Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Go figure

If you remember reading this post titled, Meltdown Mogul's Senate Agenda - Through Time predicting how Jeff Greene would find the means to dip his gold plated toes into the democratic primary, you can watch a demonstration of the absurdity in real life here. Sure it's a stretched debate but five minutes is all you need before you'll realize that Jeff Greene's track record (and lack thereof) get's the best of him.

Spawned from youtube came a video highlighting one of his worst statements during the debate (minus the one where he blatantly insults Kendrick Meek's mother). He tells the audience he doesn't regret the credit default swaps that fattened his pocket book on the backs of Floridians while feeding into the current recession.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

National Politics Round-up


This is our regular feature where every day I do a post with the top 5 Florida political blog posts about national stories. They are ranked according to quality, importance of the story and relevance to the present.

1. Smooth Like Remy - Super Centrist Fail: "I'm a progressive and a Democrat and maybe not in that order but its getting harder and harder to defend the way the White House treats their base."

2. Leaflet Descending - New data on tea party sympathizers: "The blue columns display those who support the tea party and the red column is the sample of those who do not. Below each graph are the attributes or issue about each titled group or race."

3. madfloridian - The right wing had big money behind their message for decades: "If you have not read The Republican Noise Machine, do so."

4. Nancy Imperiale - Stop reporting. Start writing: "How many times have I struggled with that. Every day of my writing life, probably. I LOVE the reporting. Hate the writing."

5. Avery Voice - academic freedom is a core principle of higher education, but: "Is it responsibility to buckle to the mob. Is it responsibility not to consider any voices or opinions that are not the generally accepted opinions? Is it responsibility to not listen to voices that might offend? Someone with a checkered past? Rules out a lot of political voices. Someone with a different political or philosophical perspective. Clears out a lot of religious underbrush."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

GOP's Financial Record

In Florida the GOP's financial records were released this past Friday under federal investigation for lavish spending and superfluous expenses. The record confirmed that over 7 million dollars in American Express credit cards was spent under 31 past and current elected officials - including ex-chairman Jim Greer and the former party executive director Delmar Johnson.

According to the Miami Herald it was a loophole in election law that kept their receipts from the public eye. Despite being subpoenaed in the grand jury investigation of Ray Sansom (R-Destin), elected officials and Greer refused to release their foot-high pile of AmEx credit card slips.

An excerpt from the Miami Herald reads:

According to American Express billing statements obtained by the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times, he charged nearly $500,000 to his American Express card since he was hand-picked by Gov. Charlie Crist in January 2007 to head the party.

The bills include luxury hotels, costly entertainment, high end dining, spas, stylish clothing and gifts. Not long ago we watched as Kentucky senate minority leader Mitch McConnell attended a private meeting behind closed doors with Wall Street elites like Hedge Fund alongside Texas Senator John Cornyn. It is these actions from the GOP that reveal economic misunderstanding and a lack of empathy toward the public interest. In knowing, it is not difficult to conclude why the GOP is against financial reform.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tax Day Video Response

While approaching the capitol on Tax Day, I was on the fence about whether I should have come out as a progressive upfront or to go in 'solid snake style'. I decided that being on the offense in my first outing is asking for unwanted attention. This wasn't about me, this was about the righteous mob I was about to interview. By righteous I mean possibly armed.

I found as many random people as I could and in the final cut you see all of them. Minus the sexist criticism about how mothers can never be as good role models for daughters as fathers can be and how Obama isn't so bad because he was "born in a white belly," many sourceless talking points we have been hearing from the right were also there.

A primary question I asked was how taxes would be and are currently affected under the Obama administration. The response was instantaneous certainty that they would go up and that they have gone up already. From all the interviews that afternoon there wasn't an explanation to how or why. Maybe its because we have just been given the biggest tax cut in US history, more than under the Bush, Kennedy and Reagan administrations.

A complaint against 95% of Americans getting a tax cut (<- a vent from Time about the misunderstanding) under the new budget came from a post to the Wall Street Journal, which claimed that this was an illusion because the other 5% would have a tax increase. How far from reasoning would someone have to be not to understand why the Wall Street Journal would be interested in the richest 5% of Americans.

Lets zoom in on what sort of bracket we're looking at. The lower class federal income tax is at historically low levels. Those who are getting higher taxes under Obama's budget would have to make over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. Limbaugh, however, seems to think that doesn't qualify as wealthy. He should have followed up that one by adding, "Being wealthy is not about how much money you have, but how many rich friends you have. "

A tea party rep I spoke with in the video said 47% of Americans do not pay income tax and that he was part of the other 53%. The flat rates, however, for the other taxes that percentage still has to pay, is more harmful to lower class incomes. For instance, if the flat rate was 50% and a person has one million dollars vs a person with one thousand dollars, that rate doesn't change.

I also asked what the US tax burden was in comparison to other countries. The most common response, besides not knowing for sure, was that we were up there at the top. No, we're really not. In fact we're quite low by that comparison. On another scale, this is coming from a rally in Florida, where we don't even have a state income tax.

Lastly I was told we had "an out of control government" that was forcing us to pay into something (aka health bill) "we never had to pay into before" and that it was an infliction to the deficit. Oh, and that the bill was "socialism."

On the contrary the bill is going to lower the deficit. Without having background on the bill you might be able to make that argument confidently. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the health care bill would cut the deficit down by $138 billion dollars. That and most importantly giving 32 million Americans health insurance.

Finally, many tea party sympathizers have been using words apart from their meaning to inspire the collection of pitchforks and torches. The health bill is not socialism, by definition. If it were anywhere near it we would have had a public option where the government would provide its own plan, but even that was going to be exactly as it was titled - an option. Confusing regulation with socialism is absurd and paranoid.

The video is available here for those who missed it.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To Repeal or Not To Repeal -- That Is the Question

This week history will be made when President Obama signs into law a health care reform bill that reduces costs, increases access, and provides critical insurance reforms that will put patients first. This legislation also makes Medicare more solvent and expands prescription drug coverage, all while reducing the deficit and reining in health care costs. Many of these reforms will go into effect immediately, while others will be phased in over the next several years. Even with millions and millions of Americans standing to benefit from this bill, the majority of Republican Senate candidates are on the record pledging to do everything in their power to take away health care reform if elected to the Senate. Will more Republican Senate candidates join them?

“Republicans in Washington want their Senate candidates to run on the repeal of health care reform, and many like Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and Trey Greyson have succumbed to the pressure from the establishment,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Eric Schultz. “Others, like Mike Castle, Jane Norton, and John Boozman have dodged the question. We believe that every Republican should be clear on if they would support the repeal of health care reform if elected to the Senate. If Mike Castle is going to look voters in the eye and pledge to repeal health care reform which will have afforded coverage to 109,000 Delawareans, eliminated the doughnut hole for seniors, offered tax credits to small businesses, lowered the deficit, and ended appalling insurance practices – then good luck to him.”

Not only is the Republican strategy of running on pledging to take away health care reform bad policy, it is also bad politics. Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter calls running on a pledge to repeal health care reform “a losing strategy,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank says that the “politics of repeal may not work out as Republicans expect,” comparing the Republican strategy of repeal to Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon’s pledge to repeal Social Security if elected in 1936. Respected political analyst Larry Sabato says that Republicans run a risk on running on repeal, and even conservative commentator David Frum thinks the Republican strategy of repeal is bad politics.

Although many Republican Senate candidates have taken the pledge to repeal health care reform, other have stayed silent. Below is a list of Republican running for the Senate who have pledged to take away health care reform if elected to the Senate. Noticeably missing from this list is Congressman Mike Castle in Delaware, Carly Fiorina in California, Jane Norton in Colorado, Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons in Connecticut, Rob Portman in Ohio, Senator Chuck Grassley in Iowa, John Hoeven in North Dakota, Congressman John Boozman in Arkansas, and Dan Coats and John Hostettler in Indiana.

Florida – Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio

If successful: 4 million Florida residents lose health care; donut hole reappears for 565,000 seniors; 216,000 small businesses lose tax credit; appalling insurance practices reinstated

Would Health Care Reform Help You?

This is a guest post from Barbara O'Brien of The Mahablog, Crooks and Liars, AlterNet, and elsewhere:

Many obstacles and stumbling blocks remain in the way of health care reform. The House and Senate bills will have to be merged, and then the House and Senate both will vote on the final bill. We don’t yet know what will be in the final bill, or if the final bill will be passed into law. Passage will be especially difficult in the Senate, where it will need 60 votes to pass. It is still possible that after all this angst, just one grandstanding senator could kill the whole thing.

But just for fun, let’s look at what conventional wisdom says will be in the final bill and see if there is anything in it that will be an immediate benefit to people with mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos-related disease.

It is likely that the final bill will provide additional funding for state high-risk insurance pools. Currently more than 30 states run such pools, which are nonprofit, state-sponsored health insurance plans for people who can’t buy insurance because of pre-existing conditions. The biggest problem with such pools is that, often, the insurance they offer is too expensive for many who might need it. Both the Senate and House bills provide $5 billion in subsidies for state high-risk pools to make the insurance more affordable.

Under the Senate bill, beginning in 2014, private companies would no longer be able to deny coverage to adults with pre-existing conditions, nor could they charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. Until then, the state high-risk pools could provide some help.

Closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap — also called the “doughnut hole” — is another potential provision that could help some patients with asbestos-related disease. The “doughnut hole” is the gap between the coverage for yearly out-of-pocket expenses provided by Medicare Part D and Medicare’s “catastrophic coverage” threshold.

For example, in 2009 Medicare Part D paid at least 75 percent of what patients paid for prescription drugs up to $2,700. After that, patients must pay for all of their prescription medications until what they have paid exceeds $6,154. At that point, the catastrophic coverage takes over, and Medicare pays for all but 5 percent of the patient’s drug bills. The final health care reform bill probably will provide for paying at least 50 percent of out-of-pocket costs in the doughnut hole.

You may have heard the bills include budget cuts to the Medicare program, and this has been a big concern to many people. Proponents of the bill insist that savings can be found to pay for the cuts, and that people who depend on Medicare won’t face reduced services. But this is a complex issue that I want to address in a later post.

The long-term provisions probably will include many other provisions that would benefit patients with asbestos-related disease, including increased funding for medical research. Although there are many complaints about the bill coming from all parts of the political spectrum, on the whole it would be a huge benefit to many people.

— Barbara O’Brien
March 22, 2010