Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Government Crisis Viewed Through D.C. Media Bubble

In the postmortem of Republican’s surrender from their extremist hostage taking and ransom demands, people everywhere are analyzing what they think happened.  One article contained glaring ideological framing.  I agree with the foundational analysis of “Short-term debt deal won’t mask big barriers ahead” by Charles Babington of the Associated Press: yesterday’s deal didn’t address the underlying problems in D.C.  But I do disagree with important parts that Charles uses as supporting evidence for his argument.

First:

Republicans still adamantly oppose tax increases. Powerful interest groups and many Democrats still fiercely oppose cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The first sentence is mostly true.  Republicans oppose tax increases on the rich (witness the 2011 deal to lock in lower tax rates for people making $400,000 or more per year), but are more than happy to shift taxation onto the lower and middle class.  But the second sentence is even more painful to read for its vapidity.  What the heck are “powerful interest groups”?  Does Charles know who opposes Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts the most?  People that receive them!  Want to “fix” Social Security?  Lift the taxable income cap and Social Security is solvent for centuries.  But that means “raising taxes” to pay for a social good.  Does Charles seriously believe there are no “powerful interest groups” that oppose tax increases?  No, but he and the AP sure expects readers to.  And Republican supporters demonstrate that effort works.  It’s hip to trash Social Security and Medicare in the D.C. cocktail circuit, but remains wickedly unpopular in the rest of the country.

In fact, most of the “powerful interest groups” on the right – the same ones that pushed for the partial government shutdown and threatened the US’s role as the safest investment on earth -

Also, as usual, there is no mention of the national deficit’s growth under Republican President George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan.  But this fact is an obvious part of the Teabagger’s outrage at establishment Republicans.  It also serves another purpose: if Republicans can generate enough outrage over national debt (that they themselves accumulated), they can demand Social Security and Medicare cuts while the obscenely wealthy get their taxes cut, even though Social Security doesn’t contribute one penny to the national debt they’re supposedly so concerned about.

Second:

The Simpson-Bowles plan remains widely praised nationwide, and largely ignored in Congress.

What?!  Most of the nation doesn’t even know what the S-B plan is or what it would do.  S-B remains widely praised in the same D.C. circles where it’s cool to want to take insurance programs away from the disadvantaged, and that’s it.  Does Charles write that it’s Congress’ job to plan for and pass a budget every year?  Because they haven’t done that on time since 1996 – a time when Republicans dominated the legislature.  Instead, folks in D.C. turned to gangs as the answer – gangs of legislators trying to do the work the rest of their colleagues can’t be bothered to do.

Left out of this article, as usual, are the long list of concessions Democrats yielded all to willingly to Republicans in previous “negotiations” without acquiring Republican concessions.  This latest “reset” is no different: sequestration cuts to the budget (which nobody likes but too many voted and signed for) remain in place.  Those cuts reduce our national economic activity: reduced GDP of about 1%.  At a time of historically low interest rates, the government could rebuild our decaying infrastructure for nearly at-cost, while putting millions of people back to work who want to work.  We are squandering an immense opportunity that will not repeat itself.  That infrastructure will be rebuilt, but today’s politicians want to make sure we pay more than we have to.

Charles and the AP mention none of this.  Instead, it is “powerful interest groups” and crackpot plans.  The framing by the D.C. crowd belittles the American people.  It’s no wonder the media and Congress aren’t liked or trusted by a majority of Americans.


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How Much Of The Big 3 Will Obama Give Away Just To Make A Deal?

We heard plenty of rhetoric from Obama super-supporters leading up to the November election: how we had to vote for Obama because crazy ol’ Mitt Romney would destroy the country.  It turns out Democrats are just as eager to scare-monger as Republicans are when it comes to protecting those in power from accountability.  Largely left unsaid was what Obama would do if re-elected.  I argued with many friends about this topic.  I saw what the first-term was all about: taking progressive policies off the table prior to negotiation, negotiating for too long, yielding concession after concession while not getting anything of equal value in return from Republicans who only wanted to see him lose the 2012 election.

Now that Obama has been reelected, a political “crisis” that Obama and Congress purposefully created for themselves needs our attention.  The fiscal curb is approaching.  For a couple of weeks, Obama made a good show of touring the country and showing voters how smart they were to vote for him, because he wasn’t going to capitulate and concede on tax cuts for the obscenely rich or the Big 3: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  Social Security doesn’t add to the deficit because it has a guaranteed revenue stream.  Medicare and Medicaid could be made solvent for decades with minor adjustments that have nothing to do with things Republicans think they do.

I had no doubt we would see the following.  Obama made the following proposal yesterday: in exchange for extending middle-class tax cuts, raising the debt limit, extending unemployment benefits, and new spending on infrastructure, he would continue Bush’s high-income tax cuts for income up to $400,000 and would cut Social Security benefits.  That’s $1.3 trillion in revenue for $850 billion in spending cuts.  Obama has already given up on raising taxes for incomes over $250,000.  And he threw Social Security under the bus.  For nothing in return.

Mark my words: the Big 3 will take massive hits.  And unlike in 2005 when the country resisted a Republican President doing it, a Democratic President will do it in 2012.  Republicans will successfully get even more spending cuts in programs that need only slight tweaks while raising the income limit that gets subjected to a return to tax rates under Clinton than is present in this offer.  How do I know?  Speaker Boehner quickly rejected the President’s offer.  Why?  Because it ensures that Obama will continue to foolishly engage with the Speaker in closed-door meetings instead of speaking in front of the American people.  If he did the latter, as was his initial strategy, Boehner would have to agree to the President’s proposal.  Because Republican plans consist of everything Americans don’t want to see: slashing unemployment insurance, tax hikes on the middle class while the rich walk away untouched, cuts to the Big 3, etc.

And here is why that will happen: Barack Obama wants his legacy to be defined by his ability to make deals with Republicans.  The specific details don’t matter that much to him.  He wants to be perceived as someone who gets things done, regardless of who came up with the idea in the first place.  Health care?  Let’s try the Republican plan Mitt Romney got through in Massachusetts.  Climate Change?  Let’s try the Republican plan from the 1990s.  Budget balancing?  Let’s try what Republicans have wanted for decades: no social programs and lots of defense spending.

The best part?  We’ll all do it together!  Yay!  Be happy, Democrats!  You prevented the world-ending Mitt Romney from being elected and now your party’s President will dismantle the most successful programs that kept millions of Americans out of poverty in the 20th century.  Because we all had to vote for the lesser of two evils.  Phew, disaster was narrowly avoided, wasn’t it?


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Will Democrats Push Back On Republican Teabaggers’ Attempt To Gut Medicare?

No.

And I really do think it’s that simple.  Obama has already ceded the majority of the ground that could honestly be considered liberal.  That’s the way he wants it; that’s the way his handlers want it; it’s become the way his supporters want it.  He’s made plenty of pretty-sounding speeches about the topic, saying over and over he won’t let Medicare be turned into a voucher system.  Which tells me that is where things will end up when all is said and done.  Contractual obligations don’t matter to this man or his staff.  Staying in power does.

Mark my words: the big 3 contractual obligations run by the federal government will look very different after Obama and other “Democrats” are done with them.  Those changes might not take place immediately, but they’ll take place.  Just like his health care system reform insurance giveaway – the biggest changes still won’t take place for years, but they’re coming.  And when they get here, it’s not as if the system will be better than was before the reform.  And the Obama drones will swear up and down that the destruction of Medicare will be as good for all of us as the health insurance giveaway was.

Want to prove me wrong, Obama?  Fine, prove me wrong.  Don’t let Republican Teabaggers start the process to destroy programs that have worked quite well for generations.  Actions speak louder than words.  Stand up to extremists for once instead of trying to figure out a way to help them stab the rest of us in the back.


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Health Care Reform Already Being Weakened?

If the deficit peacocks get their way, Medicare could be seriously weakened.  Why?  Because the $519 Billion program is expected to grow to $929 Billion by 2020.  And since CorporateDems and Incrementalists insisted that the 2009-2010 Health Insurance Giveaway could be easily strengthened “the next time around”, a Medicare buy-in in place of single-payer in place of a public option, was never seriously considered, the growth in the cost of Medicare moving forward presents a nice, fat target for which the D.C. establishment can aim.

Opening Medicare up to a larger pool of customers would have helped keep the program’s overall costs down.  But the “serious people” involved with health care reform couldn’t allow that to happen.  That was too much change too quickly.  The health care apple cart might get tipped over, or some such nonsense.  Well, I would love to hear from the Incrementalists how accepting crumbs in the reform gutter will save Medicare or ensure more Americans have access to quality health care.  And no, insurance coverage doesn’t not equate to quality health care.  It should become obvious soon that forcing people into private insurance coverage doesn’t mean existing health care systems will get the changes they need.  There was a critical question that the Incrementalists could never answer during the health care debate: how will their version of “reform” be strengthened moving forward?  It turns out that it won’t.  The health care system doesn’t need tweaks at the edges, it needs revolutionary, fundamental change.

How disgusting will it be when a Democratic President oversees privatization of portions of Medicare?  How about Social Security?  The Incrementalists were dead wrong – the only thing their approach will accomplish is taking steps toward privatizing the social safety nets brought into existence by liberals and progressives in the 20th century.  This isn’t “Change we can believe in”.


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Health Care Expense Question

I’m beginning to take quite the contrarian role in the health care debate.  Representatives and Senators are fools if they think that the American people don’t want real reform of the care system (note: insurance reform isn’t the same thing!).  They’re fools if they think that there won’t be a consequence in the 2010 elections if real reform isn’t passed this year.  Oh, the 2013 start date for the reform?  Also not a good idea.  Most Americans don’t want reform in 4 years, after the 2012 Presidential election.  They want it next year, at the latest.  But by too many measures now, there remain too many reform obstructionists, both Con and Democrat alike.  So as an activist, I ask myself, “How should the ground be shifted to get the work done?”  Volumes of statistics haven’t done it.  People dying by the thousands haven’t done it (interesting how 3,000 dead people on 9/11 “changed everything” though, isn’t it?).  So what would do it?

Well, I really liked Rep. Anthony Weiner’s idea to shut down Medicare on January 1st, 2010.  I like it for the reason I stated yesterday: it proves that the Cons really aren’t against government-run health care.  If they had the courage of their convictions, every one of them would have voted to kill Medicare.  But they don’t.  They’re sniveling little cowards, which has been proven all too often.  I like it for another reason.  Given enough threats, it could get a key demographic group to take notice and come out in more public, vocal support for health care reform.

Then I read something that I think could make a difference:

Still, insurers are pushing back against several proposals that lawmakers see as favorable to consumers. One proposal would prevent insurers from charging older Americans more than twice the rates charged to younger people. Insurers want to be able to charge older people as much as five times more.

At first, this generated a feeling of anger at the insurance corporations.  They’re already racking up record profits quarter after quarter.  How much profit is enough?  But then, I thought to myself, “This is actually perfect!”.  What demographic group is listened to by politicians?  Older people; seniors; those over 65, perhaps over 55.  If they were charged 5 times as much as younger people, and the insurance corporations want Congress to legislate that everybody must buy insurance, seniors would flip.  I understand their care costs more.  But if everybody has to buy insurance, that care would be paid for.  But on top of it, in their greed, insurance corporations want to quintuple the amount younger people are charged.  Does Congress seriously think this would be allowed to continue very long?  I know what the insurance corporations think – they’ll get no blowback for this.  They’re quite mistaken about that.  I can easily see legions of seniors bombarding Congress with demands to put the insurance corporations back under control and open up choices to new care programs.

So I say go for it!  I say the insurance corporations should be able to charge older people 10 times what younger people have to pay.  They’ll nearly literally sign their own death warrants as a result.  And America would join the rest of the civilized world by implementing universal health care.


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Republicans Won’t Put Up, Corporations Won’t Shut Up

As the 2009 health care “debate” continues into August, a couple of developments are taking place that the corporate-run media won’t cover.

The first was a real opportunity for Republicans to put their money where their mouths are and vote down a socialized medical system operating in the United States: Medicare.  Rep. Anthony Weiner introduced an amendment in the House Energy and Commerce Committee last Thursday that would have shut down Medicare on Jan. 1, 2010.

The result should shock no one: not one person on the Committee voted for the amendment.  Rep. Weiner’s point was made: despite parroting all the corporate-funded talking points and obstructing any kind of progress on reforming our health care system, Republicans and ConservaDems didn’t put up.  Given the chance to demonstrate that they don’t like socialized medicine and shut down such a system operating within the U.S., everybody chickened out.  Nobody wanted their names associated with a proposal to shut down such a successful, wildly popular socialized medical system.  Cowards, all of them.  Oh – how many times did you see this story on the corporate media this weekend?  I know I didn’t – I had to read about it today on progressive news services.  [h/t Think Progress]

Next, and quite frankly, much more importantly, corporate-funded groups are manufacturing protests at Representatives’ town hall meetings in their districts.  The protests are well-organized from the highest levels – they’re providing talking points and suggestions on how best to disrupt the meetings by trying to embarrass or anger Representatives.  They’re buying transportation to pick up people who don’t know the protests aren’t grassroots organized.

They’re advocating “Rocking the town halls” by sending out viral emails to everybody that showed up to the ridiculous Teabagging Parties earlier this year.  By which, they’re subverting the spirit of small-d democracy:

Try to rattle him, not have a rational debate.

These people are not interested in having a rational debate, by their own admission.  This is the focus of the right-wing wackos that have taken over the Republican party.  Shout at people, yell out scary talking points, don’t let the opposition respond, try to rattle them, try to embarrass and anger them.  That’s their idea of how a democracy is supposed to work.

The corporate-tocracy is spending a lot of time and money to ensure the status quo is maintained – you either spend money on insurance or you get sick and die.

This corporate-sponsored astroturf campaign is immoral and disgusting.


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Economy: Post Bail-Out & Election: Post VP-Debate

There was a lot of news and commentary this weekend after Bush’s Bailout was passed and Sarah Palin demonstrated just how unknowledgable she is about important domestic and foreign policies.  The economy has been bad for average Americans for years and this election is critical.  So I’m going to stay on top of both issues by pointing to aspects of news and commentary I found.  I’ll update this post throughout the day due to the volume of material I want to cover.

1. Democratic Rep. Mark Udall and Republican Bob Schaffer were profiled in the Rocky Mountain News. Here’s a short bio on both: Rep. Udall has spent a good portion of his career trying to improve our energy policies – in Colorado first, and then nationally.  There is a long road to walk until we have a renewable energy-based society, which is needed for a healthy climate and national securtiy.  Mark Udall will make a decent Senator (note I didn’t say good or great.  I have real problems with his centrist approach in general and his recent vote to retroactively immunize telecom corporations who illegally wiretapped domestic traffic).  Bob Schaffer used to be a Jack Abramoff yes-man.  His actions tell us he is in favor of forced abortions, sweatshops and fossil fuels.  His past is well-paved with corruption and Colorado can’t afford to have a 20th century fringe CONservative blocking work to move forward in the 111th Congress.

2. Bush admitted on Friday as he signed his Bailout that the legislation is just “the beginning”. Really?  The beginning of what, exactly?  The beginning of more taxpayers Bailouts of immoral corporate gambling?  Overall, Americans recognized this Bailout is just that.  There is no part of the legislation that addresses the actual problems in the economy.  No homeowner assitance.  No path towards more jobs.  No increase in income.  The Bush administration will not prosecute the fools that set up this economic collapse.  The bottom line: trickle-down (voodoo) economics does not work.  Dumping larger sums of money at the top will not make any more fall to the bottom.

3. The Bailout passed because of the tax breaks attached to it. There are many reasons why that fact is odious, but I’ll focus on one for now: all of them already exist.  That’s correct: the tax breaks were merely extensions!  Entities like the Denver Post, in fact, spent more time opining about the tax breaks than they did about the underlying Bailout.  The Senate hadn’t extended any of the tax breaks all year, but managed to stick it on the Bailout so it would pass.  Oh, the corporate media also hasn’t reported the reason those extensions hadn’t passed all year: a CONservative Senator from Oklahoma issued a record number of filibuster threats this Congress.  One person alone managed to hold up about 100 necessary bills.  All so the CONS could run ads saying Congress didn’t do anything all year.  CONS put all their focus on elections and none of their focus on governing.

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