Sep 052012
 
English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama's signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Democratic National Convention kicked off yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina, and if the opening night is any indication of what’s to come, all those millionaires financing the great GOP propaganda machine better dig deep into their Swiss bank accounts. The contrast between the divisive “Me, me — keep your hands off what’s mine” theme of the RNC, and the uniting “We, us — nothing’s impossible when we work together” message of the DNC could not be more stark, nor could the choice confronting our nation be more important.

 Unity or division would seem a clear choice, but clarity is soon lost in the murky waters of politics, where information is readily distorted into much more useful forms of communication. It takes time and effort to filter the garbage and restore the pure, clean flow of information, especially when a handful of the uber-rich are willing to use their vast fortunes to pump toxic waste into the conversation, but for all those who are willing to hear, the purification process shifted gears last night.

For nearly four years, Republicans have done everything in their power to carry through on what Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell called the “single most important thing we want to achieve” — to make Barack Obama “a one-term president.” Toward that end, they’ve resorted to obstruction and distortion unparalleled in American history, and nowhere have those efforts been more dishonest than in their smear campaign on Obamacare. Fortunately, lies don’t hold up well in the sunshine, and as evidenced by the first night of the DNC, it appears that the Democrats are finally going to shine some light.

Personally, I can’t help it, but every time I hear some person complaining about the impact of “Obamacare,” I think of that Tea Party member holding the sign saying “Government Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare!” I know that the media is rife with misinformation regarding the legislation, and propagandists in the opposition camp have used every distortion possible to discredit the law, but at some point, you’d think people would take the time to actually check a fact or two.

The latest lie being told is the story about President Obama using the law to strip $716 billion from Medicare. Of course, what the perpetrators of the lie don’t  want people to know is that the cuts are not being taken from Medicare recipients but from providers in the form of future cost savings. One would think that cost control would be important for true fiscal conservatives, but evidently not when weighed against an effective political attack. The propagandists are also mum on the fact that the Paul Ryan plan for Medicare includes the same cost cuts, but what’s that little white lie when you’re so used to telling fat whoppers?

People also like to complain about how Obamacare is raising their premiums, which is obviously utter nonsense. The truth, as the Washington Post stated when assigning 3 Pinocchios to the RNC ad claiming that “Six in 10 Americans are seeing their premiums rise,” is that this would be quite a reach for a law “which largely has not gone into effect” yet. All of the most costly provisions of Obamacare aren’t scheduled to hit until 2014. And the best estimates for increases attributable to Obamacare are currently around 1.5%.

But that said, premiums are rising, and have been, quite steeply, since 2001 when they were on average 113% lower than today. Of course, premiums aren’t the only part of healthcare that’s rising. Costs are up as well, climbing to 17.3% of GDP while George Bush was president — the largest increase since 1960. And while the Bush years may have been bad for America, they were great for the medical insurers, who saw their profits soar 250% between 2000 and 2009.

Perhaps the most incredible whoppers being told are those casting Obamacare as the “biggest tax increase” in American history. It’s true that it is large, in raw, unadjusted for inflation numbers. But using any reasonable measure, such as percentage of GDP, which accounts for inflation, population growth, and all that normal stuff you’d be concerned about if you weren’t trying to distort perceptions, Obamacare is actually one of the smaller tax increases. At 0.42% of GDP, it’s about half the size of Reagan’s 1982 tax increase and less than 1/10th as large as the 5.04% Revenue Act of 1942.

Distortions mischaracterizing the “tax” component of Obamacare have become so severe that PolitiFact gave Rush Limbaugh’s claim a rating of “Pants on Fire” — a label placed on only the most bald-faced lies. And the assertion that the increases are targeted at the “poor and middle class” is even more patently absurd, as the largest single increase only applies to people making over $200,000, and most of the rest all applies to either “Cadillac” plans or is levied on manufacturers and providers. 

There is good news though — people are finally beginning to look at what’s inside Obamacare, and contrary to conservative myth, they’re liking what they find. People with adult children have already benefited from the provision that allows children up to age 26 to be included on a parent’s plan. The same holds true for parents of children with preexisting conditions who can no longer be denied coverage. Seniors too are benefiting from new rules that will close the prescription drug “donut hole” entirely by 2020. Small businesses are already receiving credits to help provide coverage for their employees; Medicaid is being made available to more people in desperate need, and lifetime and annual limits on coverage, the type that may have been a death sentence for young Zoe Lihn, are both on their way to elimination.

By the time Obamacare is fully implemented, nobody will be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions, and numerous provisions will be in place to reduce fraud, increase the availability of preventative care, streamline processing, and subsidize lower income access to individual policies. The system will also include policy exchanges to increase competition, reduce costs and provide access for individuals and small businesses to purchase coverage at prices now available only to the largest customers.

Adult Americans really should take the time to find out more about the Affordable Care Act, instead of just believing the lies they’re being fed by politicians who only want to discredit President Obama and the Democrats, no matter how many people they harm in the process. And as for all those fear-mongering liars on the right, from Limbaugh to Romney/Ryan, may they be revealed as the self-serving assholes they truly are, because they may love America — it’s certainly treated them well — but they obviously don’t give a fat flying fuck about the American people.


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Apr 292011
 
Paul Ryan - Caricature

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

What do you call people who use their power to line their own pockets by taking from people who can’t protect themselves?  “Bullies?” “Thieves?”

What if they also lie about it and attempt to cover their tracks with irrational nonsense that would make Jabberwocky seem like a reference manual? Would they be “liars?” “Thieving liars?” How about “lying, thieving bullies?”

Judging by what’s happening today in American politics, the answer is inescapable . . . we’d all be forced to just call them Republicans.

Congressman Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee recently released the Republican budget for 2012, and it subsequently passed through the House with all but four Republican members voting in its favor. Labeled the “Path to Prosperity,” the Ryan plan is touted to cut $6.2 trillion from President Obama’s budget over the next decade. But while this may sound promising on the surface, even a cursory look at the details leaves a person asking, “To whose prosperity does this path lead?

According to Ryan, the Republican proposal is “guided by the timeless principles of the American idea,” but unless he was referring to the principles upheld by the Robber Barons of the 19th Century, Ryan must be talking about another America. If the congressman was indeed talking about the United States, a nation that was founded on the notion of a government empowered by the “consent of the governed” to “form a more perfect union” that would “promote the general welfare,” then the only explanation is that the man is either ignorant of the facts of our founding, or he’s just an unethical self-serving liar!

The fact of the matter is that Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is a full frontal assault on working Americans. It makes a mockery of our Constitution by subverting the federal government for the benefit of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. In short, the proposal that Ryan refers to as the “new House majority’s answer to history’s call,” will end Medicare as we know it, replace Medicaid with block grants, make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and lower both the top individual and corporate tax rate to 25%.

Indeed, Ryan and the other social cannibals of the Republican Party like to talk about being adults while paying lip service to shared sacrifice, but as is evidenced by their budget proposal, the truth of their actions is a different matter. The Republican plan not only attempts to slash social programs to pay on the debt created by years of excess military spending, tax cuts for the rich, and banker bailouts, but it does so by first making matters worse.

In what has become SOP for the GOP, the Ryan plan will trim the tax bill of the wealthy by 29%, bringing it to its lowest level since 1931, and it will attempt to cover the loss in revenue by hacking at the discretionary services  relied upon by everyone else.

So, the Republican plan is to address spending by gutting education, allowing our infrastructure to further decay, and slashing $1.6 trillion total from domestic discretionary spending, while shifting the burden for the high costs of healthcare onto seniors instead of addressing the root causes, and also ripping the heart out of Medicaid, which expends 87% of its costs to serve children, the elderly and the disabled. All told, the Ryan budget will reduce spending by $4.3 trillion over 10 years, but even though the justification for all of these draconian cuts is based on the deficit, Ryan and the snake oil peddling Republicans will actually give $4.2 trillion of that total back in tax cuts.

That’s right, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan plan will reduce the deficit by all of $155 billion over 10 years. But what the heck, the deficit is really nothing but a policy bludgeon created and used by Republicans anyway. Since Ronald Reagan took office, the Republicans have been dedicated to increasing military spending, while cutting taxes, and as a result consistently ignoring the deficit and adding to the debt. The Ryan budget is no exception.

Just why the beltway press has referred to Ryan as “courageous” for proposing what appears to be standard fare for the Republican Party is more than a little curious. The truth of the matter is that the release of the Ryan plan may have been much more “careless” than it was “courageous.” Like the realtor who inadvertently reveals that the field behind that bargain-priced Tudor is slated for a chemical factory, the Ryan budget leaves no doubt regarding the true motives of the Republican Party.

Fortunately, this time around, people are paying attention. Blinded by their own lack of integrity, Republicans evidently believed that by grandfathering everyone 55 and over into the traditional Medicare system, they wouldn’t receive much pushback at their attempt to screw everyone else. But they were wrong. As it turns out, seniors who have learned that the Ryan plan will replace Medicare with a voucher system that will cause future retirees to reach into their own pockets for an estimated $12,500 each year for insurance, have reacted as if the change affected them personally.

Hurray for American seniors! In one town hall meeting after another, Republicans returning to their home constituencies are getting an earful about their illicit attempt to stuff their pockets with money gained by throwing future retirees to the wolves that run the profit-rich medical insurers.

Of course, the big-money Republican damage control apparatus is already underway trying to spin the dismantling of Medicare. Spending millions on bullshit television ads, the voucher system that Paul Ryan euphemistically refers to as “premium support,” is now being presented as a Republican attempt to “preserve Medicare.” Sadly, that preservation would be in name only, preserving the program in much the same way as a classic car is preserved by sending it through a car crusher. But hey, in the Bizarro World of Republican spin doctoring — rhetoric is reality.

So, where does this go from here? Nowhere. There is absolutely zero chance that the Ryan plan will pass the Senate and be signed by the president, which makes it all the more painfully obvious how ridiculously disconnected the Republican Party is from the reality of life in America. Why House Republicans would actually reveal their true agenda, knowing that it would never become law, is anybody’s guess. It’s like a thief giving his victim advanced warning — in writing. But be that as it may, the genie is out of the bottle, and he’s got “Republican doom” tattooed on his forehead.


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Apr 132011
 

Milwaukee’s ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave would be voided under a bill Assembly Republicans sent Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday.

Walker said he is likely to sign the measure. The city’s sick leave ordinance was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2008 but has never gone into effect because of legal challenges. The Assembly voted 59-35 to ensure it would never be implemented.

Patrick Marley, Journal Sentinel

Scott Walker - Cartoon

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

So let’s see, Milwaukee voters use the rights given them in an American democracy to effect legislation. The initiative is passed and then immediately subjected to judicial review and is left standing, so it becomes law. But then the “small government” Republicans in Madison decide that they don’t like the law, so they scramble to pass legislation that will effectively nullify the will of the people . . .

Isn’t democracy grand?

We presently live in a nation where the “haves” have everything. They don’t worry about paying rent or putting food on the table; they have healthcare; they have the wealth, with the top 1% having more than the bottom 95%. If they happen to get sick, they’re not concerned — they will likely be paid for the time away from work, and if not they have the resources to weather the storm.

But for the 98% of Americans who are the “have nots,” those of us who essentially live month to month, the story is quite different. Our incomes have been stagnant for more than 30 years; millions of us are unemployed or underemployed, with real rates currently over 22%; there are presently 52 million of us without healthcare insurance and millions more who are covered but still can’t afford treatment. When we get sick, we are worried about any loss in pay because we need every cent earned just to make ends meet.

So, the good people of Milwaukee, Wisconsin take the initiative to use their democracy to pass a law that would at least provide a solution for one of the many issues pressing on the working people of our nation. They didn’t fight for higher pay or even for healthcare; they didn’t ask for paid time for leisure — no, they just want to be paid when they get sick, but even that’s too much too ask for in the Bizarro World of profits-over-people American conservatism.

As stated by Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), “This [Republican] bill is a slap in the face to the people of the City of Milwaukee.” But alas, Darth Walker and his hoard of Republican stormtroopers don’t really give a flying flip about the people, about their democracy or about anything resembling ethical behavior. They have the power, so they will assert their rule of the land. The will of the people be damned! The aristocracy has spoken.

All working Americans will be well-served to pay close attention to what’s going on in Wisconsin and other states being overrun by newly elected Republican majorities. They all talk about small government and pay lip service to jobs and workers, but at every opportunity they use the power of government to trash the rights of the many for the benefit of the elite few.

Wake up America! Wake up and learn that in the Republican vernacular, “small government” simply means government that serves a very “small” minority. 


Read the entire Article at the Journal Sentinel  

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