In the Belly of the Beast: 4/15/11: What if Your President’s Just Not That Into You?


The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Friday, Day 139

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”


The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Friday, Day 139

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell


BREAKING: House Republicans overwhelmingly vote to phase out Medicare

Yikes. They’re going for it. Think Progress:

When President Obama proposed ensuring affordable health care to all Americans, Congress spent a year hashing out how best to achieve this goal. Yet when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) decided that he wanted to phase out Medicare, the GOP-controlled House took only two weeks to debate and pass this radical proposal. This afternoon, House Republicans overwhelming endorsed his plan to eliminate Medicare, slash education, and jack up the middle class’ taxes. 235 Republicans supported the Medicare elimination bill, with just 4 GOPers casting a vote to leave Medicare unmolested[.]

The centerpiece of the House Republicans’ plan is a proposal that repeals traditional Medicare and replaces it with a health insurance voucher that loses its value over time. Because the value of the Republicans’ privatized Medicare replacement does not keep up with the cost of health care, their plan will gradually eliminate Medicare because its increasingly worthless vouchers will eventually only cover a very tiny fraction of the cost of a health insurance plan.

On the roll call vote, all Democrats voted No, and all Republicans except Jones, McKinley, Ron Paul, and Rehberg voted Yes.

Think Progress helpfully reminds us of Paul Ryan’s hidden tax cut. The Center for American Progress has a nice summary:

Rep. Ryan’s budget simply doesn’t describe exactly how his tax plan would work, instead resorting to broad bullet points that conveniently skip over important details. Nonetheless, the broad outlines of his tax plan are to:

  • Maintain the Bush-era tax cuts beyond their expiration in 2012 and cut the top individual tax rate down to 25 percent from 35 percent
  • Consolidate the current six tax brackets into some, unspecified, fewer number of brackets
  • Keep overall tax revenue levels the same
  • Pay for the enormous tax cut for the top by eliminating or curtailing some, unspecified, tax expenditures

No shared sacrifice for you, Middle Class America; unless, of course, we can convince you this is it.

Krugman calls Paul Ryan’s budget proposal “a sick joke”, criticizes Ryan’s “hissy fit” following Obama’s speech

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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Paul Krugman:

Then people who actually understand budget numbers went to work, and it became clear that the proposal wasn’t serious at all. In fact, it was a sick joke. The only real things in it were savage cuts in aid to the needy and the uninsured, huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and Medicare privatization. All the alleged cost savings were pure fantasy.

On Wednesday, as I said, the president called Mr. Ryan’s bluff: after offering a spirited (and reassuring) defense of social insurance, he declared, “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.” Actually, the Ryan plan calls for $2.9 trillion in tax cuts, but who’s counting?

And the hissy fit — I mean, criticism — the Obama plan provoked from Mr. Ryan was deeply revealing, as the man who proposes using budget deficits as an excuse to cut taxes on the rich accused the president of being “partisan.” Mr. Ryan also accused the president of being “dramatically inaccurate” — this from someone whose plan included a $200 billion error in its calculation of interest costs and appears to have made an even bigger error on Medicaid costs. He didn’t say what the inaccuracies were.

Does anyone have more info on what calculations Ryan got wrong?

An analysis of Obama vs. Ryan on controlling health care costs

From Jonathan Cohn at TNR:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released his budget proposal and included within it radically conservative reforms of the nation’s major health care programs. Ryan would repeal altogether the coverage expansions of the health law. He also would increase the eligibility age for Medicare and then turn it into what most of us would call a “voucher scheme,” eliminating in 2022 the traditional government-run insurance plan for everybody who retires in that year and replacing it with a fixed financial subsidy that seniors can apply toward the cost of regulated private insurance policies. Last but not least, Ryan would transform Medicaid into a block grant. Instead of guaranteeing federal funds to cover everyone that becomes eligible for the program, Washington would simply give the states a pre-determined, lump sum of money — and let states figure out how best to use it.

On paper, the Ryan plan saves the government a lot of money, at least in the long run. But upon closer inspection, the savings turn out to be illusory, cruel or some combination of the two. In fact, far from proving the superiority of conservative health reforms, Ryan’s plan validates what his political adversaries have said all along. The Affordable Care Act represents a serious and realistic approach to controlling the cost of medicine — one that would be even more serious and realistic if the long-term budget changes President Barack Obama just recommended become law.

In short, the Republican vision for health care reform, as expressed by Ryan, is to limit federal spending on medical care, at levels far below what we spend today, and then let individuals make the best of the situation. By contrast, the health law calls for more gradual, more shared sacrifice by everybody involved with health care — with a focus on promoting efficiency so that lower spending needn’t result in lesser care. That’s not only a more realistic approach to controlling costs. It’s also a more humane one.

Teabagger Rep. Allen West: GOP leaders need “a come-to-Jesus with themselves”

It’s barely been four months since the GOP took over the House — and there’s already intra-party trouble brewing. This could be fun to watch.

Yesterday, the budget vote passed because of Democratic votes. John Boehner won’t always have the Dems. to carry him over the finish line. The GOP caucus is getting cranky:

Fifty-nine Republicans — nearly a quarter of the new majority — rejected the measure personally negotiated by Mr. Boehner and endorsed by his top lieutenants, Representatives Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy of California, the party whip. Another lawmaker said he would have opposed the measure but missed the vote.

The outcome amounted to a warning shot to the leadership from its right flank that conservatives are serious when they say they will not support measures that do not meet their fiscal ideals, a position that is not going to make Mr. Boehner’s life any easier as he heads into new showdowns over raising the federal debt limit and deficit reduction. It could also have long-term implications for the speaker politically if he continues to face such internal division.

“I think my leadership needs to probably sit down and have a come-to-Jesus with themselves,” said Representative Allen B. West, a freshman Republican from Florida who derided the budget cuts as a “raindrop in an ocean.”

I’m not one to quote Jesus too often. But, seems to me the entire GOP caucus, many of whom align themselves with right-wing religious extremists, should just heed the actual words of Jesus: “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

Just saying.

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

First Amendment stops at the TSA line

Unless you want to be searched by the TSA gropers, keep you mouth shut. This is downright pathetic. What’s worse is that too many in Washington find this acceptable behavior by the TSA. (And of course, any privatized rent-a-cop solution will be the same since they use the same model as the TSA.) It may not be right to be nasty with TSA employees who are not nasty but to pursue anyone who speaks out against this ridiculous breach of privacy is outrageous. What rights will the defenders of freedom in Congress and the White House strip away next?

Someone or some organization is arrogant here and it’s not necessarily air travelers. CNN:

Arrogant complaining about airport security is one indicator Transportation Security Administration officers consider when looking for possible criminals and terrorists, CNN has learned exclusively. And, when combined with other behavioral indicators, it could result in a traveler facing additional scrutiny.

CNN has obtained a list of roughly 70 “behavioral indicators” that TSA behavior detection officers use to identify potentially “high risk” passengers at the nation’s airports.

Many of the indicators, as characterized in open government reports, are behaviors and appearances that may be indicative of stress, fear or deception. None of them, as the TSA has long said, refer to or suggest race, religion or ethnicity.


A Tax Day Special—The U.S. is a low-tax country

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a few charts to comfort you on Tax Day. More like this here (h/t Paul Krugman):

There are ten of these in this great post, and every one is a gem. Do click through.

Something to think about when the supermarket-tabloid myths get told near you.

Offshore Banking and Tax Havens Have Become Heart of Global Economy

Treasure-islandAs millions of Americans prepare to file their income taxes ahead of Monday’s deadline, we look at how corporations and the wealthy use offshore banks and tax havens to avoid paying taxes and other governmental regulations. “Tax havens have grown so fast in the era of globalization since the 1970s that they have become at the heart of the global economy and are absolutely huge,” says our guest, British journalist Nicholas Shaxson. “Anywhere between $10 trillion and $20 trillion are sitting offshore. Half the world trade is processed in one way or another through tax havens.” Shaxson is the author of the new book, “Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens.”


04/15/11, 9:58am
N. America
Bill McKibben

Bill McKibbenShare this

Tomorrow in Washington, at the sprawling and wonderful Power Shift, a few of us are on a panel titled “What If Your President’s Just Not That Into You?” Funny title, serious question.

The first thing: those of us in the environmental movement aren’t high school sophomores feeling jilted by their first crush. Most of us liked Obama a lot: I was among the first green leaders to join up on ‘Environmentalists for Obama,’ back when he seemed a longshot. It wasn’t because I thought he would solve every problem; it’s because I thought he’d make climate change one of the top two priorities of his presidency. And he thought so too: on the day in June of 2008 when he finally clinched the nomination he said that people would someday look back and say “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

And it’s not that we don’t appreciate what he has done. He’s been far better than George Bush (even if that is a little like saying ‘I drink more beer than my ten-year-old niece.”) We have higher gas mileage standards; the stimulus package funded plenty of green projects; at least some of the most egregious mountaintop removal mining practices are being regulated. All good.

But when the political going got a little tough, Obama didn’t. By all accounts he watched from the sidelines as the cap-and-trade law went down to defeat last summer. He famously allowed vast new leases for offshore oil drilling weeks before the BP explosion. In the last couple of weeks, the administration has ably defended the Clean Air Act against ham-handed Congressional assault. But they’ve also done two things really beyond the pale:

  • Opened 750 million tons of coal beneath federal land in Wyoming to mining. It makes one wonder if the president has really understood his climate science briefings: any hope of warding off global warming depends on keeping that carbon in the ground. Had this happened under Bush, it would have caused real outrage–when burned, that coal will give off as much co2 as opening 300 new coal-fired power plants and running them for a year.
  • Walked away from the global climate talks. His chief negotiator, Todd Stern, gave a little-noticed interview to Bloomberg News earlier this month. He said a global climate pact was “not doable” and “unworkable.” He added that “legally binding international obligations to cut emissions are not necessary,” because individual nations could make their own pledges. This was pretty much the Bush administration formula, and it is amazing to hear it coming from Obama’s officials. If they stick to it (and other countries follow their lead), there is no hope of dealing with global warming in time; it really will be the death knell of effective action.

And it underscores the reason that many of us are left wondering how to deal with the president. Climate change, above all issues, requires a transformative and not an incremental vision. We have fundamental change to make, and a very short window to make it in–Obama’s typical (and often quite savvy) little-bit-at-a-time approach doesn’t square with the physics and chemistry that govern this debate.

It’s that physics and chemistry that really trouble me. I understand political reality, and I’m glad I don’t have Obama’s job; it’s tough. But I know that reality reality trumps political reality–I know that unless he shows some powerful leadership soon we’re going to lose this fight. At which point the question of who’s president will be less important.

As Congress Slashes EPA, Climate Funding, Author Mark Hertsgaard on “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth”

HotThe budget deal approved by Congress cuts $1.6 billion from the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—a 16 percent decrease; reduces funding for a planned climate desk within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and eliminates the position of assistant to the president for energy and climate change. Ever since taking control of the House, Republican lawmakers have taken a number of steps to curtail the Obama administration’s efforts to deal with climate change. We speak with investigative reporter Mark Hertsgaard, author of the new book, “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.”


Anti-nuclear protests in Tokyo —and around the planet

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

More than a hundred protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on April 15, with banners reading “No Nukes” and “Nuclear Kills All Life.” Demonstrators demanded a halt to Japan’s nuclear development plans, as well as protesting the compensation package announced by TEPCO to those affected by the Fukushima disaster—$12,000 to families of two or more members and $9,000 for people living alone. (NTD TV, April 15) The protest came as the government admitted the area around Fukushima could be uninhabitable for nearly a generation. Kenichi Matsumoto, an aide to Prim Minister Naoto Kan, said (in a classically Orwellian construction) that the contamination will “momentarily” bar the area’s human habitability for between “10 and 20 years.” (AGI, April 13)

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