Tag Archives: Kathy Hochul

Democrats: Vote Teachout / Hochul September 9th

3 Sep

Tuesday September 9th is primary day, and Democrats throughout New York State have an important choice to make for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

I’m voting for Zephyr Teachout for Governor, and Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor, and you should, too. 

I am deeply disappointed in Governor Cuomo’s mishandling and abrupt cessation of the Moreland Commission’s investigation into Albany cronyism and corruption. These two topics are, to me, among the most important challenges facing the state today.  The role and power of money in politics, the unmitigated power of incumbency, the dictatorship of Albany authorities and bureaucracies, and the quid-pro-quo legalized bribery of electoral fusion all conspire to keep New York politics dysfunctional, slowly reactionary, and self-indulgent. For this reason, as well as Cuomo’s apparent lies about meddling in the state Senate, I have to register my disgust with the status quo.

These are huge, persistent problems, yet no one in or near power has any incentive to address or change them. Zephyr Teachout has made this the centerpiece of her campaign. 

I don’t do this lightly – my hesitation to denounce Cuomo is informed by how obviously good he’s been for western New York, helping to rebuild the foundation on which a new economy might emerge. We are finally making big leaps into the information age, having long-ago shed our reliance on big industry. We’re also rediscovering the value of skilled trades as an avenue for personal success and entrepreneurship. Having lost the WNY vote to Carl Paladino pretty decisively, Cuomo has paid remarkable attention to our region.  Imagine how good it would be for him to run for national office at some future date, and be able to campaign on how he turned around 50 years of Buffalo’s economic depression. I will enthusiastically vote for Andrew Cuomo in November if he is the party’s nominee. 

Furthermore, the Teachout/Wu ticket is focused on issues that matter only to the 5 boroughs of New York City – risibly so. As the old joke goes, ‘what’s the difference between ignorance and indifference? I don’t know and I don’t care’. Take a look at the five pillars of the Teachout/Wu platform, and the words “Buffalo” and “Western New York” appear exactly zero times. This ticket, as presented, has nothing to say about WNY or upstate issues (except for spotty broadband service and fracking) because they don’t know the first thing about it.  Teachout fumbled questions about keeping the Bills in WNY. Teachout/Wu presents a wide spectrum of points of view about New York State – Upper West and Lower East Side. 

Teachout’s “economy” piece deals mostly with consolidation of power, and the parts about infrastructure deal with the MTA and the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Upstate gets an abrupt shout-out about broadband, but that’s it.  The “education” piece is of general applicability to all of New York, and is replete with positions any Democrat should support – especially when it comes to the shameful way Albany has been balancing budgets on the schools’ backs for several years. On the “environment“, Teachout is the only serious candidate who opposes hydrofracking, full stop. Let Pennyslvania destroy its own aquifers – we like ours just fine, thanks. On “an open democracy“, Teachout talks about reforms that really have little to do with opening up democracy, and talks instead of reforming criminal justice, marijuana laws, and preventing abuse of the disabled. 

But the bigger picture has to do with the way the system itself is rigged – even when it benefits us as western New Yorkers.  It’s simply not being treated like the serious problem it is. That’s why the position on “corruption” is so important to me. The only thing missing – because Working Families Party – is an entry denouncing and promising an end to electoral fusion in New York State. Not incidentally, Teachout has written a scholarly work attempting to prove that embedded in our Constitution is an “anti-corruption principle” every bit as important as, say, separation of powers. 

So, because Teachout’s platform imagines that New York consists – with the exception of the Albany exclave – mainly of territories East of the Hudson and South of Poughkeepsie, I will be voting for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor. 

Hochul has the administrative and governmental chops to make up for Teachout’s utter lack of experience, and Hochul brings with her a native’s passion and knowledge about rural and western New York realities to help balance out Teachout’s geographically limited platform. Hochul was an independent-minded, conservative Democrat and balances out Teachout’s progressive-left worldview and mindset. Remember – although Teachout is running with Wu and Hochul is running with Cuomo, you can split these slates up however you’d like. Vote Cuomo/Wu, if you prefer. 

This isn’t about conspiratorial fantasies, either. I’m not trying to punish Cuomo for the NY SAFE Act or the dictatorship of the bureaucracy, except insofar as he’s doing nothing to make state bureaucrats answerable (at least indirectly) to their bosses – the people. 

For all the good he’s done for western New York, Andrew Cuomo has deceived Democrats and reformists in this state to the point of outrage. The brazen horse-trading with Senate President Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver to abruptly end the Moreland Commission on corruption was the last straw. No on-time budget is worth sacrificing the public trust yet again. It also speaks to the fundamental anti-democratic unfairness of the continued all-powerful triumverate that presides over Albany’s body politic. Cuomo’s apparent involvement in maintaining a Republican-led Senate is a betrayal made worse by lies

Albany graft and corruption help to stall and demean economic, political, and social progress in every corner of New York State. Teachout deserves support in the upcoming primary because she’s the only candidate who perceives and identifies the problem, and is assigning it the importance it deserves. But Teachout’s political novelty and ignorance about rural and upstate issues demand that the ticket be balanced with someone with experience and a WNY worldview.

Democrats should vote Teachout/Hochul on September 9th. 

Taking and Mooching

15 Nov

1. Collins Mistakenly Crashes Dem Shindig

From Roll Call’s “Heard on the Hill” column, an entry entitled, “Dude, Where’s My Caucus?”

A Democratic staffer camped out at this morning’s caucus meeting for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s big reveal witnessed a panicky exit by a perplexed newcomer.

“When they welcomed Leader Pelosi and everyone stood up to applaud, a frantic new member got up — breakfast plate in hand — rushed over to me and asked, ‘Wait … what meeting is this?!’ I said, ‘This is the Democratic Caucus.’ He said, ‘Oh s—, I’m in the wrong meeting. Where are the Republicans meeting?’” the anonymous tipster said of the mini-drama.

The confused caucuser? Rep.-elect Chris Collins, R-N.Y.

A Collins aide suggested it was all part of the boss’s master plan.

“Congressman-elect Collins believes very strongly in reaching bipartisan solutions to fix this country’s problems. What better way to accomplish that than introducing himself to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” the budding spinmeister assured HOH.

Ha ha very funny because Collins believes quite the opposite, based on what he said during the campaign. Collins only seeks bipartisanship when he controls the game, and as a freshman 1/435 he won’t be controlling anything.  After months’ worth of his hateful and negative Obamapelosi rhetoric, it’s delightful that he mistakenly crashed Pelosi’s party.  (Image courtesy Tom Dolina from Tommunisms.com).

2. Romney blames the 47% on his loss

Lest you thought that Romney tape wherein he asserts that he doesn’t care about – and can’t rely on – votes from the 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes, and see themselves as entitled welfare queen taker/victims, was a fluke

In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”

Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Talk about class warfare. 

Making sure that every American has access to quality health care isn’t a free gift you find in some government Cracker Jack box. It’s something that literally every other industrialized democracy has had in place for decades. It’s something every other 1st world nation implemented generations ago yet we still struggle with because of stupid rhetoric. But what it actually does is help treat disease, mend broken bodies, fight cancers, helps cure infections. It helps people; being able to obtain treatment without fearing bankruptcy or resorting to the emergency room is a good thing individually and societally. Your county taxes go to pay millions to reimburse the hospitals for unpaid-for ER care. Obamacare is much cheaper and more effective. 

Everything else Romney has to say about why he lost is just as insulting and accusatory as what he said to donors in Florida about the shiftless laziness of the 47% of Americans who “take” and “want stuff”. 

Romney and people like him love it when government gives free stuff to big business and millionaires. When government gives regular folks something that helps them, it’s socialism and negative. Mitt Romney’s election would have been an utter disaster and the American middle class dodged a bullet. 

Thankfully, even some Republican recognize how awful this sort of rhetoric is, and are trying to get people to cut it out

“We have got to stop dividing the American voters,” Jindal, the RGA’s incoming chairman, told reporters here. “If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage, and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly. One, we are fighting for 100% of the votes. And second, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream, period.”

Part of the American dream would include “not going bankrupt from medical care”, right? 

3. Social Media Fail

If someone leaves a negative (truthful) review of your business on Yelp, don’t threaten to sue them for their opinion. You may run into someone with some search engine optimization experience.

 4. Collins is dictating to President Obama

Reading this article, whereby rich person Chris Collins categorically refuses to raise taxes on himself and his neighbors, (what is proposed is a small hike in the rate on income earned in excess of $250,000) is infuriating mostly because of the dismissive way he refers to the President of the United States. It’s as if we elected a better-dressed, Botoxed Rus Thompson to go to Washington and stick his middle finger up at the President.  

“[T]ax increases and job creation “go together like oil and water.”” says Collins. Well, that’s patently untrue. What do you call someone who slavishly clings to an ideology that’s been proven wrong by empirical evidence? Hell, even Forbes acknowledges that the Bush tax cuts only affected 2.5% of small businesses. Just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you’re a small business or that you in any way hire anyone except the household help. 

Luckily, Tom Reed seems to have gotten a different message from his constituents; that Congress should stop bickering. Also notable is that outgoing representative Kathy Hochul sees a path to compromise. This is why it’s so devastating that she – and her pragmatic work to find common ground – will leave New York’s 27th District. 

The State of NY-27; Collins and Hochul in Thunderdome

8 Oct

October NY-27 Siena Poll

The Siena Research Institute polled NY-27 between October 1 and 4.  It surveyed 633 likely voters; 32% Democrats, 39% Republicans, and 27% independents. The headlines? 

Everyone is ignoring the real story – it’s not just the fact that the race for NY-27 between incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger Chris Collins is a dead heat, but that Hochul was behind in August.  The crosstabs from that August Siena poll are here

    1. Hochul’s favorables are slipping. Outside of Erie County, her fav/unfav/dnk is 42/40/18 – that’s a dramatic drop from August’s 50/38/5, indicating that Collins’ and SuperPAC ads are having an impact, their falsity notwithstanding. In Erie County, her favorable rating is down by 3 and her unfavorable rating is also down, by two, at 54/37/9.    Collins’ numbers outside Erie County are 46/34/29, as compared with 41/30/29 in August. Within Erie County, Collins has also slipped dramatically, from 57/38/5 to 47/47/6.  Collins’ relentlessly negative campaign is working. 
    2. 54% of the survey respondents say they prefer a majority Republican congress. It’s a testament to the good job that Hochul’s doing that 45% would like to re-elect Hochul to Congress, versus 40% who wouldn’t, and 14% who have no clue. 
    3. President Obama is marginally more popular in the district. His fav/unfav/dnk is 44/52/4. Back in August, 56% of respondents had an unfavorable view of him. Mitt Romney’s numbers are 51/44/5 in this solidly Republican district. If the vote was held today, Obama would lose 51 – 42. In August, that number was 53 – 41. 
    4. 44% of respondents would vote to re-elect Hochul. 44% prefer someone else. 12% don’t know.  This question is stronger for Hochul in Erie County (48/44/8) than outside it (41/45/14). 
    5. On the headline question , 47% say they’ll vote for Hochul, 47% say they’ll vote for Collins, 1% aren’t voting (WTF), and 5% don’t know. In Erie County, Hochul leads 51 – 45, but outside Erie County Collins is leading 48-44. Hochul does mildly better with women than men, and with older voters than those younger than 55. 
    6. 11% of the electorate is still reasonably open to change its mind. 

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul (D-NY) (NY-26)

  1. More people think Collins is running the more negative campaign. 
  2. 51% of respondents want to repeal Obamacare. The split outside Erie County is 54/40. 
  3. Hochul and Collins are tied at 43% on the question “whom do you trust to do the right thing when it comes to Medicare”. 15% don’t know, and in Erie County this is Hochul over Collins 48/42; outside Erie it’s Collins over Hochul 43/39. 
  4. When broken down into specific issues like jobs, taxes, health care, the deficit, and “fixing the economy”, Collins is doing better than Hochul. Back in August, Hochul only beat Collins on Afghanistan and education. Not much has changed here.
  5. Back in August, 46% of respondents said Hochul would do a better job than Collins (42%) representing the district’s interests. Now, 47% say Hochul, 42% say Collins, and 11% don’t know. The 1% of August undecideds broke to Hochul, apparently. 
  6. A question from August regarding repealing the Bush tax cuts for high earners was not asked in October. 

With just about a month to go, expect both campaigns to sharpen their attacks. 42% of the sample was from Erie County and 58% from Niagara and parts farther afield. Hochul is underperforming Collins outside of Erie County and will likely address this in the coming weeks. Ultimately, however, it’s amazing that a Democrat is competitive – especially in Erie County – against a man who ran Erie County for 4 years and is purported to be popular with the WBEN crowd, which is practically all anyone ever hears about politically in this region. 

Collins’ Federal Help and “Building That”

John Boehner came to town this past weekend to campaign for Chris Collins. Boehner proudly proclaimed that he had built his small business with no government help. 

I used to run a small business before I ended up in Congress. And you know there were  nights when I would lay in bed worrying about whether the accounts receivable the next day was going to be large enough to meet the payroll. I don’t remember Barack Obama laying there next to me holding my hand. I don’t remember the government offering me some interest-free loan.

The same can’t be said for Chris Collins, however. Collins’ various businesses have benefited from $20 million in federal loans, subsidies, and handouts. In 1983, Collins received a taxpayer funded loan through a $3.5 million bond from Niagara County to move his first business, Nuttall Gear, to that jurisdiction. 

While Chris Collins denounces what Republicans routinely call the “job-killing stimulus”, and refused to spend stimulus money the county applied for and received under his administration, his companies received $442,000 in stimulus awards. Audubon Machinery received the bulk of that through the Department of Health of Human Services, and ZeptoMetrix received a mere $3,000 from that same agency.  Collins’ various companies have been the recipients of a whopping $9.2 million in government loans. 

Collins-owned companies also benefit from $11.5 million in federal contracts. Why a staunch Republican would bid for redistributive socialist work is a question for the ages, but the facts are set forth here

As County Executive, Chris Collins went out of his way to denigrate and demonize the urban poor. Little did we know that he was the biggest welfare queen of all. 

 

Maybe Tuesday Will Be Better, AMIRITE?

25 Sep

Liberty Building in Downtown Buffalo, NY

1. Jeremy Zellner vs. Frank Max. If you care about this in any way, chances are you rely on a government job, are an elected official, or you’re a candidate. The average western New Yorker is completely unaffected by it, and couldn’t care less. I happen to think that Lenihan did a great job as party chairman, and if his successor is half as successful as he, everybody should be pleased. The fact that certain people and factions held grudges over slights – real and perceived – and couldn’t suck it up and be big boys and girls and follow what the majority of the party committee wanted is par for the course. I wish Jeremy and Frank good luck and best wishes.  Everyone should just relax and concentrate on what a party committee is supposed to do – elect Democrats. 

2. “While Kathy Hochul distorts the truth, what do people who work for Chris Collins say?” That’s the actual opening line of an ad for Collins for Congress.  That bitch is such a liar, OMG. Here’s what people whose very livelihood is dependent on me have to say about me. That’s not an ad – that’s an out of control ego. Embarrassing. 

3. Coming back to the “everyone’s horrible” theme – the NFTA Surface Transportation Committee is made up of very wealthy and influential people, none of whom are likely to actually use NFTA surface transportation on any sort of regular basis. Jim Eagan – Democratic money guy who was until recently running to run ECDC, big firm lawyer Adam Perry, and restaurateur Mark Croce are all quoted in this story, all identified as committee members. Meanwhile, the people who use the LaSalle Metro station every day have dealt with a broken escalator for four months with no fix in sight. The NFTA committee members started yelling at each other like children over whether the work should be done by the regular maintenance contractor or sent out to bid. Just fix the escalator, and it’s high time the NFTA was run by people who actually use the service.  

4. The reason Mitt Romney is doing poorly? He’s exactly what the tea party, evangelicals, and very rich Republican benefactors always wanted in a candidate. 

5. Third time’s the charm. Since August, food trucks the Cheesy Chick, the Knight Slider have been chased away from the town of Amherst in the middle of service. Last year, a battle was waged to implement a law allowing and regulating food trucks to work the streets of the city of Buffalo. In reputedly business-friendly Amherst, however, no such regulation has been implemented. Yesterday, the Lloyd Taco Truck boys Tweeted this: 

That’s odd, because the truck was operating with permission on private property. The town has no food truck legislation or regulation, so no one is quite sure what Lloyd is alleged to have violated. The town’s code enforcement officers have been chasing the trucks away, and the town leadership was caught completely unaware.  

The only current regulation that could feasibly apply to food trucks is a transient vendor permit that is costly, only good for 90 days at a time, and specific to a location. If Lloyd wants to operate its north Amherst and Ridge Lea private property regular locations, it would need two licenses, each renewable every 3 months for $100

Just a few weeks ago, the Amherst town board passed a resolution to address and change the local law to specifically update the transient business permitting process to better reflect the current reality including food trucks. 

6. You aren’t a “pet parent”. Please. 

Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo

24 Sep
Cuyahoga at Lake and Rail Buffalo NY

Cuyahoga at Lake and Rail Buffalo NY by tark9, on Flickr

1. Shorter Buffalo News piece on Deputy Mayor Steve Casey: he’s a dick who terrorizes staff and throws Democrats under the bus in favor of Chris Collins, but he’s the Mayor’s dick

2. The Buffalo News calls this Hochul ad misleading. How so? It doesn’t say Collins got rich off of Ingenious’ Balance Buddy. It says he makes more money by outsourcing the manufacturing in China rather than building the device in western New York.

Statement A:

Asked why Ingenious would contract with a manufacturer in China, Collins said that it would be too expensive to make the product in the United States. ’It would not be feasible to have that product made and packaged for $7 in the U.S.,’ Collins said. (Cannot link directly to Buffalo News story because of its wholly unusable web presence). 

Statement B: 

China manipulates its currency, steals intellectual property from American companies, subsidizes government-owned businesses that compete with firms in the United States and closes its markets to foreign products.

“It’s not OK,” he said.

If the trade inequities with China are removed, “those jobs come back,” Collins said.

That’s patently true – by Collins’ own admission – and not at all misleading. In fact, the Buffalo News’ “fact check” is misleading. Also – perhaps more egregiously – he conducted Ingenious business from the 16th floor of the Rath Building, and so badly screwed over the initial investors that they’ve sued him.  

3. If there’s one thing Donn Esmonde loves to do, he loves to pat himself on the back. He loves being the official organ of Buffalo’s development/preservationist intelligentsia. So, he twists and contorts to the conclusion that the Liberty Hound‘s success somehow prove that the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” scam is the best thing ever. What the Liberty Hound’s success – as well as the success of a lot of Canalside’s summertime programming – really establishes is that the waterfront will be a popular place if you give people something to do there. Lighter, quicker, cheaper didn’t give us Liberty Hound – that was a big project done with a state agency,  a partnership of two successful restaurateurs, a museum, and  an assist from big political players. Lighter, quicker, cheaper gave us the Fred Kent “placemaking” sideshow, the snack shack, and brightly colored Adirondack chairs. The ECHDC was bullied into doing it by a supposedly earnest man endlessly pushing solar-powered carousels who wasn’t so quick to disclose that his interests in the matter also involved how Canalside might affect the bar and restaurant business in Black Rock and Allentown.  

Collins and Medicare: Bad Deal for Seniors, Americans

10 Sep

Remember how George W. Bush pushed to privatize Social Security? It failed, because people like Social Security, and because they didn’t want their entire retirement to be subject to the whims of the market. The 2008 quickie depression and the failure of Lehman Brothers was a stark reminder that, sometimes private industry doesn’t have all the answers. 

Paul Ryan’s proposed budget famously proposed to cut $716 billion from Medicare and turn it into a voucher system for Americans not yet benefitting from the wildly popular single-payer program for seniors. 

When Chris Collins hammers Kathy Hochul for voting for Obamacare, which “takes” $716 billion from Medicare and subsidies for Medicare supplemental insurance, remember that he supported a plan that would have done something even worse; that would have fundamentally changed what Medicare is for future generations. 

Hochul’s race against Corwin was about Medicare and how the Ryan budget would change it. Hochul won – and the $716 billion was part of that race. Now, Collins thinks he can fool voters into thinking that Obama and Hochul have weakened Medicare – but nothing could be further from the truth. 

That $716 billion from Medicare

The Affordable Care Act did indeed cut Medicare spending by $716 billion

On July 24, the Congressional Budget Office sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, detailing the budget impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act. If Congress overturned the law, “spending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013–2022 period.”

As to how the Affordable Care Act actually gets to $716 billion in Medicare savings, that’s a bit more complicated. John McDonough did the best job explaining it in his 2011 book, “Inside National Health Reform.” There, he looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.

The majority of the cuts, as you can see in this chart below, come from reductions in how much Medicare reimburses hospitals and private health insurance companies.

But what is the effect of these cuts to seniors and their benefits? Zero. Not a single benefit is cut or reduced in any way. There are no vouchers, no privatization – the $716 billion comes from reducing the cost of the program, not reducing its benefits. Quite the contrary – Obamacare takes that savings and actually adds benefits to Medicare, bringing a new emphasis on preventive care by adding a new annual no-copay wellness visit to the program. From the WaPo’s fact check of last week’s Clinton speech

TRUE: “What the president did was to save money by taking the recommendations of a commission of professionals to cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service.”

Clinton appears to be referring to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent body that advises Congress on the program and the changes they have recommended for the program. MedPAC has, for example, repeatedly recommended that private Medicare Advantage plans should not be paid more than the traditional fee for service program. That, among other changes, was incorporated into the Affordable Care Act’s changes.

DOUBLE COUNTED: “Instead of raiding Medicare, he used the savings to close the doughnut hole in the Medicare drug program…and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare trust fund so it is solvent till 2024.”

Both of these facts are, independently, true. The health care law did indeed use some of the revenue it generated to pay for seniors who land in the “donut hole,” the gap after normal drug coverage ends and catastrophic coverage kicks in. And it did extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by eight more years, until 2024, per a report earlier this year.

But this represents some of the least-liked math in Washington, because it uses a sort of “double counting” of Medicare savings. The Medicare Trust Fund counts the health law’s $716 billion in savings as going back into its coffers. The Congressional Budget Office counts them as paying for provisions in the Affordable Care Act, like closing the donut hole. In reality, it would be very, very hard for a Medicare dollar saved to achieve both these purposes. In fact, it would be impossible.

This accounting isn’t unique to the Affordable Care Act. Budget wonks have regularly used this double counting for Medicare savings generated by Congress. There are some defenders of this accounting method. But it is one of the points that the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare savings regularly gets attacked.

TRUE: “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because that $716 billion is exactly, to the dollar, the same amount of Medicare savings that [Ryan] has in his own budget.”

Rep. Paul Ryan’s most recent budget does indeed include the Affordable Care Act’s $716 billion in Medicare savings. Mitt Romney has, however, disavowed those cuts and promised to restore insurers’ and hospitals’ reimbursement rates as part of his plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The question, then, is – why do Romney and Chris Collins want to roll back Obamacare’s strengthening of Medicare? Is it because they’re both independently wealthy and what happens to Medicare has no affect on them in any palpable way? Medicare isn’t just some freebie entitlement – like Social Security, it’s something you and I pay into throughout our working lives (check your FICA on your next paystub). Romney and Chris Collins want to fundamentally change Medicare into a voucher program, but that’s not the promise that was made to me and others who have been paying into the system. In contract law, we pay in relying on the promise of a future no-hassles program  that current seniors enjoy. It’s fundamentally unfair to make it one program for one class of people, and something else for another – frankly, I think it’s violative of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. 

Why do Romney and Chris Collins want to violate the Equal Protection Clause by voucherizing Medicare for one class of Americans, while maintaining it as a single-payer plan for another? 

Oh, and in commenting on the proposed voucherization via $716 billion in cuts from Medicare, Chris Collins told the Batavia Daily News that this doesn’t “go far enough”

Collins said he favors the Tea Party push to reduce the federal government. He praised Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, for ‘starting the conversation’ about reducing entitlement programs. But Collins said Ryan doesn’t go far enough. Ryan believes the budget could be balanced in 30 years, Collins said it needs to be done in 10 years. To delay it longer isn’t fair to young Americans who will have to foot the bill.

To Chris Collins, everything is an entitlement program – even programs you pay for. And he has the nerve to blame Hochul for harming Medicare through a cost-savings that actually expands its benefits. 

Even Kathy Hochul is trying to hedge on Medicare Advantage, saying she doesn’t like the cuts to that program. But why? Reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates to Medicare Advantage plans and hospitals were negotiated with those entities. Hospitals know that with universal coverage, they’ll get more patients whose bills are paid. The Advantage Plans’ reimbursement rates are reduced to eliminate waste that does nothing to enhance patient care. In reference to the chart shown above

The blue section represents reductions in how much Medicare reimburses private, Medicare Advantage plans. That program allows seniors to join a private health insurance, with the federal government footing the bill. The whole idea of Medicare Advantage was to drive down the cost of health insurance for the elderly as private insurance companies competing for seniors’ business.

That’s not what happened. By 2010, the average Medicare Advantage per-patient cost was 117 percent of regular fee-for-service. The Affordable Care Act gives those private plans a haircut and tethers reimbursement levels to the quality of care administered, and patient satisfaction.

The Medicare Advantage cut gets the most attention, but it only accounts for about a third of the Affordable Care Act’s spending reduction. Another big chunk comes from the hospitals. The health law changed how Medicare calculates what they get reimbursed for various services, slightly lowering their rates over time. Hospitals agreed to these cuts because they knew, at the same time, they would likely see an influx of paying patients with the Affordable Care Act’s insurance expansion.

The rest of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts are a lot smaller. Reductions to Medicare’s Disproportionate Share Payments — extra funds doled out the hospitals that see more uninsured patients — account for 5 percent in savings. Lower payments to home health providers make up another 8.8 percent. About a dozen cuts of this magnitude make up the green section above.

It’s worth noting that there’s one area these cuts don’t touch: Medicare benefits. The Affordable Care Act rolls back payment rates for hospitals and insurers. It does not, however, change the basket of benefits that patients have access to. And, as Ezra pointed out earlier today, the Ryan budget would keep these cuts in place.

By the way – if Chris Collins gets his wish and repeals Obamacare, Medicare Part A will be insolvent by 2016 unless something else is done. As we know, that “something else” is turning it into a complicated voucher program, fundamentally changing the very nature of Medicare. 

When officials talk of Medicare insolvency, they’re talking specifically about the trust fund for Medicare’s hospital insurance, or Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient hospital stays, care at a nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care. The other parts of Medicare, though costs are rising, are “adequately financed” for now, the program’s trustees say.

The Part A fund’s overseers — the Boards of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds — said back in 2009, before the Affordable Care Act passed, that the banked money used to make up the difference between income (such as taxes) and expenses for Part A would be depleted in 2017.

But then the Affordable Care Act passed. The trustees reported that the act’s lower expenditures (cutting rates to providers) and increased revenues (a payroll tax hike for wealthier people in 2013) “improves the financial outlook for Medicare substantially.”

The trustees reported in 2010 that health care reform would delay the Part A trust fund’s insolvency until 2029. By 2011, the trustees moved that insolvency estimate back to 2024.

So, to sum up: 

Chris Collins supported the Ryan budget, which also assumed a $716 billion reduction in Medicare expenses. When he attacks Kathy Hochul for this, it flies right back in his face, because he says $716 billion doesn’t go far enough, and would like to voucherize Medicare and reduce other “entitlement” programs. Hochul needs to go on the offensive on this point – the Obama/Hochul cuts expand Medicare benefits and ensure the program’s continued solvency, while Collins’ cuts turn Medicare into something resembling the awful system we have today for most Americans, and threatens the solvency of Part A going past 2016.

Chris Collins, therefore, is a disaster for seniors in NY-27.  

Collins to Voters: 25 Pages Is Too Much For You to Absorb

17 Aug

The Buffalo News really needs to have a chat with its headline writers. The headline accompanying Jerry Zremski’s August 16th piece concerning Chris Collins‘ taxes bore the headline, “Collins discloses three years’ tax returns”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Collins showed his form 1040s for three tax years to Zremski, and no one else in the world. While Hochul has posted three years’ worth of tax returns online for anyone to see – along with the schedules and worksheets to go with it, Collins has repeatedly refused to do the same.  Zremski wrote, 

Those returns did not include any schedules or attachments that would have detailed Collins’ business investments, but they do show the finances of a wealthy businessman-turned-politician and how Collins’ income compares to that of his opponent, Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg.

Did Collins show Zremski his 1040s to show off the fact that he’s wealthy? We know he’s wealthy – that’s hardly the issue. The best Collins can do is to claim that Hochul isn’t being transparent because she refuses to release the details of a blind trust her parents set up for her. A blind trust, the contents of which by definition she isn’t allowed to know. 

The reasons why Collins won’t release his tax returns to the public have changed over time, from the notion it will reveal confidential material about other people to something really quite telling: 

[Hochul spokesman Frank] Thomas said it’s important that Collins do the same so that voters can see in detail his business interests – including those of Ingenious Inc., a Collins company that has contracted with a Chinese manufacturer to make the Balance Buddy, a tool aimed at helping kids learn how to ride their bikes.

Collins says, though, that he can’t release those full tax details without revealing his business partners’ income and without jeopardizing the competitive position of his companies.

“My federal return is probably 25 pages long,” Collins added. “It’s too much for the public to absorb.”

Boom.

Got that, dummy? By not being “Chris Collins” you’re clearly cursed with diminished cognitive abilities, such that it’s a miracle you have the brain power to put your pants and shirt on in the morning. You know how you stopped reading Harry Potter after the twenty-fourth page, just giving up because your brain couldn’t absorb anymore? You cretins would look at Collins’ tax returns and the ink with which it was printed would run from your drool getting all over it. 

I don’t know whether calling the electorate a bunch of illiterate, innumerate morons is a winning strategy, but I’m willing to see it play out some more. Perhaps the inability or unwillingness to release tax returns should disqualify “run government like a business” types from running (see, Romney, Willard Mitt). 

Collins is also attacking Hochul for her (mostly inherited) wealth. If I recall correctly, Collins bristles when people bring up his wealth, calling it “class warfare”. 

This same Chris Collins – the one who doesn’t like it when people point out that he’s a rich, arrogant, person who is completely, fundamentally, and deliberately out of touch with the issues facing average middle class people – attacks his current opponent for her inherited wealth, calling her a “public sector millionaire”, and suggesting that she made her money in government, and attacked his primary opponent for his lack of wealth. So, in Collins’ deranged world, it’s “class warfare” to bring up his wealth, but everyone else’s is fair game. 

What is going to be an issue in this race is the good job Kathy Hochul’s done over the past year, and the fact that Collins is a big supporter of the Republican plot to voucherize Medicare, but he’ll try to deflect by using the lie that Obamacare cuts $716 billion from Medicare. Obama strengthens and streamlines Medicare, while the Republicans plan to privatize it, harming seniors and, just as significantly, future seniors

Mitt Romney said Obama “robbed Medicare” of $716 billion to pay for “Obamacare.” We found that exaggerated what Obama had done in the health care law.

While the health care law reduces the amount of future spending growth in Medicare, the law doesn’t actually cut Medicare. Savings come from reducing money that goes to private insurers who provide Medicare Advantage programs, among other things. The money wasn’t “robbed.” We rated the statement Mostly False.

Responding to the Romney attack, Obama campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Ryan’s budget relies on the same $700 billion in savings from Medicare that Mitt Romney and other Republicans have been attacking Democrats about.

Ryan has confirmed that, and we rated it True.

But don’t forget – Collins thinks you’re an idiot who can’t absorb 25 pages of a tax return.  What a disgusting thing to say. 

//

Hochul vs. Corwin 2.0

14 Aug

The only thing missing so far is a kid dressed like Fonzie shoving a camera in an old man’s face. 

Issue: Medicare, Paul Ryan, and what noted Marxist philosopher Newt Gingrich called “right-wing social engineering”

The Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremski wrote Monday about how Chris Collins refuses to comment on the Ryan Budget, which would fundamentally transform Medicare from the popular single-payer system seniors enjoy – and future seniors pay into throughout their work history – into an expensive voucher-based privatized program.  

Of course he’s keeping mum. This issue did tremendous harm to his neighbor, Jane Corwin’s, campaign in 2011. 

At the heart of the Republicans’ Medicare Privatization Syndrome Because is to replace a reasonably efficient government bureaucracy with a 97% approval rating from users, and replace it with the fragmented, fundamentally broken, redundant, private (oft for-profit) bureaucracy to take money from the patients through premiums, and nickel-and-dime the physicians on payouts, and futz with what is and isn’t covered. Ungrateful looters & moochers

Mitt Romney has now selected the architect of that unfair and likely unconstitutional Medicare voucherization plan to be his running mate, and the fallout is spilling over into the hotly contested NY-27 race. 

Incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul released this Monday morning: 

“Try as he might, Chris Collins cannot run from the fact that he said a budget that ends Medicare as we know it and forces seniors to pay more for their healthcare to fund tax cuts for his millionaire friends ‘doesn’t go far enough,’” said campaign manager Frank Thomas. “Voters deserve to know how much further Chris Collins would go when he already supports decimating Medicare so he can give tax breaks to the rich. How can voters be expected to trust a candidate who will not be candid about his position on an issue that will crush seniors and the middle class.”

Collins told the Batavia Daily News that the Ryan Budget “doesn’t go far enough.” According to the Batavia Daily News, “Collins said he favors the Tea Party push to reduce the federal government. He praised Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, for ‘starting the conversation’ about reducing entitlement programs. But Collins said Ryan doesn’t go far enough. Ryan believes the budget could be balanced in 30 years, Collins said it needs to be done in 10 years. To delay it longer isn’t fair to young Americans who will have to foot the bill.” [Batavia Daily News, 5/9/12]

Collins said his stance on the Ryan Budget is similar to Jane Corwin’s. In March 2012, Collins has admitted that his position does not differ significantly from Jane Corwin’s position. Corwin supported the Ryan Budget, which “would essentially end Medicare.”  [Buffalo News,3/25/12; Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]

But now Collins refuses to even answer questions on the Ryan budget.  According to the Buffalo News,

Asked in a weekend telephone interview for his reaction to Ryan’s selection, Collins, the former Erie County executive, would not – even when asked again and again – endorse or even comment on Ryan’s budget, which would partly remake Medicare into a voucher program for future seniors while drastically cutting most domestic spending. [Buffalo News, 8/13/2012]

Republican Chris Collins released this, in response: 

“What we are seeing is a desperate public sector millionaire employ every scare tactic under the sun to distract from the issue that matters most to voters – fixing this economy. Of course, with her record of massive tax increases and job killing regulations, it’s no wonder Kathy Hochul wants to talk about anything other than her failed plan to fix the economy. 

With her whole-hearted embrace of ObamaCare, Kathy Hochul has jeopardized the future of Medicare for current seniors. More incredibly, she turned her backs on the seniors she promised to protect when she voted to cut their Medicare and Medicare Advantage by $700 billion. 

The only way we will solve our budget problems is by adopting pro-growth, pro-small business policies that cut our debt, protect Medicare from going bankrupt, and let small businesses thrive. Kathy Hochul’s plan is to cling to ObamaCare, gut $700 billion from Medicare and watch our economy go down the drain. That’s not a leader – that’s a politician. Our region simply deserves better.”

A few quick observations: 1. Hochul’s release is more effective because it takes Collins’ own words and uses them against him. 2. Anyone else find it odd that Collins, of all people, is using “millionaire” as a pejorative against Kathy Hochul? I thought that was “class warfare” or something. 3. Collins’ statement is so much unsupported pablum about tax & spend liberals. 4. Collins is particularly vulnerable when it comes to being consistent and transparent. Whereas he merely spouts off talking points recycled from his last re-election campaign, Hochul provided hyperlinks to the things Collins has said in the past, and merely hoists him by the petard he so carefully constructed. 

From Zremski’s piece, Collins says

All I’m saying is that I’ll never support cuts to Medicare for current seniors or anyone close to retirement age, including Medicare Advantage, which my opponent has actually voted to cut.

But if you’re not “close to retirement age”, yet you’ve been paying into Medicare through your FICA for years and years, relying on the promise of hassle-free Medicare coverage when you retire, you can go pound salt. 

Now – about that $700 billion claim. Collins has been using that for weeks – you should follow his aide Michael Kracker on Twitter, and watch him do battle with Hochul’s campaign manager, Frank Thomas. This claim comes up a lot. 

The claim is that Obamacare rips $700 billion out of Medicare – that it’s a cut, that it steals from Medicare to fund Obamacare, etc. The claim is clumsy, palpably and provably false, and worse – assumes you’re stupid and will accept it as truth. 

Does Obamacare cut $700 billion from Medicare? No. Obamacare saves $700 billion in waste while enhancing and improving seniors’ access to healthcare.  This savings extends Medicare’s solvency by a full eight years. 

A Redditor independently examined the claim and reached the same conclusion – that Chris Collins and other Republicans are criticizing Democrats for saving $700 billion from a socialistic, redistributive, government-run single-payer health care system. 

CBO breaks out the $716 billion that Reibus refers to:

  • Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) = $517 billion
  • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) = $247 billion
  • * Medicare Part D (offset) = ($48 billion)
 = $716 billion 

To make a little more sense of this, I also referred to CBO’s Analysis of the Major Health Care Legislation Enacted in March 2010 – start at page 24 which basically bulleted the reasons, as follows:

  • Changes to Payment Rates in Medicare: “Permanent reductions in the annual updates to Medicare’s payment rates for most services in the fee-for-service sector (other than physicians’ services) and the new mechanism for setting payment rates in the Medicare Advantage Program will reduce Medicare outlays by $507 billion during the 2012-2021 period” I found this very confusing, so I referred to Politifact which states: “The biggest portion of that savings…will come from reducing annual increases in payments to medical providers….The healthcare law does not cut $500 billion from Medicare. It just reduces future growth.” So in essence, it aims to curtail Medicare spending, not outlays to recipients. Ironic how the GOP is attacking Obama for an initiative to save money.

  • Disproportionate Share Hospitals: CBO states that “Both Medicare and Medicaid provide additional payments to hospitals that serve a disproportionate number of low income patients. PPACA…modified the formulas use to calculate such payments under Medicare. Projected to reduce direct spending by $57 billion over the 2012-2021 period.” The Urban Institute explains that ” the loss of federal disproportionate share hospital payments and potentially high uncompensated care costs borne by state and local governments on behalf of the uninsured will also motivate states to expand Medicaid under the ACA. On balance, states would experience net budget gains from implementing the Medicaid expansion.” So they are basically phasing out a federal program (disproportionate share hospitals) to expand another (Medicaid) and States would have a net budget gain!

  • Thus far we have accounted for $650 billion of the $716 billion and NONE of these “steal money from Medicare.” They simply attempt to save money, reprogram funding.

As for the remaining $65 billion, CBO says “many of those provisions will reduce spending, whereas others will increase it. The provisions that will reduce spending make a variety of changes to prior law, including establishing a mechanism to reduce the growth rate of Medicare spending if projected growth exceeds a given target, initiating a number of programs intended to modify the health care delivery system, and adjusting payments for prescription drugs in Medicaid….PPACA and the Reconciliation Act include numerous provisions intended to identify opportunities and create incentives for providers to make changes to the health care delivery system that will reduce costs and improve the quality of care.”

So, there you have it. Chris Collins and the Republicans are lying to you about Obamacare, about how it affects Medicare, and about myriad other things. Collins isn’t talking about the Ryan budget and how it effects Medicare because he saw what it did to Jane Corwin. Instead, he’s trying to pivot the debate (by the way, has he agreed to any debates? Will he be releasing any tax information at all?) to lies about how Obamacare is stealing money from Medicare. Are we going to re-litigate the Corwin vs. Hochul debacle of  May 2011? Looks like it, and even with a re-worked district geography and demographic, it’s still got a lot of seniors who don’t appreciate being lied to, and don’t like that Collins supports the partial privatization, decimation, and increased user cost the right wing is proposing for Medicare. 

Chris Collins: Repeal Consumer Protections

11 Jul

This morning, on my way to work, I caught a WBFO interview with Republican candidate for Congress, Chris Collins. The lies and misinformation reveal that Collins is either misinformed, trying to dupe his prospective constituents, or both. 

Collins suggested that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is exactly like the Canadian single-payer Medicare system. While Obamacare is many things, many of which are open to debate and criticism, one thing it decidedly is not is anything resembling what Canadians enjoy*. 

*Yes, enjoy. 82.5% of Canadians in a recent poll indicated that they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their health care system. 86% of them wanted the current system strengthened through public initiative, rather than privatized. American politicians can denigrate a Canadian system that is wildly popular with Canadians.  By contrast, a 2007 Gallup poll found that only 57% of Americans were satisfied with whatever private or public insurance they had.  By contrast, our own domestic single-payer Medicare plan, available only to seniors,  Whereas in 2007 45% of people with expensive private coverage reported problems with access to care, and 35% reported problems with billing, only 18% of Medicare recipients reported access problems, and only 14% reported any billing issues.  A 2010 Suffolk University poll revealed that 94% of American Medicare recipients are satisfied with their socialist, Canadian-style, single-payer plan. 

He went on to say that he hopes that Romney becomes President, and that that Republicans maintain their House majority, and add three Senate seats so that they can “completely” dismantle and repeal Obamacare. In its place, Collins suggested insurer competition across state lines, and minimizing injured patients’ access to the courts to seek redress for medical malpractice. Both of these “solutions” would hardly put a ding in the overwhelming cost of health care in this country, and would do absolutely nothing to guarantee universal coverage, or to shut the emergency room-as-primary care payment budget hole that our taxes fill. 

But the question that wasn’t asked is, what would result from an immediate repeal of Obamacare? Here are the provisions that have already become active

  • Expand the FDA’s ability to approve more generic drugs (making for more competition in the market to drive down prices) ( Citation: An entire section of the bill, called Title VII, is devoted to this, starting on page 766 )

  • An increase in the rebates on drugs people get through Medicare (so drugs cost less) ( Citation: Page 235, sec. 2501 )

  • Established a non-profit group, that the government doesn’t directly control, PCORI, to study different kinds of treatments to see what works better and is the best use of money. ( Citation: Page 684, sec. 1181)

  • Requires chain restaurants like McDonalds display how many calories are in all of their foods, so people can have an easier time making choices to eat healthy. ( Citation: Page 518, sec. 4205 )

  • Creates a “high-risk pool” for people with pre-existing conditions. Basically, this is a way to slowly ease into getting rid of “pre-existing conditions” altogether. For now, people who already have health issues that would be considered “pre-existing conditions” can still get insurance, but at different rates than people without them. ( Citation: Page 49, sec. 1101Page 64, sec. 2704, and Page 65, sec. 2702 )

  • Forbids insurance companies from discriminating based on a disability, or because they were the victim of domestic abuse in the past (yes, insurers really did deny coverage for that) ( Citation: Page 66, sec. 2705 )

  • Renews some old policies, and calls for the appointment of various positions.

  • Creates a new 10% tax on indoor tanning booths. ( Citation: Page 942, sec. 5000B )

  • Forbids health insurance companies from telling customers that they won’t get any more coverage because they have hit a “lifetime limit”. Basically, if someone has paid for health insurance, that company can’t tell that person that he’s used that insurance too much throughout his life so they won’t cover him any more. They can’t do this for lifetime spending, and they’re limited in how much they can do this for yearly spending. ( Citation: Page 33, sec. 2711 )

  • Allows children to continue to be covered by their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26. ( Citation: Page 34, sec. 2714 )

  • Eliminates “pre-existing conditions” exclusions for kids under the age of 19. ( Citation: Page 64, sec. 2704 and Page 76, sec. 1255 )

  • Limits insurers’ ability to change the amount customers have to pay for their plans. ( Citation: Page 66, sec. 2794 )

  • Helps close the “Medicare Gap” by paying rebates to make up for the extra money they would otherwise have to spend. ( Citation: Page 398, sec. 3301 )

  • Prohibits insurers from dropping customers once they get sick. ( Citation: Page 33, sec. 2712 )

  • Requires insurers to be transparent about fees. (Instead of just “administrative fee”, they have to be more specific).

  • Requires insurers to have an appeals process for when they turn down a claim, so customers have some manner of recourse other than a lawsuit when they’re turned down. ( Citation: Page 42, sec. 2719 )

  • Increases anti-fraud funding, and new ways to stop fraud are created. ( Citation: Page 718, sec. 6402 )

  • Medicare extends to smaller hospitals. ( Citation: Starting on page 363, the entire section “Part II” seems to deal with this )

  • Medicare patients with chronic illnesses must be monitored more thoroughly.

  • Reduces the costs for some companies that handle benefits for the elderly. ( Citation: Page 511, sec. 4202 )

  • A new website is made to give people insurance and health information. (http://www.healthcare.gov/ ). ( Citation: Page 55, sec. 1103 )

  • A credit program is made that will make it easier for business to invest in new ways to treat illness by paying half the cost of the investment. (Note – this program was temporary. It already ended) ( Citation: Page 849, sec. 9023 )

  • A limit is placed on just how much of a percentage of the money an insurer makes can be profit, to make sure they’re not price-gouging customers. (Citation: Page 41, sec. 1101 )

  • A limit is placed on what type of insurance accounts can be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. Basically, your insurer isn’t paying for the Aspirin you bought for that hangover. ( Citation: Page 819, sec. 9003 )

  • Employers need to list the benefits they provided to employees on their tax forms. ( Citation: Page 819, sec. 9002 )

  • Any new health plans must provide preventive care (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.) without requiring any sort of co-pay or charge. ( Citation: Page 33, sec. 2713 )

What the ACA really amounts to is a consumer protection act. While Collins and his ilk will call this a job-killing tax on the middle class, or something, it really amounts to a prohibition against insurance companies from engaging in predatory practices against its ratepayers. It provides better protections for consumers.  

The question is – why does Chris Collins want to repeal all of the consumer protections that have gone into effect? 

Collins also suggested that an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended to all Americans, including him and those like him with millions in income. The Obama plan would extend those tax cuts only to the middle class, and revert back to Clinton-era, pre-9/11 rates for those making more than $250,000 per year. 

Under Bill Clinton, unemployment dropped steadily from over 7% in 1993 to 4.4% by the late 90s. To suggest, therefore, that reverting tax rates to what we had in the 90s would stymie employment growth versus the situation we have now – with anemic jobs growth and the Bush tax cuts in place – strains credulity. 

Collins suggested that reverting to the Clinton-era tax rates for those making over $250,000 per year would be a “wet blanket” on job growth. However, only 3.5% of small businesses – mostly professionals like doctors and lawyers – would be affected by this change. An op/ed in the Washington Post goes into more detail here

Chris Collins opens his mouth and finds himself wrong again. Almost like it’s a pattern or something. 

Independence Week: Roundup

2 Jul

Obamacare Roundup

1. Here’s a story from those leftist pinkos at Forbes, explaining that Obamacare is not a huge tax on the middle class, at all. In fact, it goes as far as to call that narrative a “lie”. 

2. In the wake of the Supreme Court holding that Obamacare is constitutional, support for the law has jumped.  Significantly, support among independents went up from 27% to 38% in just the past week. It was just a week ago that Mitt Romney was explaining that Romneycare (the conservative Heritage Foundation’s health insurance scheme on which Obamacare is largely based) was great for Massachusetts, but that its expansion to all 50 states was an improper usurpation of federal power. However, the Supreme Court just held otherwise. Oopsy. By the same token, people who dislike the law are somewhat energized now. 

3. It wasn’t too long ago – at least as far back as the debate over HillaryCare in the early 90s – that universal health care coverage was a bipartisan goal, we just disagreed on how to get there. Now that we have a constitutional statute that gets us about as close to universality as we’re likely to get, the Republicans are signaling that they no longer consider universal coverage as a policy aim. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says, in essence, that the 30 million people whom Obamacare would cover, and who would not be covered were the law to be repealed, can go to hell.  

4. Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans all pledge to repeal Obamacare. Did you know that 30 votes have been held in Congress since 2010 to repeal Obamacare? What’s one more going to accomplish? How many jobs will that create? And pay close attention to what Republicans say when asked, “with what would you replace Obamacare?” The answer is – nothing. They’d just maintain the pre-2010 status quo, with 40 million uninsured, skyrocketing costs, substandard care, and an untenable hodgepodge of private for-profit bureaucracies keeping people from their doctors and needed treatment, and separating them from their money – oftentimes rendering them insolvent. 

5. Paul Ryan, Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee shat the following from his mouth

“I think this at the end of the day is a big philosophy difference. We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government, that the government can now grant us and define our rights. Those are ours, they come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence – a huge difference in philosophy.”

The right to have access to health care is, at its core, a pro-life notion, isn’t it? Any politician who turns to Jesus or God, (and uses the Declaration of Independence, a document that has no legal effect in 2012), as justification to essentially leave millions of Americans with a choice between death or bankruptcy, shouldn’t pontificate about what God would and wouldn’t do. 

Carl Emails, WNY Yawns

6. Did you get emails from Carl Paladino threatening to “expose” former Senator Al D’Amato for being a “predator” because he’s aligned with people like Mark Grisanti and Joel Giambra, and because he supposedly helped Cuomo pass same sex marriage? So did I. I deleted them. Seriously, who cares what that person says? 

Fast & Furious: NRA Flip & Hochul Votes for Contempt

7. Last week, Congress held a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Of course, about 88% of Americans hold Congress in contempt, but that’s beside the point.  Many Democrats walked out during the vote, charging that it was just a witch hunt. Among the few Democrats who not only stayed, but voted in favor of the contempt order was Kathy Hochul (NY-26). I think the Fast & Furious inquiry is a load of nonsense, and a purely political stunt designed to harm the administration; politics as usual. What follows in blockquote below is what Hochul released to explain her vote, but answer me this: a lot of gun enthusiasts link Fast and Furious to 2nd Amendment rights. I don’t really get why, and since I’m not a gun fetishist I don’t particularly care. But the first thing an NRA type will tell someone who is in favor of gun control is that, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yet, the entire focus of the Fast & Furious inquiry is about the guns that ended up in the possession of Mexican drug cartel members who then used one to murder a Border Patrol Agent in Arizona. A horrible crime, to be sure – but it was committed by a criminal. Is the NRA now standing “guns don’t kill people” on its head because it suits their political aim of attacking Obama? Shall we add an asterisk, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people* [*except in cases where the gun was purchased by the Justice Department in furtherance of an investigation into where Mexican drug cartels get their weapons, and one of those weapons disappears and is used in a particularly horrible crime, in which case the gun killed the agent, not the narco-killer].”

 “We can all agree that the Fast and Furious operation was ill-conceived and the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was an avoidable tragedy. Now, our objective must be to evaluate the facts and work to prevent such an event from ever happening again,” said Hochul. 

“At a time when our country is facing significant economic challenges, it’s disappointing that both parties have, yet again, become distracted by Washington politics.  The people of Western New York deserve a transparent government, regardless of which party is in control.  Congress has a constitutional responsibility to exercise appropriate oversight, and I believe Attorney General Eric Holder should fully disclose the documents requested and allow this issue to be resolved.”

What I see is a conservative Democrat staving off any accusation that she’s weak on the 2nd Amendment – an issue about which her opponent in November has proven himself to be somewhat weak. I also see a Republican congress that continues its singular mission of harming the President at all costs, even if it collaterally does harm to average Americans or the country in general. 

ECDC: GOOD PR, BAD PR

8. On Friday, the Erie County Democratic Committee sent out two press releases. One likened the execrable Chuck Swanick, who is incredibly running to return to elected office, to Mitt Romney, calling the two “peas in a pod”. Swanick’s a lot of things – most of them negative – but he’s nothing like Romney, even remotely. The second release was much, much better. Remember how Chris Collins ran for County Executive re-election by touting how, under his “leadership”, he’d extricated the county from the hospital business? Yeah, about that – 

In 2011, Collins campaigned on the promise that Erie County was out of the hospital business, but clearly he was mistaken. The troubling news that Erie County Medical Center will cost nearly $39 million this year alone, more than double the “fixed” cost that Chris Collins promised taxpayers in 2009, raises serious questions about Collins’ ability as a manager and executive.Erie County deserves a full explanation from Chris Collins over the creation of a deal that has come back to bite taxpayers to the tune of more than $38 million over three years.

That’s 39 million reasons why the county isn’t out of the hospital business, no thanks to the guy now running against Kathy Hochul to essentially gain what passes for a noble title in America, and also to obtain subsidized federal health benefits while denying them to his constituents, and to supplement his already ample income with taxpayer dollars in the form of salary, fringe benefits, and other legacy costs. Conservative!