Archive for category National Politics
Via TPM (emphasis added):
The Medicaid expansion field is tentatively set for 2014, and the nation is split down the middle: 25 states (plus D.C.) are expanding, and 25 states are not, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
… according to the foundation, 4.8 million Americans won’t be covered as the law intended in those non-expanding states. They don’t qualify for Medicaid now, but would have under the expansion, and they don’t make enough money to qualify for financial help to buy private coverage.
States with either a Republican governor or a GOP-controlled chamber in the legislature (or both) are opting out. In Utah, 57,850 people will not get health coverage due to the lack of Medicaid expansion. In Texas, the number will be 1,046,430.
Senator Rafael (“Ted”) Cruz (R-TX), yesterday:
“Obamacare is reducing health care options, increasing costs and hurting jobs. It has no place in Texas and must be repealed so we can empower Americans and their families by offering real health care choices rather than a government-written menu of plans they don’t want and can’t afford.
President Obama should take his broken promises tour elsewhere so Texans can continue focusing on the solutions that have allowed our state to become and remain the nation’s economic and job creation powerhouse.”
Texas needs health care reform more than any other state. In addition to having the highest rate of people without health insurance in the nation, Texas also has the largest number of children without health insurance and the highest rate of poor adults without health insurance.
Therefore, it’s fair to ask if Senator Cruz has his own health care plan that’s better than the ACA. Actually, he does! Through his wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs, he’s enrolled in a fabulous health insurance policy worth at least $20,000 per year, including an $8,500/year federal subsidy.
Oh, you wanted to know if Senator Cruz has come up with a better health care plan for ordinary Americans? No, nothing.
On Maddowblog, Steve Benen highlights the problem of Republicans trying to escape responsibility for the Republican Shutdown of the federal government. Citing Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) as an example, Benen wrote (emphasis added):
[I]t’s not “disingenuous” to say Republicans were “playing politics” when they shut down the government for no apparent reason, since that’s pretty much exactly what happened.
But just as important was Tipton saying, “I never voted to shut down government.” I emphasize this not just because the Colorado Republican is misleading the public, but also because I suspect this will be what nearly all House Republicans say over the next year, when they’re forced to defend their fiasco.
The problem for the GOP is that the claim is so easy to disprove – House Republicans voted, en masse, for resolutions intended to fail because they wanted to shut down the government. Once the shutdown began, it was Republicans who bragged about the stoppage, and Republicans who admitted that they were responsible. The crisis was resolved when Republicans gave in.
How many times did Colorado’s Scott Tipton break ranks and vote with Democrats against his party’s ridiculous tactics? None.
Obviously, the congressman’s dishonesty matters on its own, but be prepared to hear most of Tipton’s GOP colleagues repeat the same lie quite a bit as the 2014 midterms draw closer.
Also, what are they going to do in January when another Republican Shutdown looms?
President Obama still seems intent on helping right-wing Republicans cut Social Security. But a group of politically savvy Democratic senators are proposing a different agenda. Why not phase out the payroll tax cap and increase the currently meager benefits? The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee and co-sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) would do just that, raising Social Security compensation for all beneficiaries by $70 per month.
Republicans are eager to cut Social Security, but they want Democrats’ fingerprints on the knife, so they don’t take the blame. The GOP base includes disproportionately older Americans who love Social Security — a fact they were reminded of when they tried and failed to privatize it in 2005. For now, Democrats still largely accept the conservative framing on Social Security and the public sees little, if any, daylight between the two parties. If they change course and force votes on proposals to expand Social Security, it could put Republicans on the spot and clarify who really supports the program and who doesn’t.
Why play the “Republican-lite” game? Put a progressive proposal out there, and let the Party of NO say no to something good. Politicians are motivated by fear, not friendship. Any so-called Dem ought to be afraid to talk about cutting Social Security.
Starting today SNAP, or food stamp benefits, will be reduced by 5 percent. SNAP used to max out at $668 a month for a family of four. Now, the maximum amount will drop to $632, or a cut of $432 a year.
Thanks to the Great Recession and a commitment to austerity by the government in the wake of the recession, an additional 21 million people were added to SNAP since 2008. Today, more than 1 in 4 U.S. children live in a home that gets food stamps.
Another group with lots of members in SNAP: Veterans. U.S. Census Bureau data show that, in 2011, some 900,000 former U.S. military personnel lived in households that used food stamps.
Economists have found that every dollar of SNAP spending generates roughly $1.70 in local economic activity. The USDA has calculated that food stamps generate an even bigger bang for the buck. So pinching food stamp recipients will ripple into the broader U.S. economy.
Food bank operators are bracing for more people lining up at local pantries while Congress debates additional cuts to the supplemental nutrition program that helps 1 in 7 Americans, including 22 million children. Utah alone is already losing $26 million in SNAP funding this fiscal year.
When we go shopping at Costco we always pick up some additional food to donate to the Utah Food Bank, which provides food to a statewide network of 134 emergency food pantries. Also we send them an annual cash contribution. Washington politicians are always ready with handouts for the rich and the corporations, but not for ordinary American people who work for a living. It’s going to be up to us to bail out the food banks!
Source: Mother Jones
The federal government’s latest annual deficit was $680 billion, the smallest it’s been since 2008, according to Treasury Department data released Wednesday. Federal spending in 2013 totaled 20.8% of GDP, down from 22% the year before. The FY 2013 deficit was less than half the record $1.413 trillion figure inherited by the Obama administration from President George W. Bush. It’s becoming clear to everyone, not just economists, that deficits are not that hard to control. If we can fix the economy and get the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, deficit spending will vanish completely.
The so-called “sequester” austerity budget has effectively sabotaged our economic recovery, but at least it accomplished one good thing. Washington politicians are no longer talking seriously about a proposed “Grand Bargain” to cut Social Security and Medicare. Progressive blogs have labeled this the Grand Betrayal, an attack on the social safety net that has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.
Paul Ryan killed any lingering hopes of a grand bargain within moments of the budget conference kickoff on Wednesday.
In his opening remarks, the Wisconsin congressman and chairman of the House budget committee laid down a firm marker against new taxes, which are essential to any major deficit reduction proposal that can pass Congress and be signed into law.
…His comments reflect the no-compromise mood of the GOP. That means the two chambers are unlikely to strike a major debt deal or reconcile the different budgets passed by the House and Senate earlier this year.
Party of NO, do your stuff!
OTOH it would be good if the 29-member budget conference committee can find some way to avoid another government shutdown on January 15 next year. Hopefully, that’s not too much to ask. They have until December 13 to reach a compromise agreement.
h/t Jon Walker (FDL)
Rising inequality and declining economic mobility in the United States are having an effect on public opinion. The Gallup Poll finds a bare majority of Americans (52%) who believe the country has plenty of economic opportunity, down from 81% in 1998. Also, when asked about fairness many more now realize the odds are stacked against the 99 Percent and in favor of the 1 Percent.
Today, just half say “the economic system in the United States is basically fair, since all Americans have an equal opportunity to succeed,” while 44% instead see it as basically unfair, and lacking such opportunity. This is a significant change of attitudes compared with the economically heady and dot-com boom year of 1998, when nearly seven in 10 Americans saw the economic system as fair.
The problem is lack of opportunity. Charlie Mangiardi, who works with Year Up, a nonprofit that trains young adults for careers and helps them find jobs: “There’s a whole pool of talent that is motivated, loyal and hardworking.” They just can’t get through an employer’s door, he added.
You just cannot make this stuff up. Today in his first press conference since the Republican Shutdown, Speaker of the
House Republicans John Boehner immediately threatened another government shutdown on January 15, 2014, followed by a possible default on the National Debt.
“As I told my colleagues the other day, we fought the fight. We didn’t win. We live to fight another day.”
…“The fact is, we’re going to have issues about funding the government come Jan. 15. We’re going to have the debt ceiling we’re going to have to deal with again,” Boehner said.
Unbelievable. In the immortal words of Talleyrand: “Ils n’ont rien appris, ni rien oublié” — “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”
I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?
–Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of US drone strike victim Mamana Bibi
On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes. Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive any acknowledgment that it was the US that killed her, let alone justice or compensation for her death.
Earlier, on 6 July 2012, 18 male laborers, including at least one boy, were killed in a series of US drone strikes in the remote village of Zowi Sidgi. Missiles first struck a tent in which some men had gathered for an evening meal after a hard day’s work, and then struck those who came to help the injured from the first strike. Witnesses described a macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror, as US drones continued to hover overhead. The use of pilotless aircraft, commonly referred to as drones, for surveillance and so-called targeted killings by the USA has fast become one of the most controversial human rights issues in the world. In no place is this more apparent than in Pakistan.
Amnesty International has documented nine U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan from last year and this year. Their report, available online in PDF format, includes a discussion of so-called “signature strikes,” follow-up missile attacks launched against people rescuing the wounded from a drone strike, and other tactics. Must-read.
According to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns, “When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict.”
Over 80% of Americans oppose cuts to our Social Security system — in fact, 71% want to expand Social Security. Yet President Obama seems committed to taking away Social Security and Medicare benefits, via the so-called “chained CPI” cuts and other proposals that Washington politicians call the “Grand Bargain.” Progressives have re-named it the Grand Betrayal.
This is not the time for austerity budgeting or proposals to hack away at our social safety net. Social Security, the only defined-benefit retirement plan most Americans have access to, pays less than minimum wage. We need economic recovery. The Republican Shutdown cost the economy $24 billion in lost productivity, which we can’t get back. The Tea-GOP has failed, and FreedomWorks chief Matt Kibbe said Friday that divisions on the right could cause the Republican Party to split in two.
UPDATE: Democrats have already conceded earned benefit cuts. Which is one of the reasons the Dems lost the 2010 election. RJ Eskow: What Are Democrats in the Senate Smoking? Caving into Right-Wingers to Cut Medicare Would Be Political Disaster
The viewpoint of a vast majority of Americans — including the vast majority of Republicans, and even of Tea Party members — has been marginalized inside the Beltway as that of “the left,” or even “the extreme left.” Politicians who defend these [earned benefit] programs will have to stand up to the talking heads and lobbyists who, despite all the evidence, continue to deny the truth: their anti-”entitlement” Beltway views stand well outside the mainstream of American public opinion.
That crowd, with its talk of “Baby Boomers busting the bank” and “Social Security gone bankrupt,” is the real political “fringe” in this debate. Unfortunately, this “fringe” has a lot of money behind it.
Yes, the astroturf for the oligarchs people invoke class warfare, hoping people don’t realize that means testing is a divide and conquer strategy. The reason everyone receives Social Security is because it is a program for everyone, everyone is a stakeholder. If it was just for the poor, like food stamps, the rich would try to cut it all the time.