s budget.

[..]

3. The “chained CPI” is a deep cut to Social Security benefits.

[..]

4. The chained CPI isn’t fair, either.

[..]

5. The cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are both inhumane and cumbersome.

[..]

6. Millennials are already getting a raw deal. This would make it worse.

[..]

7. In a democracy, the people — not corporations are billionaires — are supposed to decide.

Take Action: Defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and our coalition partners in demanding, “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”

Bernie is serving on the Budget Conference Committee which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months — and where a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, Bernie is fighting every day to protect our earned benefits. Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and a diverse coalition of thousands of fellow progressives now and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Add your name today!

He’s right, depending on how fast you can type and press enter, just seven seconds. So it for yourself and future generations.

Dec 12

The Debt Ceiling Myth & the Platinum Coin

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

US Mint Platinum CoinOnce again the Republicans in Congress are threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling in order to get concessions from the Obama administration. Those concessions would involve severe cuts and changes to the social safety net that our most vulnerable citizens rely on to stay out of poverty but would not solve the so-called problem of the US debt obligations and deficit spending. We’ve been down this road before and it resulted in the extension of the Bush tax cuts and an increase in the deficit.

This could all be rendered irrelevant quite easily and very legally by the minting of one or more platinum coins in denominations determined by the Treasury Secretary. Here’s the law, 31 USC § 5112 – Denominations, specifications, and design of coins:

§ 5112. Denominations, specifications, and design of coins

(a) The Secretary of the Treasury may mint and issue only the following coins: [..]

(k) The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.

Those coins would be deposited with the Federal Reserve and used to make good on the obligated debt of the United States.  This is a legitimate option  for President Barack Obama and the argument has been made that it may be his duty to order the minting of Trillion Dollar Platinum Coins  to protect the US from failing to pay its obligations. Here is the explanation of what a trillion dollar coin does from blogger letsgetitdone at Correntewire:

If the Mint coins money in denominations appropriate for commonplace retail transactions than the coins involved can be exchanged among parties as needed. But what happens if the Mint coins platinum money with face values in the trillions of dollars? Then that money can’t be used for exchange as a practical matter, because there are no buyers who will accept the trillion dollar coins in exchange. So, if the Treasury wants to use such coins to fill the public purse with money it can later spend on debt repayment or Congressional deficit appropriations, it must transform high face value coins into divisible money; i.e. reserves in its Fed spending account. [..]

In the case of $One Trillion proof platinum coin, the profits are its face value minus a few thousand dollars. So that amount would be “swept” into the Treasury General Account (TGA), which is the account used by Treasury to perform Government spending.

A very good way to look at high value platinum coins is that they are legal instruments for the Treasury to use the unlimited “out of thin air” reserve creation authority of the Fed to fill the public spending purse, the TGA, for public purposes. In effect, platinum coin seigniorage involves the Treasury commandeering the power of the Fed to create reserves and place them in the TGA, perhaps, depending on what the Treasury chooses to do, in the many Trillions of dollars.

The coin’s value is not limited to one trillion dollars, according to the law, the Treasury Secretary sets the value. Letsgetitdone makes the argument for a $60 trillion coin that would be a political game changer:

{..} because it institutionalizes the idea that there is a distinction between appropriations, the Congressional mandate to spend particular amounts on particular goods and services, and the capability to spend the mandated accounts by having the funds (electronic credits) in the public purse (the TGA). In a fiat currency system, the capability always exists if the legislature provides for it under the Constitution, as it has under current platinum coin seigniorage legislation.

But the value of the $60 T coin, and the profits derived from it, is that it is a concrete reminder of the Government’s continuing ability to buy whatever it needs to meet public purposes, and its continuing ability to harness the authority of the Central Bank to create reserves to support the needs of fiscal policy. It demonstrates very clearly that the Government cannot run out of money, and that the claim that it can is not a valid reason for rejecting spending that is in accordance with public purpose.

So, please keep in mind the distinction between the capability to spend more than government collects in taxes, and the appropriations that mandate such spending. The capability is what’s in the public purse, and it is unlimited as long as the Government doesn’t constrain itself from creating credits in its own accounts. With coin seigniorage its capability could be and should be publicly demonstrated by minting the $60 T coin, and getting the profits from depositing it at the Fed transferred to the Treasury General Account (TGA).

On the other hand, Congressional appropriations, not the size or contents of the purse, but whether the purse strings are open or not, determines what will be spent, and what will simply sit in the purse for use at a later time. So there is a very important distinction between the purse and the purse strings. The President can legally use coin seigniorage to fill the purse, but only Congress can open the purse strings through its appropriations.

Is there anything congress could do to stop the president from issuing a coin like that? No, there isn’t. Could they impeach him? Well they could try, but I doubt they would get 67 votes in the Democratic held Senate. Nor would impeachment of a president who rescued the economy be very popular with the public.

Last year during the last budget hostage situation, Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law at Yale Law School, wrote this:

Like Congress, the president is bound by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that “(t)he validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned.” Section 4 was passed after the Civil War because the framers worried that former Southern rebels returning to Congress would hold the federal debt hostage to extract political concessions on Reconstruction. Section 5 gives Congress the power to enforce the 14th Amendment’s provisions. This does not mean, however, that these provisions do not apply to the president; otherwise, he could violate the 14th Amendment at will.

Section 4 requires the president not to put the validity of the public debt into question. If the debt ceiling is not raised in time, there will not be enough incoming revenues to pay for all of the government’s bills as they come due. Therefore he has a constitutional obligation to prioritize incoming revenues to pay the public debt: interest on government bonds and any other “vested” obligations. [..]

An angry Congress may respond by impeaching the president. However, if the president’s actions end the government shutdown, stabilize the markets and prevent an economic catastrophe, this reduces the chances that he will be impeached by the House. (After all, he saved the country.) Perhaps more important, the chances that he will be convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, which has a Democratic majority, are virtually zero.

Since Pres. Obama is no longer faced with reelection and the Republicans in the House are again threatening to default on its obligations without deep cuts to the social safety net and protect the 1% from tax hikes, there is no reason for the President not to mint that coin.

These are the articles by letgetitdone that were referenced and are all well worth reading:

Coin Seigniorage: A Legal Alternative and Maybe the President’s Duty

Beyond Debt/Deficit Politics: The $60 Trillion Plan for Ending Federal Borrowing and Paying Off the National Debt

Origin and Early History of Platinum Coin Seigniorage In the Blogosphere

What Does The Trillion Dollar Coin Do?

The Trillion Dollar Coin Is A Conservative Meme

Dec 04

The Great American Scam: “The Fiscal Cliff”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This interview with economist James K. Galbraith, by Paul Jay of Real News Network about why the “fical cliff” is a scam, was posted at naked capitalism in two parts by Yves Smith and Lambert Strether.

This is a very good, high level interview of Jamie Galbraith by Paul Jay of Real News Network. It explains how the fiscal cliff scare was created and why Obama and the Republicans are united in fomenting a false sense of urgency. This is the sort of piece I’d suggest sharing with friends and relatives who’ve been unable to miss the news coverage and want to get up to speed.

Lambert made note of this passage:

[GALBRAITH:] If, for example, [incompr.] suggestion which has been in the news, you raise the eligibility age for Medicare, then what you’re doing is privatizing it in part. What you’re saying is that people who have employer-based insurance or other forms of private insurance have to hang on to that when they’re 66 and into, say, 67 [incompr.] they hit the age when they can shrug it off and get onto Medicare. That’s privatization. That’s what it is. And I think that should also be off the table.

Six Reasons the “Fiscal Cliff” is a Scam: A Mechanism for Rolling Back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

by James K. Galbraith at Global Research

Stripped to essentials, the fiscal cliff is a device constructed to force a rollback of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as the price of avoiding tax increases and disruptive cuts in federal civilian programs and in the military.  It was policy-making by hostage-taking, timed for the lame duck session, a contrived crisis, the plain idea now unfolding was to force a stampede.

In the nature of stampedes arguments become confused; panic flows from fear, when multiple forces – economic and political in this instance – all appear to push the same way.  It is therefore useful to sort through those forces, breaking them down into separate questions, and to ask whether any of them justify the voices of doom. [..]

In short, Members of Congress: if you can, just pass the President’s bill on middle-class taxes, and, if you can, eliminate the domestic sequester. Then, please go home.  Enjoy the holidays. Come back in January prepared to extend unemployment insurance, to phase out the payroll tax holiday gradually, to restore stable funding to necessary programs and to start dealing with our real problems:  jobs, foreclosures, infrastructure and climate change.

Aug 17

How to Kill Grandma and Grandpa Faster; or, Paul Ryan’s Gonads

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In April of 2011, Rollingstone‘s contributing editor Matt Taibbi wrote a piece about Paul Ryan and budget proposal titled, Tax Cuts for the Rich on the Backs of the Middle Class; or, Paul Ryan has Balls

I heartily laughed at Matt’s description of Paul Ryan:

Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan. All of these smug little jerks look alike to me – from Ralph Reed to Eric Cantor to Jeb Hensarling to Rand Paul and now to Ryan, they all look like overgrown kids who got nipple-twisted in the halls in high school, worked as Applebee’s shift managers in college, and are now taking revenge on the world as grownups by defunding hospice care and student loans and Sesame Street. They all look like they sleep with their ties on, and keep their feet in dress socks when doing their bi-monthly duty with their wives.

You have to admit that is scathingly accurate.

I thought of my own Tea Party House “Rat”, Michael Grimm. Grimm a former FBI agent and freshman representative from New York’s newly redrawn 11th who is currently the target of a federal grand jury investigation into the fundraising for his 2010 campaign. He fits Matt’s description to a tee.

Although Grimm is not a member of the Tea Party Caucus, he has voted lock step with them. When Grimm voted for Ryan’s first budget plan which called for a fix voucher and cuts to Medicaid that that would hurt the poor and elderly, Staten Island Tea Partiers were vocally upset with him. But I can almost guarantee they will give him a second chance to screw them, and everyone else, come November.

Back to Matt’s article. With his wry wit, he goes on to describe Ryan’s goal to reduce taxes for the wealthiest by asking seniors to cut back on their health care in order to pay for those tax breaks. That takes balls.

Never mind that each time the Republicans actually come into power, federal deficit spending explodes and these whippersnappers somehow never get around to touching Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The key is that for the many years before that moment of truth, before these buffoons actually get a chance to put their money where their lipless little mouths are, they will stomp their feet and scream about how entitlements are bringing us to the edge of apocalypse.

The problem, of course, is that to actually make significant cuts in what is left of the “welfare state,” one has to cut Medicare and Medicaid, programs overwhelmingly patronized by white people, and particularly white seniors. So when the time comes to actually pull the trigger on the proposed reductions, the whippersnappers are quietly removed from the stage and life goes on as usual, i.e. with massive deficit spending on defense, upper-class tax cuts, bailouts, corporate subsidies, and big handouts to Pharma and the insurance industries.

This is a political game that gets played out in the media over and over again, and everyone in Washington knows how it works. Which is why it’s nauseating (but not surprising) to see so many commentators falling over themselves with praise for Ryan’s “bold” budget proposal, which is supposedly a ballsy piece of politics because it proposes backdoor cuts in Medicare and Medicaid by redounding their appropriations to the states and to block grants. Ryan is being praised for thusly taking on seniors, a traditionally untouchable political demographic .

Medicaid cuts that would deeply effect the elderly are never discussed by the media, even now with Ryan the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee:

While the Republican vice-presidential candidate is careful to avoid touching Medicare benefits for anyone at or near retirement, his budget would impose immediate cuts to Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor that funds nursing-home care and other benefits for 6 million U.S. seniors. [..]

The proposed Medicaid changes are often overlooked amid the debate over Ryan’s Medicare plan, which has taken center stage in the presidential contest since the Wisconsin congressman was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate on Aug. 11. It’s politically important because those 65 and older are a crucial voting bloc. [..]

Health-care policy specialists say it’s politically easier to cut Medicaid because most voters don’t understand it. [..]

Many middle-income Americans who may be unfamiliar with Medicaid end up relying on the program in their old age because they exhaust their assets. Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care so they turn to Medicaid, which does. [..].

Without Medicaid, current and future Medicare recipients would be in deep financial trouble, as would nursing homes and hospitals that would be under obligation to treat them even if they lack coverage. Ryan’s budget would do this just to give the top 2% another tax cut that wouldn’t even be covered by the cuts.

In his last paragraph, Matt say this about Ryan and his budget:

The absurd thing is that Ryan’s act isn’t even politically courageous. It’s canny calculation, but courage it is not. It would be courageous if Ryan were, say, the president of the United States, and leaning on that budget with his full might. But Ryan is proposing a budget he knows would have no chance of passing in the Senate. He is simply playing out a part, a non-candidate for the presidency pushing a rhetorical flank for an out-of-power party leading into a presidential campaign year. If the budget is a hit with the public, the 2012 Republican candidate can run on it. If it isn’t, the Republican candidate can triangulate Ryan’s ass back into the obscurity from whence it came, and be done with him.

All Paul Ryan has are his “balls” because he certainly doesn’t have a heart or a conscience.

So much for obscurity. Little did Matt know.  

Jul 01

ACA: The Good, the Bad & the Truly Ugly

Cross posted st The Stars Hollow Gazette

First, this morning House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) made the rounds of talk shows spouting how the Affordable Health Care bill can be repealed with a simple majority in the House and Senate since the bill was passed under reconciliation. Without a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker points out the obstacles for that to happen:

Many Republicans, especially in the blog and talk-radio swamps, would cry, “Use reconciliation!” Readers familiar with the congressional debates of 2009-2010 will remember that this procedure allows certain budgetary measures to pass through the Senate with a simple majority. [..]

But reconciliation wouldn’t work here-the process can only be used for policies that have budgetary effects and a C.B.O. score. Much of the A.C.A., such as the insurance exchanges and subsidies, would fall under these categories. But a lot of it, including the hated individual mandate, does not. Repealing the exchanges and subsides without repealing the mandate and the other regulations and cost controls in the law would create a health-care Frankenstein that a President Romney would be rather nuts to support.

That said, the SCOTUS ruling has some rather complex ramifications and Chief Justice Robert’s ruling was rather sly. First was there are the three bit from SCOTUSblog that Lambert Strether pointed out at Corrente:

First, here’s the reasoning:

   Essentially, a majority of the Court has accepted the Administration’s backup argument that, as Roberts put it, “the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition — not owning health insurance — that triggers a tax — the required payment to IRS.” Actually, this was the Administration’s second backup argument: first argument was Commerce Clause, second was Necessary and Proper Clause, and third was as a tax. The third argument won.

Second, here are the implications for the role of the State as we have understood it from the New Deal onward; what Phillip Bobbitt would call a change a Constitutional Order:

   The rejection of the Commerce Clause and Nec. and Proper Clause should be understood as a major blow to Congress’s authority to pass social welfare laws.

Third, here is the new Constitutional Order:

   Using the tax code — especially in the current political environment — to promote social welfare is going to be a very chancy proposition.

Chancy or not — and it will be the precariat that suffers mischance, and not the elite, in any case — that’s what they’re going to do.

Next from Scarecrow at FDL News Desk who argues that Chief Justice Robert’s “incoherent decision” will “shackle congress” and “screw millions of uninsured:

In the process, he did violence to constitutional law and logic.  Consider, for example, Robert’s logic on the “mandate.”  In saving the “mandate,” Roberts essentially defined it as not a mandate.  You are not really required to purchase insurance, he noted; instead, you may choose not to purchase insurance and instead pay a minor tax.  As we know, taxing is just a way to collect revenues, a contribution to the common, aggregate costs of public programs.  In this case, the program is paying for many people’s health care through a system of risk/cost sharing.

But if the so-called mandate is not really a mandate but rather an option that can be avoided by paying a tax, and if a legitimate purpose of this tax, as government and amicus briefs argued, is to help cover aggregate costs across a pool of many insured and uninsured people, then what does that do to Robert’s argument about the Commerce Clause?  When arguing about the Commerce Clause, Roberts insists it’s a requirement to purchase a “product,” which forces you to take an action, and thus to engage in commerce when you would not otherwise have done that.  Regulating “inaction” is not permissible, Roberts argues.

But if, as Roberts concludes, the “mandate” is not a mandate, and the tax’s purpose is to help cover pooled costs, and not to buy a “product,” then there is no “mandate” to purchase a “product.”  So no one is forced to engage in commerce as Roberts framed it.  Indeed the “commerce” is already there in the risk sharing system across millions of people, all engaged in commerce by paying premiums into a pooled risk scheme.  Robert’s entire premise for striking down the Commerce Clause rationale is thus contradicted by his argument about how it’s permissible for Congress to enact a tax to support funding of collective health care costs.  That’s what the tax does; but it’s also what paying insurance premiums does.

Roberts’ reasoning on Medicaid is equally illogical. His premise is that Congress cannot expand an existing program administered by states that depends on shared state/federal funding by conditioning funding for the whole program on the states actually implementing the expansion.  As Brad DeLong observes, if Congress were just now creating a fully expanded Medicaid, to be implemented by states but mostly paid for by the feds, there would be no question that Congress could condition federal funding on the states actually carrying out the programs.  But if the program already exists for half the needy population, Congress cannot complete the program for the other half and use the same leverage to achieve the same degree of state cooperation.

As per the CBO, if the states actually implement the expansion and make an effort to get those eligible to sign up, 16 to 17 million more people will have health care coverage. But without that leverage to get the states to accept Medicaid expansion it leaves the poor between around 50% and 133% of the poverty line in a real no man’s land, because they would both be ineligible for Medicaid AND the coverage subsidies in the exchanges.

As for the states voluntarily opting in for the Medicaid expansion, David Dayen doesn’t think that will happen either, even though the cost for the states would only be responsible for less than 10% of the costs.

And being on the hook for even a small amount of funds isn’t going to make any of these governors happy. Heck, here’s a Democrat, former West Virginia Governor and current Senator Joe Manchin, making the argument for them:

   We should all recognize that the health care challenges that many West Virginians and Americans face are not going to go away unless Congress takes additional action to repair this bill. Now that the Court has ruled, we can move forward with fixing what is wrong with this bill and saving what is right. I have always been determined to reduce the burden on states from the Medicaid expansion, and this ruling affirms my position – and makes clear that states must have the flexibility to live within their means by determining Medicaid eligibility as each state sees fit. I have always said one size doesn’t fit all.

That’s going to be a compelling set of logic for a non-trivial number of governors. They’ll also distort how much the expansion would put their states “on the hook.” 26 states sued to eliminate the Affordable Care Act entirely, and they almost got there. Why wouldn’t they jump at the chance to eliminate the portion that creates half of the coverage benefits?

This isn’t going to be universal. New Mexico’s Republican Governor Susanna Martinez, for example, certainly sounds like she’ll take the money. But Southern states in particular, who paradoxically house the citizens most in need of the Medicaid expansion coverage, will be likely resisters at the outset. And it’s not like a lot of success in modern America comes from rallying at the grassroots level for poor and disenfranchised people.

As was noted by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, opponents of the ACA see this as a win:

“We won,” said Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett, who was perhaps the most influential legal opponent of the Affordable Care Act. “All the arguments that the law professors said were frivolous were affirmed by a majority of the court today. A majority of the court endorsed our constitutional argument about the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. Yet we end up with the opposite outcome. It’s just weird.”

Yes, it’s weird but so was the whole ACA bill from the very start.

Nov 18

Congressional Game of Chicken: Super Committee Offers Human Sacrifice

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The deadline for the bicameral Super Committee to come up with a deal on deficit reduction is a week away. While many American’s don’t think that the committee will meet the deadline thus triggering large mandated budget cuts to defense and entitlements, we have President Obama warning the committee not to “cheat” by changing the law so that those cuts, particularly to the Defense, would not go into effect should the committee fail. Meanwhile, the committee’s Democratic members are proposing a $2.3 trillion tax-and-cut proposal “that includes $400 billion in Medicare and Medicaid reductions,” but only if Republicans compromise by putting new tax revenues on the table that in the end would only amount to $350 billion in new tax revenue.

The other really unacceptable proposal that the Democrats have put on the table to get the Republicans to agree to a paltry $350 billion in tax revenues, is making the Bush/Obama tax cuts permanent, even though the White House has said that President Obama would veto any bill that made those cuts permanent. Perhaps they are counting on Obama doing his usual last minute capitulation and he would sign the bill.

The Democrats are scrambling to try to make this look like a good deal but it’s not. Letting the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire would solve more of the deficit problem than anything that this committee or Congress has proposed by increasing tax revenues $1 trillion over the next 10 years. To their credit though, the Democrats have rejected the Republican offer that would cut all the tax rates across the board by 20%, lowering the top tax bracket to 27% from 35% assuming the Bush tax cuts would be extended. This would reduce tax revenues by $200 billion in just one year.

This is a muddled mess that is not really a crisis at all and in the long run won’t create any jobs but deepen the economic crisis that has been created by the burst of the housing bubble, job killing foreign trade agreements, unfair tax codes and the lack of banking regulation.

John Aravosis at AMERICAblog nails what has exacerbated much of problem: the Democrats negotiating techniques, or rather, the lack of them. The Republicans negotiate while the Democrats come to the table and offer their bottom line, so there is nowhere to go but to cave to Republican demands:

Note how the Republicans are still skewing their proposals towards large budget cuts and little tax increases, whereas the Democrats are offering 50-50 budget cuts and tax increases. That means that if both parties make concessions as they move to the “middle” – which is highly unlikely, the Dems will cave while the Rs will stay put – the “middle” will be a point at which there are more budget cuts than tax increases. Why? Because the Democrats, as always, are making their final offer – half tax increases, half budget cuts – first, so there’s nowhere to go but down.

This had been the Democratic approach since 2006 when the party gained control of both houses of Congress. It’s no wonder that voters are disgusted with both parties and that the Democrats lost the House in 2010. By gutting our social safety networks to protect the wealthy and appease the Republicans, the Democrats could well lose more in 2012 if they don’t start listening to the demands of the American people.

h/t to DCblogger at Corrente

Sep 21

More Economic Insanity

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In his speech Monday, President Barrack Obama actually started to sound like a president. His threat to veto any deficit cutting legislation that did not include revenue producing tax increases was praised by everyone left of Attila the Hun as “progressive”. It gave these critics some kind of new “hope” that Obama had finally drawn a line in the sand with the “my way or the highway” tea party Republicans.

Really? Were any of them listening to what he did say? What did most everyone from Michael Moore on Rachel Maddow’s show to Markos Moulitsas and Move-On.org miss? Anyone with half a functioning brain can see that what Obama offered was just more of the same insanity, piled higher and deeper that and was being covered with his new found veto power.

What should have caught their attention was what Jon Walker at FireDogLake pointed out:

In fact,  in his only veto threat Obama made it clear he would accept Medicare benefit cuts if they were accompanied by new tax revenue from the rich by saying, “I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.” That “but” is a very important clause that means there are scenarios in which Obama would sign a bill that significantly cuts Medicare benefits.

Raise Revenue = Cuts to Medicare

Hello? Did anyone besides a very few of us on the left not hear this?

Obama’s communications director, Dan Pfeiffer said, “we are entering a new phase.” And just what “phase” would that be? “Chief Negotiator” to “Chief Hostage Taker” to get his right wing Republican agenda past this extremist congress?

Obama is now using the social safety network that protects our most vulnerable citizens to con the electorate that he has changed and to reelect him.

What bilge.

Sep 20

Class War on the Poor

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Yes, the Republicans are partly correct in saying that the President’s newest proposal to increase revenues by adjusting the tax rates on top earners to make sure they pay their fair share is class warfare:

WASHINGTON –  Republicans on Sunday decried the notion of a new minimum tax rate for millionaires as “class warfare,” saying the proposal by President Obama may be intended to portray Congressional Republicans who resist it as being callously indifferent to the hardships facing many Americans.

They just have the wrong class on whom that war has been declared:

WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, according to administration officials.

With a special joint Congressional committee starting work to reach a bipartisan budget deal by late November, the proposal adds a new and populist feature to Mr. Obama’s effort to raise the political pressure on Republicans to agree to higher revenues from the wealthy in return for Democrats’ support of future cuts from Medicare and Medicaid.

Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the “Buffett Rule,” in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained repeatedly that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate than wages.

Mr. Obama will not specify a rate or other details, and it is unclear how much revenue his plan would raise. But his idea of a millionaires’ minimum tax will be prominent in the broad plan for long-term deficit reduction that he will outline at the White House on Monday.

Sure, Obama may look like he’s being more “confrontational” with Republicans but the reality is he is still selling out the most vulnerable of our citizens.

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