Democrats proposing an overhaul of the American health care system have gotten themselves locked in a box around the question of affordability.
This is not the question of whether the proposed health care legislation is affordable for taxpayers and the federal government — an issue that seemed to be answered when the Congressional Budget Office said the Senate Finance Committee’s bill would eventually help reduce federal budget deficits.
The affordability question vexing Democrats is whether those with moderate income will be able to afford health insurance, even with the subsidies the legislation would provide and all sorts of new rules aimed at controlling costs.
The president has declined to talk about racism in connection with the carpet-chewers of the Right who are suffering road rage over his existence, and he's wise to turn that one down.
The country doesn't need a sermon on race or civility right now. What it needs is to believe that our leaders are trying to do the right thing, no matter how inconvenient, and if they forge ahead and fix health insurance, then the ragemeisters of the Right will find other hobbies.
Obama is a Chicago guy, and he doesn't wilt if some gin-crazed cracker from South Carolina calls him a liar, so don't trouble your pretty head about civility.
As a boycott of classes to protest teachers' unpaid days off (furloughs) and students' double-digit fee increases unfolded across the state, members of the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America, Local 9119, AFL-CIO, staged a one-day strike.
The driving force unifying the protesters is the state's budget crisis. That shortfall between tax revenue and spending following the housing bubble crash has spawned deep cuts in funding for public higher education: the UC system, California State University's 23 campuses and the state's 110 community colleges.
Against this backdrop, UPTE has been bargaining with UC for 18 months. During this time, UC management has not been bargaining in good faith with the union, according to Kevin Scott, a UPTE activist and a UC Davis staff researcher.
"With the furlough program, we have attempted to bargain with UC to reach a compromise that works for everybody," he said. "If only UC would open its books to us and prove to us that this cost reduction from furloughs would actually be required. But UC keeps the books closed, does not let us see the numbers. They just say this is how it is and you had better accept it."
UC seeks the freedom to impose layoffs and furloughs on UPTE members unilaterally by sidestepping collective bargaining, according to Scott . The union represents 12,000 workers - lab assistants, computer techs, theater staff, animal care techs, sign language interpreters and museum scientists - at all UC campuses and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
The UC Office of the President did not return a request for comment on contract talks with UPTE.
Lisa Kermish is a UPTE vice president and administrative analyst at UC Berkeley. She spoke from Sproul Plaza at the campus. "Today is a remarkable show of our union members and supporters coming out in solidarity and coalition with faculty, students and other unions," she said. "I haven't seen crowds like this since the 1980's South Africa apartheid divestment movement and 1960's Free Speech Movement."
UPTE's union supporters are the American Federation of Teachers (librarians and lecturers); United Auto Workers (graduate students); Coalition of University Employees (clerical workers), and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (service workers). UC faculty, students and workers have three audiences, at minimum, to convince in the wake of California 's fiscal shortfall of $24 billion: state lawmakers, UC management and the general public.
Shanta Brown, a nursing assistant in Charlotte, N.C., walked through her soon-to-be home in August, pointing out favorite features - the living room's vaulted ceiling, two full baths and new black countertops she chose for durability.
In a few minutes, Brown would stand outside the front door and cut a ribbon, dedicating the first house in Habitat for Humanity Charlotte's ambitious new effort to rehab homes in neighborhoods decimated by foreclosures.
Across the country, Habitat chapters are doing the same - buying vacant, foreclosed-on homes at rock-bottom prices. For most, that's a big departure from their longstanding model of using volunteer labor to build affordable housing from the ground up.
But that model was pre-foreclosure crisis. Now, as thousands of homes sit vacant, Habitat officials say they can't pass up this opportunity.
With prices depressed, many are finding they can buy and rehab cheaper than they can build. (Most Habitat chapters also continue to build.) Rehab projects are often faster, so families can move in sooner. And Habitat officials say rehabbed, owner-occupied houses will ultimately boost home values in high-foreclosure neighborhoods.
Like most nonprofits, Habitat chapters have seen donations fall. But the federal government is handing out millions to help make these rehabs happen.
"It's an incredible opportunity to turn things around," says Mark Andrews, Habitat for Humanity International's senior director of U.S. operations.
Habitat International officials don't have totals of homes being rehabbed because their 1,500 chapters work independently. They do know that about $80 million has been earmarked to go to about 80 to 100 chapters - the first wave of grants from the U.S. Housing and Economic Recovery Act's Neighborhood Stabilization Program. That money will be used to rehab or build about 1,300 homes.
Some chapters are also kicking in their own money to buy foreclosures. And a second wave of federal funding could mean more than $200 million, awarded to Habitat International and state organizations in Alabama, Florida and Louisiana, for about 1,600 additional homes. That money will be awarded later this year.
Rehabbing means new and sometimes dirty jobs for volunteers: Removing mold and lead paint, tearing out nasty carpet, repainting dingy walls.
But in Charlotte, where many foreclosures are nearly new homes, the rehab jobs aren't bad. One sunny morning, the sounds of hammers rang out in the Windy Ridge neighborhood as volunteers added a storage shed to a home that had been foreclosed on twice in its seven-year life.
A couple of years ago, Charlotte's Windy Ridge neighborhood became a poster child for everything wrong with the home mortgage industry. It was a nearly new subdivision, yet as a result of predatory lending and easy credit, 61 percent of its 132 homes had seen foreclosures by the end of 2007. Crime was up. Property values had plummeted.
Habitat has purchased six foreclosed homes in the subdivision and plans to buy more. Brown's 1,000-square-foot home, the first to be rehabbed, sold new in 2003 for $106,000. Habitat bought it in April for $44,000. Aside from new carpet and paint, the property didn't need a lot of work. Even after repairs, the project cost less than the $60,000 needed to build a new home.
Different cities have different stories. Habitat of Collier County in Naples, Fla., has purchased nearly 50 homes in the troubled Naples Manor neighborhood. When those home values peaked at around $250,000 a few years ago, many homeowners took out equity loans, only to see prices collapse. Now, houses are selling for under $100,000.
In Minnesota, Habitat for Humanity Twin Cities is rehabbing pre-1940 homes mostly located in the urban core. Like many chapters, the Twin Cities affiliate is concentrating efforts in a few neighborhoods. By working alongside other groups doing similar work, "we'll have an impact not only on the housing stock, but property values, social connections and how people feel about their neighborhoods," says Kristen Beckmann, the affiliate's director for government relations.
Some chapters, including the Greater San Francisco affiliate, are rehabbing without federal funds. San Mateo County is generally affluent, so it didn't qualify for federal money. But that affluence masks pockets of poverty.
Habitat officials plan to continue working on foreclosures as long as it makes sense. But within three to four years, they're hoping the housing market bounces back and they can get out of the rehab business.
"In the short term, and we do truly hope it's the very short term, we're trying to make some lemonade out of lemons," says Phillip Kilbridge, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.
If trends hold, neighbors of these newly rehabbed Habitat homes won't have to worry about foreclosures. Thanks to extensive screening and homeowner education, the foreclosure rate for Habitat homes is just 2 percent.
At Brown's Habitat home dedication, Habitat of Charlotte Executive Director Bert Green spoke of a new life for the home and neighborhood, rising from the ashes of foreclosure and loss.
Brown grinned as she thanked Habitat workers and volunteers.
"My own land," she said. "My own home."
A story about monkeys on the loose in Washington has U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, taking heat.
Here's some background from the New York Times Blog, "He told a tale about British soldiers who had built a golf course in India and had to adapt to the game in a whole new way. They didn't anticipate that they'd be joined on the course by monkeys, who would swoop out of the nearby jungle, grab the golf balls and toss them around, he explained."
PHILADELPHIA — A state panel has found probable cause of racial discrimination at a suburban Philadelphia swim club that asked a day camp group of mostly black and Hispanic children not to return, a ruling the club's lawyer blamed late Tuesday on the "media firestorm" that followed the incident.
The Valley Club in predominantly white Huntingdon Valley, Pa., has denied there was any racial motive behind its actions June 29, when children from Creative Steps Inc. day camp went to the club and their payment for swimming was refunded without explanation. The club has maintained that there were too many children for the number of lifeguards on duty and that many of the children who were at the club couldn't swim.
Speaker Pelosi is backing away from a deal she cut with centrists to advance health reform, said a source familiar with talks.
Pelosi’s decision to move away from the agreement that was made with a group of Blue Dogs to get the bill out of committee would steer the healthcare legislation back to the left as she prepares for a floor vote.
"The speaker is full-steam-ahead," said a senior Democratic aide.
But a Pelosi aide said nothing is final, and the proposal to revert to the more left-leaning version of the language would be vetted before the entire Democratic Caucus.
Russian reaction to President Barack Obama's visit seemed mixed, but he serves as inspiration to the country's little-known African-Russian community.
For Russians of African descent, President Barack Obama offers a potent symbol of triumph over the same challenges they themselves face in a country where dark-skinned people remain rare and often unwelcome.
Yelena Khanga is one of Russia’s best-known black citizens. The popular host of a top-rated 1990s chat show about sex – “Pro Eto,” (About That), she became one of the few black faces regularly seen on Russian television.
Khanga’s grandparents came to the Soviet Union in the 1920s to escape the racism they had endured in the United States as a mixed-race couple. Today, Khanga says Obama’s election to the American presidency has special meaning for her.
“He did what my grandmother and grandfather dreamed about in their day,” Khanga says. “They couldn’t even have dreamed that, one day, America would have a black president. The only dreams that they had—my grandmother was white, and my grandfather was black—was that Americans would someday allow mixed couples to live in peace, have children, and let the children have decent lives. That is what they dreamed about.”
Khanga’s grandfather, Oliver Golden, became a member of the Communist Party in the United States after he failed to find work as anything but a waiter despite having a college degree. He soon left for the Soviet Union with his Polish-American wife, Bertha Bialek, in one of the groups of black Americans actively encouraged by Bolshevik leaders to pull up stakes in their capitalist homeland and help build a new society in the U.S.S.R.
Golden traveled to Uzbekistan to work on cotton cultivation. He and his wife soon gave birth to a daughter named Lily, Khanga’s mother.
Khanga says her grandparents worked hard to show Lily — who went on to marry Abdullah Khanga, a political leader from Zanzibar whom she met in Moscow — that she was free to achieve whatever she wanted.
“The Obama campaign said, ‘Yes we can.’ My grandmother and grandfather said the same thing to my mother: ‘Yes, you can. You can do it,’” Khanga says. “And my mother was the best pupil in school, she graduated with a gold medal.... She was practically the first black person to study at MGU [Moscow State University] in the Soviet Union. She played tennis; it was the dream of my grandfather that she, a black girl, play tennis. She was the champion of Uzbekistan.”
The most famous African-Russian is legendary poet Alexander Pushkin, who was the great-grandson of an African brought to St. Petersburg under Peter the Great in the early 18th century. During the Soviet era, African students were actively encouraged to travel to the Soviet Union for their educations, leading to a number of mixed marriages and African-Russian offspring.
But black skin remains extremely rare in Russia. One estimate says that there are between 40,000 and 70,000 Russians of full or mixed-African heritage.
That distinction has singled many black Russians out for treatment that they say swings between curiosity, at best, and open hostility, at worst.
Grigory Siyatinda, an actor at the Sovremennik Theater in Moscow, grew up as the only black man in his hometown of Tyumen in the 1970s. His experience was that of an object of fascination in an isolated Soviet society where foreigners, and especially black foreigners, were exotic.
“How to put it? It wasn’t racism, what I experienced during my childhood in Tyumen,” Siyatinda says. “I was the only black person in Tyumen—Tyumen is a Siberian city and there were no black-skinned people at all. ...That’s why there was simply this heightened curiosity toward me. It was heightened so much at times that it crossed over the borders of tact.”
Racism, long officially denied under the communist regime, is a reality in modern-day Russia, where nationalist groups and xenophobia are on the rise.
Russia’s Sova center, which tracks issues related to race and ethnicity, reports that 97 people were killed in racist attacks in 2008. Statistically, Central Asian migrants have become the primary victims of attacks in recent years. But African-Russians and African students remain constant targets as well.
Still, Khanga—whose great-grandfather was a slave in Mississippi—says she believes the scourge of racism was far worse in the United States, where there were 4 million African slaves by the time slavery was abolished in 1865 and where it took another century before school segregation and other forms of racial discrimination were formally outlawed.
Khanga notes that there was a very small percentage of mixed-race and black people in the Soviet Union.
“I was part of the first generation...,” Khanga says. “...I can be the first to tell you what kinds of problems we had. But, of course, you can’t compare them to the kinds of things that happened in America.”
Still, the few black Russians who have risen to prominence in their country have done so through sports or the entertainment world.
Khanga says she hopes that Obama’s historic rise to become the first African-American president will open doors for blacks in Russia as well.
“I would like to see us have success in politics or science as well,” she says. -
“Copyright (c) 2009 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Reprinted and excerpted with the permission of RFE/RL, 1201 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20036
A Barack Obama from Volgograd
A 37-year-old man from Guinea-Bissau is bidding to become Russia’s first black elected official.
Dubbed the “Volgograd Obama,” Joachim Crima, who calls himself Vasily Ivanovich in Russian, is standing in district elections in south Russia’s Volgograd Region.
“I was born in Africa, but I have lived in the district for 12 years and feel practically Russian,” the watermelon seller said. “I have a son here and this is why I cannot be indifferent to the fate of the region.”
“I want to make the lives of people, whom I consider my compatriots, better. I am ready to work from morning until evening to resolve their problems.”
The newsru.com website said Crima was using the common Russian expression for working hard as his campaign slogan. Elections are due on October 11.
Q&A: Traveling to Russia requires a visa plus registration, and those who are not with a package tour have to register on their own. Our expert shows you how
Rockefeller Coverage Amendment #7 to America’s Healthy Future ActRockefeller Amendment #C7 to Title I, Subtitle C (Making Coverage Affordable)Short Title: Establishment and administration of a public health insurance option as an exchange-qualified health benefits plan (Sections 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, and 226 of H.R. 3200, America‘s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009)Description of Amendment: Sec. 221. Establishment and administration of a public health insurance option as an Exchange-qualified health benefits plan. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a public health insurance option to be offered starting in 2013 as a plan choice within the Health Insurance Exchange. It participates on a level playing field with private plan choices. Like private plans, it must offer the same benefits, abide by the same insurance market reforms, and follow provider network requirements and other consumer protections.
Creigh Deeds, Virginia’s Democratic nominee for governor, has narrowed the lead of his Republican rival to five percentage points, according to a new Clarus Research Group poll out Tuesday night.
Deeds, a state senator, now trails former Attorney General Bob McDonnell 42-37 percent after lagging by double digits throughout the summer. Twenty percent of 600 registered voters polled September 10-14 remain undecided.
Ron Faucheux, president of the polling firm, pointed to recent reports by the Washington Post on McDonnell’s controversial 1989 master’s thesis as part of cause for Deeds apparent gains.
“The McDonnell thesis story has not – so far – damaged McDonnell as badly as Democrats had hoped, but it hasn't left him unscathed,” Faucheux said.
McDonnell took a hit in the poll among women voters, 35 percent of which said they held a less favorable view of the former attorney general after hearing about the thesis. However, 58 percent of women who had heard about the thesis said it had no affect on their outlook of McDonnell.
Just more than half of those surveyed overall, 52 percent, said they had heard of the thesis controversy.
Republicans lead in all three of the statewide races being decided this November, though more than 30 percent of the voters remain undecided in both the attorney general and lieutenant governor contest.
"There's no question that if you look at some of the actions and comments being made, there's a fringe element that has staked out a racial position towards African-Americans that never has been open for public display" until now, said Rep. Henry Johnson, D-Ga., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Wilson "didn't help the cause of diversity and balance with his remarks."
The 240 to 179 vote Tuesday, largely along party lines, formally reprimanded Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, for shouting "You lie!" to President Barack Obama during his address last week to a joint session of Congress.
Wilson and the House GOP leadership protested, saying the measure was a diversionary tactic designed to deflect attention from the health care debate.
"It's clear to the American people that there are far more important issues facing the nation," Wilson said in his defense.
However, some Black Caucus members said that Wilson's outburst is but the latest in a long string of ugly events rooted in racism, such as last week's flap over Obama addressing the nation's schoolchildren, protesters showing up outside Obama events carrying licensed firearms, and "birthers" questioning Obama's citizenship. Black Caucus members say such incidents are designed to disrespect the office of the president now that a black man holds it.
"I don't think that this would have happened" to a white president, said Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., a black caucus member. Wilson "wouldn't have done that to (former President George W.) Bush or any of the 43 presidents like that."
The push, experts said, reflects growing anger in the black community over how Obama is being attacked with venomous and false charges that he's a socialist, born in Kenya, a Muslim, and somehow un-American.
"It feels very O.J-ish," said Kathryn Russell-Brown, the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida, referring to the racial divide in public opinion over the guilt or innocence of former football star O.J. Simpson for the 1994 murder of his white wife. Surveys found that white majorities thought Simpson guilty was and blacks didn't. Simpson was acquitted in 1995. "It's deja vu all over again. People have staked out their ground: 'It's about race; no it's not about race.'"
Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., also black, said that the racial undercurrent against Obama has been the least discussed aspect of his presidency.
Scott said he experienced some of the racial vitriol aimed at Obama when someone painted a swastika on his Smyrna, Ga., office following a contentious town hall meeting on health care last month.
One letter sent to his office addressed him as "Nigga David Scott."
"The folks are not going to stand for socialized medicine even though negro's (sic) refuse to stand on their own two feet," another letter read.
Georgia's Johnson said that Wilson's outburst, and the House Republican leadership's response to it, gives a wink and a nod to racist behavior and that Tuesday's resolution was needed to restore civility.
"The other party has been stoking the flames of disrespect among the people," Johnson said, adding: "I guess we'll have people putting on white hoods and uniforms."
Not every Democrat, however, was anxious to punish Wilson or viewed his outburst through the prism of race. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said Wilson's shout at Obama reflected the passion of the current political debate that's going on in the country.
"Part of this is a fundamental debate about the role of government, and their people are really loud," said Edwards, a Black Caucus member who added that Wilson needed to be disciplined nonetheless. "This is about how we go forward as a republic and as an institution. This (behavior) cannot be allowed without any sanction."
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., wondered whether going after Wilson was worth the House's time.
"I think he should man-up, but I'm not sure we should push him," she said.
Tuesday's vote marked a reversal for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who initially indicated that the Wilson matter was over after he apologized to Obama. After being pressed by black lawmakers, however, especially House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, Democrats proceeded with the resolution.
The resolution, presented by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., a veteran white lawmaker, and Clyburn, said that Wilson's actions violated the House's general code of conduct that a lawmaker "shall conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives."
The vote was a symbolic gesture that carries no specific punishment. Twelve Democrats voted against the resolution, seven Republicans voted for it, and five Democrats voted present.
Republican speakers defended Wilson as a former military family man, with sons who've served in Iraq, who may have made an ill-timed outburst, but apologized for it and ultimately provoked useful debate on the health care legislation.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the procedure was a witch-hunt and unnecessary because Wilson had already apologized to Obama, and the president had accepted.
"There's been behavior that's gone on around here that's been far more serious than this, that didn't bring a resolution to the floor," Boehner said, suggesting "we could be doing this every day of the week."
Clyburn maintained, however, that the resolution was about keeping the order and decorum that's governed Congress for centuries.
"This hall is the most prominent classroom in this great country, and all us are teachers," he said. "We are bound by duty and the offices we hold to conduct ourselves as such . . . Silence is consent. We cannot be silent in this matter. We do not consent to the conduct of Mr. Wilson."
Democrats voting no: Mike Arcuri (NY), Bill Delahunt (Mass.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Paul Hodes (NH), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Daniel Maffei (NY), Eric Massa (NY), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Gwen Moore (Wisc.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), Harry Teague (NM).
Democrats voting present: Eliot Engel (NY), Bill Foster (Ill.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Carol Shea-Porter (NH), Ike Skelton (Mo.)
Republicans voting yes:
Joseph Cao (La.), Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Bob Inglis (SC), Walter Jones (NC), Thomas Petri (Wisc.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.).
Last month, Toyota announced it would close the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, California, after General Motors announced it was withdrawing from the partnership under which the plant has operated for over two decades. The plant employs 4,500 workers directly, and the jobs of another 30,000 throughout Northern California are dependent on its continued operation. Taking families into account, the threatened closure will eliminate the income of over 100,000 people.
People have spent their lives in the NUMMI plant in Fremont, probably more time with the compressed-air tools at their workstations than with their families at home. The plant is like a city, thousands of jobs and thousands of people working in a complicated dance where each one's contribution makes possible that of the next person down the line. And like a city, it supports the people who work in it.
A NUMMI job brings the paycheck that pays the mortgage and the (now astronomical) tuition for kids in college. A NUMMI job makes possible the friendships that grow over years laboring in the same workplace. Working at NUMMI means being part of the union, with all the frustrations and infighting, but also the ability to pull together to get the contract that makes an industrial job bearable, and ensures that a kid's visit to a doctor or dentist doesn't bottom out the family bank account.
General Motors used to run this plant by itself, back in the '60s and '70s, when it was GM Fremont. It was a feisty plant with a feisty union, and a linchpin for years in the movement to stop concessions in union bargaining. When GM closed the plant the first time, in the early '80s, many thought it was revenge. Afterwards, autoworkers from Fremont became migrants. Many lived a lonely existence in motels in Oklahoma City or Texas, trying to hold onto seniority in a union auto job, sending money back home to families in California. Others lost their homes, and worse. In the wave of plant closures of the early 1980s, the Department of Commerce even kept a statistic of how many people committed suicide for every thousand who lost jobs when their plant shut down. No one in Washington has the courage to face that number anymore.
When GM and Toyota announced their partnership to reopen the plant, desperation was so great that people agreed to a union contract outside the national pattern before the lines even started moving. Big concessions to the "Japanese style of management" often pitted workers against each other and against their union too. It took years to fight those problems out with management.
When General Motors withdrew from its partnership with Toyota, everyone knew that spelled trouble. What sense did it make for GM to withdraw from a plant that consistently made vehicles that sold well, at a profit? But the GM bailout put the company under managers with no concern for keeping people working and plants open. Making GM profitable again meant getting dividends and profits flowing to a tiny group of bankers and investors, who already have more money than they can spend. And keeping production going at low-cost plants outside the US will bring that profitability back, although at the cost of the jobs and welfare of tens of thousands of people. Whose interest was our government serving with such a bailout? Even in France the conservative Sarkozy told French automakers they had to keep the factories running if they wanted a government subsidy. But here in the US, who was bailed out and who wasn't?
Without a GM partner, Toyota is moving to close the only plant it owns in the US with a union. And they just got a big taxpayer-funded present too. More vehicles sold under the Cash for Clunkers program were Corollas made at the NUMMI plant than any other model. The administration and Congress voted to throw three billion dollars at Toyota and the other auto giants to reduce car prices and increase sales. But there was no requirement that the subsidy come with a commitment to keep the people working who made the cars they sold.
Look at the photographs of the people of NUMMI. These experienced and talented people could make anything. If Toyota doesn't want to make cars in Fremont, why not put the plant to use making buses or the railcars for BART and local transit systems (for which taxpayers have already agreed to give up billions of dollars)? And if Toyota and GM don't want to give up the plant or put it to that use, then a true government commitment would be to use its power of eminent domain to take it over and ensure that the abilities of its workers don't go to waste, and that their families and the others depending on continued production there aren't plunged into misery and despair.
Link to Original Article: http://www.truthout.org/091609A?n
WASHINGTON — Sen. Max Baucus on Wednesday released the much-awaited Senate version of an American health-system remake – a landmark $856 billion, 10-year measure that starts a rough ride through Congress without visible Republican backing.
The bill by Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, would make major changes to the nation's $2.5 trillion health care system, including requiring all individuals to purchase health care or pay a fine, and language prohibiting insurance company practices like charging more to people with more serious health problems.
"This is a unique moment in history where we can finally reach an objective so many of us have sought for so long," Baucus said. "The Finance Committee has carefully worked through the details of health care reform to ensure this package works for patients, for health care providers and for our economy."
Consumers would be able to shop for and compare insurance plans in a new purchasing exchange. Medicaid would be expanded, and caps would be placed on patients' yearly health care costs. The plan would be paid for with $507 billion in cuts to government health programs and $349 billion in new taxes and fees.
The bill fails to fulfill President Barack Obama's aim of creating a new government-run insurance plan – or option – to compete with the private market. It proposes instead a system of nonprofit member owned cooperatives, somewhat akin to electric co-ops that exist in many places around the country. That was one of many concessions meant to win over Republicans.
Baucus is still holding out hope for GOP support when his committee actually votes on the bill, probably as early as next week.
The bill represents the most moderate health care proposal in Congress so far, compared to legislation approved by three committees in the House and the Senate's health panel.
Democratic leaders are aiming for votes in the full House and Senate this fall.
Congressman Joe ("You lie!") Wilson is undoubtedly not completely ignorant about how our health care system actually works. After all, in the course of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, he's received $244,196 in contributions from the health-care profession - and that doesn't even count another $86,150 from the pharmaceutical industry or the $68,000 that came in from hospitals and nursing homes. In fact, if you go to the page at that organization's OpenSecrets.org website on Congressional contributions and start clicking around among the members of Congress, you'll be struck by how many times the health and pharmaceutical industries (and their lobbyists) pop up.
It's not so surprising, of course, since there are staggering sums of money at stake, which means striking amounts of the same to inject like some potent drug directly into the bloodstream of our political system. Consider but one figure: since 2002, according to Harper's Magazine, the profits of the top 10 health insurance companies have increased by 428%. And the CEOs of those top insurers have a personal incentive for ensuring that those profits don't slide due to new health-care legislation; after all, they made a combined $690 million in the last nine years.
Depends on who you ask.
Organizers for this past weekend's anti-Obama protest in Washington, DC, were slinging around crowd-size estimates of two million people before the curtain was thankfully drawn on the thing, despite the fact that the number was actually in the vicinity of 30,000. They were in the nation's capitol, so they said, to protest against too much governmental control over the lives of Americans, to protest taxation in general, to screech about birth certificates, to denounce President Obama and to see and be seen amid a throng of fat, white people who look just like them.
Call it a group hug for the demonstrably deranged. But there was more to it than just standard-issue anti-Obama sentiments being aired in the streets. Layered beneath the whole scene was a hard vein of bitter racism the participants didn't even try to hide.
"Packs of taxpayer marchers shuffled down Pennsylvania Avenue proudly waving signs," wrote author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "'The Long Legged Mack Daddy,' 'Where's the Birth Certificate,' 'Mississippi Freedom Riders,' 'Whoa Boys Take it from Here' (Obama waving to black and Islamic militants). Many defiantly waved Confederate flags and the Texas state flag (separatist movement emblem). Meanwhile, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, Congresspersons Mike Pence, Phil Gingrey and Marsha Blackburn, and organizer mouthpiece scandal-plagued former House majority leader Dick Armey profusely swore that the march had nothing to do with race, politics, or even President Obama. The racist flags, symbols and signs, though, gave big lie to their profuse denials. Racism was on full and ugly display on the Capitol Mall. No attempt was made to mask it. Some protesters seemed quite proud to openly send a message about race and Obama."
The Agonist blog provided the following sharp analysis of the overall meaning behind the DC protest this weekend: "These teabag parties represent the newly disenfranchised white, rural voter - the backbone of the Republican Party and its southern strategy. The outburst this week by Rep. Joe Wilson, the obscure South Carolina Congressman who called President Obama a liar during his speech to a joint session of Congress, was prompted by Obama's statement that nothing in the healthcare reform package he is proposing would provide care for illegal immigrants. The fear of immigrants is a primal constant in American politics, but since the adoption of the southern strategy, this fear is at its core a racial concern. Immigration in the past 30 years is no longer about poor white people coming from Europe, it's about brown people coming from Mexico. Now that an African-American is president, protests against illegal immigrants can be a respectable way for people to say what is really on their mind - they cannot accept a black person as president."
Amusing aside regarding Representative Wilson and his rude outburst: "In 2003, Wilson voted to provide federal funds for illegal immigrants' health care. The vote came on the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which contained Sec. 1011 authorizing $250,000 annually between 2003 and 2008 for government reimbursements to hospitals who provide treatment for uninsured illegal immigrants. The program has been extended through 2009 and there is currently a bipartisan bill in Congress to make it permanent."
Well, nobody said you have to be smart in order to become a hero to the far right. In fact, it helps to be dumber than a sack of hair, if only to match wits with the kind of people who were marching this weekend holding signs that read "Bury Obamacare With Kennedy." Stay classy, GOP.
To be fair, not everyone in the Republican Party was thrilled with the nauseating display of hatred and unabashed racism in DC this weekend. Several of the GOP's leading lights have raised deep concerns about the party being overtaken by these insane idiots. "Such insiders point to theories running rampant on the Internet," reported The Los Angeles Times on Monday, "such as the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to be president, or that he is a communist, or that his allies want to set up Nazi-like detention camps for political opponents. Those theories, the insiders say, have stoked the GOP base and have created a "purist" climate in which a figure such as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) is lionized for his 'You lie!' outburst last week when Obama addressed Congress. They are 'wild accusations and the paranoid delusions coming from the fever swamps,' said David Frum, a conservative author and speechwriter for President George W. Bush who is among the more vocal critics of the party base and of the conservative talk show hosts helping to fan the unrest. 'Like all conservatives, I am concerned about this administration's accumulation of economic power,' Frum said. 'Still, you have to be aware that there's a line where legitimate concerns begin to collapse into paranoid fantasy.'"
Frum was being nice, actually, because he knows better than anyone what took place in Washington this weekend. It was a Klan rally minus the bedsheets and torches. These people don't even have enough shame to hide their faces anymore. If more Republicans like Frum don't come forward to denounce such activities from their right flank, that right flank is going to finish the job of taking over the GOP, and hard as it is to believe, this kind of obnoxious craziness is going to seem quaint by comparison to what will be coming next.
Link to Original Truthout article: http://www.truthout.org/091509R?n
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Monday that he will propose an overhaul of the nation's health-care system that addresses a host of GOP concerns, including blocking illegal immigrants from gaining access to subsidized insurance, urging limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and banning federal subsidies for abortion.
But even after Max Baucus (D-Mont.) spoke optimistically of gaining bipartisan backing, lawmakers continued to haggle over a question at the heart of the debate: How can the government force people to buy insurance without imposing a huge new financial burden on millions of middle-class Americans?
Even within his own party, Baucus confronted a fresh wave of concern about affordability. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) declared himself dissatisfied with the chairman's plan, which, like other congressional reform proposals, would require every American to buy health insurance by 2013.
"Additional steps are going to have to be taken to make coverage more affordable," Wyden said, "and my sense is that will be a concern to members on both sides of the aisle."
Under the Baucus plan, described in a "framework" he released last week, as many as 4 million of the 46 million people who are currently uninsured would be required to buy coverage on their own, without government help, by some estimates. Millions more would qualify for federal tax credits, but could still end up paying as much as 13 percent of their income for insurance premiums -- far more than most Americans now pay for coverage.
People further down the income scale would receive much bigger tax credits, effectively limiting their premiums at 3 percent of their earnings. But experts on affordability say even those families could find it difficult to meet the new mandate without straining their wallets.
"We're talking about the equivalent of a middle-class tax increase," said Michael D. Tanner, a health-care expert at the libertarian Cato Institute. "Yes, they're paying it to an insurance company instead of to the government. But, suddenly, these people are paying more money to somebody."
A plan drafted by House Democratic leaders would offer more generous tax credits, but it would cost more than $1 trillion over the next decade.
Baucus's team of three Democrats and three Republicans from the Finance Committee has labored for months to cut that cost as it crafts a reform plan that could win support from both parties. By squeezing the size and scope of the subsidies, the negotiators have lowered the cost to a more politically palatable $880 billion -- within the range President Obama specified last week in a speech to Congress.
But a smaller bill would mean less help for people -- particularly those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to easily slip the equivalent of a second rent payment into their budgets.
According to the latest Census data, about three-quarters of the uninsured earn less than 300 percent of the poverty level, or about $32,500 for an individual and $66,150 for a family of four. Nearly half are childless adults. In surveys, many say that they are not offered coverage by their employers or that they simply cannot afford it.
The centerpiece of the Baucus proposal is a series of "exchanges" where people without access to affordable coverage through their employers could apply for government subsidies and choose among a range of private insurance options. The plan would not, as liberals have demanded, create a government-run insurance option to compete with private firms, but would finance the creation of state or regional cooperatives run by consumers -- a concession aimed at winning over Republican lawmakers.
Baucus and his colleagues wrangled Monday in the hopes of persuading Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) to support the measure. The two conservatives have stayed at the bargaining table all summer, despite GOP leaders' strong opposition to the reform effort.
Baucus said the strategy is working. "Senators on and off the committee, their comfort level is starting to come up a bit," he told reporters. "I believe, in the end, we'll have some significant bipartisan support." But the chairman said Monday night that he will move forward Wednesday with or without Grassley, Enzi and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), the most moderate Republican involved in the negotiations. He said the bipartisan group, known as the Gang of Six, would continue to negotiate until the full committee begins work on the bill next week.
Baucus said he will comply with Republican demands that illegal immigrants would receive "no benefits" through the new insurance exchanges. Meanwhile, negotiators are crafting a provision that would authorize states to start pilot projects to try to lower health-care costs by reducing the number of malpractice lawsuits, an approach similar to the one Obama outlined in his speech. "States would be given resources to help them experiment with what works best," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), another participant in the talks.
Also unresolved Monday was the question of how to pay for an expansion of Medicaid to cover every U.S. citizen whose income falls below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, about $14,500 for an individual or $29,500 for a family of four. Governors in both parties strongly oppose an expansion that is not fully financed by the federal government. The Senate negotiators are scheduled to brief governors by conference call Tuesday afternoon, and Baucus predicted they would be "pleasantly surprised."
"The Medicaid costs," he said, "are not going to cost states near as much as feared."
Under the Baucus plan, subsidies would be offered to people who earn up to 400 percent of the poverty level ($43,000 for an individual or $88,000 for a family of four) in the form of tax credits that would be paid directly to the insurance company of the person's choice. The credit would be calibrated on a sliding scale to ensure that people at the bottom of the income range paid no more than 3 percent of their earnings for premiums while those at the top would be liable for as much as 13 percent.
That would amount to more than $700 a month for a family of four making $66,000 a year -- significantly more than most people at the same income level now pay, according to research conducted by Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Families earning less than 300 percent of the poverty level also would be eligible for assistance with deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses, but families who earn more would be on their own.
"That group does spend in the neighborhood of 12 percent of their income. But it's not just the premium. It includes out-of-pocket spending," Blumberg said, adding that the Baucus plan "is going to be somewhat of a wakeup call."
Families that do not purchase insurance would face penalties on their annual tax returns of up to $1,500 a year if they make less than 300 percent of the poverty level, or $3,800 a year if they make more.
But Senate Finance Committee negotiators are quick to point out that a hardship waiver would be available.
"We're doing our very best to make the insurance requirement as affordable as we possibly can," Baucus said, without driving up the overall cost of the bill.
All summer, during public fora, a certain populist base claiming to be representative of the United States' founding principles has repeated in every conceivable way that "socialized medicine will not pass," while private insurance companies went at it with a televised campaign drumming in the same message.
The climax of this orchestrated all-out attack: the exclamation "You lie!" launched by South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson Wednesday night during the president's speech dedicated to defending his healthcare insurance reform plan ...
Barring a last-minute apology to Congress, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina faces what is likely to be a partisan vote scolding him for shouting "You lie!" at President Barack Obama.
Democratic aides said House leaders were preparing to introduce a resolution of disapproval Tuesday afternoon, with a vote likely later in the day.
Democrats confirmed Monday night that they were moving forward with the rebuke.
Wilson has apologized to the White House for his outburst last week during Obama's speech to Congress. But Democrats say Wilson also should apologize to Congress for what they call an unprecedented breach of decorum.
Wilson has refused to do so, saying his initial apology was sufficient.
PITTSBURGH — Six groups that want to demonstrate during the Group of 20 summit meeting here on Sept. 24-25 filed a federal lawsuit Friday claiming they were being denied the right to protest.
The groups, which engage in a wide array of social justice advocacy, have been talking for over a month with the defendants — the city, the Secret Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources — about logistics surrounding demonstrations.
But only 2 of 13 permits sought have been granted, and those are for events that will be held either outside the downtown area, where leaders of 20 of the world’s largest and emerging economies are to gather, or before the meeting, the lawsuit asserts.
“What they’re essentially doing is refusing permits for any demonstration in downtown Pittsburgh, and that’s unprecedented,” said Witold Walczak, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is representing the six plaintiffs: Codepink, the 3 Rivers Climate Convergence, the Thomas Merton Center, Pittsburgh Outdoor Artists, Bail Out the People and G-6 Billion.
The city and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which administers the state parks, have said they will grant a permit to the Alliance for Climate Protection, founded by former Vice President Al Gore, for a “free speech festival” on Sept. 23 at downtown Point State Park. The park is in a location where other groups have been denied permits to gather.
Mr. Walczak said a “message we’re hearing is that if you are politically influential and have a lot of money, you can have a permit, but if you’re a little edgy and more critical and not part of the political establishment, we don’t have a permit for you — sorry.”
The city, the state and the Secret Service all said they would not comment on pending litigation.
New York Times Original Linkhttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/12/us/12pittsburgh.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=6%20Groups%20Sue%20Pittsburgh%20for%20Protest%20Permits%20G-20&st=cse
Just as Speaker Nancy Pelosi begins to back away from the public option, the insurance industry holds a fundraiser for her. See David Sirota's column republished at http://www.prosperityagenda.us/node/1775. Steve Elmendorf, a registered lobbyist for United Health, sent invitations to a Pelosi fundraiser at his home for this past weekend. The asking price: $5,000 for PACs and $2,400 per individual - the legal maximum for each. Taking millions from these industries and then passing legislation that forces people to buy overpriced insurance is blatant pay to play politics. Please write Speaker Pelosi and tell her (1) Return donations from the health insurance industry and other health care profiteers; (2) Urge her to support the single payer bill, HR 676 as the very weak public option passed by the House will not control costs or provide coverage to all Americans. The letter below will be sent to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. You can send it as is or edit it to fit your views more clearly. Thanks for taking action.
Click here for the link to the letter http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1312/t/9277/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27890
When the towers fell on September 11, 2001, more than 50,000 people responded to the call to action to help with recovery at the World Trade Center. 8 years later, these same heroes feel great betrayal as more are dying from 9/11 related injuries and illnesses without proper health care or financial security.
A recent article in the New York Post cited more than 800 World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers have died since 9/11 -- and cancer has killed at least 270 people (data is still being collected and the number is likely much higher).
9/11 responders have been plagued with respiratory problems, cancer, financial, and emotional problems, while 90% of 9/11 responders dont have proper medical care.
Responders are still being turned down for benefits, despite the mounting evidence that they were exposed to unsafe conditions during the recovery process.
"Many responders and their families and friends feel betrayed by Congress and are appalled by the callous indifference, lack of support and meager financial resources provided by the US government," says Steve Centore, author of One of Them.
As all Americans who face a health care crisis whether insured or not, the 9/11 responders are at higher risk of foreclosures and bankruptcies.
"Once we are unable to work, we lose our health care and so does our family thus placing us into catastrophically financial ruin which no one can return from. If the heroes from 9/11 after saving thousands of lives are placed at the bottom of society and left to die, so can any citizen," says Reggie Cervantes, 9/11 responder featured in Michael Moores film, SiCKO.
We need to remember those who died and those who are dying as a result of contamination at the World Trade Center. The best way to guarantee immediate help to the 9/11 responders and to ensure that no one is ever faced with such neglect after making great sacrifices for this county is to implement a national single-payer health care system. We are all together in the same boat. It shouldnt take devastation on the magnitude of 9/11 to remind us that the only way a health care system can work is if everybody is in, and nobody is left out.
Please make your call today for single-payer health care reform and say:
1) Support Congressman Weiners single-payer amendment 2) Retain Congressman Kucinichs amendment for state single-payer options in HR 3200 3) Support S. 703
All you have to do is go here, even if you don't know your Rep. Fill out your address and phone number, you will receive a call script, then you will be connected to your Rep. FREE of charge.
Healthcare-NOW! National Staff The Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care
The President's health care policy speech was brilliant but when you get into the details another picture emerges. Unfortunately, at this point, the proposal outlined last night is the ultimate corporate giveaway. It's not health care, it’s insurance care. As many as thirty million new customers for an insurance industry which makes money not providing health care. The only way this country will see true health is by investing in real health care. That is the essence of HR676, the single payer bill. The President opened his speech speaking of how we have solved the economic crisis - how? By rewarding those who caused the crash! Is this the way we solve the health care crisis? Rewarding the insurance companies? Helping insurance and pharmaceutical stock to soar, propping up markets while skimping on health care? The very same system which caused the health care crisis is being rewarded with the guarantee of tens of millions of new customers mandated - by law - to have health care. The latest plan rewards the very companies that have denied treatment, denied care, denied drug coverage while their profits grow daily.
By Linda Milazzo, OpEdNews
It's a GREAT DAY in America when heralds of hate, specifically Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin, are booted from their Amazon best seller slots on DAY ONE of the publication of progressive leader David Swanson's breakthrough tome, DAYBREAK - now at Number One on Amazon's non-fiction best seller list. From this terrific response to Swanson's new book arises my sincere desire that DAYBREAK attracts a good many of Beck and Malkin's readers, so they, too, will have the opportunity to absorb the depth of information and dedication to solutions that David Swanson offers.