The Healthcare Industry Sounds The Retreat On The Senate Bill And Takes A Stand

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Normally, Republican politics and business walk in lock step. Linked like DNA sequences, the financial codes of contributions to campaigns and the codes . . . → Read More: The Healthcare Industry Sounds The Retreat On The Senate Bill And Takes A Stand

The GOP Strategy from Day One

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DDOn day one, the new GOP-led Congress has inserted a House rule making a technical change in the way funds for Social Security disability are allocated. On day one, in its first act, before any legislation is introduced, in the very procedures of its operation, the GOP House has set dead aim, targeted, and is going after the nation’s cripples. I use the word “cripple” to reflect the GOP pejorative world view—their insensitivity and demeaning, brutish, lowered standard of human virtues and afflictions, their harsh, punitive, belittling, angry, mocking, power-mad oppression of the weak.

So on day one, the nation’s 8,956,000 disabled, along with 1,825,000 children of the disabled, will find their benefits at peril. What the new rule does is separate Social Security as retirement income from its function as disability income. The rule no longer permits the reallocation of monies from one fund to the other without Congressional approval. Right now, the disability trust fund is underfunded. It is at risk of expiring within the next year. The GOP rule blocked its automatic save; the retirement trust funds can keep both programs solvent, with no changes, until 2033.

So we see the unveiling of the GOP strategy: create and advance crises by using Congressional authority to squeeze and micro-manage safety net program funds. Use the same authority to eliminate regulations that control the greed of big business and the rich. Finally, expose the country to the pillage and theft of resources and end broad family prosperity by creating a government that both gives away and takes away benefits that increase growth, income, freedom, security and opportunity for individuals.

Reporter Michael Hiltzik writes in the Los Angeles Times about the social security rule change:

The rule change reflects the burgeoning demonization of disability recipients, a trend we’ve reported on in the past. it’s been fomented by conservative Republicans and abetted by sloppy reporting by institutions such as NPR and 60 Minutes.

Disability recipients are easily caricatured as malingering layabouts by politicians, academics and journalists too lazy to do their homework. They’ll say disability benefits are easy to obtain, so lavish they discourage work, and convenient substitutes for welfare payments. None of that is true.

Hiltzik’s article explains who receives benefits and how they qualify, dissembling the characteristic stereotypes the GOP desperately seeks to protect as it pretends to defend the retirement benefit.


On the other side of the Capitol, in the Senate chamber, on day one Republicans introduced a bill to change the definition of “full-time worker” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, widely known as Obamacare) from 35 hours to 40 hours a week. The bill quickly received loud criticism from arch-conservative pundits, including Bill Kristof. But the 40-hour redefinition will make it easier for businesses to exempt their employee’s from coverage without lowering productivity—by cutting just one hour a week from their labor schedule! This technical workaround is an example of the kind that will become common in the 114th Congress over the next two years. Continue reading The GOP Strategy from Day One

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Obama's Political Second Line

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DD0 – 2!

Boehner lost the fight, as I predicted in my last article! Barack Obama kept alive the string that began with Boehner’s loss to Oklahoma Representative J.C Watts (R) for Chair of the House Republican Conference in 2001; that began Boehner’s string of losing fights of personal importance (important because Boehner makes them personal) to astute African-American politicians who take advantage of Boehner’s weaknesses and overreach.

Okay, the string is a twist: Boehner lost because his position was untenable. But the coincidence is history and makes good myth.

And from the mythical traditions of how the dead are buried, Obama has introduced something new to American politics: the political second line. It defines the way politics moves forward after a tough fight, when grief and anger are heavy in the air, and fury burns in the hearts of those vanquished, as, their ideals trounced, they walk past inanimate spirits of dead goals lying in the political infirmary of conference rooms.

BigChiefIn the recent battle of the bulge over the budget and debt ceiling, we knew the Republican defeat was nigh and the plug was pulled on its life support when the Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC sent a widely publicized letter to the each member of the US Senate. The letter accused Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, of lying, as the Koch organization categorically denied any effort in funding or directing Congressional Republicans to shut down government and default on debt to force an Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) repeal or rollback.

“Non mas,” the Koch letter says. It attempts to portray Koch as the aggrieved victim, demanding that Senator Reid and other politicians stop misrepresenting and distorting his positions. Indicted by its arrogance and its in-evidence presumption of power, the letter makes its own ellipsis of the source and blunt force of Harry Reid’s argument; it completely ignores the legitimacy and weight of Reid’s source.

The New York Times published a series of master articles and commentaries in the middle of the debate, documenting and citing the numbers of millions of dollars the Koch organization spent and passed through its several front organizations to other groups to fund campaigns in the media and live events opposing the ACA. That documentation—including ads on YouTube—the Senate is told, in an oblique reference, is “erroneous.”

Here’s some what the Times has to say. In its editorial blog, Taking Note, on July 9, David Firestone wrote:

The advocacy group backed by the Kochs, Americans for Prosperity, is spending more than $1 million on an advertising Taking Note to (yet again) discredit President Obama’s health care reform law. It’s already been in effect for three years, but they want to soften it up just as its most important changes (mostly, the insurance mandate) begin to go into effect on Oct. 1.

The Kochs and their Republican allies continue to take advantage of the law’s complexity and public ignorance to spread the worst kind of misinformation, hoping once again to create chaotic town halls and anti-government protests once the mandate goes into effect.

Then on October 6, the Times printed:

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.

The groups have also sought to pressure vulnerable Republican members of Congress with scorecards keeping track of their health care votes; have burned faux “Obamacare cards” on college campuses; and have distributed scripts for phone calls to Congressional offices, sample letters to editors and Twitter and Facebook offerings for followers to present as their own.

All of this was “misrepresented,” in the words of the Koch organization.

But it led to Harry Reid making the unusual statement of calling out Koch by name in a Twitter post:

At the heart of any democratic action by government is a concept I introduced when exploring Edward Snowden’s actions a few weeks ago, a concept I called “permission.” An informal concept, it refers to the idea that every political act has around it a broad consensus about whether the act itself (not its outcome!) is right or wrong: permitted. It represents the politics of manners and determines our limits and edges.

In America, it reaches high, often violent extremes: secession, complete with declarations, votes, and an enduring war with sixteen times more dead that Vietnam; the burning of Pennsylvania Hall, Philadelphia, in May 1838, the week it opened as a public meeting space and forum dedicated to presenting views and speaking out for abolition and women’s rights. Lynching, whose historic victims exceed the numbers of Iraqi war dead and was endorsed by Southern governors and representatives; Midwestern sundown towns that required blacks to be be out of the town limits by dusk; sterilization of women without permission (North Carolina led the way); prohibitions against interracial and same-sex marriage.

Include an impeachment trial for the “high crime” of a President lying about oral sex in the Oval Office with an intern.

The current push for permission includes: the demand that former Vice President Dick Cheney be charged with war crimes (unlikely) and for individual charges against Wall Street executives and functionaries. (Also unlikely: because of the oversight/review/decision chain, institutional patterns protect individuals from being singled out; instead, the firm which acts in concert is charged as a whole with penalties and fines—including the $13 billion Goldman Sachs voluntarily agreed to this week! )

But back to the President’s point: the recent fight was not over a win or loss, or about policy, although Republicans tried to make it so: it was a fight over “what are the rules?” Continue reading Obama’s Political Second Line

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So, WHAT do Obamacare opponents want?

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I’ve been seeing a barrage of articles critical of the ACA today, and sensing blood in the water the teabagging sharks are out in full force today as well, posting their bile against the law all over Facebook and message boards everywhere. I also just saw a post on my FB feed from a talk radio host about how unions are even getting upset about the law. It seems as though the closer the law gets to full implementation, the more upset and unhinged people are getting over it. What upsets and aggravates me most about all of the kerfuffle is that:

A) Some people don’t want to give the law a chance and are being way too quick to label it a failure and push for repeal even though it hasn’t been fully implemented yet. Even some well-meaning people are getting worked up over some of the (potentially) negative things that *could* happen that they have heard from the media though it’s impossible to know for sure how things will realistically play out. Some Democrats like Senator Max Baucus (who largely helped craft the law) are not being very helpful by claiming that implementation is going to be a “trainwreck.” Yeah, thanks a lot, Max!

B) Some of the difficulties being experienced with implementation are undoubtedly caused by the resistance in right-wing states that have refused to take advantage of Medicaid expansion and have worked to undermine the law in other ways, not to mention that some corporations have made their own efforts (reducing hours, dropping health coverage) to help upset people and scapegoat the law. Continue reading So, WHAT Do Obamacare Opponents Want?

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