thedigbyblog at gmail Dennis: satniteflix at gmail Gaius: publius.gaius at gmail Tom: tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:Spockosbrain at gmail
David: isnospoon at gmail tristero: Richardein at me.com
And forced working people to spend down savings to get by:
Which forced working people to go into debt: (total household debt as percentage ofGDP )
None of which has helped economic growth much: (12-quarter rolling average nominalGDP growth.)*
There are, of course, many reasons for all this. But there is no doubt that we've been in the clutches of conservative economic orthodoxy since 1980 and this is the result. Whether it's the cause or whether it's because it has no capacity to react to external events properly doesn't matter. It has failed. And is still failing. #Austerity
Now, one might expect that if the NRA wanted to portray President Obama as a gun grabbing bureaucrat they wouldn't show a picture of him in an act which they exalt, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you assume that NRA people would like seeing their president using a gun?
I'm going to guess there is some subtext here, maybe something that tickles the lizard brain a little The obvious one that comes to mind is this:
But that's probably just too crude. Sure Fox News fetishized a couple of aging "new" black panthers who stood outside a polling place once, but that doesn't mean there's any racial angel with the NRA.
So, it's more likely just a symbolic way of showing that the president is the leader of "The Men With Guns", which means the government which wants to take your guns so that you can't fight back when it becomes a tyranny. Like it sort of is already under "King Pinocchio" because it's trying to take your guns. Therefore, you must "stand and fight." With your guns. If you get my drift.
The good news is that they had the good sense not superimpose crosshairs on the picture of the president. Baby steps.
I read the piece, which is by reporter Samantha Bryson, with ever-increasing slack-jawed amazement, my eyebrows raised so high they nearly met my hairline. Clearly an attempt to portray the kinder, gentler side of the Klan, it is an epic journalistic fail. Here’s the first line: “There’s a lot to be angry about if you’re in the KKK.” Well, that’s one way of putting it! It goes on from there:
As local leader of the Loyal White Knights, Edward the Exalted Cyclops organized a barbecue last month to make plans for Saturday’s demonstration to show that white people still have rights.
Edward curses sparingly, drinks rarely, and keeps his hair clipped short — his tribute to his old-fashioned Christian values.
Does that read like a pitch-perfect Onion parody, or what? I mean, Edward the Exalted Cyclops? Hosting a barbecue?? And yes, you might, I suppose, describe decades of brutal racist terror and violence as “old-fashioned Christian values”— but only if you are a very mischievous atheist or anti-clerical-ist indeed.
The story describes plans for a Klan rally in Memphis today to “celebrate white people’s rights.” Yes, it really says that — unironically, and without challenge! According to one Klansmen, it is a protest against attempts “to erase white people out of the history books.” There are many other inadvertently hilarious moments in this LOL-rich article; my favorite is “communists (known as liberals today)” (and no, that’s not a quote from a Klansman — those are the reporter’s own words).
Saturday May 26th the VNN Vanguard Nazi/KKK group attempted to host a hate rally to try to take advantage of the brutal murder of a white couple for media and recruitment purposes.
Unfortunately for them the 100th ARA (Anti Racist Action) clown block came and handed them their asses by making them appear like the asses they were.
Alex Linder the founder of VNN and the lead organizer of the rally kicked off events by rushing the clowns in a fit of rage, and was promptly arrested by 4 Knoxville police officers who dropped him to the ground when he resisted and dragged him off past the red shiny shoes of the clowns.
“White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.
“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.
“White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.
At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”
The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”
This is the funniest thing I've read in years. It's perfect, sublime.
And if this part is true, then it makes my year:
After the VNNers left in their shiny SUVs to go back to Alabama and all the other states that they were from the clowns and counter demonstrators began to march out of the area chanting ‘WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!”
But the cops stopped the clowns and counter protestors. “Hey, do you want an escort” an African-American police officer on a motorcycle asked. “Yes” a clown replied. “We are walking to Market Square in the center of town to celebrate.”
The police officers got in front of the now anti racist parade and blocked the entire road for the march through the heart of Knoxville. An event called imagination station was taking place and over 15,000 thousand students and their parents were in town that weekend. Many of them cheered as the clowns, Knoxvillians and counter protestors marched through the heart of Knoxville singing and laughing at the end of the Nazi’s first attempt at having a rally in Knoxville.
I'm hopeful that Chris will be able to continue to do this sort of interview on the new show but in any case, we know he'll be bringing the same perspective which is, as Rosen indicates, unique among these cable news hosts.
Update: Krugman rsponds to David Stockman's incoherent rant in this morning's NYTimes, thank God. And he does it in his own inimitable fashion:
We’ve been doomed, yes doomed, ever since FDR took us off the gold standard and introduced unemployment insurance. What about those 80 years of non-doom? Just a series of lucky accidents. Now we’re really doomed. I mean it!
Actually, I was disappointed in Stockman’s piece. I thought there would be some kind of real argument, some presentation, however tendentious, of evidence. Instead it’s just a series of gee-whiz, context- and model-free numbers embedded in a rant — and not even an interesting rant. It’s cranky old man stuff, the kind of thing you get from people who read Investors Business Daily, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and maybe, if they’re unusually teched up, get investment advice from Zero Hedge.
"The poverty rate among families is back up to 1996 levels" --- so let's do some more "reform" shall we?
Here's a heartwarming story about the greatest country in the world. It tells how our vaunted federalist system, where states are often squeezed by tight budgets, leaves only the federal government to pick up the slack when the economy goes south. Unfortunately, we've had a 30 year jihad (70?) on federal government programs that have left them struggling as well.
I wish I could say that this is the result of GOP obstruction and intransigence, but unfortunately it's just as much a result of Democratic "reform" efforts. Get a load of this:
This story of a program financed by states that hasn’t been able to keep up with demand is the same for another huge part of the social safety net: welfare, or as we know it now, TANF. TANF does even worse than unemployment: it reaches just 10 percent of the children living with unemployment parents and just 30 percent of those living in poverty. The program used to do much better: in 1996, it reached 70 percent of poor families with children living in poverty. But then there was welfare reform, which turned it from a cost-sharing model to a block grant. Rather than the federal government sharing the costs with the states, the government now doles out lumps of cash and mostly lets states handle the rest. That lump doesn’t change even if the economy gets worse and more people live in poverty—and hasn’t even kept up with inflation.
While welfare reformers initially claimed victory as rolls fell during a booming 90s economy, the numbers have continued to fall even as jobs have disappeared. The poverty rate among families is back up to 1996 levels, but TANF’s caseload has fallen by 60 percent since then.
The author goes on to explain how other programs have been struggling to fill the gap --- as she points out, these people have no less need for food and shelter than they ever did. But the strain on these other programs is substantial. And anyway, they are now being targeted as well.
In fairness, that article only proposed to educate food stamp recipient about healthier food choices, so it isn't what it looks like. There are many permutations of "food stamp reform" some of them quite reasonable (although hardly a high priority.) But there are a whole lot of people out there advocating for a different kind of "reform." Bascially it comes down to fighting "dependency", which now means, evidently, dependency on food.
This is the Freedomworks proposal, which is very similar to Paul Ryan's, and it's signed by a whole bunch of right wing groups:
Use block grants: Replacing the annual appropriation with a block grant would give states an incentive to control costs. This is an improvement over current policy, in which states have an incentive to procure as many federal dollars as possible. Last session, Rep. Huelskamp introduced a bill (H.R. 6567) that proposed to merge the six food welfare programs in the Farm Bill into a single block grant.
Apply income and asset tests to categorically eligible households: A major driver of the growth in food stamp spending is state-based efforts to increase benefits and expand eligibility. An increasing number of recipients are automatically, or “categorically,” eligible for benefits based on their participation in other programs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, adding income and asset tests to categorical eligibility requirements would trim average annual outlays by $12 billion over 10 years.
Roll back spending on Title IV to FY2008 levels: Federal outlays for nutrition programs in 2008 were $37.6 billion; in 2013, they will total $82.0 billion. Returning spending to FY2008 levels would strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and providing a reasonable social safety net.
Separate Title IV from the rest of the Bill: Nutrition assistance is unrelated to the agricultural subsidies contained in the rest of the bill and it deserves its own treatment in separate legislation. Washington needs to stop rolling massive programs together in order to secure votes and shield programs from much-needed reform. Last session, Sen. Ron Johnson made a motion to send the bill back to the Agriculture Committee with instructions to strike Title IV—the title dealing with food stamps (SNAP) and other nutrition programs. We urge you to take this important step this year.
Basically, they want to pretend that there has been no increased need since 2008, which is false. And then they want to turn this over to the states, many of which will then use it to squeeze their poor, just as they have with all the other "devolutions" to the states. (I'm going to guess that they want to separate out the agricultural subsidies from the rest of it so they can continue to reward Big Ag with taxpayer money as Jesus intended.)
Read the whole article and you'll find that for all the recent sturm und drang about hordes of lazy moochers allegedly taking advantage of federal programs, real poverty is rising in this country and we have a much more porous safety net. And if the politicians of both parties in Washington have their way, it's not going to improve much. After all, their austerity policies may well doom us to more of the same for many years to come.
So, I woke up this fine morning, got my coffee and checked out my twitter feed to find that the Right is Up In Arms because google decided to honor Chavez instead of Jesus today. I thought to myself, "well, Hugo Chavez is a controversial figure and maybe honoring him on Easter is an odd things to do." Then I found out that it's Cesar Chavez organizer of poor farm laborers and thought, "Jesus would so love that!"
But the right wingers are appalled, even though Cesar Chavez's birthday, March 31st, today, is officially "Cesar Chavez Day" the "investigative reporter" who first sounded the alarm implies that it's a political favor by Google since its CEO is an Obama supporter. Therefore, this is a Democratic Party plot --- indeed, a White House plot, to demean Easter Sunday, the resurrection, and Jesus himself. What could be more obvious.
Because Playboy bunnies are the only decent way to celebrate Easter. Honoring a man who helped the poorest of the poor is just another slap in the right wing's face. Which is the same as slapping Jesus.
Sen. Rand Paul says there’s “a certain amount of hypocrisy” that the same Hollywood celebrities and prominent politicians — including President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who are calling for gun control are also benefiting from armed protection themselves.
“I don’t begrudge any famous person like Mayor Bloomberg, or the president or the president’s family for having protection — I think they all should. There’s enough crazy people out there that would attack on the right or the left. But I think when you are being protected by people who have weapons by responsible people, I can’t see why you would be opposed to that for other people,” Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said Thursday on Fox News’s “Hannity” to guest-host Eric Bolling.
Because, you know, the rules that go for high-profile targets like politicians and celebrities who often have to go outdoors in disguise are exactly the same rules everyone else should live by. That makes sense.
These people, including Senators like Rand Paul, aren't that bright. The arguments they're making could be taken apart by 1st grade students.
But they're backed by people with big money, and by a lot of people who are desperate to take out their murder fantasies on all the "moochers" coming to "take their stuff." Since they can't say those things out loud in modern America, they instead resort to these sorts of arguments that no one above room temperature IQ would take seriously.
Generally speaking, a field of wheat is a field of wheat; nothing more, nothing less. However, in the realm of crime thrillers, such benign rural locales can harbor ominous underpinnings (Memories of Murder, The Onion Field and In Cold Blood come to mind). And so it is in The Silence, a low-key, quietly unsettling genre entry from Germany. In the hands of Swiss-born writer-director Baran bo Odar (who adapted from Jan Costin Wagner’s novel), a wheat field emerges as the principal character; an unlikely venue for acts running the gamut from the sacred to profane, as unfathomably mysterious and complex as the humans who commit them within its enveloping, wind-swept folds.
A flashback to the mid-1980s, involving the disappearance of a 13-year old girl, whose abandoned bicycle is found amidst the aforementioned waves of grain, sets the stage for the bulk of the story, which begins 23 years later with an eerily similar incident at the same location involving a girl of the same age. A team of oddly dysfunctional homicide detectives (several of whom worked the former unsolved case) sets about to investigate. However, Odar quickly discards standard police procedural tropes by revealing the perpetrator to the audience long before the police figure out who it is. Interestingly, this narrative choice echoes another German crime thriller (arguably the seminal German crime thriller), Fritz Lang’s M. And, just like the child-murderer in Lang’s film, this is a monster hidden in plain sight who walks “among us”… personifying the banality of evil.
Putting the “mystery” on the backburner allows Odar to focus on the aftermath of tragedy. The loss of any loved one is profound; but the loss of a child, especially via an act of violence, is particularly devastating to surviving family members (so poignantly evident to us all in the wake of Sandy Hook). In that respect, I was reminded of Atom Egoyan’s 1997 drama, The Sweet Hereafter. Like Egoyan, Odar deep-sixes Cause and makes a beeline for Effect, peeling away the veneer of his characters like the layers of an onion, enabling his talented ensemble to deliver emotionally resonant performances. Consequently this haunting film is not so much about interrogations and evidence bags as it is about grief, loss, guilt, redemption…and an unfathomably mysterious field of wheat.
Adlynn and Robert Harte sued this week to get more information about why sheriff's deputies searched their home in the upscale Kansas City suburb of Leawood last April 20 as part of Operation Constant Gardener — a sweep conducted by agencies in Kansas and Missouri that netted marijuana plants, processed marijuana, guns, growing paraphernalia and cash from several other locations.
April 20 long has been used by marijuana enthusiasts to celebrate the illegal drug and more recently by law enforcement for raids and crackdowns. But the Hartes' attorney, Cheryl Pilate, said she suspects the couple's 1,825-square-foot split level was targeted because they had bought hydroponic equipment to grow a small number of tomatoes and squash plants in their basement.
"With little or no other evidence of any illegal activity, law enforcement officers make the assumption that shoppers at the store are potential marijuana growers, even though the stores are most commonly frequented by backyard gardeners who grow organically or start seedlings indoors," the couple's lawsuit says.
The couple filed the suit this week under the Kansas Open Records Act after Johnson County and Leawood denied their initial records requests, with Leawood saying it had no relevant records. The Hartes say the public has an interest in knowing whether the sheriff's department's participation in the raids was "based on a well-founded belief of marijuana use and cultivation at the targeted addresses, or whether the raids primarily served a publicity purpose."
"If this can happen to us and we are educated and have reasonable resources, how does somebody who maybe hasn't led a perfect life supposed to be free in this country?" Adlynn Harte said in an interview Friday.
The suit filed in Johnson County District Court said the couple and their two children — a 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son — were "shocked and frightened" when deputies armed with assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests pounded on the door of their home around 7:30 a.m. last April 20.
"It was just like on the cops TV shows," Robert Harte told The Associated Press. "It was like 'Zero Dark Thirty' ready to storm the compound."
During the sweep, the court filing said, the Hartes were told they had been under surveillance for months, but the couple "know of no basis for conducting such surveillance nor do they believe such surveillance would have produced any facts supporting the issuance of a search warrant."
When law enforcement arrived, the family had just six plants — three tomato plants, one melon plant and two butternut squash plants — growing in the basement, Harte said.
The suit also said deputies "made rude comments" and implied their son was using marijuana. A drug-sniffing dog was brought in to help, but deputies ultimately left after providing a receipt stating, "No items taken."
God bless America.
These people are former CIA employees and don't seem inclined to let this go. They don't say what kind of work they used to do for the agency, but it's always interesting to see how the police and national security apparatus employees feel when their government behaves toward them as if constitutional principles and moral values only apply in certain circumstances. They don't like it. In fact, nobody does.
Hopefully they'll follow through with their suit. It will be interesting to see if a judge or jury concur that buying hydroponic equipment is adequate probably cause to roust people in their homes.
I know this has been out for a while, but I hadn't heard it before today:
I happened to be watching a July, 2012 Crosby, Stills and Nash concert on cable when Nash introduced this song in a very heartfelt way. The audience didn't seem to know how to respond to it when he started talking about it. They ecstatically responded at the end.
Protest music is powerful, even when performed by dirty old hippies.
I have to admit that this shows so much chutzpah, even for her, that I have to grant her my grudging admiration. In a world of sanctimonious phonies and hucksters, nobody does it with more upfront obviousness:
Sarah Palin attempted to relaunch her political career and her political action committee, SarahPAC, on Thursday with a Web video called “Loaded for Bear,” which presented the former Alaska governor as the new kingmaker for conservative populists in the GOP.
The video riffed off her speech at CPAC, in which Palin railed against “the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media.” But there’s an irony alert ahead: the current stated purpose of SarahPAC is to raise money ahead of the 2014 election—most of which will be spent on conservative consultants.
Don't believe me? Well, this is a perfect time to page through SarahPAC’s Federal Election Commission filings, which—helpfully enough—were just released yesterday.
Seen through the lens of the invaluable Center for Responsive Politics, Palin’s PAC spent $5.1 million in the last election cycle (more than it raised in that time period, raising some questions about Palin’s claims of fiscal responsibility).
But the real news comes when you look at how donors’ money was actually doled out: just $298,500 to candidates. The bulk of the rest of it, more than $4.8 million, went to—you guessed it—consultants.
That’s some seriously hypocritical overhead.
In total, Palin’s PAC spent $980,000 on campaign expenses, $1.3 million on administrative costs (including almost a million dollars on postage), and three-quarters of a million on fundraising. Hidden in all of this—amid the direct mail and the media buys—is consultants’ cut of every dollar spent.
That's a lot of money don't you think? To what end? And how much of those "expenses" went to keep Palin and her family living high on the hog, I wonder?
But it's an old story, isn't it?
As the reporter of his piece says:
It’s a reminder of Eric Hoffer’s immortal line that “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
“We must embrace the need for modest reforms—otherwise our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children.” President Obama, State of the union address, 2013
Is that really true?
Here's Dean Baker:
The Very Serious People in Washington have been running around arguing that the country should be very worried about the aging of the population. The story is that we face an enormous crisis because the ratio of workers to retirees is projected to fall from 2.8 to 1 in 2013 to just 2.0 to 1 over the next two decades. This declining ratio is supposed to mean that our children will face an enormous burden in supporting a rapidly growing population of retirees.
While this projection produces much hand wringing and head nodding among the Very Serious People (VSP), fans of arithmetic know that it provides little basis for concern. The reason for the lack of concern is often given by the VSPs themselves. When pushing the scare story they often throw in the tidbit that the ratio of workers to retirees used to be 5 to 1 back in the 1960s.
Of course the country is far richer on average today than it was in the 1960s even though we have much lower ratio of workers to retirees. The secret is productivity growth. Output per worker hour is more than twice as much in 2013 as it was in the 1960s. As a result, we can both have a larger share of output diverted to supporting retirees and have higher living standards for both workers and retirees.
The same story holds going forward. In 20 years average output per worker is conservatively estimated to be more than 40 percent higher than it is today. This means that even if workers were to see an increase in their payroll tax of 2 or 3 percentage points (almost certainly more than would actually be the case – we can also raise the cap on taxable wages) they would still have much higher after-tax wages in 2033 than they do today.
Furthermore, the longer-term story looks even brighter. After 2030 the demographic picture actually improves slightly as us pesky baby boomers die off and then is projected to worsen very gradually through the rest of the century as the life expectancies continue to rise.
This means that the gains of productivity growth will be able to go to active workers in these decades with no additional burdens due to demographics. That would mean wages could rise by another 15 percent by 2043 and another 15 percent on top of this by 2053. There is nothing close to the story of impoverishing our children pushed by the VSPs.
Unfortunately, we do have a problem, but it's not because the old people are sucking up all the money by living too long. It's something else entirely:
At this point alert readers are jumping up and down yelling that most workers have not been seeing the gains of productivity growth over the last three decades due to the upward redistribution of income over this period. If this trend continues then workers will have little increase in before-tax wages to offset any tax increases that might be needed to support Social Security.
This is completely true and precisely the point. The real threat to our children’s living standards has nothing to do with the possibility that Social Security might require additional tax revenue in the decades ahead. The threat to their living standards is the risk that the upward redistribution of the last three decades will continue for the decades into the future. If this proves to be the case, then the top 1-2 percent of the population will get almost all of the gains of economic growth and most of our children and grandchildren will see nothing.
The demographic argument is misdirection. The wealthy elites are trying to get people to believe that the problem is that that workers just can't contribute enough to keep up with all the takers (which they themselves are too, when they expect to collect in their old age.) But they are. The problem is that the wealthy are keeping it all for themselves.
Krugman hit this yesterday too, from another angle. He points out that the argument for austerity has switched from being an immediate crisis that requires us to cut spending immediately or face Armageddon to a long term crisis that requires us to cut spending over the long term or our children will face Armageddon:
... Pundits who spent years trying to foster a sense of panic over the deficit have begun writing pieces lamenting the likelihood that there won’t be a crisis, after all. Maybe it wasn’t that significant when President Obama declared that we don’t face any “immediate” debt crisis, but it did represent a change in tone from his previous deficit-hawk rhetoric. And it was startling, indeed, when John Boehner, the speaker of the House, said exactly the same thing a few days later.
What happened? Basically, the numbers refuse to cooperate: Interest rates remain stubbornly low, deficits are declining and even 10-year budget projections basically show a stable fiscal outlook rather than exploding debt.
So talk of a fiscal crisis has subsided. Yet the deficit scolds haven’t given up on their determination to bully the nation into slashing Social Security and Medicare. So they have a new line: We must bring down the deficit right away because it’s “generational warfare,” imposing a crippling burden on the next generation.
What’s wrong with this argument? For one thing, it involves a fundamental misunderstanding of what debt does to the economy.
Contrary to almost everything you read in the papers or see on TV, debt doesn’t directly make our nation poorer; it’s essentially money we owe to ourselves. Deficits would indirectly be making us poorer if they were either leading to big trade deficits, increasing our overseas borrowing, or crowding out investment, reducing future productive capacity. But they aren’t: Trade deficits are down, not up, while business investment has actually recovered fairly strongly from the slump. And the main reason businesses aren’t investing more is inadequate demand. They’re sitting on lots of cash, despite soaring profits, because there’s no reason to expand capacity when you aren’t selling enough to use the capacity you have. In fact, you can think of deficits mainly as a way to put some of that idle cash to use.
Yet there is, as I said, a lot of truth to the charge that we’re cheating our children. How? By neglecting public investment and failing to provide jobs.
So, once again, fixing problems that don't exist while ignoring the ones that do.
Premiums on California's individual health insurance market will increase an average of 30 percent as a result of President Obama's healthcare law, a new study predicts.
The state agency that will implement the law, Covered California, said premium increases are most likely to hit middle-income people who do not receive healthcare coverage through their employers.
The figures released Thursday come the same week Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius conceded that healthcare reform could cause some premiums to rise. The remark quickly drew fire from Republicans, who say the law will be disruptive and expensive for the government and consumers.
People like me, in other words, who until very recently bought healthcare as small business owners or independent contractors on the individual market are going to get hosed.
The worst part of this is that it's going to be very difficult to convince a struggling independent contractor/businessperson on the fence that the solution to this problem is more government intervention in healthcare--even though that is indeed the solution. For quite a large number of people, this sort of thing is going to make them more hostile to expanded social insurance.
The only way this resolves well is for a few big blue states to create single-payer systems. The sooner the better.
Since I released my “Cold Dead Hand” video on Funny or Die this week, I have watched Fux News rant, rave, bare its fangs and viciously slander me because of my stand against large magazines and assault rifles. I would take them to task legally if I felt they were worth my time or that anyone with a brain in their head could actually fall for such irresponsible buffoonery. That would gain them far too much attention which is all they really care about. I’ll just say this: in my opinion Fux News is a last resort for kinda-sorta-almost-journalists whose options have been severely limited by their extreme and intolerant views; a media colostomy bag that has begun to burst at the seams and should be emptied before it becomes a public health issue. I sincerely believe that in time, good people will lose patience with the petty and poisonous behavior of these bullies and Fux News will be remembered as nothing more than a giant culture fart that no amount of Garlique could cure. I wish them all the luck that accompanies such malevolence
Why is it that whenever I hear the phrase "skin in the game" I think of this?
The NY Times says that one of the "entitlement reforms" that might just get bipartisan support is a change in Medicare deductibles and co-pays:
As they explore possible fiscal deals, President Obama and Congressional Republicans have quietly raised the idea of broad systemic changes to Medicare that could produce significant savings and end the polarizing debate over Republican plans to privatize the insurance program for older Americans.
While the two remain far apart on the central issue of new tax revenue, recent statements from both sides show possible common ground on curbing the costs of Medicare, suggesting some lingering chance, however small, for a budget bargain.
Mr. Obama assured House and Senate Republicans during recent separate visits that he could support specific cost-saving changes to Medicare and deliver Democratic votes, though only as part of a “balanced” package that had additional revenues.
Several changes are likely to once again be in his annual budget, which will be released on April 10, after Congress returns from its break. Mr. Obama also plans a dinner with Senate Republicans that night.
In particular, participants say, the president told House Republicans that he was open to combining Medicare’s coverage for hospitals and doctor services. That would create a single deductible that could increase out-of-pocket costs for many future beneficiaries, but also could pay for a cap on their total expenses and reduce the need to buy Medigap supplementary insurance.
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, proposed much the same in a speech in February. “We should begin by ending the arbitrary division between Part A, the hospital program, and Part B, the doctor services,” he said. “We can create reasonable and predictable levels of out-of-pocket expenses without forcing seniors to rely on Medigap plans.”
Both the administration’s and Mr. Cantor’s interest in restructuring Medicare’s Parts A and B dates to 2011, when various proposals were considered by a deficit-reduction group headed by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. that included Mr. Cantor.
The goal is to discourage people from seeking unneeded treatments, shrink health spending and offset the costs of a cap on beneficiaries’ total out-of-pocket costs. Such a cap would reduce beneficiaries’ need for extra insurance. About 90 percent of beneficiaries in the traditional Medicare program have supplemental coverage through Medigap policies, employers’ retiree plans or Medicaid for low-income people.
Many health-policy economists have called for creating a single, unified deductible. The current two deductibles reflect separate legislative tracks that came together in the creation of Medicare in 1965. The deductible for Part A hospital care is relatively high ($1,184 this year), while that for Part B doctor care is relatively low ($147). Patients also have co-payments for many services.
Despite the bipartisan interest, the politics of merging Part A and Part B are complicated.
Glenn M. Hackbarth, chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a group of nonpartisan experts that advises Congress, said a combined deductible could increase costs for those who use only doctor and outpatient services — a majority of beneficiaries in any year. It could reduce costs, he said, for the roughly 20 percent who require hospitalization.
So it's basically going to result in 80% of Medicare recipients paying more than they currently do. Got it.
But you have to love this:
Proponents, including some in the administration, acknowledge the political risks of increasing most beneficiaries’ costs, even in exchange for capping their total costs, as in cases of catastrophic illness. A 1988 law protecting against catastrophic costs caused such an outcry among older Americans, who faced an extra tax, that Congress quickly repealed it.
But administration officials say the 1988 law affected current beneficiaries, while Mr. Obama would apply any changes only to people becoming eligible for Medicare after 2016.
Now that's what I call clever ..
So far, the changes the president has proposed do not go as far as a single deductible and a cap on catastrophic costs. Instead, Mr. Obama has called for increasing the Part B deductible, which has risen much less than medical costs. He also proposed that beneficiaries pay something for home health care, which is among Medicare’s fastest-growing and most fraud-prone expenses; people just released from the hospital would be exempted.
Third, Mr. Obama proposed a 15 percent surcharge on Medigap plans that cover all or nearly all of a beneficiary’s initial annual expenses. Economists say that such coverage leaves beneficiaries insensitive to costs, increasing Medicare’s spending and the premiums beneficiaries pay.
Wonks who subscribe to this premise speak of making people have more “skin in the game,” making them pay more, in other words, for medical services, on the grounds that they’ll then use less of them. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in a recent letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, took a stand against the idea that seniors use more medical care when it is cheaper and recommended against making seniors pay more out-of-pocket. But the “more skin in the game” idea remains alive and well.[...]
All people on Medicare would pay what’s called a “unified deductible”—the amount a patient pays before insurance kicks in—of $550 instead of a the current separate hospital deductible ($1,184 this year) and a separate medical deductible (now $147). The new deductible would mean that people using medical services—which most do—will be exposed to an out-of-pocket cost four times higher than they have now before Medicare pays for their care.
What about having your Medigap policy cover these gaps, as they have been doing? Not under Corker’s plan they won’t. His bill prohibits any Medigap from paying this new unified deductible. More “skin in the game.” And in future years Corker would like to prohibit seniors from buying Medigap insurance altogether, exposing them to the full cost of coinsurance as well as the deductible.
Seniors would face additional out-of-pocket costs once they satisfy the unified deductible, too, under Corker. They would then pay 20 percent of all Medicare-covered services, including home healthcare and the first 60 days of a hospital stay that are not now subject to any coinsurance—in effect expanding the services subject to cost-sharing.
After seniors pay all of the deductible and the amount of coinsurance they’ve paid hits $5,500, Corker would allow the amount of the coinsurance to drop to five percent for any of the remaining bills, until they’ve reached the yearly maximum—$7,500. Corker then restricts Medigap payment to half of the 20 percent coinsurance amount (50% of $4,950). (The bill is unclear about coverage for the 5 percent co-insurance between $5,500 and $7,500.)
It’s complicated, but the takeaway is that it is expensive. A senior would be faced with paying the first $550 of their medical expenses, $2,250 of their coinsurance, plus the premium for their Medigap policy. A couple without a Medigap policy would pay all of those out of pocket costs —$15,000. That could be quite tough for many seniors, especially those whose only income is from Social Security.
Consider: since half of all Medicare beneficiaries have incomes of $24,000 or less, those with even moderate medical expenses might have to tap assets to cover the higher costs, apply for Medicaid, or choose another option for getting Medicare benefits.
Basically, if this is part of some big budget deal (Grand Bargain) it means they're making Medicare recipients pay down the deficit. They don't anticipate any blowback from the Democrats since it's a Democratic president who's proposing it and they figure that since it will go into affect in 2016, after the president is out of office, the dumbshits who enter Medicare after that won't know the difference and he won't get blamed. It's all good.
Reporters wading into the weeds here will have to look beyond the carefully crafted press release language, which won’t fully describe the impact of the proposed changes—whether Corker’s or anyone else’s. His bill summary that says the legislation would “update cost-sharing requirements to reflect 21st century health insurance practices” sounds benign enough, but it hardly begins to tell the whole story.
The New York Times reporters sort of spelled it out but made sure to comfort readers with the fact that unnamed "economists", who are apparently some sort of demi-gods whose edicts must be followed --- assured them that this is absolutely necessary.
Unless the administration waffles on getting some revenue, it likely won't even come up. But if they do manage to find a way to finesse the Republicans' sensitivity to even fake tax hikes, I suppose this could actually happen.
On February 15 of this year, Robbie Rogers, a former member of the U.S. Men’s National soccer team and a professional player in both Europe and the United States, posted on a personal blog that he was gay. Rogers would have been the first openly gay player in major American professional sports, but he announced his retirement in the same post. In a New York Times article today, Rogers didn’t rule out a return to the pitch but said he had no choice but to retire. “I need to be a little selfish about this,” Rogers told the New York Times.
This week, rumors swirled that a National Football League player was contemplating coming out as gay in the near future. That prompted Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons to tweet that a player coming out would be a “selfish act” that would “immediately separate a lockerroom and divide a team.”
That makes for an odd juxtaposition, the now openly gay former athlete thinking he’s selfish for coming out in his own way and the straight athlete who thinks it would be selfish for a player to come out at all. Clemons, who later tweeted that he had no problem with gay athletes but thinks they should leave their love life at home, could learn from the story of Rogers, who lived as a gay man in secret for years. Until last year, Rogers hadn’t told his family, his friends, or his teammates. He didn’t go to gay bars or date other men. It was, he told the Times, a terribly unhealthy way to live, though coming out has enabled him to find peace.
Obviously, this will change. There will be a gay Jackie Robinson at some point who will endure the taunts of the bigots to break the gay line. And you can already see that the arguments have changed from "get out faggot" to "don't divide the team" (at least in public) so there's been progress already. But come on: this is 2013 and most of these guys are young and have known plenty of gays. It's not as if we're dealing with old white guys here. I don't even really believe they give a damn --- it just feels like phony posturing at this point. Get with the program already.
The Mercatus Institute, a libertarian-oriented — and Koch brothers-affiliated — think tank based out of George Mason University (a public university, for whatever that’s worth), regularly releases its ranking of American states in terms of “Freedom.” Their definition of “freedom” largely adheres to the standard American libertarian conception of “liberty,” which is to say it is oriented almost entirely around private property ownership and low taxation. As a result, America’s freest state this year turns out to be North Dakota.
North Dakota has also been in the news for another reason recently. What was it, again? Oh, right, it passed the most restrictive antiabortion laws in the country. Including a law specifically aimed at shutting down the state’s lone abortion provider. It passed this law knowing it was unconstitutional.
The data Mercatus used, as far as I can tell, are largely from 2011. But these laws wouldn’t do a thing to change’s North Dakota’s ranking, because Mercatus doesn’t take reproductive rights into account at all. In fact, no issues specifically related to women’s rights are taken into account. Same-sex marriage is included, but not housing employment anti-discrimination rules. They do weigh “‘smoker protection’ in employment,” though.
Ok, but who cares about a bunch of bitches anyway. They're staunch defenders of civil liberties, right?
Well, sort of:
“Economic freedom” is of course their most important freedom, and so it is weighted the heaviest, with fiscal and regulatory matters making up a bit more than two-thirds of each state’s score. Which is how their No. 1 freest state is ranked 39th on the “Civil Liberties” list. Though that list is fairly useless, as their definition of “civil liberties” is “unrelated policies, such as fireworks laws, prostitution laws, and trans-fat bans.” On the list taking into account “incarceration rates, non-drug crime arrests, and drug enforcement,” Freest State North Dakota is at 24. (Second-freest state South Dakota is 48.) And Arizona has climbed to No. 11 on the overall list, because at no point are the rights of immigrants or people whom the police may suspect are immigrants taken into account.
This is what it's all about folks. It's also why, despite the fact that there exist a fair number of real live Democrats who vote against wars, care about privacy and civil liberties and oppose the drug war, libertarians are most definitely not a swing vote. They are Republican voters. This is because what they really care about is low taxes, unfettered capitalism and private property. (Also too, guns.) The rest is apparently just window dressing so they don't look like mirthless, right wing drudges.
I'm a big believer if finding your friends where you can and if there are issues on which libertarian office holders can work with liberals to improve our lot and protect our freedoms, I say more power to them. But the libertarian "movement" will have to forgive me if I remain a little bit skeptical of their commitment to freedom in general. After all you'd have to be something of a fool to trust people who claim to be the supreme protectors of property rights and personal freedom when they won't grant that half the population even owns their own bodies or is free to control their own procreation.
But making manufacturers label their junk food poison? That's an infringement of liberty that will not stand. I just can't take that seriously.
When you step back and look at the bigger picture, this is just crazy. Republicans voted near-unanimously for a fiscal blueprint that would decimate much of the normal functioning of government, all in service of the goal of “balancing the budget in 10 years.” But now they are calling out for relief when obscure programs — funding for rural schools, asteroid monitoring, etc. — are threatened.
The deeply farcical nature of this is important, and shouldn’t be dismissed as business as usual. This is another way in which — as Rachel Maddow noted last night — today’s Republicans have become “post policy” and are only interested in positioning themselves politically in opposition to the president, rather than being “actually invested in any particular outcome for the country.” Actually, scratch that. This shows Republicans are invested in a particular policy outcome. Even if they did vote for a budget that purports to wipe away huge chunks of the federal government (without specifying in meaningful detail how), it turns out Republicans vociferous oppose spending cuts they don’t like.
That's correct. And it's what the sequester was designed to provoke if I'm not mistaken. Indeed, if they continue to be stung by the cuts in their own districts (and the defense contractors who are starting to get rattled) they might realize that holding the country hostage for drastic "spending cuts" isn't all it's cut out to be. Why, they might even be willing to revisit the sequester and create a sane budget. That's what happened in '95 and it could happen again.
Unfortunately, they are being given an out by the president who is offering up "entitlement cuts", hidden middle class tax hikes (through the Chained-CPI), and some sort of phony baloney tax change they'll call "revenue." It remains to be seen if they take him up on his offer, but since they're getting cover from all of our Democratic leading lights, it's likely they'll go for it when the hurt gets extreme enough back home. (Plus, they can blame the Democrats for hurting their most important constituency! It's win-win.)
This doesn't have to happen. There is nothing written in stone saying this ridiculous 4 trillion dollar deficit reduction number must be met. Remember, the projected deficit has already been cut substantially:
In all, we've reduced spending by $1.8 trillion and increased taxes by $600 billion, for a total of $2.4 trillion.
Notice anything? Like, how every time unemployment rises, the budget deficit also rises? And how every time unemployment falls, the budget deficit also falls?
Why could this be? For one thing, the budget deficit is largely a function of the government's inability to collect enough tax revenue from unemployed people. If we can just get those people back to work, then the government will get more revenue, and the deficit will shrink.
There is no need to touch SS in the midst of all this deficit talk. And Medicaid and Medicare should be left alone until we see what the effects of Obamacare will be.
WASHINGTON—The White House is strongly considering including limits on entitlement benefits in its fiscal 2014 budget—a proposal it first offered Republicans in December. The move would be aimed in part at keeping alive bipartisan talks on a major budget deal.
Such a proposal could include steps that make many Democrats queasy, such as reductions in future Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security payments, but also items resisted by Republicans, such as higher taxes through limits on tax breaks, people close to the White House said.
These measures would come as President Barack Obama continues his courtship of the Senate GOP in an effort to thaw tax-and-spending talks. The White House's delayed annual budget is scheduled to be released April 10, the same day Mr. Obama plans to dine with a group of Senate Republicans to discuss the budget and other issues.
President Obama's inclusion of the proposal would be aimed at breathing new life into bipartisan talks on reaching a deficit-reduction deal...
Including entitlement curbs would be notable, as Republicans often have criticized the White House for offering such steps in private negotiations but never fully embracing them as part of an official budget plan.
People close to the White House believe a proposal to slow the growth rate of such benefits would use a variant of the Consumer Price Index to measure inflation. The new inflation indicator would cut overall spending by $130 billion, according to White House projections, and raise $100 billion in tax revenue by slowing the growth of tax brackets. The White House earlier called for an additional $800 billion or so in cuts on top of those resulting from the inflation adjustments.
"We and all of the groups engaged on this are starting to feel it may well be in the budget," said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president at AARP, an advocacy group for seniors that opposes such changes.
Remember, SS doesn't contribute a dime to the deficit. There is no reason to include this in the budget except to sneak in tax increases on the middle class via the Chained CPI. Let's be clear: this is deficit reduction on the backs of middle class workers, the elderly, the disabled and Veterans.Oh, and by the way, cutting vital programs in exchange for increasing taxes on the middle class and getting some temporary chump change from millionaires as a cover is not a balanced approach.
And for those Democrats like me who backed the health care reform because of the Medicaid expansion, well we really are a bunch of suckers. I assumed the president would protect that legacy above all others. But if he's looking to cut Medicaid now, I guess we can assume that the only part of that legacy he cares about is the one that benefits the private insurers.
I just have to ask once again: why are these people so obsessed with cutting these programs? What real benefit does it bring to them? They're already so rich they can't find enough ways to spend their money? If they want cheap labor they can always move their business to China.
Well, maybe I've answered my own question: Obama wants to "go to China" by being the Democratic president who forced the Democratic Party to swallow the destruction of their ideological foundation.
Why anyone would model their presidency on Richard Nixon's is a question for the historians to ask.
Make some calls folks:
The White House switchboard is 202-456-1414, the comments line is 202-456-1111 (be prepared to hold) or you can email here.
Rep. Don Young says he “meant no disrespect” when he used the term “wetbacks.”
“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young, an Alaska Republican, told a local radio station in a story posted Thursday. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
Much as Republicans may want to rebrand, this sort of thing is going to keep happening. It's coded into Republican DNA.
Just a couple of white jerks agitating to take the food out of people's mouths
This is from a couple of weeks ago. Don't say they didn't warn us:
Fox News has been flogging the "food stamp scandal" all day long. But nobody got to the heart of it better than Larry Kudlow on CNBC today. He just couldn't stop talking about "dependency", which apparently translates to some people's shocking dependency on .. food.
And then this:
It looks to me as if the right wing just can't quit that Randroid love that dare not speak its name. (Shhhhh. Don't say takers and makers.)
Gosh, I wonder why so many people are shying away from politics these days:
I'm fairly sure that my right to free speech is threatened when someone who disagrees with me shows up with a gun. This is just common sense. There is no reason these guys had to bring guns to the rally. They could have showed up with signs, as people have done forever. They could have shouted down the speakers, they could have engaged the protesters one on one. This is how we normally stage our political disagreements. But no, they show up at rallies with loaded guns and ostentatiously display them. There is no other reason to do it this way except that you want to intimidate those on the other side.
And it's effective:
A member of Moms Demand Action said that she felt unsettled by their presence and said that the organizers would have to think twice before holding another event, particularly one where children could be present.
I would certainly think twice about going to an event where people are passionate about an issue on both sides but where one side was armed. (And it doesn't matter which side I was on -- stray bullets hit innocent people every single day.) This is called self-preservation. In exactly the same way that I don't jump into a lion's cage, I don't go places where there are angry people with guns. Sure, it's possible -- even likely --- that nothing will happen. But it's a mistake to count on the lion to behave in a civilized way.
These gun proliferation supporters obviously know that a sign would do. But a sign doesn't get the message across is quite the same visceral way, does it?
The climate scientists were right. They've always been right:
Forecasts of global temperature rises over the past 15 years have proved remarkably accurate, new analysis of scientists' modelling of climate change shows.
The debate around the accuracy of climate modelling and forecasting has been especially intense recently, due to suggestions that forecasts have exaggerated the warming observed so far – and therefore also the level warming that can be expected in the future. But the new research casts serious doubts on these claims, and should give a boost to confidence in scientific predictions of climate change.
The paper, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Geoscience, explores the performance of a climate forecast based on data up to 1996 by comparing it with the actual temperatures observed since. The results show that scientists accurately predicted the warming experienced in the past decade, relative to the decade to 1996, to within a few hundredths of a degree.
But as always, the people are actually right about things don't get to make an impact on public policy.