Tag Archives: Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan and the Obama-Hating Drum Circle in Tampa

30 Aug

This RNC is difficult enough for me to tolerate as it is, but last night Mitt Romney’s mini-me, Paul Ryan, (R-WI) gave a speech that was a reasonably dull pack of lies. When your campaign strategy is about deliberate, brazen lying on the one hand, and whining about the press calling you out on it, on the other hand, you’ve got a huge problem. 

The lying part – sure, it happens in most campaigns everywhere. Oftentimes, it’s not outright lying but mere puffery or exaggeration. But Romney and Ryan – they simply lie. They lie about stuff – important stuff – directly in your face. They do it without a hint of embarrassment, scruples, or irony. They will quite literally say one thing to one audience one day, and another thing the next. When even your official party organ – the Republican Komosomolskaya PravdaFox News calls you out on lying, you’re going to have a credibility problem as the campaign-without-end drags on

  • Ryan said that Obama promised “in 2008” that the stimulus would save a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, but “that plant didn’t last another year.” In reality, Obama made those remarks in February 2008 while running for president, the plant’s closing was announced in October 2008, and it closed in December 2008 — before Obama even took office, and months before the stimulus went into effect.
  • Ryan thundered that Obama “created a bipartisan debt commission” which “came back with an urgent report,” but Obama simply “thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” Ryan did not mention that he was on the debt commission, also known as Simpson-Bowles, and he voted against the plan it came up with.
  • Ryan accused President Obama of plundering hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare. The only part of Obamacare that Ryan kept in his budget plan? Those Medicare cuts.

Take, for instance, Paul Ryan’s speech to the assembled faithful last night. It contained a lot of red meat for the party that has become nothing more than an Obama-hatred drum circle.  The lies as Fox News sees them

Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn’t what the president said. Period. 

Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.

Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.

The right wing will whine about “Obamanomics”, which they thwarted or watered down at every opportunity, thus crippling its impact. But as Paul Ryan blames Obama for something that he didn’t do, recall that if the auto bailout hadn’t happened, there wouldn’t just be no SUV plant in Janesville, WI – there wouldn’t be a GM, or a GM plant, anywhere, doing anything. And all the ancillary suppliers and vendors would be out of work, too. Without the stimulus – watered down as it was – and without the auto bailout, the great recession of 2008 would have been a second depression. And it would have been thus because our country and its leaders over the last 20 – 30 years practically made it a policy to forget all the lessons learned during the Great Depression of the 20s and 30s. 

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This Romney campaign, however, has already declared that it will not be reality-based, or factually accurate. This is why they still have surrogates like Donald Trump going around calling Obama a Kenyan Muslim. 

When are we, as Americans, going to demand truth from our candidates? Why do we tolerate 24 month-long campaigns that boil down to crazy talk, who can raise the most money, and superficial horserace nonsense? 

This campaign has become the worst season of Big Brother, ever. 


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. 

The Morning Grumpy – 5/8/12

8 May

All the news, views, and filtered excellence that’s fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Credit - Sarah Emerson @Society6

1. If you think there will be bank operations in the HSBC Tower in downtown Buffalo in 2014, I’ve got a new Peace Bridge to sell you. HSBC is slowly selling off operations and business units and there isn’t much left to keep them in Buffalo at this point. This is a big deal and the incremental reporting on these sell-offs seems to be tamping down the regional concern.

It looks like the mortgage service center in Depew will soon be closed.

The 172,630-square-foot building at Walden Avenue and Dick Road, which HSBC leases, has a total of about 1,000 employees, but about 320 of them work for other parts of the bank, supporting commercial and other lines of business that are not connected with the mortgage unit. Brazil said the bank does “intend to remain in that building for the time being,” but he wouldn’t say how long that may be or how long the lease is for.

As HSBC sells off business units, sheds employees, and relocates teams to various locations around the country, we’re quickly approaching a day when Buffalo’s largest office building will be nearly empty, possibly within two years. The giant suckhole you hear forming is the coming collapse of the downtown commercial real estate market accompanied by the massive hit to regional morale when the tallest building in the city goes dark.

Is anyone working on a plan? I’d tell you what the Mayor is doing about it, but I haven’t received a callback from anyone working in the administration for nearly 10 months. I’m sure he’s busy figuring out how to fuck up the outer harbor.

Is the council doing anything?  They’re still bickering over which kickboxer or turtle enthusiast will replace Mickey Kearns in the South District.

So, no.

2. The 1% are delusional.

Some unknown but alarming number of ultra-rich Americans are now basically totally delusional and completely divorced from reality. This is now an inescapable fact, confirmed by multiple media accounts of billionaire thought and an entire special issue of the New York Times Magazine.

Here’s a brief list of insane things that are apparently common knowledge among the billionaire class:

  • That President Obama and the Democratic Party have treated wealthy finance industry titans maliciously and unfairly.
  • That the fact that they are perversely wealthy and growing richer during a period of mass unemployment and staggering debt is a sign that the economy is functioning correctly.
  • That poor people, and not the finance industry, are responsible for the financial crisis and subsequent recession.
  • That the ultra-wealthy are wealthy because they are smarter and work harder than everybody else, and that they are resented for their success.
  • That the ultra-wealthy in general, and finance industry executives in particular, are the victims of widespread prejudice akin to that faced by ethnic minorities.

The most fascinating thing to me is that they are able to convince a sizable chunk of Republican America that these things are true.

3. Stephen King is filthy rich and he wants to be taxed more…damn it!

Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want — those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money — is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is.

I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that — sorry, kiddies-you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay — not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay — in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.


4. The House GOP introduces a budget to fix America. Holy shit, this thing is a doozy. The “Sequester Replacement Act” authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan slashes social programs while increasing defense spending. Do the Republicans know it’s an election year?

Fully one-fourth of the House GOP spending cuts come from programs directly benefiting the poor, such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Social Services Block Grant, and a child tax credit claimed by working immigrants. Federal workers would have to contribute an additional 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, while people whose incomes rise after receiving coverage subsidies under the new health care law would lose some or all of their benefits.

The budget-cutting drive is designed to head off a looming 10 percent, $55-billion budget cut set to strike the Pentagon on Jan. 1 because of the failure of last year’s deficit “supercommittee” to strike a deal. The Obama administration and lawmakers in both parties warn the reductions would harm readiness and weapons procurement, and reduce troop levels.

The House Appropriations Committee bill released Monday includes $519.2 billion for the fiscal 2013 base budget and $88.5 billion for Afghanistan and other counterterrorism activities. That’s $1.1 billion more than the current level and $3.1 billion more than Mr. Obama requested.

To recap, the Republicans drove the American economy to the brink of global collapse last summer during the debt ceiling negotiations, agreed to the Super-committee idea, submarined that effort, and now wish to take away Grandma’s Meals on Wheels program to fund Israeli missile programs and high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles?  The GOP plan would cut food stamps for 2 million people and reduce the same benefits for 44 million others. Nearly 300,000 school children would lose free school meals and hundreds of thousands could lose their Medicaid or CHIP coverage. GOP 2012! 

5. The media is bored with the #Occupy movement, which means we’ll be hearing a lot less about income inequality, the gender wage gap, corporate greed, corruption, and other inconvenient truths.

As a new report indicates, Occupy has been central to driving media stories about income inequality in America. Late last week, Radio Dispatch’s John Knefel compiled a report for media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which illustrates Occupy’s success: Media focus on the movement in the past half year, according to the report, has been almost directly proportional to the attention paid to income inequality and corporate greed by mainstream outlets. During peak media coverage of the movement last October, mentions of the term “income inequality” increased “fourfold.”

The movement helped set the tone for President Obama’s renewed focus on these issues as the re-election campaign ramped up and helped him demonstrate a semblance of a backbone when dealing with Republicans these last few months. However…ta

As mentions of “Occupy Wall Street” or “Occupy movement” waned in early 2012, so too have mentions of “income inequality” and, to an even greater extent, “corporate greed.” The trend is true for four leading papers (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times), news programs on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), cable (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News) and NPR, according to searches of the Nexis news media database. Google Trends data also indicates that from January to March, the phrases “income inequality” and “corporate greed” declined in volume of both news stories and searches.

The national media tells most of America what to be concerned with at any point in time. Once they pull the plug on the attention or outrage machine…*POOF* we no longer give a collective shit. Looking for followup stories on the BP Oil Spill? The Haiti earthquake? Japanese tsunami? Etc.? You’ll have to wait for the anniversary of the event for a quick look on the nightly news and maybe, if we’re lucky, an overwrought and emotional human interest piece on one of the morning shows.

Fact Of The Day: Scientologists warn that reading the Xenu story without proper authorization could cause pneumonia.

Quote Of The Day: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” – My 3 Year Old Daughter, Josie

Video Of The Day: “Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars All Without a Flamewar: Crash Course World History #13” – Crash Course, A brilliant YouTube channel

Laugh Of The Day: “Muffins” – Bill Burr

Song Of The Day: “Cool Jerk” – The Capitols

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

Jane Corwin and the Republican Budget

16 Apr

The Friday night news dump is especially reserved for embarrassing or harmful information. And for five solid days, Democratic candidate for NY-26 had been hectoring her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, to reveal her stand regarding the Republicans’ 2012 budget proposal. Known widely for its chief proponent, Wisconsin Republican representative Paul Ryan, who is its chief proponent and chairman of congress’ budget committee, the Republican plan would further cut taxes on the wealthy, transform America’s popular and efficient Medicare single-payer plan for seniors and turn it into an insurance voucher program, and do other things that greatly benefit the wealthy and large corporate campaign donors so that the deficit might be eliminated by 2040.

Congress passed the Ryan budget with only 6 Republican defections or abstentions.  No Democrat voted for it.  The most repellent part of that legislation is the privatization of Medicare.  The entire reason why Medicare exists is that older people become less and less able to arrange their own affairs, need more medical attention more often, and are, frankly, a poor insurance risk. Indeed, private health insurers aren’t exactly happily anticipating an influx of millions of post-boomer seniors buying insurance with vouchers, the value of which will rise slower than the rate of health care itself.  Suddenly, older Americans, who are now largely free from concerns about who will pay for their health care costs, will have to start worrying about it again for the first time since 1964.  The CBO projects that seniors would be on the hook for 2/3 of their medical costs within 10 years of the plan’s implementation. Unless you’re a baby boomer. Then you can still keep the single-payer Medicare everyone loves.

And think of the mental gymnastics at issue here. What the Ryan budget actually does is replace a popular single-payer health care plan for seniors and replaces it with…Obamacare.

“It’s exactly like Obamacare,” said NRSC chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in the Capitol Thursday. “It is. It’s exactly like it. Which strikes me as bizarre that you’re seeing so much pushback [from Democrats].”

This is admirable candor — Cornyn was the only legislator I could find, Republican or Democrat, who would acknowledge this obvious truth. Indeed Cornyn didn’t even let me finish my question before excitedly volunteering that the House Republican budget would turn Medicare into a plan that mimics the key aspects of President Obama’s health care law.

What explains the irony? If you think of the health care system as a highway with unbridled free market private insurance on one end and universal single payer on the other end, then two parties are now approaching each other from opposite directions. Democrats pushed ObamaCare for working-aged people as a move away from unrestrained private insurance, toward a universal program. In trying to dismantle Medicare, Republicans are seeking to rollback a successful example of single payer toward freer market.

They’ve now awkwardly encountered each other in the middle. The similarities between the two policies creates a dilemma for Republicans who have smeared the health care law as an existential threat to the United States and for Democrats who’ve attacked the GOP plan as a corporate giveaway and dangerous for seniors.

So, WTF, right? “Obamacare” is socialism when proposed by the President, but great policy when proposed by the Republican House.

The GOP plan, as suggested above, would put future Medicare beneficiaries into an exchange — a pooled marketplace of private health insurance — and subsidize those policies with federal revenues. That’s the very same principle underlying “Obamacare.” But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Cornyn.

“Basically people who lose their employer-provided insurance, right, under Obamacare, go into the exchanges and then are provided with a taxpayer subsidy to help them buy private insurance,” he said. “That’s exactly what the premiums support plan that Paul Ryan is proposing.”

Correct! Yet Cornyn supports one and vilifies the other. “[ObamaCare] was 2,700 pages long, and I did oppose it for a multitude of reasons,” he said.

If you present members with the notion that the two plans are similar in anyway, you get obfuscation, or word salad, or both.

“I’m curious as to how,” said freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI). “A lot of people believe that’s going to be a system that’s a little more similar to what we have as federal employees, too.”

“What we do, is what the President has called for and so many of our friends on the other side and that is, don’t you think that seniors ought to have the same kind of health coverage as Members of Congress?” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. “The program we would put in place is one that essentially mirrors the federal employee health benefits program and a series of premium assistance for seniors who are not able to have the financial wherewithal.”

This is a common refrain from Republicans. One problem with it, though is that Obama’s health care reform law also provided uninsured people with benefits similar to those members of Congress have.

Well, it’s all very easy to understand.

In a way it’s no surprise that Republicans and Democrats have such similar approaches. The health care law is based on an old Republican policy idea — one they quickly abandoned when Barack Obama adopted it.

Ezra Klein notes that the Ryan proposal takes the burden of insuring seniors off the government, and places it squarely on the backs of seniors themselves.

The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health-care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they’d need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health-care they purchase. Exacerbating the situation — and this is important — Medicare currently pays providers less and works more efficiently than private insurers, so seniors trying to purchase a plan equivalent to Medicare would pay more for it on the private market.

It’s hard, given the constraints of our current debate, to call something “rationing” without being accused of slurring it. But this is rationing, and that’s not a slur. This is the government capping its payments and moderating their growth in such a way that many seniors will not get the care they need.

In an interesting twist, there was an even more radically Randian Republican budget being brought to a vote on the floor of the House before the Ryan budget.  It was so outrageous that even many Republicans thought it too draconian (read: politically harmful), so they figured the Democrats would defeat it for them. But instead, the Democrats all voted late, and then voted “present”, which doesn’t count as a vote.  Suddenly, the Republicans were scrambling as politically sensitive reps desperately tried to change their yeas to nays,

Republicans realized they were about to accidentally pass a plan that was too politically radioactive even to them. So they pressed several of their own members — including Reps. David Dreier (R-CA), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) — to switch their votes from yes to no. Indeed, when they realized what the Dems were up to, Republicans managed to flip just as many votes as they’d need to kill the RSC plan, even if every Democrat voted “present.” Only 15 Democrats declined to switch their votes from “no” to “present.” The plan failed by 16 votes.

“We got a lot of them to change, not every one of them to change,” Hoyer said. Those who didn’t, including several Blue Dogs wouldn’t budge. “There were a variety of reasons. I think some have tough races. Some said they’d never voted present. I was disappointed that they did not follow what I think was a strategy to highlight the position of the Republican Party.”

Kathy Hochul, who is vying for the Congressional seat most recently vacated by Chris Lee (R-Shirtless) came out against the Ryan budget proposal days ago. Her most recent press release from Friday reads:


The following is a statement from Fabien Levy, Director of Communications for Kathy Hochul for Congress:

“In just a few hours the House will vote on the Republican budget proposal that would end Medicare as we know it.  For days, Kathy Hochul, candidate for New York’s 26th Congressional District, has called on her opponents to join her in rejecting any budget that would add burdensome costs onto the backs of America’s seniors.  Today, there is only one candidate whose silence signals her intentions to break the promises made to our elderly population.

“Jane Corwin remains the only candidate in this race who has refused to tell the voters of the 26th District where she stands on the current budget proposal.  As the only Republican in the country currently running for Congress, she has repeatedly dodged every opportunity to take a position on the Republican’s 2012 budget.

“While her silence signals apathy, the truth may be even worse.  The people of the 26th want to know, if Jane Corwin was currently a Member of the House of Representatives, would she vote to slash benefits, increase costs, and hold America’s elderly population responsible for fighting with insurance companies?  Kathy Hochul has firmly stated her opposition to this proposal and promised to reject any budget that fundamentally alters Medicare.

“Assemblymember Corwin, before the vote is cast, tell the voters of the 26th District how you would vote today – would you reject the current budget proposal before the House or would you vote to decimate Medicare?”

Well, we all got our answer late Friday evening. Corwin emailed this to “Capital Tonight’s” Liz Benjamin:

“As a member of Congress, I would have voted both for this week’s plan to cut $38 billion and for the 2012 House budget resolution passed today because these bills are good initial steps in addressing America’s crippling deficit.”

“Our country is on the verge of bankruptcy, and our economy, our children’s future, and the security of our seniors are in jeopardy if we choose not to act. Now, it’s time that my opponents say exactly what they would do to address our nation’s burgeoning deficit.”

Well, no, the country isn’t on the “verge of bankruptcy”. But more starkly, there is nothing more repulsive and abhorrent to me than to see a small-time Republican political automaton who is a million-heiress living in the region’s most exclusive and expensive little neighborhood essentially telling everyone under 55 that there will be no Medicare for them.  All done, all gone. Of course, there’s no fiscal pain in the Corwin household, where they could literally bathe in dollar bills, but for regular folks, average non-multi-millionaire households, future seniors (that’s me) would grow old in some idiot voucher system where we’d be on the hook for 66% of our health care costs.  The social contract altered by millionaires on the backs – and to the detriment – of the poor and middle class. In other countries, people riot over that sort of mind-boggling arrogance.

Jane Corwin would not, however, change the Medicare single-payer plan for people currently over 55. I don’t know how that plays with the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, and I thought the Congressional Republicans had decided that they’d include a statement of constitutionality with every bill.

In 2009, seniors came out in their thousands during the debate over Obama’s health care reform plan, and demandedloudly – and angrily that the government keep its socialist hands off their Medicare. One wonders how those same people will react to this Republican plan. Oh, they didn’t complain much at all? Because they’re exempt from it. But they were exempted from Obama’s plan, too.

The conversation we should be having in this country is how to make Medicare available to any American who wants to opt in. People could still by supplemental coverage on the open market, and others could choose to opt out. But the fact that we’re still having the same damned debate we had some 47 years ago about how – and whether – to provide universal health coverage is a massive and ongoing, embarrassing failure.

But we at least now know that Republican parrot Jane Corwin would like those of you without bread to go ahead and eat cake.

On Reversing 30 Years of Falsity

14 Apr

Memo to Barry: Fight!!The President, yesterday, commenting on Representative Paul Ryan’s “deficit reduction” 2012 budget plan, which is just shorthand for “ending Medicare, Medicaid, and the social safety net as we know it, plunging the United States backwards into the 19th century”:

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

The Republicans have doubled down on their obeisance to the superwealthy and powerful corporate interests. They have been quite adept at hiding their preference for oligarchy behind appeals to God, patriotism, and Reagan.  But abolishing the social safety net so that the very rich can pay de minimis taxes, so corporations can relocate freely to the Caymans, or game an system that is advantageous to the hyperwealthy to avoid all taxes, and paying for those tax cuts on the backs of the middle class and wage earners is the real class warfare being waged.

The Ryan plan, aside from directly benefiting do-nothing middleman health insurers – those feckless David Brents of the health delivery industry – promises to not touch Medicare for those now over 55.  So for those of us who have lived, say hypothetically, 42 years in a country with an expectation that at least some of our health care expenses in old age will be covered by a generous and well-run government single-payer health plan, we’d have been deceived. This is fundamentally unfair and unacceptable – simple pandering to the massive baby boomer vote at the expense of “everyone under 55”.  The Ryan plan completely avoid making any cuts to military spending – an unbelievable joke to presume that not even a dollar’s worth of savings might be siphoned off from the military-industrial complex.

Most Americans are politically middle-of-the-road, and economically middle class. The Republicans have spent the last 30 years duping regular folks that it’s critically important to make sure the superwealthy don’t pay a lot in taxes. I don’t quite know why that steaming, fetid pile of lies is still accepted as truth, or reasonable policy.

I know a lot of liberals, progressives, and others who supported Obama are disappointed at a lot of what he’s done, and more at what he hasn’t done. It’s been an intensely complicated three years, to put it mildly. I’m mildly disillusioned, but I’m not ready to abandon the guy yet.  Not when he can so succinctly make the case that the opposition has essentially abandoned regular folks.

Asking billionaires to pay 37% of their income versus 35% isn’t class warfare. It’s reverting back to the Clinton era, when the economy was booming and the government ran a surplus.

Candidates and Seriousness

7 Apr


As Washington tries to avoid a government shutdown, the Batavian’s Howard Owens contacted all four candidates for NY-26 to ask them specifically what they thought about Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan’s proposal to cut spending and transform Medicare into a voucher program and let the magical free-market fairy work everything out to its lowest common denominator.

It’s as if seniors didn’t come out in their thousands to congressional town hall meetings in 2009 to demand that the government keep its grubby hands off their Medicare.

Three of the four candidates replied, much as you’d expect. Jack Davis did not; because it’s not an issue that involves hatred of brown people, he hasn’t yet formulated an opinion on it.

Jane Corwin, like most contemporary Republicans, hears the word “vouchers” and “privatization” and salivates all over it, regardless of whether it’s a good idea:

Our country is facing a historical challenge – we can either keep pursuing a path of runaway spending, and job-killing debt, or we can choose to get serious about reducing spending, cutting taxes and creating sustainable long-term economic growth for our children and grandchildren. The plan unveiled today recognizes this reality. I look forward to studying the proposals and working to change the direction of our country.

She omitted the part about how the government and the tax code are set up now to uniformly benefit the superwealthiest Americans, and to encourage offshoring of domestic corporations’ headquarters, capital, and labor. To her, it’s phenomenally important that reduced federal spending be done on the backs of the middle class and poor. Obviously, if corporations’ and American million-heiresses’ taxes were further reduced – perhaps to zero – the trickle-down to society’s serfs would be mind-bogglingly phenomenal, and all of our Galts could leave their gulch.

Kathy Hochul, on the other hand, equivocated a bit, but in the end rejected the notion that Medicare should be altered:

It’s time to get our fiscal house in order and start working toward reducing our national debt. There is no question that we need to make substantial cuts to our budget, but decimating Medicare cannot be the solution. Once elected, I look forward to working with all members of Congress to cut wasteful spending, while still keeping the promises made to our seniors and ensuring the survival of job re-training programs, so that our businesses can innovate, create jobs, and compete in the global market.

The problem is that one’s interpretation of “wasteful spending” can be somewhat subjective, and the Republican caucus thinks that “Medicare” and other “programs that help anyone who doesn’t donate to their campaigns” or “programs that benefit people who don’t lobby me” are “wasteful”.

Finally, Green Party Ian Murphy blasted through with a heaping dose of truth:

Ryan’s budget proposal represents the height of Republican dishonesty. It’s a reverse-Robin Hood, where they rob from the poor and give to the rich. You can’t reduce the deficit by lowering taxes on corporations and the super-rich, and cutting social spending. Anyone who suggests such an obvious lie should be laughed off the political stage. It’s just one more example of our elected officials representing wealth, not people.


And the Palinist tea party wing is holding a NY-26 candidates’ forum, and Murphy isn’t invited because he’s not a “serious candidate”.  While he has the nerve to inject humor, irony, and sarcasm into a fundamentally laughable process, his positions are quite serious, indeed.

What is so unserious about using humor to make a political point, as opposed to, for instance, Jane Corwin just plain-old lying about her opponent?  What is so unserious about plainly stating your position on the issue of transforming Medicare into nothingness, ignoring the whole purpose behind it, as compared with a milliontard candidate who doesn’t even have a damned opinion about it?  The real unserious candidates are Jack “I don’t know” Davis and Jane “we’ll take supper in the parlor” Corwin.