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Wisconsin Voters To Unions: “We’re Just Not That Into You”

Last night, Democrats in Wisconsin fell short by one in their effort to regain control of the Wisconsin State Senate.

While there is no question that the drive to pick up seats via the recall elections, staged in decidedly Republican districts, was a difficult undertaking – and there is some reason for Democrats to celebrate having won two seats in these GOP areas- there is no spinning out of the truth of this election.

The loss was both hard and significant on a number of levels.

Had the election been influenced by a low voter turnout – something that typically bodes ill for Democrats – that would have put a different face on the story.

But the turnout was spectacular. And, based on the results, Republicans were every bit as energized as Democrats.

GOP supporters had the backs of their sitting Senators, coming to the polls in big numbers to deliver the message that they too are as engaged and energized in the battle taking place in Wisconsin as the progressives and that is precisely what should have those who oppose the conservative agenda – in Wisconsin and throughout the nation – shaking in their boots.

The GOP was not just sending the message that they too know how to show up at the polls. They had a deeper message to send, one that was addressed to the unions. It was a message that came through loud and clear.

We’re (the voters) just not that into you.

The unions poured some $20 million dollars in the Wisconsin effort. For their money, they improved their minority in the State Senate by two votes but failed to come away with the majority required to put the breaks on Governor Scott Walker’s agenda.

That’s a lot of cash to spend for the return achieved.

While the other side also poured serious cash into the state, organizations like Club For Growth can, at the least, come away from the battle knowing that their agenda has not been stymied and, for as long as Governor Walker sits in the state house, they remain free and unfettered in their efforts to move their mission forward while pushing the state of Wisconsin – and the country – backward.

Now, the Wisconsin Democrats are left to determine their plans for the future, particularly with respect to the proposed recall effort against Governor Scott Walker.

The good news is that last night’s battles were fought on enemy territory while a statewide recall will bring the Democratic faithful throughout the state into play.

The bad news is that we’ve now learned that those who support the Walker agenda – and we’d best acknowledge that there are far more of them than Badger State Democrats might have wanted to realize- will not be sitting idly by when it comes to supporting an agenda of wiping out collective bargaining rights, cutting education and healthcare to the bone and disenfranchising those who are more likely to cast their vote for Democrats.

I suspect that the Walker recall will go forward – but that won’t happen until next year.

In the meantime, the attention turns to the ballot measure in Ohio seeking to repeal the anti-collective bargaining law passed by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature. The initiative will appear on the statewide ballot on November 8th and will permit all voting Ohioans to weigh in on how they feel about the effort to end unions in America. A “yes” would be a vote to retain the law while a “no” will be a vote to repeal.

If I were a Democrat in Wisconsin, I’d plan on spending the next few months in Ohio working hard for the repeal effort. If ‘just say no’ fails in the Ohio election, the writing you see on the wall will be the formal announcement of the tragic death of the union movement in the United States of America.

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, August 11, 2011

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Education, Elections, GOP, Gov John Kasich, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Lobbyists, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Poisonous Radicalization Of The Republican Party

The death this past weekend of former Oregon Gov. and U.S.  Sen. Mark Hatfield, was not just the passing of a good and decent man with a  strong sense of Western independence, but a realization that “this ain’t your  mother’s Republican Party anymore!”

Of course, it hasn’t been for some time. The era of Senators Hatfield  and Mathias and  Percy and Baker and Javits and Case and Brooke and  Scott and Dirksen and so  many others is long gone. The moderates  and  progressives were drummed out or retired long ago and were replaced with Republican conservatives beginning in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

Even many of the hard liners who were replaced were still  pragmatic conservatives who often worked across the aisle. The Bennetts,  Hatches, Bonds, Grahams and  others are practical, serious conservatives.

But if you look at the collection of candidates for  president, if you look at what just happened with the debt  limit insanity on  the Hill, if you examine the inner workings of the  Republican caucus in the  House, you begin to wonder whether Washington  is governable and whether the  radicalization of the Republican Party is  responsible for this meltdown. Has the Republican Party become an  extreme  Nihilist party?

Let’s look at the current state of politics within the Republican Party.

The upcoming Iowa straw poll and the debate tomorrow night  will  further push the already extreme candidates more to the extremes . There are so many potential  nominees who have not only gone  hard right on the social issues but have decided  that they must call  for abolishing the Departments of Education, Commerce,  Energy,  and even the IRS. They still  oppose the TARP program, which kept the  world from a depression, and they are  proud to reject any form of  additional revenue stream by signing inane pledges  that handcuff  America.

The extreme agenda of cut, cut, cut without regard for the   consequences is backed up by statements that even Pell education grants  for  needy college students are “welfare.”   All the sound and fury  about the debt did not create a single job or  advance economic stability or growth. In  fact, the failure of Speaker John Boehner  and the Tea Party to agree to efforts by  President Obama to reach a $4  trillion grand bargain to right the economic ship  was an example of  radicals’ my-way-or-the-highway approach.

The American people, overwhelmingly, reject this  extremism. They are  fed up with the lack  of progress and the extremism that has become the  modern Republican Party. Their anger is across the board but it is   more heavily directed towards what has become of the Republican  Party—Tea  Party ideologues who lack  common sense and have no desire to  actually solve problems. In the campaign of 2010 the Tea Party was   more or less a Rorschach test, many people saw in it what they wanted.  In April 2010, the strong unfavorable was 18  percent; it has risen to  around 50 percent.

The scary market volatility, the lack of public confidence  in the  economy, and most important, the many Americans who are suffering the   disasters of unemployment and foreclosure should be front and center for   Republicans. Instead, we have a “get  Obama” frenzy and a pull to the  extreme right that precludes progress.

Speaker Boehner, who seemed close to negotiating the grand  bargain  with the president, was pulled back into the extremist fold. He even  said that he got “98 percent of what  I wanted” on the debt deal and  declared himself happy with it!  If he is happy, there aren’t many  Americans  who are there with him.

There are few Republican leaders who recognize that what  they did  with this budget deal led to Americans’ savings and retirements taking  a  severe hit, a downgrade from Standard & Poor’s that will ripple for   years, and a decline in confidence for businesses and consumers.

The old Republican Party wouldn’t have done it; Ronald  Reagan  wouldn’t have done it; even recent conservatives committed to debt   reduction and cutting spending wouldn’t have done it, if they had the  courage  to stand up to the radicals within the Party.

The time for the Republicans to rediscover their pragmatic,   governing side is now. The time to  reject the pledges, the ideological  straitjackets, the wave of Tea Party hysteria  is now. The public is  demanding it and  the country needs it. (And just a bit of  advice from  this Democrat: the overreaching and the extremism won’t win you many  elections either!)

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, August 10, 2011

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Education, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Jobs, Lawmakers, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Standard and Poor's, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployment, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Populist Sen Mitch McConnell: “I Think Everyone Should Pay Their Fair Share, Including The Rich”

Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) named three Republicans to the fiscal super committee that was created by the debt ceiling deal. All three have taken the Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax pledge and support a cockamamie constitutional balanced budget amendment. “What I can pretty certainly sayto the American people, the chances of any kind of tax increase passing with this, with the appointees that John Boehner and I are going to put on there, are pretty low,” McConnell has said.

But McConnell has not always been so virulently anti-tax. In fact, in a 1990 campaign ad, McConnell said that “everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich,” prompting the Associated Press to say that he sounded like a “populist Democrat”:

“Many Republican candidates are, in fact, holding fast to the no-new-taxes position that Bush embraced and then abandoned, even as they try to portray themselves as friends of senior citizens and the disadvantaged. Others are sounding more and more like populist Democrats. ‘Unlike some folks around here, I think everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich,’ Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says in a campaign ad.” [Associated Press, 10/28/90]

“A twist of untraditional Republicanism is added to McConnell’s message when he says, ‘Unlike some folks around here, I think everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich. We need to protect seniors from Medicare cuts too,’” wrote Roll Call reporter Steve Lilienthal. “After proclaiming his independence from the President and Congressional leaders, McConnell reassures voters that he will back a ‘fair deal for the working families of Kentucky.’” ["Democrats Flood Airwaves Charging GOP Party of Rich," Roll Call, 11/5/1990]

If McConnell truly believes this, he should be appalled by current conditions. Tax rates on the richest Americans have plunged in recent years, and millionaires today pay tax rates that are 25 percent lower than they were in 1995. Meanwhile, income inequality is the worst its been since the 1920s, with the top 1 percent of Americans taking home 25 percent of the country’s total income. Just the richest 400 Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans combined, and the richest 10 percent of Americans control two-thirds of the country’s net worth.

From the sounds of it, once upon a time McConnell would have found this troublesome. It’s a shame that he doesn’t any longer.

By: Pat Garafalo, Contribution by: Sarah Bufkin; Think Progress, August 10, 2011

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Populism, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How The Budget Deal Affects The Affordable Care Act

So how does this mammoth budget-cutting deal, with its congressional “supercommittee” affect health reform?

Good question, because lots of people in Washington are asking it too.

More specific answers will become clearer in the next few weeks, but here’s a first version of the road map to both the policy and the politics.

First, understand there are two different processes – and each, separately, aims at cutting more than $1 trillion over the next decade.

The one that you’ve probably heard most about is the “supercommittee” of 12 members of Congress. They are supposed to identify savings by Thanksgiving. Entitlements – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and aspects of the Affordable Care Act – are part of their turf. So are taxes and revenue – at least in theory. It’s not so clear that the Republicans see it that way given the public statements of Congressional leaders.

If they agree on some kind of grand deal by Thanksgiving, Congress has to take it or leave it by the end of December, eliminating the usual congressional dilly-dallying. (It looks like dilly-dallying to the casual observer or much of the public, but remember that all that arcane, tedious process IS policy in Congress. If you slow something down, make it go through hoops, amend it, hold it up, etc., it doesn’t become law. That may be good or, depending on your point of view, bad politics.)

If Congress takes any recommendations that the supercommittee agrees on, that’s the law. If the committee fails, or Congress rejects it, then the “trigger” gets pulled. The official name is “sequestration.” That’s a fancy name for automatic cuts – 2 percent across-the-board cuts in Medicare, for instance, affecting all health care providers, doctors, hospitals, etc. It won’t affect beneficiaries – at least not directly.

Medicaid is not subject to the trigger. Neither, according to the preliminary interpretations I’ve received from analysts and congressional staff, are the big, key subsidies in the health care reform law – the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies that will help low-income and middle-income people afford health care in the new state exchanges.

Other parts of the health reform law are, however, subject to automatic cuts. Among them: Cost-sharing subsidies for low-income people. This isn’t the help paying the premium; this is the help with the co-pays when people do get care. But the payments are made to health plans, not directly to beneficiaries so it won’t have the direct impact of discouraging care. It may affect how health plans make decisions about what markets to participate in. Gary Claxton and Larry Levitt at Kaiser Family Foundation explain here.

Also, the supercommittee could have a partial deal – meaning there’s still a trigger, but a smaller one. Maybe they won’t reach agreement on $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in savings, which would avoid the trigger. But maybe they could agree on, say, $500 billion. That means a trigger wouldn’t have to go as deep because some of the savings would already be identified.

To recap – before we go on to the second stage of this process: The “super-committee” can do whatever it wants to health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. – if it can agree, if it can get the rest of Congress to agree and if the president doesn’t veto it.

Will the Democratic Senate and the Obama White House agree to cuts that eviscerate health reform? Not likely. In fact, the Democrats “won” on very few aspects of the budget/debt deal. Walling off Medicaid and key parts of the health coverage expansion were two of the “wins.” That’s a bright line worth paying attention to as this moves forward.

Does that mean other health-reform related spending will be untouched? Given how many moving parts there are to any spending deal, and the fact that defense and tax policy are also part of the mix, chances are it will be affected. But expect to see that bright line remain visible – maybe not quite as bright, but visible. (The CLASS Act, the voluntary long-term care program created under health reform, is a different story; it’s quite vulnerable.)

The second part is the annual appropriations process. The budget deal provides for cuts – real cuts in spending, not just slowing the rate of growth. Health programs (aspects of the health reform legislation touching on exchange creation, prevention, community clinics, etc., and just about everything else at the Department of Health and Human Services – the FDA, NIH, CDC, etc. – will be subject to these cuts. But this isn’t an across the board process, it’s a line-by-line, or at least category/agency-by-category/agency, process. And there is some horse trading.

It’s safe to say that the Republicans will try to cut discretionary portions of the new health law. That’s not a new political dynamic, it doesn’t arise out of the debt ceiling or the Wall Street woes. It’s what we’ve seen since last fall’s elections and the repeal/defund fights of the past few months. And House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has publicly tried to insert health care into any potential deal. So expect to see more Republican push to cut, and continued Democratic push back. Will health spending emerge unscathed? It’s too soon to know but, given the amount of savings Congress needs to find –both in this budget deal and in the perennial quest to fund the “doc fix” payments – some cuts are clearly possible. Some of it may affect aspects of exchange establishment, regulation, prevention, public health, etc. But it’s hard to see the Democrats allowing cuts so deep that they basically constitute a side door to repeal.

One further twist – some Republicans are calling for a delay in health reform implementation to save money.”Delay” may sound better to an ambivalent public worried about spending than “repeal.” What’s delayed (if anything), how it’s delayed, how long it’s delayed, and what stopgaps are created in the meantime could have an impact on how many people get covered in 2014.

Assorted committees and government agencies are still examining the new budget law and how it will affect … everything. So the perspective I’ve outlined here – and I’m writing amid all the market turbulence – may change as the economic and political climates change. But the lines in the sand around the trigger – health reform, Medicaid and Social Security – tell us something about where the White House will come down.

By: Joanne Kenen, Association of Health Care Journalists, August 10, 2011

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democrats, Economy, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Insurance Companies, Journalists, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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