Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Talk about throwing people under a bus

Let me rephrase that title: Talk about throwing people under a wheelchair. This comes from an interview with Tea Party favorite Rand Paul in Lexington over the weekend. Paul is running for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky.
Paul was asked whether he supports the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark 1990 legislation that established a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Paul said he advocates local governments to decide whether disabled individuals deserve rights. Requiring businesses to provide access to disabled people, Paul argued, isn’t “fair to the business owner.”
Nope, it's not fair. Business owners should spend their money on political candidates like Paul instead of disabled people just trying to make a living.

Even more bizarrely, Paul believes his suggestion is nothing more than common sense:
PAUL: You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions — like for example if you have a three story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner. [...]
So, in Paul's opinion, it makes more sense to physically isolate someone in a wheelchair from his/her coworkers on the third floor. He should have been honest and said what he really meant - their desks should be placed in the boiler room or a corner of the janitor's closet where they'll be out of sight of "normal" people.

Honestly, this is one of the more despicable things I've heard from conservatives/teabaggers lately, and there's been a lot of terrible stuff said about immigrants, gays, Muslims, blacks, etc. One would almost think they want to achieve some sort of racial purity.

Update: This article from Bloomberg Businessweek highlights why the disabled need the ADA:
A federal report castigated a Texas company for abusing and underpaying several mentally disabled men who were housed in a ramshackle building while working at an Iowa turkey processing plant.

The report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Henry's Turkey Service underpaid the men at least $1 million over three years, verbally and physically abused them, and committed several major violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Des Moines Register reported Friday.
It all boiled down to greed.
The report found that West Liberty Foods paid Henry's Turkey Service as much as $11,000 per week for the disabled men's labor. Henry's Turkey Service then paid the men a combined total of between $340 and $500 per week, or about 41 cents an hour, The Des Moines Register reported.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

McCotter's Slanted Newsletter On Health Care Costs

From Thad McCotter's latest newsletter comes this ominous news:
On April 22, 2010, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new analysis of President Obama’s government health care plan, confirming our nation’s health care costs will increase rather than decrease and violating a pledge the President made to the nation on September 10, 2009.
McCotter then went on to list many of CMS's negative conclusions without noting the positives, and he also neglected to provide analysis explaining the difference between the CBO's earlier estimate and this one. Fortunately, Ezra Klein provided the facts:
The Congressional Budget Office's estimates look at the deficit. CMS is looking at total national health expenditures. This often confuses people into thinking that there's conflict between the two sets of numbers when there isn't: CBO says that federal spending is going to go up to pay for the coverage expansion, but that savings and revenue will go up by even more, leading to a net reduction in the federal deficit.

CMS is looking only at the spending side. And here's what it finds: In 2019, implementation of the Affordable Care Act will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by 34 million people and increase nation health expenditures by 1 percent.

One percent.

And that 1 percent is actually 1 percent and falling: When the legislation is fully implemented in 2016, the spending increase will be 2 percent. But cost controls kick in over those years and bring it down to 1 percent. Assuming the trend holds, the second decade will see national health expenditures fall below what spending would've been if the bill hadn't passed.
Or, to put it in dollars and cents (emphasis added):
Third Way, the centrist policy outfit, sent over its own analysis of the data. "The fact is that by 2019, national health spending per insured person will be $15,132 compared to $16,812 without the new law," they write. "That’s 10 percent less spending per insured person than it would have been, according to the actuary’s report."
That study suddenly doesn't look so bad. We'll be insuring 34 million people and spending less money than we would have been if nothing had been done. That sounds like a good deal to me.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Give me your tired, Your poor...

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Something tells me Republicans can't keep a straight face when they read those words on the Statue of Liberty. The GOP could care less about the less fortunate among us, and just the thought of having to help the "wretched" must send chills up their spines. As evidence, consider their recent track record: NO to health care reform. YES to protecting Wall Street. And perhaps the most egregious example is Arizona, where they recently passed an immigration bill that makes them look more like a police state than a democracy.

And don't forget the Tea Party. Republicans have gone out of their way to promote and defend these people because they're primarily white, wealthy men - a.k.a. their base.

The GOP may claim they don't have a double-standard when it comes to race in this country, but Alternet asks us to imagine this: What If the Tea Party Were Black?
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters — the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? ...

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.
You get the picture. Republicans have a double-standard, and so do tea party members. How else to explain their silence about Arizona's immigration law? I'd like to hear them answer this question that someone asked over at Washington Monthly:
Shouldn't the tea party crowd be having a cow over this new immigration bill that Arizona just passed? Doesn't that sound like big government tyranny to them? Giving the police the power to demand "papers" from someone just on their own suspicion?
I somehow doubt we'll see them marching in the street in defense of their Hispanic brothers and sisters. They only care about their own sorry, white butts. This is what "white privilege is all about" (as anyone who lived through the civil rights era knows only too well):
The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be...
Recent events - and votes - tell us who Republicans really represent: White America, the wealthier the better.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Recipe for Scrambled Eggs - Republican Style

When I read Eclectablog's post about ousted Congressman Walberg's town hall meetings focused on repealing the recently passed health care bill, I couldn't help but wonder if Walberg liked Sue Lowden's "chickens for checkups" idea too. After all, Walberg thinks it's perfectly acceptable for the uninsured to get their health care by walking into an emergency room. Yep, that's a cost effective way to provide health care to people - not. Even Mitch McConnell admits it's a bad idea:
It's not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, the doctors in the hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance.
Okay, so we all know Walberg's idea is lame, but what about this "chicken for checkups" idea? Could it work? Personally, I live in a condo and I doubt the association board would approve a chicken coop outside my door, but even assuming they agreed, would my doctor take a chicken in lieu of cash? Are there even enough chickens in the world to cover health care expenses? According to TPM, absolutely not. "There aren't enough chickens in the world -- let alone the United States -- to cover the costs of health care in this country alone."

They crunched the numbers so we wouldn't have to:
Total U.S. health care costs in 2008: $2.3 trillion
US population: About 300 million
Average cost of health care per person: $7,681
Average weight of a chicken: 5.9 lbs
Market price per pound: 85 cents
Average spot price per chicken: $5.02
Average number of chickens per resident needed to cover health care costs: 1,530 chickens
Total number of chickens needed to cover United States health care costs: 459 billion chickens
Estimated worldwide chicken population: 16 billion chickens
Current worldwide chicken shortage to cover U.S. health care: 443 billion cluckers
Cluck, cluck. It looks like Lowden and Walberg are both peddling a bunch of chicken poop when it comes to health care reform.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Valentine Story: Republicans + Teabaggers

I've always felt that teabagger candidates and protesters were out of touch with mainstream Americans, but now we have a poll showing just how far off the cliff they've fallen. Or, as this HuffPo article put it, this DKos/Research 2000 poll of more than 2,000 self-identified Republican voters illustrates the incredible paranoia enveloping the party. Some results:
39 percent of Republicans believe Obama should be impeached, 29 percent are not sure, 32 percent said he should not be voted out of office.

36 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States, 22 percent are not sure, 42 percent think he is a natural citizen.

31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a "Racist who hates White people" -- the description once adopted by Fox News's Glenn Beck. 33 percent were not sure, and 36 percent said he was not a racist.

24 percent of Republicans believe Obama wants "the terrorists to win," 33 percent aren't sure, 43 percent said he did not want the terrorist to win.

23 percent of Republicans believe that their state should secede from the United States, 19 percent aren't sure, 58 percent said no.

53 percent of Republicans said they believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama.
Talk about being disconnected from reality. The media really needs to start getting tough with this group and their enablers. When high profile Republicans are quoted in newspapers saying they don't know "whether President Obama is a citizen of the United States or not," and candidates for office devote their time speaking to tea party crowds, they validate this kind of irrational, paranoid thinking, and by extension make themselves look irrational too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Good News/Bad News On The Environmental Front

First, from the NYT, comes the bad news.
A new ranking of the world’s nations by environmental performance puts some of the globe’s largest economies far down the list, with the United States sinking to 61st and China to 121st.

In the previous version of the Environmental Performance Index, compiled every two years by Yale and Columbia University researchers, the United States ranked 39th, and China 105th.
The top performer was Iceland, which gets nearly all of its power from renewable sources, followed closely by Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
“Countries that take seriously the environment as a policy challenge do improve, and those that don’t deteriorate,” said Daniel C. Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, who oversees the index project.
The paper does note that because most of the data is from 2007 and 2008, "the index does not fully reflect new efforts by the Obama administration" to improve environmental performance. It also notes that the U.S. scores well in forestry and safe drinking water, but our ranking is abysmal because we score low in areas like heat-trapping emissions and urban air pollutants.

Increasing renewable energy would help decrease our emissions. The good news is that we're advancing quickly in one area - wind power.
Despite a crippling recession and tight credit markets, the American wind power industry grew at a rapid pace in 2009, adding 39 percent more capacity. The country is close to the point where 2 percent of its electricity will come from wind turbines.
According to the NYT, that's up from virtually nothing a few years ago, and they reported that the American Wind Association said "the amount of capacity added last year, 9,900 megawatts, was the largest on record, and was 18 percent above the capacity added in 2008, also a banner year."
The nation’s wind turbines generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 9.7 million homes, according to the report. Last year, Texas consolidated its lead as the nation’s top wind producer, with a total capacity of 9,410 megawatts, about three times more than the second-largest producer, Iowa. They were followed by California, Washington and Minnesota.
And guess what the AWEA credits for the growth of wind power? “The U.S. wind industry shattered all installation records in 2009, and this was directly attributable to the lifeline that was provided by the stimulus package,” said Denise Bode, the trade association’s chief executive.

However, as extraordinary as growth has been in this area, they also point out that it would be better if Congress would pass a a federal mandate requiring that a certain percentage of power come from renewable sources. Mandates already exist throughout the European Union and in China, and in the U.S. 29 states have adopted a renewable power standard, including Michigan, which set a standard of 10% of electricity from renewable resources by 2015.
“The wind manufacturing sector has the potential to employ many more Americans in green jobs, but without a renewable electricity standard to provide a long-term market, the sector will be slow to grow,” the trade group said in its report.
I'm so tired of the U.S. falling behind in everything but the strength of our military. The U.S. should be leading the way in this area instead of falling further behind. And although we're fortunate to have Gov. Granholm and other Democrats with foresight and vision pushing for higher standards, we're still stuck with obstructionist Republicans who would rather help their fossil fuel cronies than our environment. Just imagine how much better our country could be if Republicans didn't always stand in the way.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court Overturns Corporate Campaign Spending Limits

The Supreme Court just struck down a key campaign-finance restriction that bars corporations from pouring money into political ads, and the ruling divided the court along ideological lines with the newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, joining the liberal wing in dissent.
The ruling is a victory for Washington-based Citizens United, the corporation that created “Hillary: The Movie.” The 90-minute film, which creators sought to air on a video-on- demand channel during Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, features interviews with a number of prominent critics of the New York senator, including Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich.
Guess who helped fund Citizens United? Wealthy sources, like the Betsy & Dick DeVos Foundation.

So, what's at stake? This is what a constitutional law expert had to say.
"American citizens have repeatedly amended the Constitution to defend democracy when the Supreme Court acts in collusion with democracy's enemies, whether they are slavemasters, states imposing poll taxes on voters, or the opponents of woman suffrage. Today, the Court has enthroned corporations, permitting them not only all kinds of special economic rights but now, amazingly, moving to grant them the same political rights as the people. This is a moment of high danger for democracy so we must act quickly to spell out in the Constitution what the people have always understood: that corporations do not enjoy the political and free speech rights that belong to the people of the United States." [emphasis added]
Voter Action, Public Citizen, The Center for Corporate Policy, and the American Independent Business Alliance have started an organization - Free Speech for People - in an effort to correct the damage the Supreme Court has done to the First Amendment, and the only way that's possible is to pass a constitutional amendment of our own that puts people ahead of corporations.

Please read their resolution and sign your name in support. What the Supreme Court did today dramatically dilutes the vote and the voice of every American who does not control a large corporate treasury. And the decision unleashes billions of dollars in corporate money to dominate legislatures and elections. The problem actually goes beyond money in politics and elections, "The courts have used the fabrication of the First Amendment corporate rights doctrine to strike down a range of democratic enactments in recent years, from those concerning clean and fair elections; to environmental protection and energy; to tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and health care; to consumer protection, lottery, and gambling; to race relations, and much more."

Free speech is for people — not corporations. Please join their campaign and protect our democracy.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Broadband Suffers From Lack Of Big Government

Yet another area where the U.S. trails the rest of the world. Via Paul Waldman at TAPPED:
But a new report on global broadband shows that the country that invented the Internet, the microchip, and most of what makes our global digital village possible ranks a pathetic 18th in broadband speeds. The top spot is taken, as usual, by South Korea, where their smoking fast connections give them an average speed over three times as fast as what our pokey little modems give us. We also don't score too well when it comes to broadband penetration (the proportion of households that have broadband, as opposed to the actual speed people are getting). Our slow broadband is also really expensive. So that's nice.
We trail countries like Romania, Sweden and the Czech Republic. And on a year-to-year basis, all the countries in the top 10 saw a boost in speed. Ireland topped the list with a 73 percent gain. What about the United States? We were hit by a 2.4 percent decline in speed.

Waldman says they are multiple reasons we lag so far behind, but "the most important one is probably that we don't have enough big government. With a combination of public infrastructure investments and regulations forcing ISPs to share lines, other countries have driven down prices and driven up speeds."

Republicans have been too busy giving tax breaks to the rich and taking care of their corporate cronies over the past couple of decades to care about our public infrastructure. Thankfully, the stimulus bill President Obama signed in February provides $7.2 billion for projects that will increase the spread of broadband. He also instructed the FCC to come up with a plan to achieve universal high-speed access.

Those are good first steps, but something also needs to be done about bringing the price down or making it available for free to low income individuals. Voters depend on the media for information about our democracy and that information shouldn't be limited only to those who can afford to buy it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

National Tea Party Convention Embraces Right-Wing Media

The teabaggers appear to be playing by the George Bush/Republican playbook. Via Think Progress:
Having previously announced that the National Tea Party Convention would be closed to the press, organizers announced yesterday that they would reverse course. However, the Nashville Post reports that only five media organizations will receive credentials for the entire convention, and they all conveniently happen to be right-wing outlets:

The five approved outlets are: Fox News, Breitbart.com, Townhall.com, World Net Daily and The Wall Street Journal. All five are widely considered to be Right-leaning organizations.

The press release explains that the requests for credentials have been overwhelming and that to preserve the nature of the event they are limiting press availability.
They also used the excuse that as "we have set expectations that this is a working convention, we have tried not to make it a media event.”

Right...because Fox News is always so circumspect and diplomatic when it reports the news and they would never turn any event into a media circus.

A media event is exactly what the teabaggers wanted, and by inviting only these right-leaning organizations their message will be tightly controlled and scripted. Ironically, their website currently claims they believe in "Free Speech." I think they should change that to reflect what they really mean - "Free Speech as told by right-wing media outlets."

Friday, January 08, 2010

Salaries Could Be Squeezed For Some Time To Come

A new CBS MoneyWatch article confirms what Muskegon Critic pointed out the other day: Increased productivity does not translate into prosperity for average Americans.

In fact, MoneyWatch warns that a "combination of short-term factors and long-range changes may conspire to squeeze salaries for some time to come," and annual raises "could be in jeopardy."

So how did we get to this point? It turns out real wages have actually been flat for years.
Looking back, it turns out a decade’s worth of easy credit and faux real estate wealth obscured the fact that incomes for the majority of workers weren’t keeping up. After healthy salary growth of roughly 1.8 percent annually from 1995 to 2000, for example, inflation-adjusted, or real, wages for the median worker remained essentially flat from 2000 until 2007 when the recession started, according to government data (average wages increased roughly 2 percent, but that number is skewed by huge gains at the top). In fact, after the recovery in 2002, notes Shierholz, no real wage growth occurred at all for the median worker — despite an increase in productivity of 11 percent over the seven-year time frame. [emphasis added].
In other words, we've been working our tails off and have little to show for it. So who reaped the productivity gains?
Typically, companies and their shareholders.
And what do experts point to as the reason for our declining prosperity?
Shierholz and other economists attribute the disconnect between wages and output to declining unionization and the need to keep prices low in a competitive global environment.
The "kill the unions" and "outsource everything" crowd accomplished what they set out to do - drive wages down for average Americans. And the scenario for new jobs created doesn't look any rosier.
A 2009 analysis of figures from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that sectors that expanded through this decade have paid an average annual compensation of $55,300, compared with $65,100 for industries that are shrinking. This is partly because many of the newly-created positions are in service industries, which tend to be less organized and have less bargaining power. Think home healthcare and “green” jobs versus auto manufacturing and heavy industry.
In fact, six of the top 10 fastest-growing jobs are low wage.

There are steps Washington can take to start improving living standards for average Americans, but as long as people keep voting for anti-union, globalization embracing politicians, I don't see things changing.