Jeffrey Sachs: ‘The People’s Budget’

Jeffrey Sachs has posted an excellent piece on The Huffington Post regarding the only sane budget proposal floating around Washington D.C.

HuffingtonPost.com:

Just when it seemed that all of Washington had lost its values and its connection with the American people, a bolt of hope has arrived. It is the People’s Budget put forward by the co-chairs of the 80-member Congressional Progressive Caucus. Their plan is humane, responsible, and most of all sensible, reflecting the true values of the American people and the real needs of the floundering economy. Unlike Paul Ryan’s almost absurdly vicious attack on the poor and working class, the People’s Budget would close the deficit by raising taxes on the rich, taming health care costs (including a public option), and ending the military spending on wars and wasteful weapons systems.

The fact is that the People’s Budget is the public’s position. That’s why it is truly a centrist initiative, at the broad center of the U.S. political spectrum. Ryan reflects the wishes of the rich and the far right. Obama’s position reflects the muddle of a White House that wavers between its true values and the demands of the wealthy campaign contributors and lobbyists that Obama courts for his re-election. Many Democrats in Congress have also gone along with the falsehood that deficit cutting means slashing spending on the poor and on civilian discretionary programs, rather than raising taxes on the rich, cutting military spending, and taking on the over-priced private health insurance industry. Only the People’s Budget speaks to the broad needs and values of the American people.

Gutting America

Now that the budget cuts have been released for public viewing I am reminded that we have a Democratic president who enjoys passing Republican policies.

This budget as it stands now is the gutting of America and the road to ruin. Slashing every domestic program in sight and leaving the wasteful military spending alone is the sort of move I would expect from a Republican, but if this is indeed the budget Obama supports then it amounts to yet another huge failure of this president to stand up for progressive values.

Gutting $415 million from state and local law enforcement, $438 from energy efficiency and renewable energy, $786 million from FEMA first responder grants, $1,045 million from HIV AIDS, viral hepatitis, STD and TB prevention — all of these proposed cuts represent a desire to see Americans suffer and to see this country fail as a competitive nation.

Combining these facts with the $5 billion increase in military spending illustrates to me that the whole of Washington DC is hell-bent on turning America into a war state with permanent rampant poverty. I expect such destructive and illogical policies from Republicans, they maintain the role of the uninformed saber rattlers, but to see such a ruinous and hideous budget plan being endorsed by Democrats is disgusting.

It’s obvious to me, as things stand now, that Obama along with the Democratic Party have thrown the middle class and the American worker under the bus. All the while holding up the bloodthirsty military industrial complex and the heartless desires of corporate America as paramount.

It is nothing short of a lie that the nation is “broke” and if either party was serious about trimming waste without gutting vital social services the first on the chopping block would be the Pentagon budget.

What this country has is a tax revenue problem. As any conservative will tell you GE paid nothing in taxes last year. That is only the tip of the iceberg, but a good place to start. Closing all the corporate tax loopholes combined with raising income taxes on the wealthiest Americans would free more than enough tax revenue to manage the debt while at the same time avoid gutting important government services in the process.

The failure of American Democracy is perfectly represented by the non-choice of Democrats who cave on if not directly promoting anti-American policies and Republicans who pander to racists if not openly endorse fascist laws. The choice between moderate conservatives calling themselves Democrats and extremist conservatives calling themselves Republicans is no choice at all.

Government Shutdown Narrowly Averted

(Monsivais/AP)

Just before the midnight deadline Congress has passed a temporary budget deal that will prevent the furlough of thousands of workers and ensure that U.S. combat troops do not go unpaid. Reportedly this budget contains $39 billion in cuts and the numerous policy riders proposed by Republicans (regarding Planned Parenthood and EPA funding along with taking school lunches away from kids) have been removed.

I place the majority of the blame for the possible shutdown on the shoulders of House Speaker John Boehner. His inability to control his caucus led to these abortion and environment policy riders to be attached to a budget bill in the first place, which in turn created the deadlock. (You can find a comprehensive list of all the policy riders here.) To have presented such a poison pill laden budget to the Senate represented a huge lack of leadership from Boehner, and put this matter of a government shutdown on the political map as a reality instead of a mere talking point for conservative broadcasters.

Make no mistake, the GOP/Tea Party almost just furloughed thousands of Americans and put a question mark above combat troop pay all in the name of federal funding for abortion which is already covered by the Hyde Amendment and the unconstitutional attempt to strip previously passed legislation regarding not only the EPA but also the Consumer Protections Bureau, Medicare and legislation dating as far back as FDR’s school lunch program.

Senate Reconciliation Now!

The Republican obstructionism on the health care reform agenda is not “principled objections” as Senate minority leader Eric Cantor suggests. It is non-principled, pure nihilistic policy of poisoning the well and deception on behalf of conservatives.

The liberal majority that elected Democrats to office in 2008 has spoken.

The Public Option must survive in a final health care bill, and the process of reconciliation between House and Senate bills is the only avenue by which Democratic representatives can claim to have made any “meaningful reform” come reelection time.

Make it clear that this will not go away, and we the liberal progressives will not be silent.

This push did not come from the White House, or the Progressive Caucus, or from the desk of Sen. Harry Reid. This push for a strong public option through reconciliation came from the people who understand that health care is a moral issue, not merely a budgetary issue.

Both President Obama and Senator Reid remain open to the pursuit of Senate reconciliation, but I believe it important to state that this in itself is the “failure to sell health care reform to the American people” I spoke of before.

Instead, we will have to make perfectly clear that the public option must go forward and does not continue to be the “public optional.”

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced on Friday afternoon that he would work with other Democrats and the White House to pass a public option through reconciliation if that’s the legislative path the party chooses.

The party has spoken. The ball is their court now in congress, but we must not allow this to fade into the night.

Just as Paul Krugman recently closed an op-ed with, “Health Care Reform Now!” I would say the as he except in different words given the changing of the situation but holding the same meaning:

Senate Reconciliation Now!

Texas Joins In On The Science-Denial Trend

The state of Texas has jumped on the science-denial bandwagon currently gripping the right-wing. Texas has challenged the EPA findings that greenhouse gas emissions are classified as “dangerous,” claiming that the findings are based on flawed science. This is of course a false and absurd claim coming from the leading greenhouse gas emitter of the U.S.

Al Armendariz, the EPA’s regional director over Texas, said the agency is confident the finding will withstand any legal action. He also said the move isn’t surprising considering Texas’ pattern of opposition to the EPA.

“Texas, which contributes up to 35 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by industrial sources in the United States, should be leading the way in this effort,” he said. “Instead, Texas officials are attempting to slow progress with unnecessary litigation.”

EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said it’s the first legal challenge by a state, though industry groups have also challenged it.

Texas says the EPA’s research should be discounted because it was conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007 for its work on climate change but has since been embarrassed by errors and irregularities in its reports.

(Nobody ever successfully connected the so-called “Climategate” hacking incident, which I assume are the “errors & irregularities” mentioned, and the matter of the Greenhouse Gas Effect or the Climate Science findings as a whole in any way except political partisans with obvious Big Energy funding and absolutely no facts to back up the case they make.)

The guys and gals of The Great State of Denial, good ol’ Texas, seem to hold different standards of The Scientific Method and Comparative Analysis. Maybe those words are just too big for Texas.

I see this as just a symptom of a much larger problem breeding under the surface: the praise of ignorance over knowledge; the willful destruction of critical thinking.

The “debate” over climate change can be settled in moments by the most simple process of comparing the credibility of the sources and the amount of raw data on both ends. There is not a debate going on in the scientific community, there is a consensus with a few skeptic holdouts that have almost all published debunked papers at some point or another, but within the political community and the business community they would like very much for this issue to be up for debate. But it’s not, an overwhelming body of evidence exists in favor of Climate Science and skeptics fail to bring any new data (“Climategate” was the biggest joke on conservatives and their complete inability to rationally review data ever) so it’s simply “denial” and nothing more from these Big Money influenced talking heads. The Deniers and the Consensus; Texas just put itself on the side of the Deniers.

What lies under the surface here is the desire to squelch all rational discussion and replace it with bumper-sticker sound bytes. If anyone dares speak out against these ridiculous claims circulating and tries to use facts instead of rhetoric, then you can bet they will start up the personal attacks and just making even more broad claims about more unproven garbage. If you are even perceived as “smart” then you must be a “elitist liberal” who will only “lie to confuse you.” They are teaching people to hate intelligence and love stupidity in the once great state of Texas, all in the name of keeping their rich friends happy and scoring cheap political points while they are at it too.

Justice for ACORN

I do ever so love being vindicated!

What most call “the Acorn scandal” is the “O’Keefe Smear Crusade” to me. This whole so-called “scandal” was all the brain-child of one sick and very likely racist individual.
To his discredit President Obama signed into law the bill that temporarily defunded ACORN.
I have remained steadfast in my stance against this propaganda promoted by the right-wing, and heavily by the far right-winger Glenn Beck.
I’ll admit it takes a few brain cells and a willingness to do more than just sound-byte a news story to understand exactly what James O’Keefe & Hannah Giles were doing in this “expose.”
But the bottom line here is that outright lies were told by O’Keefe on Sean Hannity’s show (named “Hannity” … vanity? No, Hannity) that the network refuses to clear up that directly address the credibility of all the accusations by these heartless propagandists.
Another day will decide if justice shall ever ring down on Fox News, but I wish to express that I didn’t point out some of the new revelations in a story I have taken up.
I smell justice and I like it because this age is lacking it a great many times over! Justice for ACORN means justice for America.
The removal of Senate funds based on nothing but a media-crusade was unconstitutional in nature, and I referred to it as a “war on the poor.”

Gershon ruled Congress withdrew all funding with the “absence of a trial”. She said the withdrawal would cause permanent harm to the organization. The Constitution requires “due process”, which is normally interpreted as the jurisdiction of the judicial branch, not Congress’s legislative branch.

These people still supporting this myth about ACORN truly believe that they can lie to the public and just cover it up with more lies. It is cases like these that draw the line between what is ideological differences and what is simply destructive, mindless, bigotry.
Let us not forget as well that this decision emboldens my argument that the popular figures on right-wing are standing against the very Constitution they claim to love as they fabricate reality and refuse to practice journalistic ethics.

U.S. History in the Making (Health Care)

(Big3News)

My political predictions have once again proven true.

I predicted at the onset of the national and Congressional debate over health care coverage in the US that we would see a bill pass both House and Senate but that it would a “watered-down” bill that addressed preexisting conditions and state-to-state plan probability more than it addressed the larger problem of controlling costs.

This Senate bill hardly resembles what I would call “sweeping reform.”

In the course of the debate over the past few months I was in the “incrementalism-reform camp” that was frustrating my fellow Democrats advocating for single-payer, but in the end this bill will fall into indeed too small a step. I was only saying along with others that we have studied government and nothing this big is done all at once. However, like I have heard many say, I would have liked to get a lot more out this process.

The last time I spoke of this I was urging Harry Reid for “reconciliation” in the Senate; without the civics lesson needed here it is quicker to say that once the public option was removed from the table, the process of reconciliation was removed as well.

To encapsulate what is going on this country: we are a constipated nation when it comes to social programs.

There is the very real ideological constipation against positive social reforms dating back to the days of FDR and further still. Then there is the constipation specific to this issue of the monopolistic health insurance companies spreading public disinformation like the stuff is on sale. This, and other factors like Sara “Death Panels” Palin and Glenn “Fearmonger-in-Chief” Beck, make this one of the most hostile environments one could possibly hope to create against pro-reform activities.

The entire experience feels like we pro-reformists have fallen flat on our face and bloodied our nose, which would be correct. But I remind everyone sharing with me in this feeling that we did just run head-first into a brick wall of highly funded anti-reformism.

We have made history in the US Congress in that we have finally cracked the brick wall against fixing a system that every informed person agrees desperately needs reform. To shatter this brick wall is a much larger task and the true importance of these recent national debates over health care coverage has been the value of flushing the wolves out into the open more than it was about the larger picture.

Urban Institute Overviews The Public Option

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post has called this the “best overview of the public option” he has read so far, and I concur:

Getting to a Public Option that Contains Costs: Negotiations, Opt-Outs and Triggers

The debate over a public option has essentially become a debate over the size and role of government in the health care system. The central argument, as we see it, should be one of fiscal conservatism—that a public option should play a role in addressing the very serious problem of health care cost containment. The current debate between the left and the right on this issue is obscuring the fact that consolidation in both the insurance and provider markets is propelling a higher rate of growth in health care costs. The consolidation of power, particularly in provider markets, makes it extremely difficult for insurers to negotiate rates for their services and contributes to rapid growth in health care costs. A strong public option is one that ties provider rates in some way to Medicare rates (though set at likely higher levels), and that is open to any individual or firm regardless of firm size. It would thus provide countervailing power to providers and help control cost growth.

We argue that a strong version is necessary because there is little else in health reform that can be counted on to contribute significantly to cost containment in the short term. Capping tax-exempt employer contributions to health insurance has great support among many analysts (including us), but it faces considerable political opposition. Proposals such as comparative effectiveness research, new payment approaches, medical homes and accountable care organizations, all offer promise but could take years to provide savings. Thus, the use of a strong public option to reduce government subsidy costs and as a cost containment device should be an essential part of the health reform debate.

We recognize that there is opposition to a strong public option. Both the House and Senate proposals are considering relatively weak versions to make the public option more acceptable. Both proposals would have the public option negotiate rates with physicians and hospitals. We see two problems with this. One is that negotiating rates is not simple and it raises difficult implementation issues; for example, with whom would the government negotiate? Further, negotiations are most likely to be unsuccessful with providers who have substantial market power. Since this is at the heart of the cost problem, a strategy of negotiations seems unlikely to be effective, as has been affirmed by cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate has proposed a public option with an opt-out provision. This has the advantage of recognizing regional diversity in political philosophy by allowing states to pass legislation to keep it from being offered in their states. A disadvantage of this proposal is that it would exclude many who would potentially benefit from a public option. The states likely to opt out are likely to be those with high shares of low-income people and many uninsured.

The other alternative is to establish a strong public option but not implement it unless a triggering event occurred. The goal would be to allow the private insurance system to prove that it can control costs with a new set of insurance rules and state exchanges. The triggering events could be the level of premiums exceeding a certain percentage of family incomes or the growth in health care spending exceeding certain benchmarks. Since the public option would only be triggered because of excessive costs, however measured, we assume that a relatively strong version of a public option would come into play.

We recognize that taking a strong public option off the table may be necessary to enact reform legislation. But this will mean, at a minimum, higher government subsidy costs by not permitting a payer with substantial market power to bring cost containment pressure on the system. The outcome is likely to be that costs will continue to spiral upward. In effect, the nation would be relying on the range of promising pilot approaches to cost containment that would take some time to be successful. If they are not, we may be left with increasingly regulatory approaches, such as rate setting or utilization controls that apply to all payers. This would mean much more government involvement than giving people a choice of a low-cost public option that would be required to compete with private insurers.

(Read entire paper in PDF)

Ayn Rand is Running the TEA Party

(Boston Globe)

Coldhearted novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand is Running the both the TEA Party and the GOP, her self-serving ideology the real backdrop of the modern political right-wing.

Alan Greenspan was one of many Randites who have come to see the failing in their former logic.

Greenspan, to his credit, came forward in the height of the global economic meltdown to speak out against the exact same kind of “free-capitalistic” business practices that caused the crash. He clearly stated that he found: “[a] flaw in the model that I perceived as the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.

Conservatives and libertarians greatly ignored and widely dismissed Greenspan and his unsubtle rejection of these “Ayn Rand Economics” or “Free-Market Capitalism” styled politics that he had once been a strong advocate of. I contend that these people do not care to explore flaws in their ideological stances and instead (in greater and greater numbers it seems) only seek to create an atmosphere of me-versus-you if any person is in anything but outright agreement if not an atmosphere of outright violence.

Dishonesty and willful ignorance dominates the TEA Party, right along with the radical GOP, leaving me to assume that no less than Ayn Rand coming from beyond the grave is the one is truly running the party.

(will re-post with full essay when finished transcribing)

Open Letter to Harry Reid (Public Option)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Firedoglake has a section entitled “FDL Action” in which I found an easy way to send Senator Harry Reid a little bit of my mind on the health care debate & the matter of the need for a government-run public option intact:

I doubt this message will reach you Senator Reid but it is important to impress that I support reconciliation not as a matter of due course but as pertaining to the current circumstances. The Republican filibuster must not be allowed to further mire the process and they surely intend to continue to pander to anti-government fears using misinformation tactics.

Reconciliation is needed, we cannot proceed without a public option.

Join in the cause to fight for reconciliation!

Also please join with me & Public Option Please (POP) in getting out the word that we need comprehensive health care reform in the U.S.

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reconciliation: a legislative process of the United States Senate intended to allow a contentious budget bill to be considered without being subject to filibuster.

filibuster: a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body whereby one attempts to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a proposal by extending a debate on that proposal.

Policies Over Personalities in Partisan Politics

 
 

al_gore
Image: SustainAbility.com

 

Al Gore –

“Republicans are the best sellers of the worst products.”

Gore is right about the Republicans, but moreover he made this simple point without the venom we so often see in political right-wing critiques.

Conservative-Republican policy is an awful product, not fit for public consumption.

But they understand how to hard-sell better than they understand how to make good solution-oriented policy and I have long since believed that most Liberal-Democrats have almost none of the much needed ability to sell effective solutions and positive social change in a cogent manner to the public at-large.

I would like to be very clear about this: I am not advocating that the left-wing simply mimic the right-wing. I am advocating shameless theft of their selling-tactics on a both political and news-media levels.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Negative political ads and partisan attacks are highly effective.

The key element being here is that any liberal or Democrat doing this must stick to the record and focus on the policies over the personalities. The use of public-misinformation should never be looked kindly upon but wherein the source of your reasoning and the portion that is purely opinion being clearly declared as such there is plenty of room.

Rep. Alan Grayson has provided exactly the kind of example this argument requires.

He confined himself to the policy issue at hand and presented his evidence for believing this.

Make no mistake, I am advocating for partisanship.

But if there is such a beast as “ethical partisanship” then this is what I would promote. Full-disclosure partisanship. (What makes you believe that, where did you hear / see this happening?)

Focus on the facts with the Neoconservative-Tea-Baggers. Focus on the facts with the Pro-Cheney Corporatists. Focus on the facts with the Fox News Loyalists.

To some degree there are elements of labeling that cannot be avoided in politics; the wagging of fingers a near must in some cases and nothing less than shameful to stand silent amidst bigoted sentiments toward minorities or faiths disguised as political commentary. It is possible, however, to attempt to stick to the point in the process rather than degenerating into vileness. Which is a far cry from the totalitarian-ideology of the neoconservatives.

We should all strive to make ourselves and our opinions known, but strive to keep our criticisms based on policy and provable facts as opposed to personalities and wild theories.

Alan Grayson is my Hero


What we hear today in terms of conservative rhetoric is almost entirely defining the opposition in a extremely slanted and most frequently completely untrue fashion.
The claims of “Marxist leanings” and “communist affinity” and “non-nationalized citizen” and “secret Muslim” and “infanticidist” all originate solely in the minds of those who seek only to destroy and demean him not just as a politician but as a man. Some of these media jackals care nothing for liberty, and care only to tear a man down with lies to enhance their own career.
It is people like Tom Price who have to apologize to the dead. People like that who have to beg for forgiveness of the families who lost loved ones, all because Price had to let his friends make more money at the cost of people’s lives.