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“Making Medicaid Matter”: The Real-World Impact For Today’s Struggling Americans

Much of the 2012 policy debate, such as it is, has focused on Medicare, and with good reason — the Romney-Ryan plan to replace the Medicare system with a voucher plan is important and worth scrutinizing in detail.

But in his convention speech last night, Bill Clinton not only stressed Medicare, he also delivered a forceful reminder about the importance of Medicaid and what would happen to the program under Republican rule:

“Now, folks, this is serious, because it gets worse. And you won’t be laughing when I finish telling you this: they also want to block-grant Medicaid, and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years.

“Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids. But that’s not all. A lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors who are eligible for Medicaid.

“It’s going to end [Medicaid] as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down’s Syndrome or autism or other severe conditions.

And honestly, let’s think about it, if that happens, I don’t know what those families are going to do. So I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to do everything I can to see that it doesn’t happen. We can’t let it happen.”

The future of Medicare is obviously important and should be a central issue in the presidential race, but as Matt Yglesias noted, “Medicaid is the one where much more is at stake on the ballot.”

Why? Because the Romney-Ryan plan, with a position they’re not at all bashful about, would block-grant Medicaid, leaving states with fewer resources, and leaving the poor and disabled in even more jeopardy.

Remember, unlike Medicare, Medicaid is a partnership between federal and state governments. The program undermines state budgets in a big way during economic downturns — more people begin to rely on the program and states, which can’t run deficits, struggle badly with the finances — and the moment a Romney-Ryan administration gives states the flexibility to do so, Republicans governors will start improving their finances by taking health care from the most vulnerable, who don’t exactly have lobbyists looking out for them.

What’s more, as Clinton reminded us, for all of Romney’s talk about leaving seniors’ benefits intact, the moment the GOP guts Medicaid, plenty of elderly Americans will feel the effects.

There’s no shortage of policy differences between the two major-party campaigns, but this is one of the more dramatic areas of disagreement, especially as it relates to the real-world impact of struggling Americans. Medicaid deserves to be an important part of the national debate, and kudos to Clinton for giving the issue the spotlight.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 6, 2012

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Manufactured Freak-Out”: What The Constitution And The Democratic Platform Have In Common

Paul Ryan, Fox News, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and assorted media figures everywhere seem to be fascinated by the same omission from the Democratic Party’s platform.

The word “God” is notably missing from this year’s 40-page document, as David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network first pointed out.

“We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential,” the party’s 2008 platform said.

This year, a similar paragraph instead states, “We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth — the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”

The Democratic platform honors religious freedom, but given the absence of the “g” word, the manufactured freak-out is now well underway.

It’s tempting to delve into an extended explanation of why, for believers, God probably doesn’t need perfunctory references in a political party platform, and why this trumped up story is silly, even by 2012 standards, but let’s instead consider another tidbit of news.

The United States Constitution — the foundation of our government, the basis for our laws, and a model for democracies around the globe for generations — includes no references to God. Literally, not one.

If the Constitution doesn’t mention God, I think the political world can probably keep its apoplexy in check over the Democratic platform. Unless Republicans and news organizations are going to start condemning the Constitution, too, demanding an explanation for its secular nature, let’s relax a bit.

 

BY: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 5, 2012

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Religious Symbolism”: Republicans’ Holy War On The DNC Platform

Republican and conservative complaints about the Democratic platform have crystallized in the last two days. The two main themes are pure questions of religious symbolism. If this election is about the economy, as Republicans constantly assert that it is, then their attacks on the DNC are way off topic.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Emergency Committee for Israel blasted out an article from the Free Beacon, a conservative website, complaining about the Democratic platform. ECI called it, “another shift by the Obama administration away from Israel and toward the Palestinians.” It is not entirely fair to call the language in the DNC platform an act of the Obama administration. The Republican Party platform, for example, calls for banning abortion in all cases, with no exceptions. Mitt Romney, however, is running a platform that would ban abortion except in cases of rape and incest and where the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. But, it’s fair to say there is some association between the party’s platform and its presidential nominee, and that the nominee has some influence over the text of the platform.

So, what is the objectionable portion of the platform? It does not mention Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, nor does it specify that the descendants of Palestinian refugees should be settled in a Palestinian state, not Israel proper, and it also does not condemn Hamas. The 2008 DNC platform did all of these things. Romney issued a statement complaining just about the Jerusalem question. The Romney campaign also sent out statements from its two token Jewish surrogates, Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) and former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), attacking Obama on all three fronts.

When asked by The Nation for a response, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson wrote in an e-mail:

The Obama Administration has followed the same policy towards Jerusalem that previous U.S. Administrations of both parties have done since 1967. As the White House said several months ago, the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians—which we also said in the 2008 platform. We will continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue as part of a two state solution that secures the future of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.

Meanwhile, the theocratic partisan propagandists at Fox News are decrying the absence of the word “God” from the DNC platform. As Media Matters notes, Fox downplayed the significance of the GOP’s platform, in order to minimize the public’s revulsion at extremist planks such as the one on abortion. But when it came to this non-issue, they couldn’t get enough of it.

Neither of these lines of attack is likely to resonate with swing voters. Rather, they are meant to rev up the evangelical right-wing base, which obsessively pushes religion into the public square and wants to expand Israel’s boundaries to fulfill a supposed biblical prophecy.

The Republican National Convention had two themes—that the GOP would tackle the biggest issues facing the country, and that it would try to expand beyond its base. These petty attacks do neither.

Update: On Wednesday night the DNCreportedly at President Obama’s behestamended its platform to reinstate the language from its 2008 platform regarding Jerusalem. 

 

By: Ben Adler, The Nation, September 5, 2012

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Advanced Class”: The Democrats’ Government Tutorial

Bill Clinton is typically described as the empathetic, feel-your-pain guy. But his greatest political skill may be as a formulator of arguments — the explainer in chief. And it’s no accident that the former president’s role in this year’s Democratic convention is very nearly as important as President Obama’s. What’s most striking about this conclave is that it bids to be a three-day tutorial session aimed at aggressively defending a view of government and the economy for which, over most of the past 40 years, Democrats have usually apologized.

It’s ironic that the 42nd president plays the co-professor with Obama in this advanced government class, for Clinton is associated with a determined effort to distance his party from its past. When Clinton pronounced in 1996 that “the era of big government is over,” it was taken as a concession to the new conservatism that swept to control of Congress just over a year earlier.

But Clinton’s rhetorical move was more tactical than fundamental. He never stopped believing in the power of government. And now that Republicans are putting forward the most emphatically pro-business, anti-government agenda on offer since the Gilded Age, he and his fellow Democrats now feel an urgency to assert the state’s positive role. The economic market, they insist, cannot deliver what the nation needs all by itself.

Thus, one of the most applauded lines of the convention’s first night came from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick: “It’s time for Democrats to grow a backbone, and stand up for what we believe.” Rarely has a party so fully embraced a declaration that implied its own past spinelessness. Speaker after speaker answered Patrick’s call.

While Michelle Obama’s speech,the performance of her life, was apolitical on the surface, it regularly came back to arguing, subtly and implicitly, that hardworking Americans who start out on the social ladder’s lower rungs can be assisted in their struggles by the e

empowering hand of government.In his keynote address, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was explicit about this: “We know that you can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education,” he said. “We know that pre-K and student loans aren’t charity.”

Over and over, government was presented not as an officious intermeddler in people’s lives but as an ally of families determined to help their children to rise.And there lay the other stark contrast between the Tampa Republicans and the Charlotte Democrats. The Republicans built their whole convention around an out-of-context quotation from the president (“You didn’t build that”) and offered as their counter-theme, “We built it.”But so often, as a friend pointed out, the message of Tampa came off more as: “We own it.” Working people and the dignity of labor receded almost entirely at a gathering whose real stars were investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders on whom others are dependent for employment. Pride arose less from hard work than from the ability to deploy capital.

Democrats are no less committed to the American dream, but their dream is built on individual and family struggle. While Republicans cast themselves as the party of “family values,” Democrats here spoke far more about upward mobility as a family enterprise.

Thus Michelle Obama’s description of her father as a man whose “measure of his success in life” came from “being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to support his family.”

Thus Castro’s definition of the American dream as “not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay.” He explained that “each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”

Democrats know that even if they convince a majority that Barack Obama’s approach to government is closer than Romney’s to their own, they still carry the burden of high unemployment. That’s the value of Bill Clinton’s witness. Many wavering voters remember the Clinton years as an all-too-brief journey through the economic promised land and will pay close attention to his stamp of approval on Obama’s way forward.

But Democrats are also aware that victory depends on encouraging voters to see Romney’s policies as a throwback — not only to the George W. Bush years but also to the rough-and-tumble economics of the pre-New Deal Era, to a time when capital decisively held the upper hand over labor. Their three-day seminar was designed to show, as Lilly Ledbetter of Fair Pay Act fame suggested, that Obama understands why an extra 23 cents an hour in a paycheck matters more to most voters than does a capital gains tax cut.

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 5, 2012

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Michelle For The Win”: A Common American Experience

Michelle Obama’s singular mission last night was to convince Americans that she and the president deeply understand the real challenges facing Americans today, and she aced it. With a relaxed grace that wowed the convention hall, she spoke in personal terms of a common American experience and voiced a deep belief that a shared connection allows her husband to fight for all of us, but especially the women. Against a backdrop of the GOP assault on women’s rights and an economic recession disproportionately affecting women, her words offered a handhold for the slipping hope that ran rampant just four years ago.

While she never mentioned either Romney by name, the obvious juxtaposition of the couples’ lives and core beliefs was woven silently into anecdotes and stated principles throughout the speech. The emotion in her voice was audible as Michelle recounted watching her father struggle to dress himself every morning for his physically demanding job at the water plant. The family needed the money despite his progressive multiple sclerosis. The painted image automatically conjured up a comparison with Ann Romney’s idyllic upbringing as the privileged daughter of a small town mayor.

When Michelle relayed the constant worry of her parents as they scraped and sacrified to afford the small portion of college tuition not covered by federal grants and loans, we were remided of Ann Romney’s description of how tough it was to live off of Mitt’s stock portfolio while they were newleyweds in college. Working moms around the country chuckled with camaraderie when Michelle said date night for her and Barack as parents was dinner or a movie because “as an exhausted mom, I couldn’t stay awake for both.” Ann Romney’s full-time mothering was no doubt exhausting, they must have been silently musing, but since she didn’t have to juggle a job as well, she might have gotten both dinner and a movie. And in a final blow, Michelle deftly but gently cut the heart out of of the GOP narrative and Mitt Romney’s top selling point when she said softly that for Barack “success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

While Michelle was the main event, the entire evening was a veritable paean to the women voters this campaign needs to win. If the convention stage was the floor of the House, what are commonly referred to as “women’s issues” would be front and center in a Democratic offensive to rebuild the middle class and own the principles of equality and justice.

With female leaders of labor, government and health advocacy speaking all night long, the crowd was primed as the evening wore on. The men also paid homage to the women who got them to the stage, and pledged to fight for a better future for everyone’s daughters. Julian Castro, the young mayor from San Antonio, delivered a standout performance based largely on his life story of being raised by his mother and grandmother. It was a moving nod to the immigrant experience being made possible by strong women.

By the time Lilly Ledbetter took the stage, the crowd erupted in a frenzy something like teenage fans at a Jonas Brothers concert. The notorious blond grandmother from Alabama sued all the way to the Supreme Court after discovering male counterparts at her tire factory earned more than she did. Smart and sassy, Ledbetter summed up the real-life impact of a twenty-three cent pay gap: the ability to take the family to the occasional movie and still have pennies left over for the college savings account. Ledbetter scored one of the best responses of the night when she mused: “Maybe twenty-three cents doesn’t sound like much for someone with a Swiss Bank account….”

Women across the board say that economic concerns are top of list to get their vote, but nine out of ten say it is critical a candidate understand women. “Understanding women,” I heard consistently as I wandered the hall, means not making abortion and jobs separate issues. With two income households a necessity and reproductive health central to economic security, convention promises will remain just those until—in the words of one older male delegate from New Hampshire—“we stop talking about these as women’s issues. They are economic issues and family issues.”

The women at the convention are fiercely defensive of their president. One Virginia delegate told me with an evangelical zeal that “people forget the patient was bleeding. Our country was on the ER table and losing life fast. Now, the bleeding has stopped and the healing can begin.” Women effortlessly list Obama’s accomplishments on healthcare, on choice, on financial reform. They sing his praises as a father and a husband. And they organize like people with the threat of a Romney/Ryan presidency hanging over their heads.

But even on this night of homage to women, the wage gap wasn’t the only one on display. The women’s Congressional delegation lined up behind Nancy Peolsi as she spoke from the stage appeared appallingly sparse. Though not every member was meant to be accounted for, the image is a graphic reminder that women still only make up 17 percent of federal elected positions. Those numbers qualifies the United States for a spot at seventy-third place in the world for female representation in government, tied with Turkmenistan. A delegate from Colorado told me conspiratorially that there’s always a fight with local party leaders to get money to women candidates in enough time to make a difference in viability.

While the Ledbetter Act has become the president’s signature legislation with women, there is widespread frustration that the Paycheck Fairness Act still languishes in Congress, even if most of that rancor is reserved for the GOP. And one African-American delegate from Nevada fervently wished aloud that the president and Democrats would just speak up about the fact that the wage gap is far higher for women of color than white women. “Painting over the race part of inequality doesn’t help,” she said of her work to get other women of color involved in the campaign.

Kathleen Sebelius’s concise summation of the real time impact on women’s lives from Obamacare was impressive in content and delivery. But no speech provided a genuine analysis of why we are losing substantial ground on reproductive choice, most of them instead settling for the easy win against the GOP villain. Governor Deval Patrick’s rousing line about Democrats’ much-needed pivot to offense requiring more spine met with genuine, if surprised, appreciation. But with no stated solutions on how to stop the war on women other than to re-elect Obama, that offensive still looks daunting. Women haven’t forgotten that the Stupak amendment restricting federal funds from going towards abortion happened on the Democrats’ watch. “It’s not a matter of blame,” one woman from Illinois explained, “it’s a matter of strategy.”

But none of that was top of mind tonight as Michelle took the stage. She connected beautifully with almost every woman in the room while she spoke of her daughters, her concern for their future and her primary role as Mom-in-Chief. The distance yet to travel was most evident in what she didn’t say. Her own success as a lawyer, a dean at the University of Chicago and a hospital administrator was notable in its absence. Her impressive professional biography would have to wait another cycle for the political culture to catch up with reality. Meanwhile, she more than fulfilled her core job as first lady, which is to remind us of her husband’s humanity, his dedication and her abiding belief in his ability to continue to lead this country forward. And we believe her. Because while Ann Romney shouted out last week in Tampa, “I love you women,” Michelle Obama is one of us women.

By: Ilyse Hogue, The Nation, September 5, 2012

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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