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Friday, July 31, 2009

BUSTED: Lobby firm forges anti-climate-bill letters from Hispanic group & NAACP

POSTED 10:37 AM ON 31 JUL 2009
BY JONATHAN HISKES
Grist.org
More from this author

The Charlottesville, Va., Daily Progress broke the story of a D.C. lobbying firm forging letters in opposition to the House climate bill:

As U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello was considering how to vote on an important piece of climate change legislation in June, the freshman congressman’s office received at least six letters from two Charlottesville-based minority organizations voicing opposition to the measure.

The letters, as it turns out, were forgeries.

“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”

The letters came from the Washington lobby firm Bonner & Associates, which offers “Strategic Grassroots / Grasstops support to help you win.” It hasn’t yet come to light who hired the firm to do this possibly illegal work. Another set of forged letters claimed to represent a local chapter of the NAACP.

Grist has copies of the fake Creciendo Juntos and NAACP letters [PDFs].

For the rest of the story, click here.

Horrendous State Budget: An Insider's View from Rep. Steve Farley

Editorial Note: Spread the word among friends and family what state leaders are doing to destroy the middle class and public education. Following is an excerpted version of the FriendsOFarley report from Phoenix.

Howdy, Friends O'Farley…

I know it's a few days early for the monthly edition of the Farley Report, but there is action to report on the budget front.

Unfortunately, that is not good news.

You will recall in the last report I described a unanimous vote to restore and even increase funding to education and other important areas, and the hopeful beginning of negotiations between legislative Republicans and Democrats.

At the very start of those talks, Republican leadership made us promise that there would be no side deals with the Governor, unless all parties agreed to it. We invited her to take part, but she repeatedly refused.

For the last few weeks, we legislators had been making good progress in those talks, coming up with a reasonable compromise. We had reached agreement on about three-quarters of the budget.

A few days ago, it became clear that Republican leadership had intentionally misled us. They went behind our backs and worked out a secret deal with the Governor, leaving us--and most reasonable Arizonans--hung out to dry in the Phoenix heat.

As I write this, the Republicans are moving forward a package of bills to reflect those agreements. In order to win support from the far right, this package does exactly what the Governor has repeatedly said she did not want to do -- decimate K-12 education.

How exactly? That unanimous agreement we reached on the first day of this special session is completely and utterly betrayed. All increases are rolled back and the draconian cuts of the Republican Legislative budget of June 30 are re-imposed, and K-12 schools would lose their 2% inflation increase for the next three years.

The Governor vetoed that June 30 budget because it would "decimate education". Apparently she's fine with decimation now, because today's agreement also includes her Holy Grail: a ballot referral for that backwards-thinking middle-class-reaming three-year temporary sales tax increase.

But wait, there's more! If we act now, this screamin' deal also comes with:

  • A permanent repeal of the education property tax, creating a $250 million hole in the budget so that most of that money can be taken from our public schools and given to large utilities and mines, many of which are owned by out-of-state investors
  • $400 million in income tax cuts for the wealthy and business tax cuts for big corporations.
  • A referendum to ask you to trust the Legislature to take all the money you voted to be dedicated to education and health care, and let them spend it on whatever they want for the next three years, including more tax cuts and bailouts for wealthy people and big corporations. Remember the .6% sales tax we agreed to in Prop 301 for education? That tax would still be collected and then delivered to the Legislature as a blank check.
  • A three-year spending limit that would make it illegal to spend more money on schools, health care, and corrections than we spent in 2009, regardless of how much growth we have experienced in the student population, AHCCCS members, or convicts.
  • A huge property tax shift off of businesses and onto homeowners.
  • The sale of nearly all state property, including Kartchner Caverns and the State Capitol.
  • A two-year moratorium on development impact fees and building codes.

And the way they claim to balance the budget is assuming that the sales tax and voter-protection-act repeal will pass muster with voters. Somehow, I have a hard time believing that voters will be excited to vote yes to dramatically increase taxes on middle-class families in order to pay for huge tax giveaways to the wealthiest among us. I also doubt they will vote to trust the Legislature instead of themselves when it comes to voter-approved initiatives.

The Governor's sales tax plan -- which makes us MORE dependent on the least stable form of revenue there is -- will COST the average Arizona family nearly $500 a year, while the Democratic plan to reduce the sales tax rate while broadening the base to services would SAVE that same family nearly $300 a year.

The Republican budget is wealth redistribution at its worst -- Robin Hood on its head. The budget steals from the middle class and gives to the wealthy, while chopping away at all the services that the middle class needs the most, especially public education.

And to add insult to injury, it asks the middle class voters to agree to it all at the ballot. Good luck with that, Republicans!

[clip]

One of the problems causing the majority caucus to lose votes is all those Republican legislators who signed libertarian ayatollah Grover Norquist's no-taxes-ever pledge. Yesterday morning, he sent an email saying that he was kinda-sorta OK with them voting for a referral of a tax hike to the ballot, but only because they got so many tax cuts for the wealthy in return.

[clip]

  • They have appropriated $8.5 million to pay for this very special election.
  • The sales tax referendum also includes the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) spending cap provisions, likely in violation of the Constitution's single-subject rule. If in violation, the referendum would be thrown out after the Governor signs the deal. Which may be the intent of many of the Republicans who are saying that they would vote to refer the tax to the ballot, but then campaign against it. Does the Governor have any idea she is being played here?
  • If the sales tax increase and the Voter Protection Act repeal fail at the ballot, the big tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations (it's a 30% slashing of corporate taxes by the way!) will still be in place, costing $1.8 billion over the next four years without any way of paying for them.
[clip]

During Senate Appropriations, several new amendments were offered to obtain Sen. Jack Harper's vote. One would force an immediate layoff of 5% of the people in every government agency and department. Another would eliminate Rio Nuevo's ability to spend any money on anything, including the newly required transparency measures like a clear public database of expenditures.


[clip]

Friday, July 31, 3:10am:

This dirty-dealings in the middle of the night stuff is getting very old. We just got off floor, and all their budget bills passed with 32 votes in favor and all Democrats (at least the 11 of us who were left standing) voting against.

[clip]

  • I did the numbers and discovered that their income tax cut will save $20 a year for households earning less than $50,000 a year, while household earning more than $5,000,000 a year will get more than $34,000 in their pockets.
  • at the same time as the Republican majority voted for this windfall for our wealthiest, they also voted for one of the most callous amendments I have ever seen in this body. This was one of the Jack Harper amendments that was not stripped out. He demanded in exchange for his support of the budget that 5% of state employees be fired because his ideology said that government needs to be cut.

He didn't simply demand that all state agencies absorb a 5% reduction. He wanted people fired. Hard-working, good people who have families to support, mortgages to pay, health care to help their dependents. In the middle of the worst recession in our history. How did he do this?

He demanded, and Republican leadership agreed, and Republican members voted to approve wording that requires agencies to make the reduction ONLY through the number of positions, not through reduction of hours or furloughs. Even if the other employees desired to spread the pain so that no one person would suffer unduly.

This hurtful mass loss of jobs was debated and embraced by the majority just after other Republicans had been arguing that we need corporate tax cuts because they hoped they would create jobs.

Aside from the great personal toll of this move, I also pointed out that major economists of all political stripes have been very clear that cutting government spending and government jobs will deepen and worsen your recession.

[clip]

Friday, July 31, 3:55am:

The Senate just passed their budget out of their Committee of the Whole, and is now in recess as they look for those elusive 16 votes..

Friday, July 31, 5am:

The Senate is now adjourned until Tuesday, since they could not find the votes after all. This tawdry tale continues....

Right-Wing Harassment Strategy Against Dems Detailed In Memo: ‘Yell,’ ‘Stand Up And Shout Out,’ ‘Rattle Him

Think Progress
By Lee Fang
July 31, 2009 at 2:28 pm

RADICAL RIGHT WING AGENDA

This morning, Politico reported that Democratic members of Congress are increasingly being harassed by “angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior” at local town halls. For example, in one incident, right-wing protesters surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and forced police officers to have to escort him to his car for safety.

This growing phenomenon is often marked by violence and absurdity. Recently, right-wing demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) in effigy outside of his office. Missing from the reporting of these stories is the fact that much of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama’s reforms.

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:



  • – Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
  • – Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

  • – Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.
For the rest of the story click here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Study: Bank Bonuses Far Exceeded Profits

CBS News
New York July 30, 2009

A new report from the N.Y. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that banks receiving bailouts paid out more for bonuses than they took in profit.

Click here to read the full report
For the CBS story click here.


Howard Dean Hosts Countdown: Republicans and Insurance Companies Vs The Middle Class

Dean Interviews Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH) : President's poll numbers on handling of health care go down when Democrats try to get Republican Votes.

Grocery Store Town Hall: Obama refutes Medi-Scare tactics

AZ Daily Star - No state budget deal yet; GOP still sparring on sales-tax vote

By Daniel Scarpinato – 7.30.09
Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — Even with the addition of a three-year cap on how much money the state can spend, Republican legislative leaders are still working to garner support from rank-and-file lawmakers to send a sales-tax increase to the ballot.

The issues are part of a budget agreement they announced Wednesday with Gov. Jan Brewer.

Just hours after the compromise was formally announced, Senate President Bob Burns pulled the plug on any plans to push the package through Wednesday night, acknowledging that it doesn't yet have the necessary votes from Republicans.

"We need to stop the train and get things back on ground zero here so we know where we're at," he said after adjourning for the night.

If they can wrangle support, Republican leaders are poised to send a measure to the ballot in November asking voters to raise the sales tax, as Brewer has requested. But it would also cap state spending for the next three years — an addition designed, Republicans say, to get conservatives on board.

A separate measure would ask voters to let lawmakers dip into spending that voters have previously approved for programs ranging from publicly financed elections to early childhood education.

In its current form, and if approved by voters, the GOP proposal would raise the sales tax by a penny on the dollar for two years. In the third year, it would be only a half-cent-per-dollar increase. Then it would go back down to its current rate, 5.6 percent.

In turn, Brewer would approve about $1 billion in state spending cuts, a permanent repeal of the state property tax — valued at $250 million this year — and $400 million in income tax cuts that would take effect in 2012.


On Wednesday afternoon, Brewer and House Speaker Kirk Adams stood side by side at a press conference after budget talks in her office.

Brewer recalled the "difficult times" between her, Adams and Burns that led to this latest agreement: intense disagreements over her call for a tax increase, line-item vetoes of much of her own party's budget, passed July 1 and harsh — often personal — criticism of each other.

Brewer, though, said the compromise reflected the priorities of both sides.

She called it a "long-term plan to turn Arizona around and right the ship."

But Brewer did acknowledge that if the three-year tax boost fails at the ballot, the state would be in an even deeper financial hole with the tax cuts Republicans are planning to pass in the Legislature.

"We all know what we're headed into if it doesn't pass," Brewer said.

Adams, who wouldn't say if he'd support the sales-tax increase on the ballot, said the tax cuts are sound policy either way. In the long term, he and other Republicans argue, state revenue will grow because the cuts will lead to economic development.

"If Arizona is going to get out of the worst recession that we are in, we've got to produce an economic environment where people can hire again, they can build buildings again, and they can get the economy moving again," said Adams, R-Mesa.

Democrats, however, called the entire approach irresponsible, and they speculated that the spending cap was added to the tax-increase measure in an effort to kill it at the ballot. Polls have shown that voters generally support a sales-tax increase to pay for schools, health care and public safety.

"If I were folks who cared about funding — like, for instance, the governor — I would be scared," said Assistant House Minority Leader Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix.

There is also opposition from some key Republicans.

Burns said that, even coupled with the spending cap — set at $10.2 billion, basically the 2009 spending level for the state — some conservatives are still having difficulty supporting the sales-tax ballot referral.

They include Rep. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, who said he would agree to support the tax referral only if the governor agreed not to use the money to backfill budget cuts made by the Legislature — a key reason she wants the tax revenue.

"We have to cut," Antenori said.

Burns, Brewer and Adams planned to meet again this morning in hopes of finishing and passing the package.

"We've got state government on life support, and what we're trying to do is a transfusion," said Burns, R-Peoria. "This doesn't cure the patient. We've got a lot of work to do yet."

Contact reporter Daniel Scarpinato at 307-4339 or dscarpinato@azstarnet.com.

ACTION ALERT:RESCUE ARIZONA EDUCATION| CALL LEGISLATORS NOW

BUDGET NOT YET PASSED

Click on images to enlarge

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Margarita Monsoon Madness: LD 26 Turned Up the Heat to Roll Out 2010 Campaign

Democratic legislators Rep. Pat Fleming, LD 25 , Sen. Jorge Garcia, LD 27, Rep. Phil Lopes, LD 27, Nina Trasoff, City Council incumbent up for reelection this fall, Rosanna Gabaldon, newly elected Sahuarita Town Council member, and Mohur Sidhwa, Vice-Chair Arizona Democratic Party, attended the LD 26 Monsoon Margarita Madness event Sunday. The fundraiser was in support of incumbent LD 26 Rep. Nancy Young Wright's and 2010 Senate candidate Cheryl Cage's bids to win the 2010 election.

Guests from LD 26 and friends from all over Tucson were in high spirits inspired by the outstanding Sunnyside High School Mariachi band directed by Cuco del Cid. The event concluded with a chance to take a whack at the Pachyderm Pinata, filled with campaign buttons and candy.

Phil Lopes urged attendees to support a single-payer public option health care plan by calling, emailing and faxing members of Congress in Arizona and key players in Washington. He stressed that it is important to act now to support President Obama as he gives speeches to town halls across America to ramp up popular support for the public option.

Raymond Graap, M.D. Democracy for America Tucson, and member of Physicians for National Health Care advocated for a single-payer plan and described the burden and expense physicians have while trying to deal with 70 health plans with over 300 different benefit packages in Tucson. The public option is facing formidable corporate opposition in the U.S. Senate, and from Blue Dogs in the U.S. House.

Democratic Chairman Max Baucus and two other Democratic Senators, members of the Finance Committee compromised with the Republicans to oppose Obama's plan. The Arizona Daily Star published Op Eds Monday by Rep. Lopes and Dr. Graap. Both are republished at 26dems.blogspot.com along with a copy of the Health Care Reform Resolution that will be presented to the State Meeting of the Arizona Democratic Party at 26dems.blogspot.com

The good news is that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wrote an Op-Ed published Sunday in the Arizona Daily Star. Rep. Lopes urged that constituents call her to give support for a single-payer public option. That Op-Ed is also on the blog.`

Enjoy this collage of the memorable Mariachi Monsoon Madness to fire up determination. It's not too late to make a donation.



ACTION ALERT: County Announces Plan to Test-Spray Roundup In Tucson Mountain Park to Eradicate Bufflegrass

By Mike Dayton

Saturday's AZ Daily Star indicated that twelve one acre parcels of "rugged" Tucson Mountain land near Kennedy park (Ajo and Mission area) will be sprayed aerially at a height of 30-40 feet with droplets of Monsanto's RoundUp to rid the area of overgrowths of buffle grass.

We all recognize the threat of this invasive plant and are supportive of eradicating it. However to jump from eradication of individual plants to wholesale spraying from a plane or helicopter is an alarming and dangerous overreaction.

To those of us committed to the preservation of our desert lands, this is a call to action. No one knows, and the article makes it clear, no one knows what the effect of RoundUp is on desert plant, animal and human life.

We do know what the effect is of RoundUp on plants in other regions: except for the cultivated plant is genetically altered to be "RoundUp resistant", this Monsanto herbicide, which contains dioxin, is a threat to every plant it touches. Our cacti, succulents, desert medicines, ground cover and precious animals are not to be targets for these dangerous chemicals!

Supervisor Richard Elias and Sharon Bronson (Sharon's area of jurisdiction includes the Tucson Mountains) have expressed concern, according to the article. the article also stated that no public announcement would be made as to when the spraying would occur. This is clearly against the law. Individuals residing within a radious the areas where pesticides are to be sprayed must be notified in advance.

If you are concerned about drops of RoundUp being rained on our fragile desert environments, you can do two things
1)Notify all of your associates of this dangerous action being taken by the County Parks and Recreation Department and urge people to take action.
2) Call your county supervisor tomorrow and make your concerns known. State that buffle grass is a pest, but that RoundUp sprayed overhead in droplets could be terminal for the soil and literally millions of other plants and animals in the vicinity.

Board of Supervisors.... 740-8126
Dist. 1 Ann Day(R).... 740-2738
Dist. 2 Ramon Valadez (D)... 740-8126
Dist. 3 Sharon Bronson (D, Tucson Mtns area is in her district, so if you live in her district by all means call her)...740-8051
Dist. 4 Ray Carroll (R)... 740-8094
Dist. 5 Richard Elias (D, Chair)... 740-8126
County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry ... 740-8661


From the way the article reads, it seems imperative that as a community we act at once.

http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/fromcomments/302329.php

Maxine Waters: Rahm To Blame For Obstructionist Blue Dogs

By Sam Stein
stein@huffingtonpost.com
Huffington Post
First Posted: 07-28-09 01:16 PM | Updated: 07-28-09 02:01 PM

One of Congress's most liberal members, Rep. Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.), declared on Tuesday that the White House's problems getting Blue Dog Democrats to support its health care agenda were largely its own doing -- or more specifically, the doing of its chief of staff.

Waters said many of the self-proclaimed conservative Democrats, including those who have stalled legislation on the House Energy and Commerce, were initially recruited to run for office by Rahm Emanuel back when he was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"The chickens have come home to roost," declared the California Democrat. "On the one hand, [the Blue Dogs] don't want to spend money but, on the other hand, they want to spend money when they think it benefits them or their districts, and so they have a powerful block. They're holding it up and that is as clear as can be."

In terms of a possible remedy, Waters noted that the White House's bargaining chips were limited, in part because Emanuel had given these members the green light to buck the party on select issues.



"Don't forget," she said, "[Rahm] recruited most of them, as when he was over in the Congress in the leadership. Rahm Emanuel recruited more conservative members and based on some of the information I'm getting, they told them that they could vote the way they wanted to vote, that they would not interfere with what was considered their philosophy about some of these things."


Waters's comments reflected a growing split among House Democrats over the approach to health care reform, particularly between the Congressional Black Caucus and the Blue Dogs. In a New York Times report published earlier in the week, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) made a point of noting that the seven Blue Dog Democrats in the Energy and Commerce Committee were "a nondiverse group" of white men.

"They should be more concerned about people who are dying than about their basic philosophy, which involves simply money," Johnson said. "Which is more important, money or live human beings with flesh and blood running through their veins, who cannot get health care?"

The frustration has boiled over this past week, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee is laboring long hours to craft compromise legislation before the chamber breaks for August recess. That said, Democratic operatives insist that they remain confident that the party will largely unite behind a single piece of legislation.

(H/T: FireDogLake)

Franken assails Court, Klobuchar slams sexism at Sotomayor vote


By CHRIS STELLER 7/28/09 12:14 PM
The Minnesota Independent


Al Franken spewed fire and Amy Klobuchar threw brimstone this morning at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Minnesotans joined 10 other Democrats and one Republican in approving the nominee, but not before Franken raked the current Court and Klobuchar decried bias against women on the bench (video).

Franken was the last senator to speak before the vote, but his statement was perhaps the most arresting as he threw off the mild-mannered mantle of a first-month senator and threw down a gauntlet over high-court rulings he termed “judicial activism.”

It was a theme that he struck more tentatively during committee hearings and today promised to revisit when the nomination reaches the Senate floor.

“Individual rights, individual protections and individual liberties” are under attack by the current Supreme Court, Franken asserted, pointedly citing other senators on specific high-court rulings with which he found fault.

With a vehemence not yet seen in his short tenure in Washington, D.C., Franken took issue with rulings on abortion, voting rights, price fixing, age discrimination, and corporate entanglement in elections.

Noting how court actions have overturned or threatened even recent precedent, Franken said, emphatically, “This is judicial activism. This is a court that’s willing to reverse itself … to achieve its own agenda of what is right. … A vote for Sonia Sotomayor is a vote against judicial activism.”

Minutes earlier, Klobuchar cast Sotomayor as an Everywoman Jurist whose image had been misrepresented by Republicans harping on her now-infamous “wise Latina” statement.

“She knows the law, she knows the Constitution, but she also knows America,” Klobuchar said to both open and close her comments.

Klobuchar said she had bristled at “mostly anonymous question[ing of] Judge Sotomayor’s judicial temperament” and cited her own experience in Minnesota: “Where I come from, asking tough questions and showing very little patience for unprepared lawyers is the very definition of a judge.”

Sexist standards implicit in such critiques “irritated me,” Klobuchar said, adding that the country should ”appoint as many gruff, to-the-point female judges as gruff, to-the-point male judges.”

This morning’s vote was historic for Minnesota: It’s the first time a Democratic senator from the state (let alone two) has cast a vote on a Supreme Court nominee as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wisconsin is the only other state with two senators on the committee, also both Democrats. Together the two neighboring states accounted for four of the 13 votes that sent Sotomayor’s nomination on to the full Senate.

Bill Kristol admits govt.-run health care can be better than private

BY DAVID EDWARDS AND DANIEL TENCER
RAWSTORY
Published: July 28, 2009
Updated 6 hours ago

Weekly Standard editor and Fox News pundit Bill Kristol got booed heavily on The Daily Show Monday night when he said that ordinary Americans don’t “deserve” the same standard of health care that soldiers receive.

But the show’s truly revealing moment came when host Jon Stewart caught Kristol — long an opponent of public health care — admitting that government-run health care for soldiers is superior to private health plans.

On Monday night’s show, Kristol worked to explain why he didn’t support a public health option, arguing in essence that the existence of Medicare and Medicaid provided health coverage to those most in need.

“So no public option, even though that’s good enough for the military — not good enough for the people of America?” Stewart asked.

“They do not deserve the same quality of health care the soldiers fighting deserve, and they [the soldiers] need all kinds of things we don’t need,” Kristol said.

“Are you saying that the American public shouldn’t have access to the same quality of health care that we give to our better citizens?” Stewart asked.

“To our soldiers? Yes, absolutely,” Kristol responded, to a chorus of boos from the audience.

An incredulous Stewart asked: “Really?”

Moments later, Kristol added that “one of the ways we make it up” to soldiers that they receive relatively low pay is by “giving them first class health care. The rest of us can go out and buy insurance.”

That’s when Stewart struck.

“Bill Kristol just said … that the government can run a first-class health care system and a government-run health care system is better than the private health care system.”

“You trapped me somehow,” a visibly uncomfortable Kristol responded.

This video is from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, broadcast July 27, 2009.

video

Monday, July 27, 2009

Doris Kearns Goodwin On Rich History Of Mixing Politics And Drinking

"FDR During WWII Had A Cocktail Party Every Night" (VIDEO)

Huffington Post | Nicholas Graham
First Posted: 07-27-09 08:25 PM | Updated: 07-27-09 09:03 PM

With the news confirmed that President Obama, Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley will get together at the White House to have a beer, Ed Schultz invited noted presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on his show to discuss the history behind presidents mixing drinks with politics.

As it turns out, that history is rich with examples. According to Goodwin:

FDR during World War II had a cocktail party every single night... He would make these crazy martinis for the guests.
Lyndon Johnson was another president adept at mixing political negotiations with bourbon and Scotch. According to Goodwin, he was "the best."

WATCH:

BREAKING: Senators’ bipartisan health ‘compromise’ drops public option

BY STEPHEN C. WEBSTER
RAWSTORY
Published: July 27, 2009
Updated 1 hour ago

Six bipartisan members of the Senate Finance Committee have reached an agreement on healthcare reforms that eschews the president’s insistence on a low-cost, public option, a published report said Monday evening. The plan also drops the requirement for employers to provide their workers’ insurance.

Though significantly stripped down from prior versions, the group’s compromise would prevent any insurance company from denying coverage and would block higher premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions, the Associated Press reported.

The senators’ effort was cheered by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and drug company lobbying group PhRMA, the report noted.

“Obama’s top domestic priority has suffered numerous setbacks in recent weeks, and Republicans have stepped up their criticism,” AP continued. “A Senate vote has been postponed until September. Administration and Democratic leaders hope to show significant progress before lawmakers begin their monthlong recess in hopes of regaining momentum.

“In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, ‘We’re on schedule to do it now or do it whenever,’ when asked whether the House would complete its bill before lawmakers leave at the end of the week. Democrats called a meeting of all their House members late Monday afternoon.”

The reported agreement is nowhere near final and no legislative language from the Senate has been made available.

Obama wants Congress to approve his health care reform proposals by the end of the year in order to fulfill one of his key campaign promises — ideally providing health care to the 46 million Americans, some 15 percent of the population, who currently do not have any medical coverage.

The President Obama also hopes to cut in half runaway healthcare expenditures which, if unchecked, are forecast to gobble up one-fifth of US gross domestic product by 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), speaking to reporters last Thursday, said there will be no vote on healthcare in the Senate at-large before Congress leaves session during the month of August. He said the decision was made mere hours after the president took his message to the American people during a televised, prime-time press conference.

“The Nevada Democrat says the decision to delay a vote was made Wednesday night in the hopes of getting a final bipartisan bill,” reported the Associated Press.

Senate Republicans asked for the delay “so the decision was made to give them more time,” said Reid.

With AFP.

Blue Dogging with the GOP: Making America Sicker and an Economic Basket Case

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG
http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/9076

By Mark Karlin

Oh, even as articles and television coverage of rural Americans lining up for hours for free medical care at an outdoor medical clinic in Wise, Virginia, hit the air, the Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans continued to find common ground in obstructing healthcare as a right for all Americans.

Yes, the Obama Administration, which ran such a masterful and disciplined messaging political campaign, has appeared somewhat lost and lacking in vigor in pushing healthcare reform. That has provided an opening for big money and its lobbyists to get the GOP and Blue Dog Democrats to slow down healthcare reform, especially the government insurance option.

And not meeting Obama's August goal of passing healthcare reform is a big victory for the entrenched profiteering powers, who make their billions off of excessive profit and the denial of care.
Just coming off of an alleged economic collapse in which the failure of the so-called "free market" led to the federal government's welfare rescue of Wall Street, it is almost inconceivable to believe that the GOP/Blue Dog coalition could pull off the argument that the national governnment is a bumbling failure while "free enterprise" is the nation's salvation.
What is even more befuddling is that we haven't had "free enterprise" at the top in America for some time. What we have is basically fixed markets for the entrenched corporations and the extremely wealthy.

The creation of a government option for health insurance would prove that the profiteering of private health insurers -- along with their cherry picking of insured individuals and denial of care -- is making America sick and adding an unnecessary layer of cost to the healthcare system.
Such is the power of money, advertising and lobbying that we recall reading an e-mail in which a person had attended a meeting on healthcare reform with senior citizens -- and a significant number of them opposed a government option, even though they all indicated that they were very pleased with Medicare!
The GOP has so successfully created a corporate mainstream media and population myth that government can only fail while "free enterprise" always succeeds that even people who benefit from government programs buy into the great Reagan/Norquist lie.

If a government option were to be offered, it would expose as corrupt the GOP/Blue Dog big money-backed political myth of a "free market" -- and this revelation could ensure a Democratic majority for years to come, because it's the private market that will be shown to be scamming us for hundreds of billions on healthcare.

That's what is at stake: the perception of national government as a friend or foe to the health of our country.

To turn our backs on a government health insurance option -- or preferably Medicare for everyone -- is just one more step in making America sicker and an economic basket case.

Editorial Note: For a bit of satirical humor read this: Dramatic Breakthrough on Healthcare: Blue Dogs to Get Mandatory Rabies Shots. Click here

CBS: Uninsured America; 25 Million Underinsured

CBS News Video
July 26, 2009 3:44 PM

Millions of Americans are uninsured and another 25 million are underinsured. They may think they're covered, but don't realize their policy limitations. Michelle Miller reports.


Watch CBS Videos Online



National health-care plan is a must

GUEST OPINION

By Dr. Raymond F. Graap
SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.27.2009

Many comments have been made about the waste and inefficiency of our present "system" of health-care funding, but most people do not understand how that comes about. A real-time, real- life explanation may help.





In our five-physician office, we deal with 70 insurance plans, from the largest to the smallest. These plans subdivide into 334 different arrangements with Tucson community employers. Each arrangement has a different set of benefits: deductibles, co-pays, and limits of coverage all differ based on what the employer has negotiated with the plan.

Employers find this a more expensive, frustrating and difficult problem with every passing year.
Besides the average 15 percent plan overhead for processing, marketing and profit, providers need to hire extra personnel or a professional billing service to process each and every service, amounting to another 7-to-10 percent cost.

If one looks at the entire cost issue, including hospitals, extended care facilities, rehabilitation centers, et cetera, the best data from Physicians for a National Health Plan shows a 31 percent overall cost just to administer this mess.

In some hospitals, the business office has as many clerks as there are nurses and patient-care personnel. If one spends $10,000 per year for family coverage, $3,000 per year goes just to run the "system."

This is the major reason why the current multi-payer system (1,200 plans at last count) is so wasteful and dysfunctional, and why it costs U.S. citizens $8,000 per person per year. This is twice as much as in any other industrialized country; yet, we don't cover nearly 50 million citizens and only partially cover another 50 million.

We are all paying for this, whether in direct payments or our premiums or our taxes; we just pay far too much for what we get. Other industrialized countries had bad systems that needed fixing and they fixed them — all except for the U.S. Their systems are not problem-free but they do provide all their citizens' basic health-care needs, and no one goes bankrupt because of health-care costs.

Many people are insulated from this reality and think that their health-care plan serves them well — until they need it, and then a blunt unpleasant experience ensues for too many.
Expanding Medicare for all as proposed in HR 676, which has 85 Congressional co-sponsors, would provide comprehensive universal coverage for all our citizens: everyone in, not one left out, with VA, military and other established programs continuing as is.

Even with its problems, Medicare has an operational overhead of only 3 percent, and the problems are fixable. This approach is the most conservative, fiscally responsible way to fund health care without creating another whole bureaucracy.

It would not cost any additional funds; in fact, estimates from the Government Accountability Office, are that it would save $225 billion every year. Every politician knows this. However, they are tying themselves into knots trying to placate the commercial insurance industry.

It is far past time for our elected officials to step up to the plate and do the right thing for the American people.

E-mail Dr. Raymond F. Graap at rfgraap@comcast.net

Phil Lopes: Single-payer system controls costs


GUEST OPINION

By Phil Lopes
SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.27.2009






The Congressional Budget Office testified last week that the proposals put forth by the Senate and House committees would not slow the rise of health care costs. Those proposals for health-care reform fail one of the two tests for real reform, namely to moderate and restrain the rate at which costs are rising.

Empirical evidence clearly shows that the one proposal that will restrain the rate is single-payer. Those who fear that single-payer is new and foreign, and therefore untested, need to be reminded that Medicare is, in essence, a single-payer system. For those who are eligible, Medicare is universal and identical, not means-tested and is administered by the government, which acts as a single-payer through contracts with the private sector to provide hospital and outpatient physician services.

Studies by both the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office have repeatedly shown that single-payer universal health care would save significant dollars in administrative costs. As early as 1991, the GAO concluded that if the universal coverage and single-payer features of other countries, such as Canada, had been applied in the United States that year, the total savings (then estimated at $66.9 billion) "Would have been more than enough to finance insurance coverage for the millions of American who are currently uninsured."

More recently, estimates published in the International Journal of Health Services conclude that "streamlining administrative overhead to Canadian levels would save approximately $286 billion in 2002, $6,940 for each of the 41.2 million Americans who were uninsured as of 2001. This is substantially more than would be needed to provide full insurance coverage." At present, the U.S. spends 50- to 100-percent more on administration than countries with single-payer systems.
Single-payer gives the government greater leverage to control costs. A single-payer system would be able to take advantage of economies of scale and exert greater leverage in bargaining with providers, thereby controlling costs. Recent experiences with both the veterans' health system and that of Medicare Part D indicate the difference exerting such leverage can make.

The Department of Veterans Affairs uses its power as a major purchaser to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical makers. But when the legislation leading to the drug prescription plan (better known as Medicare Part D) was passed, Congress explicitly barred negotiating prices with drug makers.

The results of this are now becoming evident: at present, the VA is paying 46 percent less for the most popular brand-name drugs than the average prices posted by the Medicare plans for the same drugs.

Because Part D increased the demand for drugs without controlling costs, prescription drug prices have risen sharply: during the first quarter of 2006, prices for brand-name drugs "jumped 3.9 percent, four times the general inflation rate . . . and the largest quarterly price increase in six years,"
according to The New York Times.

Health-care costs will not decrease but the empirical and practical evidence clearly shows single-payer's ability to restrain cost increases. These reasons are in addition to fulfilling the other test of real reform, namely that such a system is the only way we can realistically afford to end the dangerous, embarrassing and worsening situation wherein about 47 million people in this country lack health insurance and tens of millions more are seriously under-insured.

We should all therefore urge Congress and the President to adopt a single-payer system, or make it the public option, without which neither cost moderation nor universal coverage will be achieved.

E-mail Rep. Phil Lopes at plopes@azleg.gov

RESOLUTION: Arizona Democratic Party Supports Real Health Care Reform


RESOLUTION WILL BE PUT TO A VOTE AT THE ARIZONA DEMOCRATIC PARTY STATE COMMITTEE MEETING IN FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA SATURDAY, AUGUST 15, 2009


Arizona Democratic Party Supports Real Health Care Reform
WHEREAS, access to quality health care is essential for the good health and productivity of every American citizen and qualifies as a human right, not a privilege; and

WHEREAS, the steadily increasing cost of accessing health care is causing financial individual hardships, bankruptcy, and mortgage foreclosures, causing business to be uncompetitive in the world market and making it difficult to decrease the national deficit; and while the U.S. spends more than any other industrialized country for health care, the U.S. has demonstrably inferior outcomes, even for the insured; and

WHEREAS, the current commercial market model mediated by private health insurance corporations must function to create profits for the companies, their administrators and shareholders, creating an unavoidable conflict-of-interest between promoting quality health care and maximizing their profits and currently diverts up to 25% of the insurance premium dollar from medical services and leaves 46 million people uninsured;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Arizona Democratic Party supports the establishment of a universal, single-payer, national health care system in the United States; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that such a system be publicly financed and privately delivered with automatic enrollment of all residents (regardless of age, status of employment, pre-existing condition, or income level) allowing people to choose from any licensed health care provider, providing all appropriate medical services including preventive education, dental care, mental health care, long-term in-home care, and affordable prescription medications.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that nothing less than a strong public option that will address these issues will be supported.

Steering Committee - Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus

A Letter in Support of Single-Payer

By Jeff Latas, Co-Chair
Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus

Single-payer healthcare: I’m convinced that this is the only way to go. Being a retired military member, I have single-payer healthcare. After experiencing a very serious medical situation where my son had leukemia, then a relapse, and both were covered with no impact to my financial future (most bankruptcies in this country are due to these types of situations), I saw that my single payer plan works and I don’t see why all Americans should not have this type of coverage.

The Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus will have a resolution supporting a Single-Payer Universal system on the floor at the 15 August meeting (to follow). This resolution passed our steering committee and will move forward to the entire State Committee. I ask for your support of this resolution and your help to educate those who don’t fully understand the consequences.

Nearly sixty percent of all MDs in the US support the position of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the largest organization of US MDs, advocating for a Single Payer Healthcare system. An even greater percentage of clinic doctors who work outside of an operating room support a single payer system. The doctors who get their paychecks from the hospitals (anesthesiologist/radiologist, etc) are more inclined to either have no opinion or are against a single payer system.

PNHP has a very good web site, http://www.pnhp.org/, which will arm you to identify the misinformation of those who oppose a single payer system in order to protect their personal campaign financing by the for-profit insurance companies.

As I am a beneficiary of a Single Payer Universal system, TriCare, I can certainly testify that I have some of the best insurance in this country. After seeing my son go through two bouts of leukemia, financially I have not suffered any monetary set backs at all. I can’t say this about other families I saw on the pediatric cancer ward. Many will be financially in debt for the rest of their lives and this on top of unbelievable emotional suffering. I have seen what private insurance companies have done and they have put profit over care. Of those who have private insurance, we can expect about 130,000 to lose it before we convene our State Committee meeting next month. Unfortunately, there are already nearly 50 million Americans who don’t have any insurance and we can also expect over 1,000 die before the 15 August meeting because of a lack of insurance.

Currently, our Congress is virtually ignoring a single payer system and I can only speculate that this is because of the pressure corporate insurance companies are using. Insurance company executives and lobbyist are one of the largest bases of donors in our political system and you know that they have the ear of our legislators. It’s time that our elected officials hear us. Support this resolution and send a message to our legislators that the best option is what is best for the American public, a Single Payer Universal Healthcare system and that supporting corporate-for-profit healthcare is to only lean toward their own political financing.

Jeff Latas
Co-Chair AzDPC

Health Care Call List

Here is a list of people who need persuasion to vote for a strong public option.

Let's start with our Arizona Congresspeople.

The most important for us is Rep. Giffords, who wants as many calls as possible so she can point to constituents who want her to vote for the public option. Rep. Giffords has indicated she will support a public option in her Arizona Daily Star OpEd. Ask her to support a single-payer public option.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: (520) 881-3588
Rep. Harry Mitchell (480) 946-2411
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (520) 836-3226
Sen. John McCain (520) 670-6334
Sen. Jon Kyl (520) 575-8633

Here are others you can call across the country.

Sen. Evan Bayh (202) 224-5623
Sen. Max Baucus (202) 224-2651
Sen. Robert Byrd (202) 224-3954
Sen. Sue Collins (202) 224-252
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kay Hagan (202) 224-6342
Sen. Mary Landrieu (202) 2245824
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (202) 224-4041
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (202) 224-4843
Sen. Ben Nelson (202) 224-5274
Sen. Harry Reid (202) 224-3542
Sen. Olympia Snowe (202) 224-5344
Sen. Kent Conrad
(202) 224-2043
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (202) 224-5521
Sen. Mike Enzi (202) 224-3424

Democratic Senate Finance Committee members Baucus, Conrad and Bingaman were joined by three Republicans, Snowe, Enzi and Grassley in the 'compromise' that takes the public option OFF THE TABLE.

Health-care reform is our moon shot

By U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.26.2009


Last month, a Tucson father who was desperate called my office.

His wife has cancer. One of his young daughters has an incurable disease. He was recently laid off and lost his health insurance.

This father was forced to find three new jobs to make ends meet — including one that offered health insurance. But coverage for his family was denied because of their pre-existing medical conditions.

Now his daughter hasn't had treatment for her illness in more than nine months and the family has lost their home to foreclosure.

There can be no doubt that our health care system is failing us. Premiums have doubled in the last nine years, increasing three times faster than real wages. We are spending too much, receiving too little and are left worrying that the insurance we have won't be enough.

Unless we do something, 14,000 Americans will lose their health insurance today — just as 14,000 Americans lost their health insurance yesterday and 14,000 more Americans will lose their health insurance tomorrow.

We are great nation. We deserve the best health care in the world.

We need reform that puts patients first. It is not right and not fair that insurance companies can deny coverage because of pre- existing conditions or impose lifetime limits on service.

I support reform that allows Americans to keep their current health-care program, keep their doctors and keep their hospitals.

I support reform that creates competition through a strong public option that lowers everyone's costs and competes with private insurers.

I support reform that allows Arizonans who lose their jobs to afford insurance so they can get back on their feet without fear of getting sick.

I support reform that will slow the growth of health-care costs and does not impose new taxes or burdens on our nation's most valuable economic contributors, small businesses.

I support reform that would allow this father to keep his insurance so his daughter and wife don't have to go without proper care.

Last week, this nation observed the 40th anniversary of humans' arrival on the moon — one of the most awesome accomplishments in the history of mankind. Now our generation has our own opportunity to make history.

A nation that can leave footprints on another celestial body is up to this challenge.

Providing Americans with health care that gives them lifetime security and peace of mind must be America's next great accomplishment.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kyl Calls DeMint And Inhofe's Health Care Remarks "Unfortunate"


By Sam Stein
Posted: 07-26-09 11:49 AM
Huffington Post

Senator Jon Kyl, R-A.Z., pushed back against his GOP colleagues on Sunday for suggesting that they could break the president and reap electoral advantage in 2010 if they derail health care reform, calling statements to that effect "unfortunate."

"I don't agree with that kind of language," said the Senator, when read comments from Senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and James Inhofe, R-Okl. "What Jim DeMint said is he wanted to break the momentum and the inevitability of passing these bills. [The White House] said we had to pass stimulus and do it immediately or else the economy would see... eight percent unemployment. It's now going to 10 percent. And what we are saying is slow this down so that we don't make another bad mistake here."

"But I do think that because the language has a political implication, it's unfortunate," the Arizona Republican added, during his appearance on Fox News Sunday. "Both sides talked about the politics of these issues. I don't think we ought to be focused on that."

The remarks reflect what is an increasingly obvious fissure within the Republican Party over just how aggressive it should be in going after Obama's push for health care reform. While the default position for the GOP is to make sure that a Democratically constructed bill doesn't pass, there is a growing concern over being painted as obstructionist of reform. There are, after all, a slew of potential voters who either lack insurance or are unhappy with their current coverage. The GOP doesn't want to be seen as the party that prevented these individuals from bettering their medical situation.

stein@huffingtonpost.com

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama's Health Care Struggle -- Waterloo or Water Down?


Bill Moyers interviews Trudy Lieberman, covers health care reform for the Columbia University Review, and directs Health and Medicine Reporting Program for the Graduate School of Journalism, City University of New York

Marcia Angell, M.D.Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School. She was the first Editor-in-chief, New England Journal of Medicine

Click here to view the full program.


by Bill Moyers & Michael Winship
CommonDreams.org
Published on Saturday, July 25, 2009 by

Push finally came to shove in Washington this week as the battle for health care escalated from scattered sniper fire into all-out combat. If it all seems to be getting more and more confusing, join the club. It's hard to see what's happening through all the gunsmoke.

The Republicans have more than health care reform in their bombsights -- they want a loss for Obama so crushing it will bring the administration to its knees and restore GOP control of Congress after next year's elections. In the words of Republican Senator Jim DeMint, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

The "Waterloo" of DeMint's metaphor, of course, is not the 1974 ABBA hit but the battle in 1815 that ended Napoleon Bonaparte's rule as Emperor of France -- a humiliating defeat and a turning point in European history. Right-wingers like Glenn Beck see Obama as Napoleon incarnate, a popular emperor who must be stopped.
Here's what Beck said on his television show Monday, July 20: "I'm telling you, this guy is dangerous. He's never lost before. He won't understand... like, 'Who are you to question me?' I mean, this guy is practically an imperial President now. When he starts to lose and people start to question him and push him back against the wall, he's not gonna know how to react."
The Republican strategy is almost identical to the way they turned health care into Waterloo for Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1993. Back then, one of their chief propagandists, William Kristol, urged his party to block any health care plan for fear that Democrats would be seen as "the generous protector of middle class interests." Now he's telling the GOP to "go for the kill... throw the kitchen sink... drive a stake through its heart... We need to start over."

So in lockstep are the Republicans that when strategist Alex Castellanos issued a memo outlining their battle plan, party chairman Michael Steele parroted large sections of it word for word in a speech at Washington's National Press Club. Asked a health care-related question that took him off script, Steele replied, "I don't do policy."

As the Republicans fired away, big business stepped up the attack, too, their lobbying and advertising guns blazing. The Chamber of Commerce, for one, announced a major campaign of rallies and print and Internet ads to crush the White House plan for a competitive public option allowing consumers to choose between a government plan and private health insurance.
In key states where members of Congress remain on the fence, the airwaves are vibrating with television commercials aimed at shifting hearts and minds away from any change that might threaten profits.
President Obama rejected the Republicans' Waterloo metaphor and mounted a massive media counteroffensive of his own. But the President has already run into booby traps of his own making and minefields laid by members of his own party, exacerbated when the Congressional Budget Office reported that reform plans, instead of controlling costs, would send the national debt further into the stratosphere.
Continue reading story here.

The Can't-Do Blue Dogs

By Harold Meyerson
Washington Post
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Watching the centrist Democrats in Congress create more and more reasons why health care can't be fixed, I've been struck by a disquieting thought: Suppose our collective lack of response to Hurricane Katrina wasn't exceptional but, rather, the new normal in America. Suppose we can no longer address the major challenges confronting the nation. Suppose America is now the world's leading can't-do country.

Every other nation with an advanced economy long ago secured universal health care for its citizens -- an achievement that the United States alone finds beyond the capacities of mortal man. It wasn't ever thus. Time was when Democratic Congresses enacted Social Security and Medicare over the opposition of powerful interests and Republican ideologues. In fact, our government used to actually pave roads, build bridges and allow for secure retirements by levying taxes on those who could afford to pay them.

To today's centrist Democrats, this has become a distant memory, a history lesson they cannot grasp. The notion that actual individuals might have to pay to secure the national interest appalls them. In the House, the Blue Dogs doggedly oppose proposals to fund universal coverage by taxing the wealthiest 1 percent of the nation's households. Their deference to wealth -- whether the consequence of our system of funding elections or a byproduct of the Internet generation's experience of free access to information and entertainment -- is not to be trifled with.

Centrist Democrats' opposition to health reform verges on the incoherent. A caucus (the Blue Dogs) formed ostensibly to promote balanced budgets now disapproves of the proposed taxes that would cover the expenses of the new programs. The congressional centrists say, commendably, that they want to squeeze more economies out of the system, but they oppose giving more power to an agency that would set the payment scales for physicians.

Congressional incoherence grows even worse on other issues. How to explain, for instance, the widespread congressional support for a bill that would require General Motors and Chrysler to keep all their dealerships open? This legislation is co-sponsored by numerous Republican conservatives who actually opposed the administration's efforts to keep General Motors and Chrysler in business. "Distribution, sí; production, no!" is by any standard a loony battle cry.

The Republican opposition to President Obama's push for health-care reform, on the other hand, makes clear political sense. If they can stop Obama on health care, as South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint recently noted, it "will be his Waterloo." Why Democrats of any ideology want to cripple their own president in his first year in office, and for seeking an objective that has been a stated goal of their party since the Truman administration, is a more mysterious matter.

Is the additional tax burden on small businesses their concern? If so, good news: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that only the top 4 percent of those businesses would be affected by the surcharge that House Democratic leaders proposed, and that's based on the original proposal, before Speaker Nancy Pelosi altered it to include just the wealthiest fraction of the top 1 percent of Americans. Would such a tax impede an economic recovery? In downturns this severe, it's been broad-based consumer spending and public-sector investment that have revived the economy. Private investment doesn't jump-start a revival of purchasing; it follows it.

For the rest of the story, click here.

Blue Dogs Fill Their Bowls with Cash

Moderate Democratic Coalition’s Leverage Draws Interest Across Spectrum
By Josh Israel, Aaron Mehta
Center for Public Integrity
July 22, 2009

Whether the subject is health care reform, climate change, or pay-as-you-go budgeting rules, almost everyone, it seems, suddenly wants to talk with the Blue Dogs. President Obama’s White House meeting with members of the fiscally conservative Democratic coalition earlier this week is but the latest indication that the Blue Dogs — 52 members strong — have deftly turned themselves into a key voting bloc at the nexus of power. With them, the Democrats do not need a single Republican to back their legislation; without them, the Democratic agenda would be in serious peril. And as their clout has expanded, fundraising has grown accordingly, not just from traditionally Democratic contributors, but from unexpected quarters as well.

So far this year, the Blue Dog Political Action Committee is on track to shatter all its fundraising records; in fact, the total for the first six months of 2009 — more than $1.1 million — is greater than what was raised in the entire 2003-04 fundraising cycle.
Furthermore, according to analysis by the Center for Public Integrity of CQ MoneyLine data, the energy, financial services, and health care industries have accounted for nearly 54 percent of the Blue Dog PAC’s 2009 receipts (up from 45 percent in 2004).
These contributions poured in as President Obama and the Democratic Congress have been making a major push to reform health care, develop a new energy policy, and restructure oversight of the banking sector. Clearly, these Dogs are having their day.

FROM SMALL PAC TO TOP DOGS

Their beginnings were humble. The Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1995 following elections the previous fall that cost Democrats control of Congress. One of the co-founders, then-Alabama Representative Glen Browder, says the original members — 23 in all — “were unhappy with the direction of our own party and felt we needed to chart our own course.” Drawing from a combination of a famous series of paintings of blue-colored dogs by George Rodrigue and the notion that they were “yellow dog democrats” who had been “choked blue” by the liberals who dominated the party, they became “The Blue Dogs.”

Over time they evolved into what former Texas Representative Nick Lampson calls “a close-knit group.” Today, they hold weekly meetings with no staffers and focus on voting as a bloc. One issue above all others unifies them: a commitment to fiscal discipline. For instance, the group has successfully pushed for President Obama to endorse a pay-as-you-go requirement for Congressional budgeting; a PAYGO bill passed the House on Wednesday. The group’s website describes the coalition as “a policy-oriented group [formed] to give moderate and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives a common sense, bridge-building voice within the institution,” and notes their relentless pursuit of a balanced budget.

As the coalition grew, it quickly sought to raise money to protect and expand its ranks, forming a political action committee in August 1995 just for Blue Dogs.

THE POWER OF THE PAC

As individuals, the 52 Blue Dogs have received the plurality of their 2009 campaign contributions from a traditional Democratic ally: organized labor. Labor political action committees have filled the Blue Dog Coalition members’ campaign committee coffers with more than a million dollars so far this cycle.




Click for larger view




But it’s the Blue Dog PAC that is most illuminating for spotting trends. The Blue Dog PAC raises money mostly from other PACs and automatically disburses the maximum possible contribution to each of its members for their re-election campaigns. This helps preserve their ranks, especially since many of them represent swing districts and are among the most targeted incumbents at election time.
There is much more! For the rest of the story, click here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama: Making Health Care Reform About Him


By David Corn
Mother Jones
Wed July 22, 2009 8:02 PM PST


At a press conference, Obama succeeds as the Great Explainer, but he's no Gipper. Not yet.

Barack Obama certainly knows how to play the press to his advantage. On Wednesday night, he turned a presidential press coverage into an informercial for his leadership on health care reform. As question after question regarding his effort to remake the country's health care system was posed, the president turned each into an ongoing tutorial that demonstrated he's in command of the policy details and the big picture.

Which is crucial. Ultimately--and maybe very soon--Obama is going to have to sell a health care reform package as his plan. Let's face it: for most Americans, it's going to be difficult to understand the specifics of this complicated piece of legislation. And Republicans and industry groups yearning to defeat whatever is produced by Congress will look to whip up opposition and skepticism by focusing on a few details that can be made to seem unappealing or frightening (in or out of context). They will also rely on debate points that sound reasonable: Shouldn't we take our time when it comes to changing the entire health care system? Why rush through a program that could add costs or cause more problems when the economy is already on its knees?

To prevent such rhetoric and arguments--demagogic or not--from scuttling health care reform, Obama will essentially have to say, Take it from me, this is good legislation that the country needs now. And to do so, he will have to have a boatload of credibility. That's what he displayed in the East Room of the White House. Click here for the rest of the story.

Blue Dogs Heel When Lobbyists Whistle

by Joe Conason
Commondreams
Published on Friday, July 24, 2009 by Salon.com

Why their vaunted "fiscal conservatism" targets health reform -- and never Pentagon waste

Nobody could be better positioned than the Democrats who call themselves "Blue Dogs" to sabotage healthcare reform, the primary objective of their president and the signature issue of their party for more than 60 years. Thanks to fawning publicity in the mainstream media that persistently describes them as fiscally conservative and ideologically moderate, the Blue Dogs enjoy an almost unassailable position in the middle of Washington's stunted political spectrum.

Certainly the Blue Dogs are astute players of the game, their power enhanced by their willingness to echo Republican rhetoric while enjoying the perks and prerogatives of Democratic power. But this is a cynical group indeed, whose reputation for fiscal probity is grossly inflated -- and whose loyalty to corporate interests, over and above the priorities of their party and the welfare of their constituents, is a darkening stain.

What supposedly troubles the Blue Dogs these days is the estimated cost of healthcare reform. By their calculations, a trillion dollars over 10 years represents an unsustainable expenditure, even if the program succeeds in providing universal quality coverage. The chairman of the Blue Dog healthcare task force, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., has repeatedly threatened to kill any reform bill that increases the deficit. "We have to take steps to hold healthcare costs to the rate of inflation, or we will never balance our federal budget again, and health insurance costs will continue to become less and less affordable for the American people," he said last week.

Holding healthcare costs to the rate of inflation is a laudable if unlikely goal for Ross and his fellow Blue Dogs, but the simple fact is that their concern over costs and deficits is highly selective -- and their claim to fiscal conservatism is utterly unearned. That should be instantly obvious to anyone who glances at the Mike Ross House Web site, where all of his puffery about holding down the deficit and saving taxpayer money gives way to his boasting about the pork he brings home to Arkansas. His most recent spate of news releases touts earmarks adding up to $66 million, mostly in the House Energy and Water appropriations bill. (If every member of Congress snatched that amount, the total would far exceed $300 billion, by the way.) That doesn't include the $87 million that Ross claimed for Arkansas to weatherize homes and schools, courtesy of the president's stimulus legislation. Continue to this link to read the rest of the story.

The Attack of the 1-Percenters

TruthDig
By David Sirota
Posted on Jul 23, 2009

Here’s a truism: The wealthiest 1 percent have never had it so good.

According to government figures, 1-percenters’ share of America’s total income is the highest it’s been since 1929, and their tax rates are the lowest they’ve faced in two decades. Through bonuses, many 1-percenters will profit from the $23 trillion in bailout largesse the Treasury Department now says could be headed to financial firms. And, most of them benefit from IRS decisions to reduce millionaire audits and collect zero taxes from the majority of major corporations.

But what really makes the ultrawealthy so fortunate, what truly separates this moment from a run-of-the-mill Gilded Age, is the unprecedented protection the 1-percenters have bought for themselves on the most pressing issues.

To review: With 22,000 Americans dying each year because they lack health insurance, Congress is considering universal health care legislation financed by a surcharge on income above $280,000—that is, a levy almost exclusively on 1-percenters. This surtax would graze just 5 percent of small businesses and would recoup only part of the $700 billion the 1-percenters received from the Bush tax cuts. In fact, it is so minuscule, those making $1 million annually would pay just $9,000 more in taxes every year—or nine-tenths of 1 percent of their 12-month haul.

Nonetheless, the 1-percenters have deployed an army to destroy the initiative before it makes progress.

The foot soldiers are the Land Rover Liberals. These Democratic lawmakers secure their lefty labels by wearing pink-ribbon lapel pins and supporting good causes like abortion rights. However, being affluent and/or from affluent districts, they routinely drive their luxury cars over middle-class economic interests. Hence, this week’s letter from Boulder, Colo., dot-com tycoon Rep. Jared Polis, D, and other Land Rover Liberals calling for the surtax’s death.

Echoing that demand are the Corrupt Cowboys—those like Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who come from the heartland’s culturally conservative and economically impoverished locales. These cavalrymen in both parties quietly build insurmountable campaign war chests as the biggest corporate fundraisers in Congress. At the same time, they publicly preen as jes’ folks, make twangy references to “voters back home,” and now promise to kill the health care surtax because they say that’s what their communities want. Cash payoffs made, re-elections purchased, the absurd story somehow goes that because blue-collar constituents in Flyover America like guns and love Jesus, they must also reflexively adore politicians who defend 1-percenters’ bounty.
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That fantastical fairly tale, of course, couldn’t exist without the Millionaire Media—the elite journalists and opinion-mongers who represent corporate media conglomerates and/or are themselves extremely wealthy. Ignoring all the data about inequality, they legitimize the assertions of the 1-percenters’ first two battalions, while actually claiming America’s fat cats are unfairly persecuted. Click here for the rest of the story.