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“Everyone But Us”: The NRA Should Add Its Own Members To Its “Enemies List”

Last September, The National Rifle Association released its annual “enemies list” of organizations and individuals who endorse “anti-gun positions.” The bizarre list of 525 names includes mainstream organizations from AARP to the National Association of Police Organizations, and celebrities, national figures and journalists from Maya Angelou to Henry Winkler to E.J. Dionne Jr.

But why aren’t NRA members on the enemies list? After all, 75 percent of NRA members support universal background checks for gun sales, which the NRA opposes.

And why aren’t women on the enemies list? A majority 67 percent of women support a ban on semi-automatic weapons, which the NRA opposes.

And why aren’t gun owners on the enemies list? A majority 60 percent of gun owners favor a federal database to track gun sales, which the NRA opposes.

Lastly, why aren’t the American people on the NRA’s enemies list? The majority of Americans support an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and universal background checks… all of which the NRA opposes.

There is one group that the NRA would never add to its enemies list — gun manufacturers. One must always remember on which side one’s bread is buttered.


By: Josh Markds, The National Memo, February 1, 2013

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Missing The Medicare Forest For The Trees”: GOP Want’s You To Believe They Are The Defenders Of “Socialized Medicine”

I was reading Charles Krauthammer’s column this morning, and noticed that he’s adopted the Romney/Ryan talking points on Medicare — the far-right columnist accused President Obama of “robbing Granny’s health care.”

My first instinct was to explain how wrong this is, but it occurred to me how disjointed the nature of the debate has become. The fight over Medicare, on a conceptual level, got off track recently and has been careening in the wrong direction ever since.

Given how critically important this is in the presidential election, let’s pause for a moment to consider the bigger picture.

The Romney/Ryan argument is that Obama/Biden is cutting Medicare, hurting seniors, and undermining the financial security of the Medicare system. All week, I’ve been making an effort to set the record straight by pointing to the facts: Obama’s savings strengthen the system; benefits for seniors have been expanded, not cut; the Republican budget plan embraced the same savings Romney/Ryan is now condemning; the GOP privatization alternative is dangerous; etc.

The facts are, to be sure, still true, and they’re important. But let’s ignore the trees and look at the forest.

What is Medicare? It’s a massive, government-run system of socialized medicine. It’s wildly popular, very successful, and one of the pillars of modern Democratic governance. This government-run system of socialized medicine was created by Democrats against the opposition of conservative Republicans, and it’s Democrats who’ve fought to protect it for more than a half-century.

Or to summarize, the left loves Medicare and always has; the right hates Medicare and always has. For liberals, the system is a celebrated ideal; for conservatives it’s an unconstitutional, big-government outrage in desperate need of privatization.

In 2012, once we get past all of the talking points and attack ads, we’re left with this: Romney/Ryan wants you to believe they’re the liberals. No, seriously. Think about what the Republican presidential ticket, Fox News, Krauthammer, Donald Trump, and the Republican National Committee have been saying all week: those mean, rascally Democrats cut our beloved Medicare and voters should be outraged.

In other words, the argument pushed by the most right-wing major-party ticket in a generation is that Barack Obama is a left-wing socialist who wants government-run socialized medicine and that Barack Obama is a far-right brute who wants to undermine government-run socialized medicine.

If you care about protecting the popular system of socialized medicine, the argument goes, your best bet would be to put it the hands of conservative Republicans who steadfastly oppose the very idea of a government-run system of socialized medicine.

The questions voters should ask themselves, then, are incredibly simple: putting aside literally everything else you’ve heard this week, why in the world would a Democratic president want to “gut” Medicare? Why would liberal members of Congress and the AARP join a Democratic president in trying to undermine the system Democrats created and celebrate?

Why would voters expect conservative Republicans to be the trusted champions of socialized medicine?

As a political matter, I understand exactly what Romney/Ryan is trying to do. As Greg Sargent explained this morning, “It’s important, though, to get at the true nature of the Romney strategy here. It isn’t about drawing an actual policy contrast with the Obama campaign. It’s about obfuscating the actual policy differences between the two candidates over the program.”

That’s exactly right. The Republican plan to deal with the intense unpopularity of the Romney/Ryan plan is to simply muddy the waters — both sides are accusing the other side of being against Medicare; the media doesn’t like separating fact from fiction; and voters, even well-intentioned folks who want to know the truth, aren’t quite sure what to believe. For all I know, this obfuscation strategy might actually work.

But while assorted hacks may find partisan value in falsely accusing Obama of “robbing Granny’s health care,” does that make any sense on a conceptual level? Since when do Republicans look at President Obama and think he’s too conservative when it comes to socialized medicine?

All I’m suggesting is that a little critical thinking on the part of the electorate and the political world can go a long way.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 17, 2012

August 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seniors, Are You Paying Attention To Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan?

Tea Party members who railed against health care reform because of the spin they were sold about how “Obamacare” would affect Medicare played a big role in returning the House of Representatives to Republican control.

I’m betting that many of them, if they’re paying attention to what Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), wants to do to the Medicare program, are having some serious buyer’s remorse. If Democrats are wise, they’re already drafting a strategy to remind Medicare beneficiaries, including card-carrying Tea Party members, just how fooled they were into thinking that Republicans were the protectors of the government-run program they hold so dear.

As a speaker at an especially contentious town hall meeting during the summer of 2009, I saw firsthand just how many senior citizens were snookered about how reform legislation would alter Medicare. Shortly after I testified before Congress about how the insurance industry was conducting a behind-the-scenes campaign to influence public opinion about reform, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey) invited me to share my perspective as a former insurance industry insider at his September 3, 2009, town hall meeting at Montclair State University.

More than 1,000 people had crammed into the school’s auditorium, not so much to hear the speakers as to express their opinions. Reform opponents were on one side of the auditorium, and reform advocates were on the other side. I had to shout just to be heard above the insults the groups were hurling at each other. Many of the reform opponents were carrying signs that read, “Hands Off My Medicare!” They clearly had bought the lie that the Democrats planned to dismantle the program.

There was no doubt in my mind that the insurance industry was the original source of that lie. While insurers liked the part of reform that would require all Americans not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid to buy coverage from them, they did not like the provision that would eliminate the overpayments the federal government has been paying private insurers for years to participate in the Medicare Advantage program, which was created when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress in the late 1990s.

A little history: A provision of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, written primarily by the insurance industry and backed by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, gave Medicare beneficiaries the option of getting their benefits through private insurers. Republicans envisioned this as the first step toward the total privatization of Medicare.

The Insurance Industry’s Government Favor

The problem was that insurers were reluctant to jump in unless they could be assured of a substantial profit. To get them to market Medicare Advantage plans, the government agreed to give them a big bonus. As a result, we the taxpayers now pay private insurers 14 percent more than the per-patient cost of the traditional Medicare program. These overpayments have contributed significantly to the record profits insurance companies have been posting in recent years, even though only 22 percent of people eligible for Medicare have bought what they’re selling.

The insurers were not able to keep the Democrat-controlled Congress of 2010 from eliminating those bonuses when they passed the Affordable Care Act. The law will indeed reduce future Medicare spending — not benefits — by an estimated $500 million over the next 10 years in a variety of ways, one of which is to stop overpaying insurers. This means that they will not get an extra $136 billion that they — and their shareholders — had been counting on, and they’re really bummed about that.

Knowing they fare much better when the GOP is running things on Capitol Hill, they devoted millions of the premium dollars we paid them to help elect more Republicans to Congress.

An Insurer-Funded Misinformation Campaign

The insurers funneled millions of dollars to their business allies and front groups in an effort to convince the American public that the Democrats wanted to cut Medicare benefits. Not only is that not true, but the new law actually adds an important new benefit and greatly improves another. For the first time, Medicare now pays for preventive care. And the law closes the hated “doughnut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug program.

But thanks to the success of the insurer-funded misinformation campaign, many seniors went to the polls last November convinced that the Democrats not only had created death panels in the Medicare program, they had also slashed their benefits.

The insurance industry funneled $86 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to pay for TV ads that charged that the new law would “cut Medicare.” Also joining in on the campaign of lies was the 60 Plus Association, a group that, according to the Washington Post, AARP and other sources, has received the lion’s share of its funding over the years from the pharmaceutical industry and other special interests.

The 60 Plus Association ran TV ads in numerous congressional districts last fall against Democrats who had voted for the reform law. The ads were amazingly effective. Most of the Democrats they targeted lost.

The irony, of course, is that the GOP had no intention of preserving Medicare as seniors have known it since it was created more than 45 years ago. Ryan’s plan to reduce the deficit — which was approved by the House last week — would complete the privatization of Medicare that insurers and their Republican allies have been plotting for years.

The Republican Effort to Kill Medicare: a Losing Proposition

Ryan wants to give Medicare beneficiaries a voucher they can use to get coverage from a private insurance company. Initially, the vouchers would enable beneficiaries to get coverage comparable to what they have today. But the value of the vouchers would diminish over time. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 65-year-olds would be paying 68 percent of their Medicare coverage costs by 2030, compared with 25 percent today.

What this means is that almost all Medicare beneficiaries would eventually be woefully underinsured, just as an estimated 25 million younger Americans already are and just as most of the nation’s elderly — the ones who could afford coverage at all — were before Medicare was enacted in 1965. (Most senior citizens had no health coverage before Medicare because insurance companies refused to sell it to them. That’s why it was so urgently needed.)

Ryan’s plan is a losing proposition for just about every American who lives long enough to qualify for Medicare benefits, but it is the business model that insurance firms have been dreaming of for years. It would enable them to reap profits that would make their earnings today pale by comparison.

If Democrats have any hope of keeping control of the Senate and regaining the House, they better be able to explain what’s really going on in ways that even the Tea Party seniors will understand. If I were a Democratic strategist, I would be ordering enough “Hands Off My Medicare” signs to blanket the country.

By: Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, Medicaid, Medicare, Pharmaceutical Companies, Politics, Public Opinion, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Seniors, Tea Party, U.S. Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gut Punch To Seniors: Republicans Are Done Pretending

“Should Congress have cut Medicare half a trillion dollars to pay for ObamaCare?” asked a 2010 ad for Republican newcomer Renee Ellmers in North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district. 

That theme — “Obama’s coming for your Medicare!” — helped Ellmers and GOP candidates across the nation consolidate the senior vote, winning that crucial voting bloc by a 59-38 margin. In 2008, Democrats won seniors by 49-48. The dramatic shift was a massive component of the GOP wave.

It was a dishonest attack, of course. The Democratic healthcare law cut $126 billion from Medicare Advantage over 10 years, not half a trillion. And Medicare Advantage, which allowed seniors to get healthcare via private insurers, was an inefficient and wasteful experiment to see whether private companies could deliver health services more efficiently than the government. It failed. In fact, Medicare Advantage cost 11 percent more to run than standard Medicare for identical services.

Yet “fiscally responsible” Republicans successfully demagogued the issue all the way to a majority, winning precious senior support with promises to “protect Medicare.” Those promises are now officially history. Republicans are now rewarding seniors for their vote by punching them in the gut.

GOP Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) has fired the first shot in a new war to destroy the benefit structure that seniors paid for throughout their working lives. Under his plan, seniors will no longer enroll in Medicare, but rather receive vouchers to try and secure care through private insurers. Ryan’s plan delays implementation for 10 years to ward off the wrath of current seniors, but the end result is the same — the elimination of a program Republicans pretended to protect.

After all, if the plan is so great for seniors, why wait until 2021 to implement it? 

Ryan’s plan would cap the growth of vouchers to a hair over the rate of inflation. However, the cost of medical services has far outpaced inflation. So what happens when the vouchers aren’t enough to cover the cost of expensive life-saving medical procedures? If Republicans won’t bargain with drug companies or limit reimbursements to doctors (and they won’t), the only thing left would be real-world death panels.

In other words, seniors would die, needlessly and prematurely.

It is no coincidence that Republicans are using this moment to try and discredit the AARP, which will undoubtedly push back against this irresponsible plan. The House Ways and Means Committee has launched an investigation into the organization’s finances, arguing that its support for last year’s healthcare reform measure should invalidate its tax-exempt status. “Republicans are desperate to try to break the trust that America’s seniors have in AARP,” said Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) during the committee hearings. “They need to do so before they announce their budget that will devastate Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”

If Republicans were serious about containing healthcare costs, they would take a fresh look at a public option, allowing Americans to choose government-run insurance that would compete against private insurers. But Republicans don’t really care about providing quality care at reasonable prices — they care about enriching their insurance lobbyist friends. 

Seniors allowed themselves to be taken in by the GOP in 2010. But their choice now is obvious. Republicans are done pretending.

By: Markos Moulitsas, The Hill, April 5, 2011

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Health Care, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, Lobbyists, Medicaid, Medicare, Pharmaceutical Companies, Politics, Public Option, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin Waterloo: Where The GOP Sees Demons To Attack, Voters See Themselves

Wisconsin Democrats are filing recall petitions that could result in the Wisconsin Senate being controlled by Democrats. Summer 2011 will bring white-hot midterm elections and a potential Wisconsin Waterloo for the GOP that is spreading to other states and could shift the tectonic plate of American politics.

In Wisconsin, Ohio and other states a powerful backlash is brewing from giant swaths of voters who failed to turn out for Democrats or regret their votes for Republicans in 2010. They feel demonized by GOP attacks and financially threatened by GOP policies. They will be highly motivated to vote.

Wisconsin Democrats could win the three state Senate seats necessary to turn control of the Wisconsin Senate to the Dems, because voters do not want political holy wars against teachers, public workers or anyone else. They do not want fanatics in politics, fiats by government, incendiary partisanship or crusades against collective bargaining, which voters widely believe is a valued part of the American system.

Recently the Polish trade union Solidarity, one of the great voices for freedom in modern history, endorsed the Wisconsin workers and condemned the attacks on them by GOP Gov. Scott Walker. More voters agree with Solidarity than with Wisconsin Republicans.

In Ohio, the widely unpopular Republican governor, John Kasich, who was caught on tape verbally abusing a police officer who gave him a ticket, has now added both police and firefighters to the list of enemies he attacked in legislation. Most Americans view firefighters and police as heroes who risk their lives to save their neighbors, not as demons to attack or targets to have their financial security threatened.

In Washington, the GOP has added the venerable AARP to its enemies list. AARP has long represented tens of millions of seniors with honor. For Republicans to launch a Nixonian attack against them is an act of political stupidity that will not be well-received by senior voters.

Republicans wage holy war against National Public Radio, one of the fairest media in the nation, and one that provides vital service to small-town America and includes many Republicans among its fans.

Republicans threaten to shut down the government to pursue their war against Planned Parenthood, which is supported by many Republican women, while they attack a long list of programs important to mainstream American women. Many Republicans oppose efforts to achieve pay equity for women.

House Republicans even want to cut programs that help homeless veterans, cuts that Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) speak eloquently against.

The Texas GOP is likely to attempt to cheat Hispanics out of representation in Congress through a gerrymander similar to that once orchestrated by disgraced former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay. Many Republicans use tactics on immigration that are anathema to many Hispanics.

House Republicans will be widely blamed for any government shutdown or economic collapse from a failure to extend the debt ceiling if they pursue their partisan and ideological vendettas and refuse to accept 50-50 offers from Democrats.

A Wisconsin Waterloo is a real danger to Republicans. Where the GOP sees demons to attack, many voters see themselves. 

By: Brent Budowsky, The Hill, April 4, 2011

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, States, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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