Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Constituents Grill NY Republican On Refusal To Tax Rich More

We all remember the right wingers who showed up at town hall meetings to denounce Democrats who supported health care reform. Since then, liberals have been challenging Republicans, including Rep. Charlie Dent (PA), Rep. Daniel Webster (FL), Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), Sen. Leah Vukmir and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (WI) and a host of other GOP politicians. Recently, Rep. Chris Gibson of New York's 20th district was grilled by constituents over his opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy. Watch as they grow increasingly frustrated over Gibson's refusal to directly answer their questions:

Constituent: Why do you seem so closed-minded to raise the taxes on people that can pay more? ...If cutting taxes for corporations is going to grow the job climate, why over the last year, when all of the rest of us are suffering, have they increased their CEO pay an average of 23 percent? They're not paying for jobs, they're not interested in creating more jobs unless you guys make them.
Gibson: But, see, you're reinforcing my point, though, that that's why we need to do the corporate tax reform.
Constituent: No, they need to pay their way!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FEMA Runs Out Of Cash As GOP Plays Politics With Disaster Aid

NPR reports that FEMA, short of funds, is postponing certain previous emergency projects to contend with Hurricane Irene. Can we count on the agency getting the aid it needs? No. Citizens in desperate straits will have to wait as Republicans grandstand and insist on spending cuts. Of course, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is not under consideration as a source of revenue. Once again, those needing immediate relief will be held hostage by House Republicans, spearheaded by Majority Leader Eric Cantor:

...FEMA administrator Craig Fugate says his agency will postpone work on some of the repair and restoration projects resulting from the earlier storms to pay for the immediate needs resulting from Irene.

...All told, there have been 10 storms that cost at least a billion dollars each this year, if you include Irene's expected costs. And FEMA says its disaster relief fund is below the billion dollars it likes to keep on hand.

So the administration will be forced to go to Congress for more aid, setting up a potential fight with House Republicans. In the past, emergency aid funds have been treated as, well, emergencies, and the money spent was added to the deficit. No more, says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Speaking on Fox on Monday, Cantor said the money to pay for disaster aid will have to be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.

"In instances like this, yes, there is a federal role. Yes, we're going to find the money. We're just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so," Cantor said. Democrats on the Appropriations Committee vow to take up a FEMA funding measure as soon as lawmakers return to the Capitol next week. The Senate bill, however, is unlikely to contain the offsets demanded by House Republicans.

That's likely to mean yet another confrontation between the two parties and the two chambers of Congress.

Photo: Home destroyed by Hurricane Irene in Columbia, NC. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (h/t The Atlantic)

Fox's Kelly On Presidential Candidates: "Does It Matter If Somebody Is Dumb?"

The Republicans count Michele Bachmann as a presidential hopeful and Sarah Palin as a potential candidate; both have mangled American history of late. Then there's Rick Perry's skepticism on evolution. Additionally, there's the anti-science orientation of the Republican presidential candidates. Is it any wonder, then, that Fox's Megyn Kelly would ask whether it matters if a candidate is dumb? Or that conservative commentator Michele Malkin doesn't defend the intelligence of Republican candidates, but instead offers an anti-intellectual response? Watch:

Kelly: Does it matter–should it matter–if somebody is dumb? Yes, there have been partisan attacks, no question it does usually seem to focus on the Republicans: “Is Michele Bachmann dumb?” They’ve talked about her being on the House Intelligence Committee is a contradiction in terms... Now they’re asking this about Rick Perry, we saw it with Sarah Palin…  There were questions about the number of colleges Sarah Palin attended, there were questions about Perry's academic transcript. Does it make it illegitimate just because of who's asking it? 

Malkin: I think that it does... We can’t allow the left side of the aisle and those who pose as objective, neutral journalists to frame the quality and the credentials of our candidates. I don’t measure it on their college transcripts; I don’t measure it on how much they may have paid to go to some Ivy League-minted school…

Monday, August 29, 2011

Indiana Rep Supports Gay Marriage Ban, Pays Young Man For "Good Time"

We've seen it before: A conservative filled with self-hatred for his sexual identity crusades for so-called "family values," including legislation dedicated to making gays miserable. Think of former Republican senator Larry Craig of Idaho and anti-gay activist and minister George Alan Rekers, among others. Now Rep. Phil Hinkle (R-IN, left), who voted for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, has been accused of soliciting the services of a young man, Kameryn Gibson (right), on Craigslist:

State Rep. Phil Hinkle admitted Tuesday that he paid a young man $80 to have a good time. But Hinkle insisted he isn’t gay and doesn’t know why he did it.

He said that he understands why he’s being stripped of his committee chairmanships and that he won’t seek re-election. But he said he will not resign, despite Speaker Brian Bosma’s call Tuesday to do so.

And he said he did nothing illegal with — or to —the young man and that he himself was the victim of a crime. But he said he would not file a police report.

...Hinkle’s version of what happened that night in room 2610 at the JW Marriott hotel differs greatly from the version provided by the young man and his sister.

Kameryn Gibson, the 18-year-old who said he was looking for a “sugga daddy” in the Craigslist posting, told The Star that he tried to leave the room that night and called his sister Megan after Hinkle identified himself as a lawmaker. He also said Hinkle tried to keep him from leaving, exposed himself and then — after his sister arrived — offered them $100 cash, an iPad and Blackberry to keep quiet.

Hinkle’s version: He never exposed himself and never offered anything to the Gibsons to keep quiet. Instead, he said, Kameryn Gibson stole those items when Hinkle was in the bathroom.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Harold Meyerson: Perry Ignorant Of Ways Progressive Legislation Benefitted Texas

Columnist Harold Meyerson (left) points out Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry’s lack of historical perspective regarding his own state. The fact is that Texas has thrived under the liberal reforms that Perry despises. Ultimately, the governor’s goal is to dismantle progressive legislation throughout the country–to the detriment of us all:

What Perry either ignores or doesn’t know is how greatly Texas has benefited from the investments and regulations of the federal government he despises. He grew up, he tells all who will listen, on a small, hardscrabble Texas farm. But it was Franklin Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Administration that brought electricity to those farms, which, left to the mercies of the market, would have remained dark for decades. The New Deal threw money at Texas, bringing it dams, highways and schoolhouses. The cumulative effect of policies such as the federal minimum wage has been to diminish the disparity that long existed between the industrialized North and the more poverty-stricken South.

Perry wants to unravel the national social contract and once again have us go state by state, with the low-wage, low-reg states dragging down the others, much as Chinese mercantilism has dragged down wages and living standards across the United States. He is the 21st-century, homegrown version of the Manchurian candidate.

Timothy Egan: Obama Should Practice “More Muscular Politics”

Commentator Timothy Egan (left) acknowledges the disappointment among a good part of Obama’s 2008 supporters. For many, his performance during the debt ceiling talks confirmed the feeling that this president doesn’t fight hard enough for progressive priorities. The administration’s lack of a strong jobs plan and its permitting the Republicans to place the deficit above employment only heighten dismay. On the other hand, the prospect of one of the current crop of Republicans winning the presidency is unthinkable. Egan advises Obama to aggressively bring the fight to the GOP regarding taxes, health care and even social issues. He'll probably find a public quite receptive to this line of attack:

...As president, he’s been a sober, cautious, tongue-shackled realist — a moderate Republican of the pre-crazy, pre-Tea Party era. Having failed to come up with a Big Idea to guide his presidency, he will sink or swim now on strengths that don’t lend themselves to large rallies...

Urban liberals, labor, blacks and Hispanics, environmentalists, the young – the core of Obama’s army in 2008 — are disappointed in the president of August, 2011. They’re right when they say he caved on the debt talks: the evidence is House Speaker John Boehner’s boast that he got 98 percent of what he wanted from the president.

...For Obama the political mortal, two lines of governance present themselves.

One is simply to be the executive whose policies, with a few exceptions, are backed by the majority of the public, and opposed by Republicans in thrall to kooks and corporate absolutists.

Tax cuts for wage-earners, but not for millionaires and billionaires, has deep, bipartisan support across the land, sensibly articulated by Warren Buffett, who pointed out the absurdity his secretary paying a higher tax rate than he.

...He doesn’t have to launch a class war — merely to engage one that’s already underway. So far, surprisingly, he has not taken a side. He should make Republicans defend the politics of grotesque economic inequality.

...About 50 million American have no health care. If that’s the status quo Republicans want, Obama should make them own the misery, highlighting Rick Perry’s Texas, where one in four citizens are without this basic right, which the rest of the industrial world shares.

...On social issues, Perry wants to amend the Constitution to take away rights from gays and pregnant women, and eliminate the power of citizens to directly elect their senators (that’s the Seventeenth Amendment, which Perry opposed in his book).

Public opinion, again, is on Obama’s side on these issues. But to leverage it, he has to practice a much more muscular brand of politics. He doesn’t have to be Superman; Clark Kent with a strong dose of brio would do it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cantor: Hurricane Relief Must Be Offset–Unlike Bush Tax Cuts

Following a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, last May, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that emergency funding must be offset by budget cuts. Now Cantor is raising the same requirement regarding Hurricane Irene, which has been battering his state, Virginia:

"We aren't going to speculate on damage before it happens, period," [Cantor] spokesperson Laena Fallon emails. "But, as you know, Eric has consistently said that additional funds for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts."

So this is Cantor's pattern: when there's a disaster, he's strict with the purse strings. When it comes to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, he'll fight for them while acknowledging that they increase the deficit–yet won't insist that they be offset by spending cuts.

Pat Robertson: Crack In Washington Monument A Sign From God

Previously, Pat Robertson declared that America is turning into Sodom and Gomorrah and that God will destroy the country because of gay marriage. Now Robertson is suggesting that the crack in the Washington Monument resulting from the August 23 earthquake is a sign from God. Robertson "[doesn't] want to get weird on this," though. Listen:

Robertson: Ladies and gentlemen I don’t want to get weird on this so please take it for what it’s worth. But it seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America’s power, it has been the symbol of our great nation, we look at that monument and we say this is one nation under God. Now there’s a crack in it, there’s a crack in it and it’s closed up. Is that a sign from the Lord? Is that something that has significance or is it just a result of an earthquake? You judge, but I just want to bring that to your attention. It seems to me symbolic. When Jesus was crucified and when he died the curtain in the Temple was rent from top to bottom and there was a tear and it was extremely symbolic. Is this symbolic? You judge.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Madeleine Peyroux Dances To The End Of Love

Performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2008, Madeleine Peyroux covers “Dance Me To The End Of Love,” written by Leonard Cohen, whose rendition was showcased here in June 2010. While Cohen's arrangement had an Eastern European influence, Peyroux's is more uptempo, with a vocal style reminiscent of Billie Holiday, shown here in March 2009.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Marco Rubio: Social Security, Medicare "Weakened Us"

The Republicans have always loathed Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but they kept quiet about their disdain for these popular programs. Perhaps the party’s growing extremism has weakened this inhibition. Rep. Paul Ryan tried to destroy Medicare by turning it into a private voucher program. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor stated that the promise of Medicare won't be kept. Presidential hopeful Rick Perry called the programs unconstitutional "Ponzi schemes." Now, at a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) declared that they "weakened us." Watch:

Rubio: These programs actually weakened us as a people. You see, almost forever, it was institutions in society that assumed the role of taking care of one another. If someone was sick in your family, you took care of them. If a neighbor met misfortune, you took care of them. You saved for your retirement and your future because you had to. We took these things upon ourselves in our communities, our families, and our homes, and our churches and our synagogues. But all that changed when the government began to assume those responsibilities. All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.

Think Progress reminds us what it was like in Rubio's "good old days" when these programs didn't exist–and what it may be like again if the Republicans destroy them:

Americans may have certainly taken care of each other in the absence of formalized access to affordable health care, but that support did little to drastically ameliorate the fears and anxieties of seniors. As Ted Marmor explains in The Politics of Medicare, “The biggest fears included not being able to pay for care and risking turning to children or siblings for help, or it meant relying on the charitable attitude of the doctor or hospital. Most profoundly, it was the sense that illness or injury — bad enough themselves — could be disastrous for family finances unless you were lucky enough to have retiree coverage from a union or government plan.”

Indeed, prior to Medicare’s enactment in 1965, “about one-half of America’s seniors did not have hospital insurance,” “more than one in four elderly were estimated to go without medical care due to cost concerns,” and one in three seniors were living in poverty. Today, nearly all seniors have access to affordable health care and only about 14 percent of seniors are below the poverty line.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

GOP Wants To Raise Taxes–On Wage Earners

Both the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut were supposed to be temporary. The Republicans have been adamant about extending the Bush tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. Are the Republicans also following their anti-tax stance regarding the payroll tax cut for employees? Well...not so much. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas (left) claims that the Bush tax cuts stimulate the economy. Notice all the jobs they’ve brought us? Rep. David Camp of Michigan is suddenly worried about tax cuts contributing to the deficit–the cuts that benefit workers, that is. From the AP:

...GOP lawmakers are so virulently anti-tax, surely they will fight to prevent a payroll tax increase on virtually every wage-earner starting Jan. 1, right?

Apparently not.

Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different "temporary" tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.

The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a "payroll tax" on practically every dime they earn.

..."It's always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn," says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, "but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again." The Texas lawmaker is on the House GOP leadership team.

...[The cost of the payroll tax cut] worries Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, and a member of the House-Senate supercommittee tasked with finding new deficit cuts. Tax reductions, "no matter how well-intended," will push the deficit higher, making the panel's task that much harder, Camp's office said.

But Republican lawmakers haven't always worried about tax cuts increasing the deficit. They led the fight to extend the life of a much bigger tax break: the major 2001 income tax reduction enacted under Bush...

...Many Republicans are adamant about not raising taxes but largely silent on what it would mean to let the payroll tax break expire.

Perry Equates Civil Rights Movement With “Freedom From Overtaxation”

At a campaign stop in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry equated the civil rights movement's struggle for freedom to the Republican platform for low taxes and deregulation. Listen as Perry uses a reporter's question about an historic sit-in in the town to launch into right-wing talking points:

Reporter: And coming to the Old Town Bistro you’re actually visiting a very important place in Rock Hill and the nation’s civil rights history. This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Friendship Nine sit-in here. Care to comment on that?

Perry: Listen, America’s gone a long way from the standpoint of civil rights and thank God we have. I mean we’ve gone from a country that made great strides in issues of civil rights. I think we all can be proud of that. And as we go forward, America needs to be about freedom. It needs to be about freedom from overtaxation, freedom from over-litigation, freedom from over-regulation. And Americans regardless of what their cultural or ethnic background is they need to know that they can come to America and you got a chance to have any dream come true because the economic climate is gonna be improved.

Perry’s vision of the country couldn’t be further from Dr. Martin Luther King’s. Before he died, King planned to participate in the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC, to help the poor get jobs, health care and decent homes. Perry, who calls Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid unconstitutional Ponzi schemes, would like to further shred the social safety net. No doubt Perry also views the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which come at the expense of the poor, as part of the struggle for freedom.

Monday, August 22, 2011

H&R Bloch Chairman Echoes Buffet's Call For Rich Tax Hike

Multimillionaire Henry Bloch, co-founder and chairman emeritus of H&R Bloch, agrees with billionaire Warren Buffet’s recent patriotic call for Congress to "Stop Coddling The Super Rich." In an interview with Fox 4 News, Bloch, a longtime Republican, called for the rich to pay more taxes. Watch:


Bloch: Baloney. Rich people don’t create jobs. Companies create jobs. You probably pay a higher rate than I do, and yet my income is probably many times what yours is. The wealthy have a debt to this country and they can afford to pay it and they should.

Gov. Walker Launches Sham Charm Offensive

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has suddenly decided to show his "nice" side and make friends with the Democrats:

...after six months of bruising partisan fights, Mr. Walker seemed to issue an utterly different message this month. He said he wanted to meet with Democrats and to find shared agenda items — an invitation that has been met with polite acceptance and deep skepticism.

It's natural that there are those who are skeptical of the governor's motives. First, Walker has already rammed through his right-wing agenda, including the union busting bill denying collective bargaining rights. Then there's the matter of the upcoming recall election against him:

Democrats in the state had harsh theories about what was behind Mr. Walker’s sudden wish to get along. Some said he had already accomplished a stunningly partisan agenda, including the bargaining cuts, an austere budget, a voter identification law, a concealed-firearms provision and a redistricting map that favored Republicans, and was now hoping to appear to be reaching out. Others said he feared a different recall election effort — against him — next year, as well as creating a drag in the state on any Republican presidential ticket.

“This is totally phony — a totally unbelievable act of desperation,” said Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. “It will fade away and return soon enough to the scorched-earth method that has marked his career.”

Reflecting on the start of his term, Mr. Walker said that he wished he had spent more time “building a case” with the public for why for collective bargaining cuts could shore up budgets, but that he remained a firm supporter of the cuts themselves — a fact that seems certain to complicate any effort for bipartisanship now. 

The new, charming Walker wants to explain the connection between destroying collective bargaining rights and saving money? Someone already told Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that there is no connection. Who was that person? Why, it was Gov. Scott Walker. Watch:

Kuchinich: How much money does it save, Gov. Walker? Just answer the question.
Walker: It doesn’t save any.
Kuchinich: That’s the point. It obviously had no effect whatsoever on the state budget.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Economists Slam GOP On Fiscal Policy–Yet Democrats Won’t Fight

The Republican stance on the economy–all spending cuts and no tax revenue, especially from the wealthy and corporations–will only harm it further. It’s gotten to the point that even conservative economists are questioning the GOP’s extreme orthodoxy. Adding to the dismaying picture is the fact that the Democrats are too politically fearful to fight for more revenue, stimulus and a jobs program. From a New York Times economic memo by Jackie Calmes:

...macroeconomists and private sector forecasters were warning that the direction in which the new House Republican majority had pushed the White House and Congress this year — for immediate spending cuts, no further stimulus measures and no tax increases, ever — was wrong for addressing the nation’s two main ills, a weak economy now and projections of unsustainably high federal debt in coming years.

Instead, these critics say, Washington should be focusing on stimulating the economy in the near term to induce people to spend money and create jobs, while settling on a long-term plan for spending cuts and tax increases to take effect only after the economy recovers.

...Among those calling for a mix of cuts and revenue are onetime standard-bearers of Republican economic philosophy like Martin Feldstein, an adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary to President George W. Bush, underscoring the deepening divide between party establishment figures and the Tea Party-inspired Republicans in Congress and running for the White House.

“I think the U.S. has every chance of having a good year next year, but the politicians are doing their damnedest to prevent it from happening — the Republicans are — and the Democrats to my eternal bafflement have not stood their ground,” Ian C. Shepherdson, chief United States economist for High Frequency Economics, a research firm, said in an interview.

...Republicans are resistant. And Democrats are too cowed to counter much, given polls that show many Americans believe Mr. Obama’s 2009-10 stimulus package did not work, despite studies to the contrary.

A Democratic Congressional adviser, granted anonymity to discuss party deliberations, said: “We’re at a loss to figure out a way to articulate the argument in a way that doesn’t get us pegged as tax-and-spenders.”

Robert Reich: Why Doesn't The President Present A Bold Jobs Plan?

With consumers insecure about jobs, wages and the value of their homes, they’re not spending. Consequently, businesses aren’t hiring. Robert Reich (left) argues that we need a bold jobs plan from the Obama administration. Due to political fears, however, Obama is being advised not to fight for such a proposal. Instead, the president is playing on the Republicans’ turf, concentrating on the deficit rather than what will really pull the economy out of the ditch: jobs. Reich explains:

Americans are deeply confused about why the economy is so bad – and their President isn’t telling them. In fact, the White House apparently has decided to join with Republicans and blame it on the long-term budget deficit.

...I’m told White House political operatives are against a bold jobs plan. They believe the only jobs plan that could get through Congress would be so watered down as to have almost no impact by Election Day. They also worry the public wouldn’t understand how more government spending in the near term can be consistent with long-term deficit reduction. And they fear Republicans would use any such initiative to further bash Obama as a big spender.

So rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it’s politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit. The idea is to keep the public focused on the deficit drama – to convince them their current economic woes have something to do with it, decry Washington’s paralysis over fixing it, and then claim victory over whatever outcome emerges from the process recently negotiated to fix it. They hope all this will distract the public’s attention from the President’s failure to do anything about continuing high unemployment and economic anemia.

...for now the President is being badly advised. The magnitude of the current jobs and growth crisis demands a boldness and urgency that’s utterly lacking. As the President continues to wallow in the quagmire of long-term debt reduction, Congress is on summer recess and the rest of Washington is asleep.

The President should present a bold plan, summon lawmakers back to Washington to pass it, and, if they don’t, vow to fight for it right up through Election Day.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Harold Meyerson: “The Sad Facts Behind Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle”

It’s bad enough that Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) claim of a “Texas miracle” is fraudulent rhetoric covering up the fact that his state’s unemployment rate is outpacing its job creation rate. One must also consider the state’s poverty (according to 2010 U.S. census data, it's one of the 10 poorest states) and miserable education and health care records under this presidential hopeful. Harold Meyerson (left) looks at the reality beneath the slogan:

Rick Perry’s Texas is Ross Perot’s Mexico come north. Through a range of enticements we more commonly associate with Third World nations — low wages, no benefits, high rates of poverty, scant taxes, few regulations and generous corporate subsidies — the state has produced its own “giant sucking sound,” attracting businesses from other states to a place where workers come cheap.

...What Perry touts in his stump speech, however, isn’t the oil boom but, rather, the low-tax, low-reg, handouts-to-business climate that prevails in Texas. It’s the kind of spiel that businesses hear every day from leaders of developing nations — Mexico and, even more, China.

Consider the Texas that Perry holds up to the rest of the nation for admiration. It has the fourth-highest poverty rate of any state. It tied with Mississippi last year for the highest percentage of workers in minimum-wage jobs. It ranks first in adults without high school diplomas
. Twenty-six percent of Texans have no health insurance — the highest percentage of medically uninsured residents of any state. It leads the nation in the percentage of children who lack medical insurance. Texas has an inordinate number of employers who provide no insurance to their workers, partly because insurance rates are high, thanks to an absence of regulations.

...Consider [Perry's] indifference toward education: In 2008, the state comptroller found that 12 percent of Texans lacked high school diplomas and that the level would rise to 30 percent by 2040 unless the state’s commitment to education was considerably increased. This year, though, when confronted with a $27 billion budget deficit, Perry did not raise taxes but instead slashed $4 billion from K-12 schools...

The Liberal Curmudgeon Live On “St. James Infirmary”

Your faithful blogger had a blast yesterday as a guest host on the “St. James Infirmary” online music show, hosted by my good friend Dr. Michael Mand. If you enjoy my “Saturday Night at the Liberal Curmudgeon” offerings, I encourage you to listen to the August 19th show, first half and second half. I'm introduced at 36:29 after driving around trying to find the studio.

Michael did the opening monologue and musical set, and we then spent almost two-and-a-half hours on the air together. We started off with political commentary, of course, and then played and talked about the Grateful Dead, David Bromberg, John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan, Mink DeVille, Patti Smith and much more. Enjoy!

Get regular updates on the eclectic yet discerning “St. James Infirmary” from the new Facebook page, which I encourage you to “like,” or the show’s Web site, where you can also sign up for the weekly podcast. “St. James Infirmary” is also available live on Fridays from 1:00-4:00 PM on OWWR.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: John Lee Hooker And Bonnie Raitt

Representing two generations of blues masters, John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt are in perfect sync playing “I’m In The Mood.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bachmann: Americans Concerned About “The Rise Of The Soviet Union”

Speaking on “Jay Sekulow Live,” Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann spoke about the concerns of the American people: jobs, the economy, outlawing abortion, preventing gay marriage. Oh yes, they're also worried about “the rise of the Soviet Union.” Listen:

Sekulow: When you are traveling -- I know you are in South Carolina now, you're obviously in Iowa, you're up in New Hampshire -- are you hearing different things in these states?

Bachmann: I would say it's a unified message. It really is about jobs and the economy. That doesn't mean people haven't [sic] forgotten about protecting life and marriage and the sanctity of the family. People are very concerned about that as well. But what people recognize is that there's a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward. And especially with this very bad debt ceiling bill, what we have done is given a favor to President Obama and the first thing he'll whack is five hundred billion out of the military defense at a time when we're fighting three wars. People recognize that. (h/t: Crooks and Liars)

The American people will surely want Bachmann to be the one to receive that 3:00 AM phone call the minute the Soviet Union, which ended in 1991, reconstitutes itself and launches an invasion.

Perry's "Texas Miracle"? Not Quite

If Gov. Rick Perry (TX) becomes the Republican presidential candidate, you’ll hear a lot about the “Texas miracle” in job creation. Don’t believe it. Massimo Calabresi points out that the supposed jobs surge has come with an unemployment surge; viewed in balance, the stats aren't impressive for the Lone Star State:

The Wall Street Journal’s lead editorial last Friday touted “The Lone Star Jobs Surge” and reported, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers via the Dallas Federal Reserve, that “37% of all net new American jobs since the recovery began were created in Texas.” Texas has created 265,000 “net new jobs” since the recession ended in June 2009 through April 2011, the Journal reported.

Texas’ unemployment rate tells a different story. It has gone up from 7.7% to 8.0% over that same period. And by that measure, Texas has done worse than the rest of the country since the peak of national unemployment in October 2009: that month the U.S. rate was 10.1% and Texas was 8.2%. Texas peaked at 8.3% last December, dropping to 8.0% in April, while the national rate has dropped a point since it’s [sic] peak to 9.1%

Think Progress featured a chart based on findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that Texas is last in job creation relative to labor force expansion:

Though Think Progress cites net jobs statistics that differ from those quoted by Calabresi, both reach the same conclusion:

Clearly, there is no miracle for Texas here. While over 126,000 net jobs were created in Texas over the last two and a half years, the labor force expanded by over 437,000, meaning that overall Texas has added unemployed workers at a rate much faster than it has created jobs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Perry: Social Security, Medicare Are "Ponzi Schemes," Unconstitutional

In Rick Perry, the right wing gets a twofer: George Bush's ambition to destroy Social Security and Paul Ryan's ambition to destroy Medicare. In an interview with Andrew Romano of Slate, the Republican Texas governor and presidential hopeful refers to the programs as "Ponzi schemes" and unconstitutional and criticizes the entire progressive movement:

Romano: In "Fed Up!," you criticize the progressive era and the changes it produced: the 16th and 17th Amendments, Social Security, Medicare, and so on. I understand being against these things in principle—of longing for a world in which they never existed. But now that they’re part of the fabric of our society, do you think we should actually do away with them?
Perry: I think every program needs to stand the sunshine of righteous scrutiny. Whether it’s Social Security, whether it’s Medicaid, whether it’s Medicare. You’ve got $115 trillion worth of unfunded liability in those three. They’re bankrupt. They’re a Ponzi scheme. ...I happen to think that the Progressive movement was the beginning of the deterioration of our Constitution from the standpoint of it being abused and misused to do things that Congress wanted to do, and/or the Supreme Court wanted to implement. The New Deal was the launching pad for the Washington largesse as we know it today...
Romano: What about Medicare? That’s an even bigger contributor to these debt problems.
Perry: ...I think it’s an abuse of our Constitution. There’s no place in the Constitution that says Washington, D.C., is supposed to be mandated health-care coverage, for example...

In 1937, Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo answered critics like Perry:

Social Security critics do not like to talk about the fact that the Supreme Court definitively put the question to rest in 1937. After Congress adopted the Social Security Act at President Franklin Roosevelt's urging, it was challenged on constitutional grounds. In Helvering v. Davis, the Supreme Court upheld the act by a 7-2 vote. Justice Benjamin Cardozo, writing for the majority, said the Taxing and Spending Clause authorized Congress to levy taxes and spend money to advance the "general welfare" and that Congress was within its right to find "that the award of old age benefits would be conducive to the general welfare."

Warren Buffett: Wealthy Should Pay More Taxes

Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, has issued a patriotic appeal for wealthy citizens like himself to pay their fair share of taxes. A billionaire and philanthropist, Buffet objects to paying at a lower tax rate than the middle class. He also refutes the notions that higher taxes discourage investment or job growth. From "Stop Coddling The Super Rich":

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks...

...These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

...The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

...I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

...for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Obama Team Debates Characteristically Cautious Economic Plans

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is debating economic and jobs proposals. The ideas of both the pragmatic and supposedly aggressive camps are noteworthy for the caution that characterizes this administration. The administration could call for more stimulus and a jobs program repairing our crumbling infrastructure, for example. But many voters and all of the Republicans won’t like it, so why fight for it? Instead, tax incentives for hiring is one of the "big ideas." In addition, the president still hasn't given up on a "grand bargain" containing even larger spending cuts:

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers....

...So far, most signs point to a continuation of the nonconfrontational approach — better to do something than nothing — that has defined this administration...

...A wide range of economists say the administration should call for a new round of stimulus spending, as prescribed by mainstream economic theory, to create jobs and promote growth. It is clear that the House would never pass such a plan.

But Christina Romer, who stepped down last year as the chairwoman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said Mr. Obama should fight for short-term spending in combination with long-term deficit reduction.

“Playing it safe is not going to cut it,” said Ms. Romer, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. “Not proposing anything bold and not trying to do something to definitively deal with our problems would mean that we’re going to have another year and a half like the last year and a half — and then it’s awfully hard to get re-elected.”

But there is little support for such an approach inside the administration...

...As part of this appeal to centrist voters, the president intends to continue his push for a so-called grand bargain on deficit reduction — a deal with Republicans to make even larger spending cuts, including to the social safety net, in exchange for some revenue increases...

Administration officials say that their focus is on a number of smaller programs that could benefit the economy, a theme Mr. Obama has emphasized in his recent speeches.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bachmann Would Reinstate DADT, Which “Worked Very Well”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who won the Iowa Straw Poll, offered a telling example of how she would lead the country backwards. She would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the policy that discriminated against gays in the military and ruined the careers of dedicated members of the armed services. Watch as the presidential hopeful tells Candy Crowley that the policy “worked very well”:

Crowley: If you became president, would you reinstitute the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in the military, which said that gays could not serve openly in the military?
Bachmann: The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has worked very well. And I think…
Crowley: Would you reinstitute it then? Because it’s been set aside.
Bachmann: It worked very well. And I would be in consultation with our commanders. But I think yes, I probably would.

Bachmann would "be consultation with our commanders"? She is evidently unaware that the Pentagon issued a report stating that repealing DADT will not harm the military–and that former defense secretary Robert M. Gates urged the policy's repeal. Think Progress details the harm done by DADT:

Exactly how Bachmann defines “worked” remains unclear. Since its establishment in 1993, the DADT policy has resulted in the direct ouster of nearly 14,000 military service members. According to a 2007 study by the Williams Institute, the military’s retainment rates have also been harmed by the policy, with approximately 4,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel leaving the military per year, who “would have been retained if they could have been more open about their sexual orientation.” Finally, at least 58 Arabic linguists have been expunged from the military due to DADT policy — a serious loss in an era in which Middle Eastern terrorism is a significant international threat.

And that is just the practical damage DADT has done to America’s military. All this doesn’t even begin to tally up the moral cost of relegating our fellow citizens to second-class status by forbidding them — based on nothing more than their sexual orientation — from serving their country.

GOP Strategy: I Broke It, You Fix It

Dick Cheney famously said that Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. Acting on this viewpoint, the Republicans under Bush turned the Clinton surplus into a deficit by cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires; prosecuting two unnecessary wars, and pushing through an unfunded Medicare prescription drug program. The minute a Democrat was elected president, though, they suddenly saw the light and turned into deficit hawks–turning against the very deficit they created. Now they're using the economy they destroyed to their political advantage. Clever, isn't it? The following cartoon points out this Republican strategy:

How The Debt Ceiling Deal Screws The Majority

Every time the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are protected, the middle and lower classes–the majority–loses. This remains the case regardless of Republican nonsense regarding not cutting taxes on “job creators,” as if new jobs are raining down on us. The Center for American Progress explains and displays the likely cuts in education, health, energy and jobs resulting from the recent debt ceiling deal. On the other hand, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations have been preserved; the deal, at least in the first round, includes not one penny in revenue:

The compromise reached between Congress and President Obama last week requires $1 trillion in cuts from federal budget discretionary programs and an agreement to identify another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving. But there is no agreement yet on closing tax breaks for the highest income Americans or ending tax subsidies that pad the bottom line of the most profitable companies —special tax breaks that were declared off the table by Republicans in the recent round of negotiations. Our chart details the choices still to be made.

Pawlenty: Straights’ Marriage Rights Should Be “Elevated” Above Gays’

At the Iowa State Fair, Rep. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) was challenged by a gay man named Gabe regarding the Republican presidential candidate’s active stand against marriage equality. Gabe asked Pawlenty why he supports policies that treat gays like second class citizens–and pointed out how his stance contradicts small-government conservatism and makes a negative impact on real lives. Pawlenty’s answer was completely inadequate: marriage between man and a woman “should remain elevated” legally. So straight couples’ rights should be legally “elevated” above that of gays. Sounds like discrimination to me. Watch:

Gabe: “I want to address one concern of mine and that is you have not had the courage to stand for me and my friends. As a member of the GLBT community, you have not stood for us and that is really hard for me. As someone who supports the [anti-gay] National Organization for Marriage, someone that stands with the definition of marriage between one man and one woman, I thought our country was about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. No exceptions. So, Tim Pawlenty, I want to know, when will you stand up for me? That is what I want to know from you today because you are discriminating against me and it hurts. It really does.”
Pawlenty: “…I understand we have a difference of opinion on this issue… The relationship between a man and a woman in a traditional marriage is important to our country, our society, our culture. I think it should remain elevated, not just in our words but under our laws. And that’s why I have supported laws — in fact, have authored laws — to maintain marriage as between a man and woman.”
Gabe: “I support that you have your moral values. But that is something that is hurting my future and how I get to live my life. And that is something that’s odd, someone that talks about government that gets out of your lives, why does government get involved in our marriages?”
Pawlenty: “…We’re just going to have a respectful disagreement.”
Gabe: “Do you think I’m a second class citizen?”
Pawlenty: “We’re just going to have a respectful disagreement, sir.”

Michele Bachmann’s Crazy Eyes

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) wild-eyed portrait on the cover of Newsweek drew objections from conservatives. Here’s video proof that her eyes reflect her crazy views:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: George Thorogood Wants “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”

George Thorogood and The Destroyers rock the Rockpalast, a German music television show, in 1980, covering John Lee Hooker’s “House Rent Boogie/One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” medley.

Dedicated to the memory of blues brother Hal Goldman (1954-2010), who would have enjoyed it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Romney: “Corporations Are People, My Friend”

Speaking at a campaign stop in Iowa on Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced hecklers angered over his comments that taxes should not be raised on corporations to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because “Corporations are people.” Apparently the needs of such “people”–including corporations that paid no taxes–take precedence over the real people who happen to be seniors. Watch:

Romney: To balance our budget and not spend more than we take in, we have to make sure that the promises we make in Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are promises we can keep, and there are various ways of doing that. One is we could raise taxes on people. That's not the way...
Audience Members: Corporations!
Romney: Corporations are people, my friend.
Audience Members: No they're not!
Romney: Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.
Audience: (laughter)
Romney: Where do you think it goes?
Audience Member: In their pockets!
Romney: Whose pockets? People's pockets. Okay, human beings, my friend.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mr. President, Please Channel FDR!

I'm still considering President Obama’s performance during the debt ceiling negotiations: the readiness to put Social Security and Medicare on the table; proposing just a 25% increase in revenue if the Republican hostage-takers promise not to further destroy the economy; not threatening to use the 14th amendment to solve the debt stalemate; not taking the debt ceiling fight on the road and railing against the Republicans, but instead relying on televised appeals and phone calls.

Whether it's the public health care option or the Bush tax cuts or the debt ceiling negotiations, this president simply does not pull out all the stops and fight. Whether he wins is not the ultimate point. The point is to fight as hard as he can and forgo his above-the-fray stance. The Tea Party-driven Republicans will hate him no matter what he does; their fanaticism does not respect compromise. I'm also skeptical that independents will respect Obama's unwillingness to draw a line on progressive principles. Indeed, as time goes on, I question which progressive principles Obama strongly holds.

The following speech by President Roosevelt in 1936 at Madison Square Garden is instructive. FDR spoke of the right-wing policies of previous administrations, including that of Hoover, and their indifference to the vulnerable and devotion to the powerful. Regarding those powerful financial forces, FDR stirringly stated, "I welcome their hatred." President Obama would do well to welcome their hatred more and appeal to their non-existent willingness to compromise less. Listen:

Roosevelt: For twelve years our nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government. The nation looked to that government but that government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! And my friends, powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent to mankind.

For nearly four years now you have had an administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. And I can assure you that we will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. And we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fox’s Napolitano: Obama Mourned Slain SEALs To Distract From Economy

Every time one thinks that Fox News has gone as low as it possibly could, one is disabused of that notion. On what other station would it be acceptable to state that the president mourned the Navy SEALs recently killed in Afghanistan to distract the nation from the economy? That’s what the station’s legal analyst Andrew Napolitano cynically stated on the August 9 edition of Fox News’ “The Five.” Watch:

Napolitano: [Obama] segued into something we all agree on, which is remorse and sorrow over the loss of the SEALs in Afghanistan. That was a very clever way of trying to get the economy off the front page. It didn’t work.

Of course, Napolitano wouldn’t have criticized Obama had he said nothing about the slain SEALs, right?

Conservatives Upset At Newsweek’s "Queen Of Rage" Bachmann Cover


Conservatives are not too pleased with Newsweek’s front cover of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The GOP presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite has a wild-eyed look and appears above the caption, "Queen of Rage." Some of the responses:

On conservative Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism website, editor-in-chief Dana Loesh slammed the folks at Newsweek as "biased" and possibly "chauvinist."

"It seems as though Newsweek has a double standard in effect for conservatives, women, and especially conservative women," blogger Ed Morrissey wrote in an online article. He also chided Newsweek for keeping it "classy" with its choice of Twitter hashtag.

Political pundit Michelle Maulkin also sounded off Monday on her website, writing, "You’ve resorted to recycling bottom-of-the-barrel moonbat photo cliches about conservative female public figures and their enraged 'crazy eyes?' Really?" 

One liberal group, the National Organization for Women, agreed with Breitbart on the "chauvinism" charge:

"It's sexist," NOW president Terry O'Neill told conservative news site the Daily Caller. "Casting her in that expression and then adding 'The Queen of Rage,' I think [it is]. 

Is the cover unfair and sexist–or is it fitting for a politician who has repeatedly made statements that seem, well, crazy?

"Three Legged Buddha" At Storm King Art Center

In September 2009, I visited the Storm King Art Center in New York’s Hudson Valley, about an hour’s drive from NYC. I took a few photos of the Center’s outstanding modern sculptures on 500 acres, which I displayed here. Yesterday I returned to Storm King and was most impressed by Zhang Huan’s “Three Legged Buddha” (2007), unveiled last month (click to enlarge). This 28-foot-tall steel-and-copper piece weighs 12 tons. It represents a monumental, contemporary version of the balance and repose found in ancient sculptures of the Buddha in meditation.

Photo: Emily Tone

Monday, August 8, 2011

Christie Denounces Anti-Shariah “Crazies”

I’m no fan of Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), but he deserves praise for standing up to the right-wing hysteria over the supposed spread of Islamic Shariah law in the U.S. At a press conference, Christie spoke with pride about appointing the second-ever Muslim-American, Sohail Mohammed, to a state judgeship. Mohammed represented many wrongfully detained by the FBI after 9/11 and set up meetings with Muslim Americans regarding developing anti-terrorism leads in New Jersey. Christie also denounced the anti-Shariah “crazies.” Watch:

Christie: Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed. Sohail Mohammed is an extraordinary American, who is an outstanding lawyer and played an integral role in the post-September 11 period in building bridges between the Muslim American community in this state and law enforcement ... Shariah law has nothing to do with this at all. It's crazy ... This Shariah law business is crap. It's just crazy, and I'm tired of dealing with the crazies.

Naturally, the crazies have continued their criticism of Christie on this nonsensical issue.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Israelis Take To The Streets–When Will Americans?

Inspired by protests in Arab countries, especially Egypt, and starting with tent cities in Tel Aviv, hundreds of thousands of lower- and middle-class Israelis have taken to the streets to protest economic conditions. The issues? Rising prices, the lack of affordable housing, stagnating wages, tax breaks for the rich and corporations, the weakening of the social safety net, and the war against unions–all brought about by right-wing economic policies. Sound familiar? While the cost of subsidizing the settlements ought to play a greater role in the protests, it is instructive to listen to the voices in the following video and consider: Is it time for the American people to take to the streets as well? Watch:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cornell’s Robert Frank: Focus On Jobs, Not Deficit

Professor Robert Frank of Cornell University explained to Rachel Maddow that our current path will only make the economy worse (a point also made by Paul Krugman). Consumers and businesses aren’t spending and the only force that can stimulate the economy is the government. Unfortunately, the emphasis now is on cutting–and doing so without additional revenue. Further, the emphasis is on the deficit rather than creating jobs that enable people to spend and stimulate the economy on their own. Watch:

Frank: We’ve known for over 60 years that in a situation that where we’re in now where there is persistent shortfall of demand, government can invest in public works projects and other things that will get the economy back on its feet. It could be done. It’s quite easy to do. The workers are there who know how to do the jobs. The market’s happy to lend us the money. As Ezra said, they’re eager to loan us more money at very low interest rates. The cost of debt compared to the cost of unemployment is incredibly low. A trillion dollar deficit costs us $25 billion a year to pay the interest on that. If we have an extra ten million people unemployed that’s $250 billion lost forever each year, so it’s a 10 to 1 tradeoff. We’re focusing on deficit reduction when we really out to be focused on job creation, and we know how to do it… Focusing on the deficit, cutting spending that’s going to make the deficit bigger. What we’re doing now is just unimaginably stupid.” (h/t: Politicus USA)

31 Americans Killed In Afghanistan: When Does This War End?

Thirty-one Americans on a rescue mission were killed in Afghanistan, shot down in their helicopter by the Taliban. Among them were 22 Navy SEALS who belonged to the unit that carried out the operation against Osama bin Laden. It is the deadliest attack since the war started 10 years ago.

We know that there are hardly any al Qaeda members left in the country; that bin Laden is dead; that the Afghanistan government is corrupt. What is our goal in Afghanistan? Are we anywhere near it? Why are we still fighting a major war there? How many more of our young soldiers have to die before we leave?

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With”

Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With” points out people’s often contradictory relationship to religion: frivolous when things are fine, serious when trouble strikes: “No one laughs at God in a hospital, no one laughs at God in a war… But God can be funny at a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke.” Spektor's lyrics also depict simplistic conceptions of God as a magician or grant-wisher, “presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cantor: Promise Of Medicare Won’t Be Kept

Following up on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to “transform,” i.e. to destroy, Medicare by turning it into a privatized voucher program, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (left) is putting you on notice: Remember the government’s promise that you will receive Medicare as a senior following the tax dollars you've contributed through your paycheck? Forget it. You’re not getting it and you’ll just have to deal with it:

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) on Wednesday suggested that Republicans will continue a push to overhaul programs such as Medicare, saying in an interview that "promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many" and that younger Americans will have to adjust.

Cantor, though, should consider Rep. Kathy Hochul's upset Democratic victory in an upstate New York Republican district due to her opponent's support for the Ryan plan. Commentator Steve Benen sees Cantor's statement as a campaign gift to the Democrats:

...I’ll look forward to the DNC running ads in, say, Florida, telling voters that the leading House Republican believes the United States committed to the Medicare program, but now believes those promises “are not going to be kept.”

Daily Kos, though, wonders if the president's proposals during the debt ceiling talks will weaken the Democrats' case:

Yes, President Obama and the Democrats kept Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid out of the initial round of cuts, and isolate them to a degree in the automatic triggers. But will the general public remember that in a year's time, or will they remember that it was Obama who put the programs on the negotiating table?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Despite Desperate Need, Scott‘s Florida Refuses Health Care Millions

Florida under unpopular Republican Governor Rick Scott (left) is proof of the disconnect between right-wing ideology and the needs of everyone but the wealthy. The Sunshine State has huge problems with joblessness, lack of health insurance and the budget. Millions in federal health care grants could alleviate all three issues. There's one problem: Scott and his fellow Republicans, who no doubt don’t have to worry about medical care, are so offended by the Affordable Care Act that they are refusing the funds that so many desperately need:

...Despite having the country’s fourth-highest unemployment rate, its second-highest rate of people without insurance and a $3.7 billion budget gap this year, the state has turned away scores of millions of dollars in grants made available under the Affordable Care Act. And it is not pursuing grants worth many millions more. 

In recent months, either Gov. Rick Scott’s administration or the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature has rejected grants aimed at moving long-term care patients into their homes, curbing child abuse through in-home counseling and strengthening state regulation of health premiums. They have shunned money to help sign up eligible recipients for Medicare, educate teenagers on preventing pregnancy and plan for the health insurance exchanges that the law requires by 2014. 

...the Legislature failed to authorize an $8.3 million federal grant won by a county health department to expand community health centers.

...Florida declined to participate in a Medicaid pilot program that would have authorized up to $2 million in reimbursement to providers using a new hospice model for severely ill children. The state insurance commissioner applied to the Obama administration for a waiver from this year’s requirement that health insurers spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on medical care... 

...“It’s simply unconscionable that they’re turning back federal tax dollars that our citizens and businesses pay and sending those tax dollars to other states,” said Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat who represents the Tampa Bay area. “Florida’s economy has been hit very hard, and we need every dollar and every job in our state.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Look Ma, No Revenue!"

It’s one thing to say that the current debt ceiling deal contains no revenue. It’s another thing to actually see this reality on a chart (click to enlarge) and compare it with previous deals. The chart above, displayed and discussed on the Rachel Maddow show, focuses on the ratio of cuts to revenue in past debt ceiling deals. In 1984 under Reagan, we actually had a deal providing 82% revenue. In 1990 under the first President Bush, 38% revenue. In 1993 under Clinton, 62% revenue. Next, we see President Obama’s early summer compromise: just 25% revenue if the Republican hostage-takers promise not to destroy the economy. The next bar shows the Republicans’ proposal earlier in the year for 15% revenue. Finally, we have the deal that was just agreed upon: zero revenue. That’s right, not one penny from the wealthiest Americans!