Thursday, April 28, 2011

Florida Medicaid Busters Assert GOP Health Care Priorities: Cronies First, Patients Last

While an alarmed citizenry stormed GOP town hall meetings to vent their anger over Republican plans to dismantle Medicare, hand its money to insurers, and pawn off future seniors with coupons that won't cover a third of their health care costs, Florida moved ahead with a Medicaid plot that underscored the Republicans' health care priorities: industry cronies first, patients last.

In fact, Florida's new Republican Governor Rick Scott isn't just a health industry crony, he's the multi-millionaire former head of a hospital chain that had to pay $1.7 billion-with-a-"B" in criminal and civil fines for defrauding Medicare. Scott stepped down as head of Columbia/HCA in 1997 while the FBI was crawling all over the company's books.

Now Scott and Florida's GOP-led legislature are poised to dismantle the state's Medicaid system. Just as Republicans on Capitol Hill aim to hand Medicare's money to insurers, Republicans in Florida aim to hand the state's Medicaid money directly to HMOs. Just as Republicans on Capitol Hill scheme to change Medicare from a system that pays doctors for services to a system that pads insurance company profits, Republicans in Florida scheme to change Medicaid from a system that pays doctors for services to a system that fattens HMOs.

And, just as Beltway Republicans covet tossing future seniors into the retail market to buy whatever insurance they can afford with the pittance of "premium assistance" they'll get, Florida Republicans covet tossing their poor, elderly and disabled into accepting whatever the HMOs offer for the Medicaid subsidy the state hands over.

Over the last decade, Florida's Medicaid bill has ballooned from $9 billion to $21 billion. State Senator Joe Negron, author of one of the GOP bills trundling through the legislature, whined that "the Medicaid system is irretrievably broken." The state Senate was set to vote on his bill Friday, and the state House had already passed its version earlier. "We were not going to kick the can down the road another year," Negron crowed.

Horror stories about the state's new-style Medicaid's pilot program told of poor and disabled patients deprived of doctors and care as their new HMO scuttled needed services to make their state subsidies pay. Instead of paying doctors for services to patients, the Florida scheme forces patients into authorized for-profit HMOs that'll get state money directly and decide how much of it will be spent on patient care and how much of it will be spent on private jets, private yachts, and very private dancers.

Did I mention that Rick Scott made millions heading a company the FBI nailed for defrauding Medicare?

Victims of Florida's Medicaid pilot program who had been receiving care for chronic illnesses found themselves shunted off to HMOs that didn't offer the services they needed. They found that the new HMOs offered few services and specialists, and that their doctors were dropping out of the program because of red tape and low pay.

Republicans justified all this cruelty by screaming about costs.

In fact, Americans pay more than twice as much per person for health care than any other industrialized nation, but suffers among the lowest life expectancies and most miserable infant mortality rates. America's health care system is broken not because Medicare and Medicaid are too expensive, but because the health care system is cobbled together from so many profit centers geared to rake in as much cash as possible for greedy scammers.

Did I mention Rick Scott made millions heading a company the FBI nailed for defrauding Medicare?

In America, administrative costs eat up a huge chunk of health care spending. 5%-10% of what big companies pay to insure their employees goes toward administrative costs. 25%-27% of what small companies fork out goes toward administrative costs, and a whopping 40% of individual insurance plans goes toward administrative costs. No wonder Republicans want future seniors in the individual insurance market.

Medicare, on the other hand, only uses 3% of the money it gets for administrative costs. Rick Scott would have been hard pressed to become a millionaire working for Medicare.

America also spends about $30 billion a year to correct mistakes. And, that doesn't even count the $1.7 billion Columbia/HCA coughed up in fines and penalties.

When Republicans scream about reining in skyrocketing health care costs, they always focus on slashing services rather than tossing out the administrative leeches sucking all the money out of the system. It's the old, tried and true Republican dodge: when your rich cronies create a problem, kick and scream that the only solution is to hand even more money and even more power to the very cronies that created the problem in the first place.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

As GOP Faces Town Hall Fury, Reid Says Senate Will Vote on Medicare-Buster

Across the nation, GOP town hall meetings continued to be raucous affairs. Boisterous crowds loudly denounced the Republican scheme to abolish Medicare, hand all the money to their insurance company cronies, and pawn off future seniors with coupons that won't even cover a third of their health care needs.

In Florida, Rep. Allen West joined the growing list of GOP factors who've faced fractious forums. He'd hardly stood up when voters loudly began decrying GOP Medicare-busting. GOP loyalists fought to suppress the dissenters. The crowd harangued West for voting to dismantle the elder-care program while giving the richest Americans an additional 10% tax cut, and West's minions tried shouting them down.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he would be scheduling a Senate vote on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) offending 2012 Budget proposal, allowing his Republican colleagues the opportunity to show their support for their House brethren. Or not.

The House measure is not expected to pass in the Democratically-controlled Senate, but Reid said, "Republicans seem to be in love with the Ryan budget," and the vote would demonstrate whether "Republican Senators like the budget as much as their House colleagues did."

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) had already announced she would not vote for the Ryan plan if such a vote were held.

Analysts figured the vote would put Senate Republicans in a tough bind. Voting against Medicare couponization while giving bigger tax cuts to the rich would alienate their conservative base, while voting for Medicare couponization while giving bigger tax cuts to the rich might alienate independents, they say. Oddly, analysts didn't seem to think Reid's move would help Republicans prove how great they were and what a wonderful plan they had.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) didn't say, "Great, let's show America that we Republicans are ready to vote for our terrific plan that creates sunshine and roses and lifts all Americans to heights of joy." Instead, Hatch challenged Reid to allow a vote on the House Progressive Caucus' People's Budget, thinking that would somehow embarrass Democrats. While the bill's title does reek of tie dye and patchouli, it was Hatch who came across as petulant, whiny, and inexplicably ashamed of Ryan's GOP plan.

Unfortunately, the People's Budget didn't pass in the House, so the Senate couldn't vote on it unless some Senators wanted to introduce it as a Senate bill first. Hatch, a Senate veteran, presumably knew this. It was not immediately known whether Hatch himself was planning to introduce the People's Budget.

Ryan's bill did pass the House on a strictly party-line vote, so it is available for a Senate vote. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed 84% of Americans didn't think it was a good idea to coddle the insurance biz by handing them all the money in Medicare and tossing future seniors into the retail market to fend for themselves with 30% off coupons. Ryan's budget proposes that when folks presently under 55 become seniors, they be given coupons to be used toward the purchase of private health insurance policies. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figures by 2030, those coupons would cover less than a third of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses. Calling the coupons "premium support," as Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) did, didn't help the cause. 

The same WaPo/ABC poll revealed 72% of Americans thought Americans making more than $250,000 should pay higher taxes. Ryan's budget proposes that richer Americans tax rate be cut by another 10%, from 35% to 25%.

A more recent Gallup/USA Today poll showed Americans were evenly split on whether they preferred President Barak Obama's budget plan or Ryan's budget plan, 44%-43%. Republicans have been crowing that poll proves Americans love the idea of gutting Medicare, but Gallup/USA Today didn't ask a specific question about the voucher program. WaPo/ABC's poll found most Americans opposed Medicare couponization when it was explained to them.

Back in Florida, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) was having a devil of a time in his Orlando town hall, with a hostile crowd of 300 booing and hissing their displeasure.

Republicans thus far are taking the tack that the catcalls are coming from Democratic plants organized by "My town halls are being disrupted by Democrats," Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) complained. "I'm not sensing the general public is angered by Medicare reform," he added.

Barletta also did not specify whether he thought all 84% of Americans who opposed Medicare couponization were Democrats. It was not immediately known whether he had demanded the birth certificates of those who had heckled him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GOP Brass Backs Off Birtherism, But Rank and File's Belief Persists

Another day, and another GOP leader distanced himself from the rank-and-file Republicans' embarrassingly troglodyte Birther Cult. Two, actually. Republican National Committee chair Reince Prebus distanced himself from birther standard bearer "The" Donald Trump, and former Senator Rick Santorum pronounced the President had the same birth documents he did.

Prebus told the Christian Science Monitor Trump could talk about President Barack Obama's birth status all he wanted, "But my position is that the President was born in the United States, and I don't think it is an issue that moves voters."

Another day, and another very nice non-denial denial. Two, actually. While Prebus and Santorum sound like they made a couple of the most emphatic birther-denial statements yet, their words left enough wriggle room for Birthers to see the wink and the nudge in them. Prebus said his "position" was that Obama was "born" in America, and anyone can tell the difference between what's important and what you tell the cops. Santorum only said the President had the same "documents" as he had, just like you can get at any waterfront dive from some guy in a grubby trench coat.

This goes along nicely with the whole "I'll take him at his word" dodge the GOP has been using.

Still, the GOP pols don't want to look too stupid in front of people with full sets of chromosomes. Lately, even self-styled Presidential candidate and bad hair icon Trump, who started the latest round of Birthers of a Nation, has tried distancing himself from the Birther Cult when addressing a wider audience. The real estate tycoon, who got his start with inherited millions, got his famous dander up on CNN Thursday when Ali Velshi, another of those swarthy types, hammered him on the topic.

"You've got to stop asking me about a birth certificate," The Donald whined. Apparently, only The Donald is allowed to ask about birth certificates whenever The Donald is around. Trump complained that George Stephanopoulous had hammered him on Good Morning America earlier. "Every time I go on a show...the first thing you ask me is about the birth certificate."

Even Michele Bachmann backed off when said Stephanopoulous showed her a notarized copy of Obama's birth certificate. "That should settle it," Bachmann said, insinuating it wouldn't. "I take the President at his word."

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Republicans won't come out and say the President is an American because racists and white separatists are a substantial constituency in the Republican Party, and the Birther Cult is important glue holding together a gang that's trying to abolish Medicare and privatize Social Security. The GOP desperately needs votes from Neo-Confederates, white militias, Aryan brothers and other denizens of the Southern Poverty Law Center's hatewatch pages. Most of the haters would desperately need Medicare and Social Security to survive their declining years. Fortunately for the GOP, 45% of Republicans are sycophants of the Birther Cult, so when the party hands all their Medicare money to insurers and pawns them off with coupons that won't cover a third of their health care costs, they'll at least get a racist solidarity wink.

To many haters, it's obvious Barack Obama isn't an American. As the Council of Conservative Citizens credo succinctly states, America is a country for persons of European descent. That Barack Obama might have been born in Hawaii - a fringe state at best - matters not at all. He has more than a drop of black blood in him, so he is not an American, just as Latinos, Asians, and other persons of color are not Americans. Conversely, German Neo-Nazi skinheads, IRA terrorists on the lam from Scotland Yard, and Russian mobsters are all American as apple pie. Legal status has nothing to do with it.

The birth certificate thing is just splitting hairs. It's just liberals and pinkos and subhumans whining about technicalities when the truth is obvious for all to see.

Whether that non-white, non-American Barack Obama was born in the United States is a separate matter. Many non-Americans are born in the US, creating all sorts of problems for real Americans who wish there weren't so many stupid laws that made lazy subhumans count as citizens and editors of the Harvard Law Review. Of course, any real American won't believe a word any of these immigrants and such say regardless of whatever proof they might dish up, unless some liberal or pinko resorts to some sort of evil government mumbo jumbo. The Stephanopoulous incident with Bachmann is a perfect example. Stephanopoulous waived some piece of paper in front of Bachmann as though a piece of paper could make someone an American. Bachmann issued a conditional admission that the President was born in America, and the liberals and pinkos acted as though that was somehow important.

So, Trump and all the Birthers scream that the President hasn't produced a birth certificate, even though numerous sources have shown it repeatedly. As ridiculous and shameful as it might be, these legions of subintellectuals with limited genetic donorship are demanding that the President of the United State personally show each and every one of them his birth certificate so they each can be convinced - or not -in turn whether he was born in the United States.

Of course, as Reince Prebus knows, that still won't make him an American. Birthers know that the only 2008 Presidential candidate who was a real American was John McCain, and he didn't have to be born in any of these fifty United States to be one.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Will Dems Finally Heed Americans' Call to Tax the Wealthy?

Polls and angry crowds at town hall meetings show the American people are fed up with thirty years of the GOP's supply-side, trickle-down sci-fi nonsense. That the raucous crowds are at Republican town hall meetings reveals Americans are really, really angry.

As one constituent told Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently, taxes should be hiked on the wealthy as "nothing trickles down." Thirty years of experience has amply demonstrated that slashing taxes for corporations and the very rich hasn't created jobs, or improved ordinary Americans' wages. This is not theory. This is cold hard fact. Wages for everyone who isn't on The Donald's Christmas card list have been stagnant since the Reagan Administration. The Donald's A-list pals, however, have raked it in.

Paul Ryan and his GOP legion would like to see the tippy-top money moguls gobble up more money, too. His 2012 Budget proposal, which sailed through the House without a single Democrat's vote, aimed to slash another 10% off the top tax tier, so those folks would enjoy the lowest taxes since the Hoover Administration. Everyone ought to know how well that worked out.

For younger folks, the term "Hooverville" is sort of like "favela," as in where you'll be living if Ryan and his ilk get their way.

And handing all the Medicare money to the GOP's insurance company cronies, then pawning off future seniors with coupons that won't even cover a third of the cost of premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and other expenses might seem like a good idea to anyone who'd like watching millions of elderly die horribly and painfully, but hasn't caught on along Main Street. Ryan's Path to Further Plutocrat Prosperity was sinisterly schemed to impoverish everyone before they'd be thrown into the gutter by forcing them to empty their savings first. Republican pols discovered a notable lack of parades greeting their proposals.

Which brings us to the first timid, tenuous intimations that Democrats might, ohmygawd, think of raising taxes on the rich by a couple of dollars. President Barack Obama proposed doing away with the Bush era tax cuts for folks making over $250,000 a year. Everyone ducked in case someone threw something.

Paul Krugman, the Princeton economist, figures that if everyone is so worried about government debt choking the halls, it should be time to raise taxes a bit. Krugman famously snagged a Nobel Prize for Economics, so he knows his way around a calculator. If you want a pitcher for the World Series, it's handy to go with someone like Tim Lincecum, who's won a couple of Cy Youngs, the award for the league's best hurler. Likewise, if you want to figure out how to balance a checkbook, Krugman might be your guy.

In his New York Times column, Krugman liked the People's Budget proposal, which was put out by the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. The queasily 60's-ish titled tome balanced federal budgets in ten years by bumping taxes on millionaires and billionaires and boosting some payroll taxes while hacking off a chunk of the defense bill. At the same time everyone was oohing and ahhing the Ryan path-to-elder-genocide plot, the People's Budget quietly went down to defeat 77-347. The tie-dye crowd might want to go with something like "Blazing Fast 4G Hyper-Debt Blaster Three Dot Oh" next time. At any rate, the guy with the Economics version of the Cy Young liked it.

Oh, and last World Series, Lincecum's San Francisco beat Texas in five games. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) jumped up and down while Bush 41 and Bush 43 looked on glumly.

Sure, the Republican wing of the Republican Party will still tell you that cutting their plutocratic pals' taxes will create jobs. They didn't mention those jobs are in India and China. Well, The Donald and his pals must get confused sometimes, as all those jetways look the same from your private plane. The Donald got so confused, he registered his plane in Bermuda. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin made a stump speech before an enthusiastic crowd in India, proving what bringing millions of jobs to a region does for your party's popularity.

In fact, what we've seen in America is that lower taxes just incentivizes scamming for more paper profits. We've seen corporate America go gaga over leveraged buyouts, mergers, asset liquidations, slashed payrolls, dumped benefits, outsourcing and offshoring to pump up the bottom line so they can stuff their pockets with as much tax-free profit as possible. When all the plants and factories and offices were closed and all the workers laid off, the money gobblers turned to all sorts of voodoo bookkeeping scams to pile up even bigger pyramids of paper profits.

And, it's not as though the big corporations needs any more tax cuts. General Electric just posted $14 billion in profits while giving Uncle Sam's tax man a great big Bronx cheer. GE was able to manipulate its books to pay no taxes at all.

Corporations are awash in cash, and nobody's making any serious move to hire Americans. The GOP will tell you companies are afraid to hire because of "uncertainty."

Well, how's this for certainty: If you don't start hiring and training Americans, we'll tax every penny you have until your ears bleed. Invest in plants, equipment, non-executive salaries, training, and company logo tsotkies, and you can keep the money. Let it sit in proprietary portfolios, or take it out in profits, and prepare for a very long sit-down with your local IRS auditor, microscopes and cavity probes provided at no additional cost.

Oh, the GOP will say raising taxes will stifle creativity and entrepreneurship, and business will falter because there'll be no incentive to compete. Hogwash. If there's an extra dollar to be had, entrepreneurs'll go get it, even if they have to share 70% of it with the rest of the society that made it all possible for them. Otherwise, they're just not entrepreneurs. They're more like fat-sucking leeches gorging themselves on Enronomic accounting scams.

Or, didn't anyone notice that America took over the world while the top tax rate was up around 70%?

Paul Ryan and his we-got-ours-and-everyone-else-can-suck-eggs-and-die crowd don't really look like they actually care about budget shortfalls and debt. The charging two wars on the nation's credit card while giving billionaires enormous tax subsidies was one hint, but the whole handing Medicare to insurers is pretty suspicious too, as it doesn't balance any budgets any time soon. If one were a skeptic - and we'd certainly be hard pressed to find one around here - one might think Ryan and his Republican cohort just wanted to find any pots of taxpayer money left in America, and hand them over to their rich contributors.

OK, maybe there are a couple of skeptics hanging around. They seem to comprise 72% of the American people, and they seem to hang around Republican town hall meetings.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Republican Town Halls Burst With Medicare Anger, But Fox Isn't There

"How's that abolish-y Medicare-y thing workin' out fer ya?" to paraphrase the ex-swimsuit model formerly portrayed by Tina Fey.

It's Spring Break for Congress, and Republican lawmakers, fresh from slashing billions from citizen services, bringing the government to the brink of shutdown, and passing through the House Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget to give the richest Americans another 10% tax break while eliminating Medicare in favor of a voucher system marched triumphantly home to tout their victories, only to be greeted like an unsightly rash on prom night.

All around the land, Republicans who strode smugly into town hall meetings for a relaxed meet-and-greet with the little folks who made it all possible were greeted by jeers and sneers. What were supposed to be photo-ops for toothy grins in sharp suits pressing the flesh with adoring sycophants turned into nasty Question Time in the House of Commons fencing with rowdy back-benchers.

The natives, along with 84% of the American people, loudly pronounced they didn't want Medicare abolished so the money could be handed directly to private insurers while pawning off future seniors with discount coupons that wouldn't cover a third of their premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses. The natives, along with three-quarters of the American people, figured the top 20% of Americans who owned 85% of everything in America ought to kick in a little more to pay off the debts and budget shortfalls their tax subsidies had run up.

Luckily for the GOP pols, Fox News cameras weren't rolling as they had during the 2009 Health Care tantrums. Fox surely didn't want to show their precious Stepford Legislators getting creamed on national TV. To be fair, Fox couldn't have known the outbursts were going to happen, as they hadn't bused in their Jerry Springeroids, and hadn't set up their make-up wagons, catering trucks, and equipment vans.

A brief recap of the fun fests around the country:
  • Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) sparred with a woman who wanted to know why he voted to "abolish Medicare," to which Meehan stumbled around saying he didn't vote to abolish Medicare, but voted for a blueprint to abolish Medicare.
  • Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) got drilled with question after question about voting for Ryan's budget. "It's important to speak with people who disagree with me," Bass said, presumably because, otherwise, he wouldn't have anyone to talk to at all.
  • Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL), after failing to make it through his opening remarks and parrying broadsides aimed at his Medicare couponization stance, retreated to the GOP's tried-and-true tax cut pitch. He told the crowd if corporations didn't get ever larger tax subsidies they'd say, "Fine, I'll take my jobs overseas." The crowd responded by yelling "Let them leave!"
  • Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) found out getting by on his measly $174,000-a-year was getting harder all the time with constituents yelling at him about supporting Medicare couponization. Duffy tried to say Ryan's coupon plan wasn't a coupon plan, but rather "premium support." The crowd wasn't buying what he was selling.
  • Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) told folks in Carbon County he wanted to let people get things off their chests, and quickly discovered the crowd had plenty on their chests to get off. The townfolk accused Barletta of voting to destroy Medicare, to which Barletta replied, "I won't destroy Medicare. Medicare is going to be destroyed by itself." The scene degenerated into a shouting match.
  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the grand poohbah of Medicare couponization and tax cuts for the rich, ran into a bit of a buzz saw from folks who took exception to being condemned to death should they, as seniors, be unable to come up with upwards of 70% of their health care costs while Ryan's plutocrat overlords sipped champagne and nibbled caviar.
In the wake of the Gabby Giffords tragedy, state troopers were hanging around many of these town halls. The townfolk weren't seen carrying assault rifles and automatic pistols as they had in the Fox-fueled harangues of years passed.

After thirty years of buying into the GOP's mantras "More Tax Cuts for the Wealthy," and "More Service Cuts for Everyone Else," some of the locals seemed to be catching onto the notion that the rich had become super-duper-hyper rich while nothing had trickled down toward their own general direction.

The locals seemed aware of a dawning realization that the whole Right-Wing Tea Party Paul Ryan-Ayn Rand, "We're entitled to everything we get and there's no civil or religious morality except to indulge our every selfish whim" credo was a tad anti-social with their's being the society being antied.

Paul Ryan and his nipped, tucked, coiffed and tanned Objectivist paragons of perfection might believe they and their plutocrats overlords' were entitled to their massive horde however they came to get it and everybody else was SOL, but for a couple of hours, they had to sit through that everybody else's vehement objections. They might believe they'd earned all those billions, instead of stolen it from the nation and the society that had created all that wealth. They might believe the nation and the people that had fed them, that had cleared the land and tilled the soil and brought in irrigation and grown the food and brought it to market, that had clothed them, that had raised the fibers and weaved the cloth and stitched the garments, that had cured their illnesses and injuries, that had developed the vaccines and antibiotics and provided the bandages and built the hospitals and provided and trained the doctors and nurses and physical therapists, that had kept them safe from hazards household to environmental, that had brought in the cops and firefighters and EMTs, and had built the roads and electric grids and computer networks was all just so much useless incidental effluence compared to the transcendent pinnacles of entitled perfection that was themselves, but they were in fact nothing more than raving narcissistic sociopaths. If Ryan and every one of the objectionable Objectivists had been born naked on a desert isle and rose to wealth and fame from there without any society around them, they'd still owe the rest of us for a million years of fighting off sabre-toothed tigers and inventing the wheel and questing for fire.

The real issue is that 20% of the people have horded 85% of a nation's wealth they hadn't earned and didn't deserve, and the rest of us just need to sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper to figure out exactly how much of that 85% of stuff we need to pay off all our debts and give ourselves a bit of a future. If anybody says that would make the rich leave, as the folks in Illinois told Dold, "Let them leave." It would create room for a new generation of entrepreneurs, and there aren't that many countries not run by dictators or juntas to run off too anyway. Besides, we could always send collectors armed with an airborne division or two to get our money back.

As the country is lousy with Republican Diebold machines, Republicans seem to show little concern for any sort of election backlash. The GOP's legislative tapeworms are well entrenched and will probably require more than the ordinary, garden-variety plebiscite to root them out.

How's that pitchforky-torchy thing workin' out fer ya?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Poll: 84% Oppose GOP's Medicare Coupon Scheme

Republicans think robbing Medicare and handing the money to their insurance company cronies while pawning off future seniors with 30% off discount coupons good toward the purchase of private policies is a great idea. It makes big insurers even richer than they are, and condemns anyone under 55 to misery and early death as seniors if they are unable to pay 70% of the price of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses. Better still, as new seniors become sick or injured, they'll have to empty their bank accounts and retirement savings, making sure big pharma and big med get rich first before the impoverished elder is tossed out to die horribly and painfully in the gutter. The GOP figures there could be no more perfect solution to health care.

The vast majority of Americans, however, beg to disagree.

A recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll revealed that 84% of Americans begged to disagree. When asked if Medicare, which pays seniors and the disabled's medical bills, should be replaced with a voucher seniors could use toward the purchase of private insurance, 65% said no.  Of those who said vouchers would be okay, 60% changed their minds when asked how they'd feel if the cost of private insurance rose faster than the value of the vouchers. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found just that problem with Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) coupon scheme. By 2030, the CBO said, seniors would end up paying 68% of their health care costs while the coupons covered 32%.

When the WaPo/ABC pollsters combined the 65% of folks who opposed Medicare couponization from the get-go with those who opposed couponization after finding out it wouldn't keep up with inflation, the pollsters discovered the grand total came to 84% of those polled opposing Paul Ryan's Medicare-gutting genocidal love tome to big insurers.

The same WaPo/ABC poll found that, to help balance budgets, 74% of Americans favored raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more, and Ryan found himself in a verbal tussle with some of that 74% in a Town Hall meeting in Wilton, WI recently. When Ryan argued with an audience member who thought the rich should pay more in taxes, the crowd booed. Ryan was no doubt miffed the crowd didn't just swoon over his cheap matinee idol mug.

Ryan's constituent questioned whether the rich should pay more as so much wealth has become concentrated among a fortunate few. Recent studies revealed the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the nation's wealth. The constituent, who described himself as a "lifelong conservative," said to Ryan, "There's nothing wrong with taxing the top because it does not trickle down."

Actually, Ryan believes there's everything wrong with taxing the top, and doesn't care whether anything trickles down. Ryan's GOP 2012 Budget proposed giving the richest Americans another 10% tax cut on top of the tax subsidies they already enjoy. Ryan is a big Ayn Rand acolyte who believes individuals owe nothing to society, and that societies are useless. He figures the rich are entitled to indulge any whim no matter how excessive, and regardless of who has to die for it. Ryan is enamoured with Atlas Shrugged, and doesn't seem to realize that basing his life on a work of fiction makes him sort of like a Trekkie, albeit a narcissistic, uber-entitled, sociopathic Trekkie. Clearly, America would have been much better off had Ryan opted for pointed ears.

Ryan and legions of right-wing narcissists and sociopaths have loved Rand for generations because she justified their self-centered, self-indulgent, self-absorbed frat boy mentality. That Rand was a lunatic who idolized a serial killer and died of lung cancer and heart disease while receiving Medicare benefits she and her ilk hypocritically would deny others doesn't faze these deep thinkers.

Many believe Atlas Shrugged was a crappy book that could only impress self-possessed frat boys who'd never read anything weightier than the Playmate Profile behind the Centerfold.

Just as Trekkies talk about Klingons and starships as though they really existed, Randies like Ryan think abolishing Medicare and reserving health care for the rich is a good idea.

Hopefully, there will soon be a generation of lawmakers who'll base their entire lives on Harry Potter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obama Seeks Compromise Even Though Business Ready For Unconditional Debt Ceiling Hike

Everyone playing that drinking game had better stock up on extra cases, as President Barack Obama appears intent on saying "bipartisan" enough times to float an aircraft carrier. Although everyone from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Association of Manufacturers is lining up to call GOP lawmakers to make sure the nation's debt ceiling will be raised before markets can get nervous, the President seems intent on bargaining away Medicare and Medicaid to get a ceiling hike agreement that would otherwise be handed to him on a silver platter.

The nation's $14 trillion debt ceiling must be raised between May 16, when the current cap will be exceeded, and early July, when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner runs out of creative book juggling options, or the government will no longer be able to fund operations and begin defaulting on maturing debt obligations. Should the United States, the universal gold-wishes-it-were-this-golden-gold standard of credit worthiness, venture down skid road toward tap city, the resulting chaos in the bond markets would make 2008 look like a banker's holiday. All those market crash and freeze buzzwords folks were just beginning to forget - terms like "systemic risk" and "contagion" - will howl across the landscape in a maelstrom of collapsing markets and brokers flinging themselves off tall buildings.

Thus the borderline panic in the business community a month before the first deadline. Lobbyists from major trade associations have already begun contacting freshmen House Republicans seen as potential obstacles to a debt ceiling hike to make sure the assorted Tea Partisans and their ilk have read the emails, post-it notes and parchments speared by flaming arrows: raise the ceiling. Period. No, wait, exclamation point, then period. Boldface. Underlined, all caps, delivered by Luca Brasi carrying a horse's head wrapped in a blanket.

Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesale Distributors said the debt ceiling hike should be a "check-the-box exercise."

"If we get it done with ornaments, let's get it done," Van Dongen said. "If we can't get it done with ornaments, let's get it done anyway."

Yet, President Obama seems intent on trimming the Republican tree with boxes of ornaments, tinsel, garland and bows. After his national address March 13 drew praise for laying out a vision for trimming $4 trillion off government debt without abolishing Medicare in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) scheme to hand seniors' health care funds directly to insurers in exchange for 30% discount coupons, it only took Obama forty-eight hours to begin trumpeting compromise in the interest of garnering bipartisan support to raise the debt ceiling.

Pop another brewsky, there's that word again.

Obama told the Associated Press April 15 that raising the debt ceiling would require compromise. "It's not going to happen without some spending cuts," the President said.

Apparently, Obama was intent on making cuts regardless of whether anyone insisted on them. The Republicans, who would like to extract cuts and put Medicare privatization and Medicaid elimination on the table, don't go anywhere without a note from their plutocrat masters, and America's plutocrat masters won't go anywhere without a debt ceiling hike.

Chaos in the bond markets resulting from the US being unable to roll over debt would eviscerate the very plutocrats who call the GOP's shots. This is why all those business lobbies and trade associations were already burning up phone lines and cell towers to make sure their Republican toadies got the message. Who panics a month before the earliest deadline? The world's most paranoid mothers are negligent drunks compared to plutocrats brooding bond markets.

Standard and Poor's credit rating gurus Tuesday demoted its outlook on US debt from "Stable" to "Negative" on fears lawmakers and the White House couldn't agree on long-term fiscal moderation. Markets quickly rebounded as everyone realized such a situation could only arise should the President somehow grow a backbone and oppose Congressional Republicans.

 President Obama appears committed to giving in to any Republican demand whether he needs to or not. The President seems determined to say "bipartisan" as often as possible, then invent new situations to say "bipartisan." Drinking game enthusiasts better stock up, and put AA on the speed dial.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BP Showers Republican Leaders with Cash as Oil Spill Anniversary Nears

As the one year anniversary of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and Gulf Coast megaspill approached, the oil giant greeted the milestone by hollering, "Sooeey!" and Republican pols responded by running to the trough.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) thrust their snouts into the best part of the trough, gobbling down $5,000 each. BP Corporation North America also contributed $5,000 to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), and $5,000 each to the Republican National Congressional Committee and the Republican National Senate Committee.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) got $1,000 from BP, and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN), the only Democrat on BP's "Nice" list, got $3,000

BP had laid low with its political contributions since the April 20, 2010 explosion and fire at its Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which eventually dumped millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and slimed hundreds of miles of coastline. The company had limited political contributions to state and local officials in the Gulf region during the past year.

As far as oil company largess goes, the BP contributions were relatively modest. The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas company trade group, kicked in $27.6 million, mostly to Republican candidates, during last year's elections, as well as another $7.3 million lobbying Congress and the White House. The Independent Petroleum Association of America dumped $19.6 million into GOP troughs last year. This was in addition to contributions from individual companies and their well-heeled execs. Exxon Mobil gave Republican candidates over $1 million.

That's a good deal of slop for the trough. Fortunately, the oil industry can pass those costs to consumers $4 per gallon at a time.

Even more fortunately, the oil companies can look forward to getting all that money back and more from taxpayers, as House Republicans dutifully voted to extend oil industry subsidies. McCarthy, Upton and Camp were among 249 Republican oil company vassals who voted against a March 1 bill that would have ended billions in oil company subsidies.

President Barack Obama's budget had proposed ending $3.6 billion in oil and gas subsidies in 2012. Despite oil topping $100 per barrel and gas topping $4 per gallon, Republicans lined up to defeat any attempt to end raining the dumptruck loads of cash on oil companies that even some former oil company executives saw as excessive.

BP, showing British restraint, had refrained from shovelling cash into national GOP Congressional and Senate campaigns last year, and some of the local pols BP backed wouldn't take their money. Oklahoma state legislator Jason Nelson didn't cash his check from BP. Many politicians probably felt accepting BP's money would make them look bad at a time when the oil company was nearly as unpopular as President Barack Obama in the region. There were, after all, plenty of other oil companies and industry PACs topping up the slop in the troughs.

BP North America's decision to begin slopping their hogs again became public when its political action committee filed a campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday. It was not immediately known whether the timing of the report, on the eve of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, was a classic example of the famous dark British humor.

Monday, April 18, 2011

S&P Shifts US Debt Outlook Seeking More Tax Breaks for the Wealthy

Stocks fell sharply as Standard and Poor's Ratings Services lowered its outlook on US debt from "stable" to "negative," citing concerns that American leaders will be unable to agree on reigning in budget deficits.

S&P reaffirmed the US's AAA bond rating, but warned those ratings might be lowered if there is no comprehensive agreement addressing debt by 2013.  Lower bond ratings would force the Treasury department to raise interest rates on US debt.

After dropping as much as 250 points, the Dow Jones Industrial Average recovered to post a 140-point, 1.14% drop on the day.

Increasingly, credit rating analysts, bond traders, and speculators have weighed into politics, imposing their preferences on tax and spending choices.  Portugal's recent plea for an EU bailout was prompted by so-called bond vigilantes lowering bond ratings that raised Portugal's borrowing costs beyond Portugal's reach. The ratings agencies forced Portugal to seek a bailout, and with it, all the service-slashing, pension-busting, people-bludgeoning strings that come attached with a bailout.

Most alarming, though, was that many analysts believed Portugal wouldn't have needed any bailouts and all the accompanying austerity flailing except for the intervention of ratings-manipulating the bond vigilantes. Portugal was relatively sound economically, and recovering from the global economic downturn. It's budget deficit was lower than that of other countries and was falling, and industrial orders and exports were on solid footing.

The bond vigilantes, however, didn't like Portugal's mix of market capitalism with its welfare state, state-owned businesses, and small-business investments. So, they attacked. The bond vigilantes in fact sought regime change in Portugal, forcing out Prime Minister Jose Socrates.  The bond vigilantes wanted to slash government spending on its ordinary citizens, and divert the flow of Portuguese cash to the bond market plutocrats.

Now, S&P is putting the squeeze on the United States, and their Republican pols were quick to take up the call for slashing more citizen services and coughing up ever-greater tax subsidies for the rich.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said, "Today's announcement makes clear that the debt limit increase proposed by the Obama Administration must be accompanied by meaningful fiscal reforms that immediately reduce federal spending." President Barack Obama had until Friday insisted that raising the federal debt ceiling be "clean," with no ideological conditions attached. The President now acknowledges he will offer concessions to Republican demands for cuts and program overhauls.

The timing of the S&P's announcement appeared calculated to interject politics into the need for the federal government to raise its debt ceiling to avoid eventually defaulting on maturing obligations. Republicans would like to hold the debt ceiling vote hostage to their political agenda, demanding concessions including abolishing Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system that would transfer taxpayer dollars directly to insurers while leaving future seniors with coupons the Congressional Budget Office estimates would cover less than a third of their health care costs by 2030.

If the United States were to default on its debt obligations, the bond markets would be plunged into chaos, and the very same plutocrats who seek to manipulate policy through bond vigilantism would be eviscerated.

Plutocrats, bond market manipulators, and their Republican politicians scheme to gut public services in exchange for ever-greater tax cuts and subsidies for themselves, and cripple environmental and industrial oversight to free themselves of fair-practice, anti-fraud and environmental regulations. The S&P's timely interjection of credit rating warnings was seen by many as pressuring the Obama Administration into accepting Republican demands.

The Obama Administration downplayed the S&P's grandstand play. "We believe S&P's negative outlook underestimates the ability of America's address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the nation," said Mary Miller, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Markets.

US interest rates continue to be at record lows. The extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy remained the single greatest contributor to growing US debt and budge shortfalls. Should House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposals to eliminate Medicare and slash spending be adopted, the rich would be granted another $2.9 trillion dollar tax windfall.

$2.9 trillion in tax breaks, along with taking Medicare's money, is enough to set plutocrat bond speculators' hearts aflutter.  Hopefully, the prospect of bond market chaos resulting from the US not raising its debt ceiling and defaulting would dissuade bond manipulators' from playing politics and stiffen the Obama Administration's resolve against Republican hostage demands.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

House GOP Votes to End Medicare While Lavishing Wealthy With $2.9 Trillion Tax Subsidy

As a jack-booted phalanx, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday voted to abolish Medicare and lavish their wealthy cronies with $2.9 trillion in tax subsidies.  Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget proposal to trim $4 trillion off federal spending sailed through the House on a party-line vote of 235-193. The roll call of infamy included all but four Republicans, and no Democrats. Of the four Republicans, three, Denny Rehberg (MT), Walter Jones (NC) and David McKinley (WV) were apparently worried about re-election or redistricting, while Ron Paul disdained the measure as not going far enough.

Oddly, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), did not vote.

The House Republicans voted to abolish Medicare and replace it with a scheme that transfers Medicare money directly to their insurance industry donors while pawning off future seniors with 30% off coupons towards the purchase of private insurance policies. Republicans effectively cut off all Americans age 55 and under from health care as seniors if they are unable to pay cash for 70% of the price of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses.

Meanwhile, GOP House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (CA) continued scheming to shovel ever greater dumptruck loads of cash to General Electric, which had already reported $14 billion in profits without paying taxes, for a second type of jet engine for the F-35 fighter that even the spendthrift Pentagon didn't want.

Abolishing Medicare to hand payments directly to insurance companies and forcing the Pentagon to buy jet engines they didn't want, along with laying another $2.9 trillion tax subsidy before their plutocrat overlords demonstrates once again that Republicans are unabashed vassals of billionaires and trans-national corporations dedicated solely to enriching their feudal patrons at the expense of ordinary Americans.

While the Ryan plan garnered near-unanimous Republican support, many in the GOP grumbled that it neither enriched their overlords enough, or sufficiently scourged ordinary Americans. They preferred a more onerous plan put forth by the conservative Republican Steering Committee. House Democrats, eager to get Republicans on record, overwhelmingly voted "present" on that bill, forcing some scrambling Republicans to change their "yes" votes to "no" to keep the measure from passing. In the end, the measure was narrowly
defeated 119-136.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed to protect Americans from Republican predation, stating the House's vicious action "will never pass the Senate."

The Republicans exhibited an unprecidented level of disdain for the American people in passing Ryan's Path to Prosperity love tome to their plutocrat overlords. The country's richest 20%, already sovereign over 85% of the nation's wealth, will grow exponentially richer should Ryan's express succeed in securing the additional 10% tax cut the Republicans covet. The wealthy's massive financial supremacy already enables them to hire legions of lawyers to tie up all opposition in interminable legal wrangles of attrition, and to unleash armies of lobbyists to buy off politicians and officials. Increasingly, Republicans have demonstrated unconcern to voter backlash, buoyed by elections run through GOP Diebold machines and backed by hordes of white separatists and evangelical supremacists homeschooled on hate and misinterpretations of the Bible who will believe anything the Republican pols and corporate talk-radio shills tell them.  Those ignorant minions, swayed by hate and fear-mongering, already willingly believe President Barack Obama is a foreign Muslim agent, and will accept the GOP claim that abolishing their Medicare and health care access will be good for them.

While the GOP's poor, ignorant racists and religious fanatics may joyfully embrace the agony and misery that awaits them in old age when they discover their Ryan Coupons fall far short of paying private insurance premiums, millions of innocent ordinary Americans will likewise be condemned to die horribly and painfully as their anguished loved ones are forced to watch helplessly.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warning that Ryan Coupons would fail to cover even a third of future seniors' health care needs did not deter the Roll Call of Infamy's 235 Republicans from consigning hundreds of millions of Americans to desperate destitution and early death. Republicans calculate that Americans now under 55 will first be forced to drain their savings and property to pay the 70% of health care costs Ryan Coupons won't cover before being forced out of medical care to suffer and die destitute and miserable.

The Republican vassals can thus assure their plutocrat overlords that their scheme will guarantee their masters would wring every possible penny from Americans before discarding the spent husks to die in squalor and filth.

Only the thin line of Harry Reid's Democratic Senators and Barack Obama's veto pen stand between Americans and old age horror. Americans, witness to continuous Democratic defection in the name of bipartisanship, can only await their fate. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GOP Successfully Bludgeons Americans, Coddles Rich Without Actually Cutting Spending

Capitol Hill Republicans kicked and screamed about cutting spending and reducing debt. They threatened to shut down the federal government unless they got to slash billions from vital services in the 2011 Budget. The Republicans browbeat Democrats into cutting $1.6 billion from the EPA so their plutocrat cronies could, unfettered by oversight, dump toxics and foul wind and water. Republicans deprived the poor of $390 million to help heat their homes. Republicans cut $415 million for cops and firefighters across the land, $600 million from community health centers, and $504 million slated to feed women and infants.

But because Republicans fattened the Budget with an extra $8 billion for the Pentagon, instead of the $38 billion in savings the GOP touted, actual savings would be about $350 million, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Add in the cost of a couple of wars and a no-fly zone, and spending is up $3.3 billion for good ol' FY 2011.

Thus, with all their screaming and posturing, the Republicans managed to harm millions of Americans and imperiled the environment without saving any money. The poseurs' big talk about reducing debt and cutting spending was all just a smokescreen to transfer more billions to their fat-cat cronies in the form of tax subsidies and defense expenditures.

To be fair, the Budget agreement actually cuts spending authority, not actual spending, so savings will not appear immediately. To be really fair, though, the CBO estimates those savings to be around $20 billion over ten years, or about $2 billion a year. This will certainly comfort starving women and children choking on toxic fumes in a freezing cold house while waiting for a cop who'll never come.

If politicians in general and Republicans in particular really had an interest in reducing government debt and balancing budgets, there would have to be a substantive examination of revenue reforms and government streamlining. While some Democrats have shown they are ready to tackle the tough chore, Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated they only care about finding more ways to plunder Americans and lay the money before their billionaire plutocrat contributors.

When Republicans talk about making tough choices, they mean tough for you and a choice of champagnes for the rich. When Republicans talk about shared sacrifice, they mean you sacrifice and the rich get more shares.

Some newly minted Congressional Reps of the Tea Party persuasion publicly grumbled at the CBO report, but all accounts indicate these deficit hawks had been seen in and around the greater D.C. area while the Budget deal was being put together. Surely they were aware that they were buying multi-million dollar tank accessories and stocking up on million-dollar missiles.The Tea Party stalwarts had expressed no issue with shovelling billions to defense contractors.

Here's a thought: the next time there's a conflict, instead of sending four twenty-somethings in a $4 million tank, which tends to upset the natives and make them nervous, try sending the same four twenty-somethings with $4 million worth of party supplies. Hire a band, fly in as much beer and pizza as anybody can handle, set up a big light show, and run out the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. How do you say "Popular" in Farsi?

Only 27 freshmen Tea Party stalwarts were among the 59 House Republicans who nixed the budget deal Thursday.  The House passed the Budget measure 260-167. 81 Democrats voted for the agreement, and 108 opposed it.

Shortly afterward, the Senate passed the legislation 81-19, and President Obama signed it into law.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voted against the measure in the House. Pelosi can recognize a pointless, gratuitous shakedown and bludgeoning when she sees one.

So, despite all the noise and all the threats, the Republicans really don't care about debt and deficits. They only care that those $4 million tanks are each being gussied up with millions in new accessories. They only care that the richest, most privileged plutocrats in history get to keep their tax breaks.

And, for the benefit of those playing a drinking game, President Barack Obama gets to say "bipartisan" once again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Republicans Denounce President's Unwillingness to Kill Off Seniors

Republicans were quick to denounce President Barack Obama's deficit reduction strategy because it lacked any plan to systematically hand Medicare money to private insurance companies while killing off older Americans by blocking their access to health care. Republicans were further incensed by Obama's call to eliminate some tax subsidies for the wealthy.

The President's deficit plan called for cutting $4 trillion from the nation's debt over twelve years. Obama's plan would seek Medicare and Medicaid savings through greater efficiency, cut an additional $400 billion from defense spending, and let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans.

The Republicans contend their 2012 Budget proposal, put forth last week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), is much better than the President's plan, because it features a concrete scheme to exterminate older Americans while enriching insurance companies, and gives the nation's millionaires and billionaires an additional 10% tax cut to help pay for expensive lawyers, lobbyists, and rigged elections, as well as to cover the skyrocketing cost of mega-yachts.

Ryan and the Republicans want to dismantle Medicare by changing it from a system that pays seniors' medical bills to one that gives seniors coupons to pay a portion of private insurance bought on the open market.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, by 2030, Ryan's coupons would cover less than a third of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and other expenses.

"I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program," the President said. Republicans were quick to dismiss the President as making a "campaign speech" and decried his refusal to embrace their scheme to give Medicare funds to private for-profit corporations and pawn off seniors with a 30% off coupon that will be completely inadequate to cover medical needs and condemn millions to misery and early death.

Obama Wednesday unveiled his deficit-reduction plan before a George Washington University audience. He characterized the Republican deficit-reduction plan as not being a serious effort at reducing debt. "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillions dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," Obama said.  The crowd cheered.

The President only proposed the most modest tax reforms, however. His plan aims to reduce the debt with $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes, leaving the ultra-wealthy top 20% of Americans who own 85% of all the nation's wealth very well-heeled indeed.

Even Obama's modest proposals enraged Republicans, who crave laying ever-greater tax subsidies before their plutocrat overlords while tormenting Americans as much as possible.  

"What we heard today was not fiscal leadership," Ryan said, dismissing a Presidential plan that didn't lavish more tax breaks on his wealthy cronies and failed to cut seniors off from medical care. Ryan favored his own plan, which coddles the rich with 30% off coupons for medical services they intended to pay cash for anyway, while condemning to death all others who could not afford to pay cash for the remaining 70% balance. "Exploiting people's emotions of's not hope, it's not change," Ryan derided, apparently taunting seniors who could not afford hospitals and would die horribly and painfully while their loved ones watched in anguish and misery.

President Obama's plan falls far short of revenue reform that would give the big tax breaks to the bottom 60% of Americans, who would stimulate the economy by spending the money, and would impose progressive taxes on plutocrats to quickly balance the budget and hinder their ability to use lobbyists and the legal system to impose their will on every aspect of American life. However, allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire would be a step in the right direction.

The President's plan would also close some tax loopholes, and restrict itemized deductions on high earners, along with expiring the Bush tax cuts. The plan includes a trigger that would impose across-the-board cuts if certain deficit-reduction targets are not met by 2014.

The present extension of the Bush tax cuts, which reduced the top tax rate from 39% to 32%, is set to expire at the end of 2012. The President is in a position to veto any attempt to extend those cuts, and has now said he would not allow the cuts to be extended. Congress would need a two-thirds majority to overturn any Obama veto.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Republicans Really Are Experts On Debt: RNC $19.8 Million in the Red

Talk about a red state.

On Capitol Hill and in state houses around the nation, the continuous Republican harangue this year has been about debt, debt, debt. Oh, the evil Democrats have run up this huge Obama debt, funding Obamacare and Obamadventures and its all a great big Obama Nation. If only Republicans ran things there would never, ever, pever, jever be any sort of debt. Never mind that Saint George W. Bush and the Republicans started two wars they ran off the books, gave away billions in tax cuts to the wealthy, lavished gratuitous subsidies on oil moguls, and ran the global economy into the ground.

Republicans talk so much about debt they hardly have time to say their favorite lines, "More tax cuts for the rich," and "Slash services for everyone else."

After slashing a mind-numbing $39 billion from the 2011 budget, Tea Party demagogue Rand Paul (R-KY) is threatening to filibuster the agreement.  Hey, Rand, it's an agreement, comprende? Like, your Party agreed with the sane people to keep the government going, OK? So you think cutting $504 million in food aid for women and infants, $600 million to community health centers, $786 million for FEMA first responders, $390 million for heating homes, and $415 million for cops and firefighters isn't enough. You're disappointed they only cut $1.6 billion from the EPA, so your precious coal and sludge plutocrats might still occasionally have to dump their toxic waste into kids' playgrounds at night, instead of during the morning rush hour as you had wanted. Well, Rand, seeing how for every $1 the great state of Kentucky raises in federal taxes, it gets $1.51 from the federal government, why don't we start balancing the budget by you refusing to take a third of the money going to Kentucky?

Better yet, why don't we start by balancing the books over at the Republican National Committee?

Even with the plutocrats kicking in $3.4 million since New Year's, the RNC is $19.8 million in the hole. Even though the RNC hooked people in for $15.7 million so far this year, the RNC is still almost $20 million in debt. In hock. Under water. Talk about a red state.

Of course, Republicans can blame former RNC head Micheal Steele. Republicans like to blame Steele for all sorts of things. The fact that he's black has absolutely nothing to do with it, of course. Funny how Steele never gets credit for the GOP showing in the last election. Republicans probably feel they could have done better had Steele not held them back so much.

But about that $19.8 million in the red, under water, in hock, in the hole, owing to Guido and the Boys. It's a good thing Republicans are so good at dealing with debt and balancing budgets and spending responsibly. It's a good thing Republicans are expert at cutting spending and lowering taxes.  Republicans should use proven Republican practices to balance the books over at the RNC. First, cut the staff, and the communications and the phone budgets. Cut the consultants and pollsters and spinmeisters. Cut the transportation and advertising. Cut the office space, and the office workers. Fire everybody and hire a phone bank in India.

And, most importantly, stop the fund raising. People know how to spend their money better than the RNC. It is, after all, a committee, which is a bureaucracy, and everyone hates bureaucracies. Stop taking money out of the hands of the American people.  As soon as Republicans stop fund raising, that $19.8 million debt, IOU, pawn ticket will be erased by growth, prosperity, and roads and paths and glories and sunrises.

Before Republicans mess with the federal government, let's see the GOP apply all that supply side, trickle-down, Ayn Randian sci-fi to the RNC budget.  Let's see Republicans give back the $3.4 million they got from their most well-healed contributors. Let's see Republicans combine all their offices and staffs and lay everyone off and use that Indian call center to get out the vote.  Let's see Republicans get their Party's fiscal house in order before they trash the nation's house.

The RNC is $19.8 million in debt. Considering how Saint George W. Bush and the Republicans ran this country off a cliff and straight into the ground without passing "Go" and definitely without collecting $200 or any dollars from any of the richest, most privileged untaxed plutocrats in history, the RNC's deficit certainly comes as no surprise whatsoever.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Dems Must Not Enable GOP Madness in Debt Ceiling Vote

Washington avoided a government shutdown when Democrats caved in to Republican demands for tens of billions of dollars worth of service cuts and tax subsidies to coddle some of the richest, most powerful plutocrats in history. Most Republicans can gloat over delivering billions of dollars in giveaways to the rich in the form of extended tax cuts payed for by slashed vital services that will harm the most vulnerable Americans and cripple oversight of business and industry. Of course, crippling oversight of business and industry is just a bonus for the plutocrats, as they're the ones who'll be getting away with strip-mining your home town then dumping the toxic slag in your kid's daycare center. The Tea Party is whining that the rich should have been coddled even more, but they always will.

The next opportunity for Republicans to browbeat concessions out of Democrats looms with the May 16 deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling. Republicans have already declared they will hold their breath and not raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats accede to much, much more than the paltry tens of billions handed to the plutocrats in the Budget dust-up. Republicans are poised to demand that only the rich should get to see doctors, that laws should require toxic dumping and air pollution, and that women must die from backroom coat hanger abortions. Republicans will demand guarantees that, for the 2012 Budget, the Social Security trust funds be handed over to their Wall Street cronies, and Medicare be morphed into a giveaway program for insurance companies, leaving Americans with a handful of worthless vouchers. The Democrats will quiver and weep, and wring their hands. President Barack Obama will talk about bipartisanship, and the Republicans will get everything they want.

As was the recent Budget fight, all of this will be a classic Japanese Noh play, with all the characters wearing masks, reciting lines, and striking stylized postures designed to confound onlookers. All of the demands and all of the protestations and especially all of the capitulations would be complete fabrications for one simple reason: the plutocrats absolutely, positively cannot allow the government to shut down as a result of exceeding the debt ceiling.

If the federal government does not raise its current $14.25 trillion debt ceiling, the government will not be able to borrow to finance federal operations, and roll over its existing debt.  It would be unable to pay off current debt that's constantly maturing, and would put the United States in default. The United States: not Greece; not Spain. The United States, the gold standard of global credit worthiness that's exponentially more golden than gold could ever dream an opium dream of being.  

This would threaten havoc in the international bond markets.  This would threaten a credit freeze exponentially more catastrophic than 2008.  If there is anything that makes the blood run cold in the veins of any trans-national plutocrat, it's the prospect of uncertainty in the bond markets. Let alone chaos. Let alone a complete, total meltdown and collapse.

If anyone threatens to slam the bond markets in this way, don't be surprised if some plutocrat hires an army of assassins to stop that person. If anyone tries to filibuster raising the debt ceiling, or votes against raising the debt ceiling, don't be surprised if you see David Koch personally put a bullet through that person's skull.

This is why raising the debt ceiling is normally a routine, uber-pro forma event. Of course you raise the debt ceiling. You can't have chaos in the bond markets. Or a platinum-clad solid gold bullet encrusted with diamonds and emeralds blowing your brains all over your desk.

The government was shut down briefly in 1995 and 1996 when it didn't raise the debt ceiling, and Newt Gingrich, once the most powerful amphibian in history, disappeared off the face of the Earth for over a decade.

Which brings us to the horrible truth part. To the extent that Democrats cave in to Republican demands is the extent to which Democrats are completely, totally and utterly complicit with Republicans in coddling the richest, most powerful plutocrats in history. Any service cuts the Democrats accede to would be the Democrats' way of offering up more tax subsidies for the rich. Any capitulation on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would be the measure of how much money from those programs the Democrats want to hand over to the ultra-rich.

All the talk of needing to cut services and lower taxes to rescue the economy and save America from the debt monster is utter balderdash. Service cuts do not improve the economy. Countless examples throughout history and around the world demonstrate that cuts actually hurt the economy. Stabilizing and growing the economy is the top priority before thinking about reducing debt.

Tax breaks for the rich don't help the economy.  Corporations are already awash in trillions of dollars in cash, and show no sign of hiring or investing in America. More and deeper tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy just incentivizes more voodoo accounting to fatten corporate bottom lines, and more mergers and acquisitions followed by asset liquidations, layoffs, outsourcing, downsizing  and offshoring. More tax cuts for the rich just means more outrageous executive compensations lavished on slash-and-burn managers who gut jobs to create profits they can divvy up with stock speculators.

None of the budget slashing, tax cutting, supply-side, trickle-down Ayn Randian sci-fi fantasies have anything to do with anything except to further enrich the handful of ultra-wealthy plutocrats who call the shots and who happen to be the same handful of ultra-wealthy plutocrats who'll be eviscerated should the bond markets collapse.

Democrats should, if they really were stalwart stewards of America, use the opportunity to start talking about revenue reform. Democrats should begin talking about how the richest 20% of Americans owns 85% of everything in America, with the very richest 400 families in America splitting $1.27 trillion, while the bottom 40% of Americans are splitting just three-tenths of one percent of the remainder.

Instead of giving the richest Americans a 10% tax cut, from 35% to 25%, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants in his 2012 GOP Budget, Democrats should start talking about giving the bottom 60% of Americans the big tax cuts, which they'll promptly go out and spend to stimulate growth. Instead of caving to onerous cuts, Democrats should start talking about vigorously taxing the ultra-wealthy and really balancing the budget, lest the debt ceiling fairy comes along and destroys the international bond markets leaving the ultra-wealthy with nothing.

Of course, the Democrats won't do any such thing. That's why the whole debt ceiling show is just another Noh play.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lucky Republicans "Find" Votes This Time

How lucky the Republicans are! Just when a massive grassroots effort made it appear that unheralded Democratic challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg had unseated Republican incumbent David Prosser in the contentious Wisconsin Supreme Court race, Republicans fortuitously "found" another 7,000 votes for Prosser.

With 100% of precincts reporting, Kloppenburg had a 204-vote advantage over Prosser Wednesday.  Of course, this is an election featuring a Republican candidate, so vote counts tend to become adjusted to favor the GOP plutocrat toady-du-jour.  This time, instead of tossing votes out as they did in 2000, they tossed votes in. Thus, by Thursday, with, apparently, 110% of precincts reporting, David Prosser was awarded an additional 7,000 votes.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court battle is critical, as Republican Governor Scott Walker's union-busting and state asset giveaway sprees are likely all headed to the state high court for adjudication. With Prosser in residence, Walker is assured a 4-3 majority of right-wing toadies.

Brookfield, Wisconsin, in a heavily conservative neck of the woods, declared on April 6 that, enjoying the second highest voter turnout since 2001, they'd delivered 10,859 votes to Prosser. Kloppenburg got 3,456 votes. Then, when Kloppenburg became the unofficial election winner by 204 votes, Republican party hack and Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus played GOP Santa by finding enough additional votes in Brookfield to offer Prosser a 7,000 vote edge. According to Nickolaus' office, 14,000 additional votes had been found, with Prosser getting 11,008 votes and Kloppenburg getting 3,426. 

What is unclear is what happened to the original 10,859 Prosser and 3,456 Kloppenburg votes. Nickolaus didn't immediately explain whether the new 11,008 and 3,426 were being added to the 10,859 and 3,456, or if they were replacing the 10,859 and 3,456. If they were being added to the old total, it is unclear how 28,749 (10,859+ 3,456+11,008+3,426) people voted in the town that has a total population of 39,607. Perhaps there are no children in Brookfield.

Nickolaus is a Republican party donor. The GOP gets a lot of mileage out of loyal GOP election officials named Kathy.  It was Secretary of State Katherine Harris in Florida who managed to toss out thousands of Al Gore votes to hand the election to George W. Bush in 2000. Now, a different GOP Kathy has tossed in votes to give the local Republican toady a leg up.

Nickolaus gave a lengthy explanation about how the county's vote tally had been taken off the state network and put on a separate computer in her office, then experienced some problems with copying and saving files. There may have been some dogs and missing homework involved as well.

One would think that with all those Diebold machines laying around, the Republicans could have found a more elegant way to cheat and steal elections by now. Their arrogance has grown so overwhelming that they no longer even try to dress up their prevarications. Republican County Executive Dan Vrakas said, "...the most important thing is that every vote was counted."  Actually, for Republicans, the most important thing was that every vote was counted twice.

Unless they mean the original 10,859 votes for Prosser and 3,456 votes for Kloppenburg somehow hadn't been sent in to be added to the state totals, and somehow later morphed into 11,008 and 3,426. The Wisconsin Secretary of State hasn't published election results, and there are no city-by-city tallies available. Waukesha County is only offering a lump total for the county as a whole. Officials are no doubt meeting to get their stories straight. If the original 10,859 and 3,456 had been counted toward the original state total, then replacing those numbers with 11,008 and 3,426 would only give Prosser an additional 179 votes, not enough to overcome Kloppenburg's 204-vote advantage. Nickolaus might be in for a severe scourging by her party overseers. Only both counts added together would give Prosser the 7,000 vote advantage. 28,749 votes in a town of 39,607.

But if the dog Nickolaus had entrusted to take the votes to Madison ate the original tallies...
Well, well, Republicans would say, let's not quibble about how many votes Prosser won by. Pick any number you like, and we'll show you where they came from. The important thing is protecting our sacred electoral process by getting rid of ACORN and not to letting horrible people of color vote. Surely, particulars aren't important so long as the Republican wins.

This is why Republicans can plan to plunder the Social Security trust funds, give the money to their Wall Street cronies, and leave you penniless in retirement. This is why Republicans can scheme to dismantle Medicare, give all the money to their insurance company cronies, and leave you with a worthless handful of thirty percent off coupons good toward the purchase of exorbitantly expensive private insurance plans. This is why Republicans can undo banking, financial and environmental regulations and give their plutocrat cronies unfettered reign to pillage and pollute. They have their masters' corporate media cheerleaders cheering them on, and are no election backlashes to fear.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Beltway Budget Noh Play Screeches Toward Inevitable Conclusion

Gather 'round kiddies, and Wonkronk will tell you how that traditional Japanese Noh play being performed right here in our nation's Capitol is turning out. Called The Budget, it features all the classic elements of Noh theater. The show is interminably long, excruciatingly tedious, highly stylized, and features jerky posturing and screeching dialogue. It is all very symbolic, rigorously regimented, and completely, reassuringly predictable. Oh yes, and everyone wears masks.

In our Noh Play, President Barack Obama, the Republican-led House and Democrat-led Senate clashed over the Budget. Actually, they clashed over half a budget, as this was the 2011 Budget, and the fiscal year is already half over. And being a highly stylized, very symbolic, rigorously regimented, and completely, reassuringly predictable Noh play, it all turned out exactly as Wonkronk explained it would in the original Noh Play From the Beltway post from February 19.

Because that's the best thing about the Noh play. It's always the same, even when it's completely different. It must be the zen thing.

The Republicans demanded that $61 billion be slashed from vital public services while coddling the richest, most powerful evil Lords of the Earth. Obama and the Democrats said they would never, ever stand for such a horrible affront against the sacred cranes of Fuji, and would only slash $33 billion from vital public services while coddling the richest, most powerful evil Lords of the Earth. Tea Party Republicans were incensed. Unless the Democrats did what the Republicans wanted, they would strangle the celestial Continuing Resolution and shut down the federal government. Annoying Japanese stringed instruments screeched and scratched for weeks.

Three times they went to the mountain, and three times they all agreed to do nothing.

Now everyone has agreed to slash $38.5 billion from vital public services while coddling the richest, most powerful evil Lords on Earth. The Tea Party didn't get the billions and billions in cuts they wanted, and the Democrats lost far more billions and billion in cuts than they wanted, so the miserable outcome was hailed as a victory for bipartisan cooperation. And, because it's a Noh play, and no one ever imagined putting revenue on the table, the budget shortfalls everyone shrieked and screamed about never got addressed. Instead, because of the billions and billions of dollars in cuts to vital public services, countless millions of Americans, especially the poorest, most elderly and infirm among them, were simply ruthlessly body-slammed repeatedly onto a forest of razor-sharp samurai swords.

There were details to hash out, which might run on for another week. Or two. It is, after all, a Noh play. And the most zen thing about the Noh play is that the whole time you thought you were the audience, you were actually the miserable dead samurai ghost character.

But, most importantly, the richest most powerful evil Lords on Earth were pleased.

Japanese Noh theater comes from the 14th century. As in any horrible medieval fiefdom, there's always another Noh play right around the corner. The Washington Beltway is no exception, for the 2012 Budget Noh play has already begun.

So, the annoying Japanese stringed instruments will screech and scratch once again, and all the players will don their masks and get on with their jerky, stylized posturing. Whatever happens in the next Budget Noh play, the outcome will be the same.

The richest, most powerful evil Lords of the Earth will get everything they want, and you, the miserable ghost, will be ruthlessly body-slammed repeatedly onto a forest of razor-sharp samurai swords.

Except this time, you won't have Social Security or Medicare.