Saturday, August 7, 2010

Political Digest August 7, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Black Conservatives Say Black Liberals Are Using Race to Discredit the Tea Party Movement
Excerpt: Black conservative leaders from around the country gathered in Washington on Wednesday to denounce the NAACP for its resolution charging that elements of the Tea Party movement are racist. “The accusation by the NAACP is just another example of playing the race card because of failed policies,” conservative talk show host Herman Cain said at the event, which was organized by the Tea Party Express and held at the National Press Club. “And it’s being used as a distraction from what really ought to be happening and what the NAACP, in particular, ought to be doing -- and that is focusing on many of the problems in the black community.” Cain said in his opinion, “the NAACP has lost its relevance and they are looking for relevance in all the wrong places.” (The NAACP is the bond servant of the Democrat party and must do what the Master says to keep the largess flowing. ~Bob)

Medicare Chief Actuary Disavows Trustees' Report, Publishes an "Alternative Report"
Excerpt: For the first time in Medicare history, the Medicare Chief Actuary has called the projections in a Medicare Trustees Report “unreasonable” and “implausible” and encouraged everyone to ignore them and view instead an “Illustrative Alternative” report. The alternative opens this way: The Trustees Report is necessarily based on current law; as a result of questions regarding the operations of certain Medicare provisions, however, the projections shown in the report do not represent the “best estimate” of actual future Medicare expenditures. Noting that the formal Trustees report assumes Medicare physician fees will be reduced by 30% over the next three years, Chief Actuary Richard Foster says that’s “implausible.” In addition, the Trustees report assumes Medicare fees will fall below Medicaid rates by 2019 and fall further and further behind private payment rates in future years, as the following chart shows:

McConnell scolds Franken for making faces from dais during his speech
Congratulations to Minnesota for letting this clown steal your senate election. Excerpt: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) scolded Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on the Senate floor Thursday for allegedly mocking him while he delivered a solemn speech on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The dust-up came seconds after McConnell delivered a speech on Kagan’s nomination shortly before the Senate voted to confirm her to the high court. Franken, who was presiding over the chamber from the dais, gesticulated and made faces while McConnell explained his opposition to Kagan, according to witnesses.

Great Uncertainty on Medicare Cuts
Excerpt: Top administration officials said today that the Obama health care law has dramatically improved Medicare's finances. "Medicare's Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is now expected to remain solvent until 2029, 12 years longer than was projected last year," said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. But he also conceded that is easier said than done. "As we know the future is uncertain, these are very long range projections. And those reforms require that we achieve very substantial improvements in efficiency and productivity. The trustees report openly expressed some skepticism about those savings, saying there is "great uncertainty" about the assumptions on Medicare cuts. For instance, the health care law assumes some $200 billion in savings from productivity gains alone. The trustees called that "far from certain." Those and other assumptions draw fire from several directions, including John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He says extending the life of Medicare would be good news. "The problem is it's all a fantasy. It's based on assumptions that are so unrealistic that Medicare's own actuaries put out a separate report today, and I've never seen that happen before." In fact, the office of the actuary of Medicare, a nonpolitical watchdog, issued a separate 18-page report today questioning many of the assumptions used to justify $575 billion in cuts to Medicare. They quote an analysis saying cuts to providers -- quote-- "could jeopardize Medicare beneficiaries access to mainstream medical care...." In the next two decades, they say cuts could also force into the red 25% of hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and home health care agencies. And many, they said, "would have to withdraw from providing services to Medicare beneficiaries."

Who Benefits From The Death Tax?
Excerpt: Due to a legal quirk, the death tax is scheduled to come back to life in 2011. The renewed death tax would once again inflict serious harm on family businesses, workers and the economy. Congress should act before the end of the year to repeal this economically harmful tax permanently, says Curtis S. Dubay, a senior analyst in tax policy at the Heritage Foundation. The death tax will not die because an entrenched group of special interests benefit from it and hold a large sway over Congress, says Dubay.

This affects you: Spain: Budget Woes Hit Regional Governments
A few years ago, I was naively hopeful that when the EU collapsed under the weight of socialist spending and a declining birth rate, it would serve as a warning to us to mend our profligate ways. But clearly I was wrong, for two reasons. One is that the political pain of cutting spending is now so great that politicians of both parties will postpone doing so until a collapse is inevitable. The second is that the world’s economy is so tightly tied together that the collapse of the EU is likely to pull the US into the abyss earlier than I had thought. I do not see now how very hard times can be avoided. Excerpt: Spain's regional and local governments are turning to the debt markets to raise some $57 billion this year, far more than their counterparts in any European country except Germany. While German states can borrow cheaply, thanks to their top-notch credit ratings, at least 12 of Spain's regions have suffered recent downgrades. Investors now demand 3.3 percent for Catalonia's 12-month debt, more than a full percentage point higher than what they'll accept for Spain's sovereign bills. That's about triple the difference in 2007. More than most European countries, Spain has ceded power to regional governments. They finance most education and health care as well as other social initiatives. Spending on such programs has increased even as regional tax revenues have shriveled by almost 9 percent over the past two years. During the boom, regions spent lavishly on projects such as Terra Mitica, a theme park in the Valencia region that features replicas of the Minotaur's labyrinth and an Egyptian pyramid. The park, 22 percent owned by the regional government, doesn't disclose its finances, but opposition politicians say it has lost $350 million since opening in 2000.

Interesting: Moderate Democrats face peril
Excerpt: If Democrats lose significant seats this year, as it appears they will, a large chunk of the losses will be socially conservative members. A new poll set to be released Friday by the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List shows a trio of such Democrats in real trouble in key races this year, including Indiana Senate candidate Rep. Brad Ellsworth and two Rust Belt freshmen. (This will help Republicans long term. The great conundrum of American politics is that the activists, primary voters and money is on the fringes, hard right or hard left, but that elections are usually decided in the middle, by moderate, uninvolved and relatively uninformed independents. Thus the further a party moves toward its base, the more likely the other party is to get power through a center-left or center –right coalition. Then they have trouble governing, as the activists keep tugging them away from the center. The fringes are desperate to defeat RINOs and DINOs, even if it hands power to the despised opposition. And the game goes on. ~Bob)

Arizona Senate: McCain (R) 53%, Glassman (D) 34%
Another example of the above. The people opposing McCain as a RINO would rather defeat him and keep the US Senate in Harry Reid’s hands, than vote for someone not 100% pure. ~Bob Excerpt: A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Arizona shows that McCain now leads Glassman 53% to 34%. Eleven percent (11%) prefer some other candidate in the contest, and three percent (3%) are undecided. McCain’s strongest Republican Primary challenger, J.D. Hayworth, runs second in a match-up with Glassman. The Democrat earns 43% support, while the former GOP congressman picks up 38% of the vote. Thirteen percent (13%) favor someone else, and six percent (6%) are undecided. Voters not affiliated with either major party prefer McCain over Glassman by a two-to-one margin, but they break nearly even if Hayworth is the Republican in the race.

Economy sputters as companies add only 71,000 jobs in July
Socialist chickens coming home to roost. But they will try to do more of what they have been doing. Results don’t matter, only religious-like faith in big government ~Bob. Excerpt: The nation's economy continued to sputter as private-sector employers added just 71,000 jobs in July, according to a report released Friday by the Labor Department. The small increase in private-sector employment was more than offset by the loss of 143,000 temporary census jobs, and the nation's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent. Overall, the nation shed 131,000 jobs in July. The official unemployment told only part of the story, as the nation continues to struggle with its weakest job market in more than a generation. The Labor Department said 8.5 million workers were working part-time even though they would prefer full-time work. Meanwhile, 6.6 million of the nation's 14.6 million unemployed workers have been jobless for more than six months, continuing a historic high, the government reported. The report also showed that blacks and Hispanics continue to be the groups hardest hit by the nation's job crisis

The Obama Tax Hikes, Another Step Toward a European Welfare State
Excerpt: Last night, the Senate voted 61-39 in favor of a $26 billion bailout for states and government unions financed in part by an $11 billion tax hike that will kill American jobs at U.S. companies that compete overseas. Worse, before that final vote was taken, the Senate also defeated two amendments by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), both by 58-42 votes, that would have prevented the largest tax hike in American history. And earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden told ABC News that the only thing wrong with President Barack Obama’s first $862 billion economic stimulus was that it didn’t borrow and spend enough. The message to the U.S. economy’s job creators from this Administration and Congress is clear: You can expect higher spending, higher taxes and higher deficits for years to come. The verdict on this approach is in. Today the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics released its monthly jobs report showing the economy shed 131,000 jobs in July as 143,000 temporary census workers lost their government jobs. With the private sector only managing to add 71,000 jobs and averaging only 51,000 jobs over the past three months, the private economy appears stuck in first gear. Despite the job losses, the nation’s unemployment rate didn’t budge from 9.5% because another 181,000 discouraged workers left the workforce. All told the U.S. economy has now lost 2.4 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his stimulus bill, and his administration is 7.6 million jobs short of what he promised the American economy would support by 2010. Faced with this failure, the Obama administration wants to double down on its tax and spend policies by hiking taxes on America’s job creators. Research on the last seven recessions shows that small businesses generate about two out of every three new jobs during recoveries. But the $3.2 trillion Obama Tax Hike in January will hit these businesses the hardest. As Heritage Foundation analyst Curtis Dubay has detailed, while only eight percent of small businesses pay the highest two tax rates, those businesses earn 72 percent of all small business income and pay 82 percent of all income taxes paid by small businesses. According to a study by the American Family Business Foundation, just stopping President Obama’s Death Tax hike alone would create 1.5 million jobs.

Starving ObamaCare
One of the most popular debates in Washington these days is whether this year's midterm elections will be a repeat of 1994, when Republicans rode a wave of anti-big government sentiment to retake Congress, delivering a blow to a young liberal president. But the natural follow-up question is whether a new Republican majority could produce an encore of 1995. When the Republican majority set out to slash government spending that year, it encountered stiff resistance from the White House that ultimately triggered a government shutdown. Ever since Democrats rammed through President Obama's overwhelmingly unpopular national health care law, conservatives have been grappling with ways to undo it. One problem is that the strategy of repealing the law isn't viable until 2013, when there's a chance to inaugurate a Republican president. In the meantime, other conservatives are pinning their hopes on a successful legal challenge to the law's mandate forcing all Americans to purchase government-approved health insurance policies. But however strong the constitutional arguments may be, that strategy leaves ObamaCare's fate in the hands of judges who have already discarded federalism and stretched the Commerce Clause to the point of meaninglessness. With tremendous uncertainty surrounding both these avenues, another strategy is emerging that would give the GOP an opportunity to deliver a more immediate blow to the health care law. Should Republicans regain control of Congress, they could theoretically use their new power of the purse to deny Obama the funding needed to administer his signature accomplishment. This prospect is already gaining steam among opponents of the law. The new group has gotten more than 90 candidates and current members of Congress to sign a pledge supporting stripping ObamaCare of money.

One-two punch hits food stamps
Excerpt: SNAP, the federal food stamp program, is getting snapped up by Democrats these days, hungry for savings to placate deficit hawks and clear the way for legislation. In a matter of hours Thursday, the Senate approved state fiscal aid and child nutrition bills that help pay for themselves by cutting more than $14 billion from food stamps. The savings come from rolling back a benefit increase approved in the giant economic recovery act last year, but with each bill, the cutoff date has gotten closer and closer, alarming anti-poverty groups. Early drafts of the $26.1 billion fiscal aid package, for example, set a spring 2015 target date for the cut. This was then moved up one year to April 2014 in the final Senate bill to achieve total savings of about $11.9 billion. The child nutrition bill, approved hours later, goes back to same well and moves the cutoff up to November 2013. This achieves about $2.2 billion in savings, money that helped broker a deal with Senate Agriculture Committee Republicans who had opposed efforts to cut instead from a farm conservation program popular with livestock producers.

Are you a writer?
Calliope is a publication of the Mensa Writers Special Interest Group. It’s only $16 a year. Membership is open to everyone, though regular readers of my blog doubtless qualify for Mensa, IQ-wise. It’s a nice showcase for short stories and poetry, plus market news. Members also offer critiques, so it’s a “writers’ workshop by mail.”

Secure Communities
Say, let’s use local cops to catch illegals, like those SOBs in Arizona are doing! Excerpt: It's a head scratcher. Tom Maguire notes the NYT articles on an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) program called Secure Communities -- which seems remarkably like the Arizona law which the department just succeeded in getting enjoined. Tom quotes the latest article NYT article on the program: A task force recommended that Colorado institute a federal background check program called Secure Communities, which helps the authorities check an arrested person's immigration history through a government database, for possible deportation. Now, as Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. weighs whether to use Secure Communities, already in effect in 480 jurisdictions in 27 states, immigrant rights groups have been privately pushing him to reject the program. Critics say it promotes racial profiling by the local police and would undermine trust between immigrants and law enforcement, in a state that has particularly strict immigration laws.

Obamaland: The Welfare State and the Road to Serfdom
Excerpt: I was speaking to an emergency room physician this morning. He told me that a woman in her 20’s came to the ER with her 8th pregnancy. She stated “my momma told me that I am the breadwinner for the family.” He asked her to explain. She said that she can make babies and babies get money for the family. The scam goes like this: The grandma calls the Department of Child and Family Services and states that the unemployed daughter is not capable of caring for these children. DCFS agrees and states that the child or children will need to go to foster care. The grandma then volunteers to be the foster parent, and thus receives a check for $1500 per child per month in Illinois. Total yearly income: $144,000 tax-free, not to mention free healthcare (Medicaid) plus a monthly “Linx” card entitling her to free groceries, etc, and a voucher for 250 free cell phone minutes per month. This does not even include Wick and other welfare programs. Indeed, grandma was correct in that her fertile daughter is the “breadwinner” in the family.

Car bomb rocks government offices in Tamaulipas, Mexico
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Excerpt: A car bomb rocked the headquarters of the Tamaulipas State Public Safety complex in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, the agency said Thursday. No one was hurt; two police cars were damaged, it said in a news release.
Authorities said the explosion, which occurred at 5:20 p.m., appeared to have emanated from inside a white compact car in a parking lot behind the building, near the offices of the Rural Police. Agents with the Mexican federal police are investigating the blast, which was felt inside the building. Thursday's incident marks at least the third recent incident involving explosives near the Mexico-U.S. border. Last month, a car bomb killed four people in Juarez, where police and rescuers had responded to assist an injured person dressed in a police uniform.

Petraeus Gives Mandate to Win
Excerpt: American troops will no longer have to fight the Taliban with one hand tied behind their back. On the orders of General Petraeus, coalition troops now have the authority to “pursue the enemy relentlessly.” That means, among other things, that the rules restricting air strikes and artillery strikes will be relaxed to allow NATO forces to fire on terrorist targets in abandoned or dilapidated buildings. The new order sees Petraeus put his first stamp on Afghan war policy since replacing General McChrystal, and it signals his clear belief that coalition forces could win this war only if they are allowed to fight back against an enemy that strikes without warning and hides behind civilians.

Lame Duck Session Is Happening
Excerpt: The Deficit Reduction Commission will have its proposals back as soon as the election is over. It is intentional. They don’t want to drop off a politically unpopular set of proposals before the election, lest voters reject people who support them. Instead, they’ll have the package of tax increases out right after the election. Congress will have a lame duck session to vote on them, banking on the high number of losers in this November’s election to get the recommendations passed. How do I know? I’ve received a copy of the congressional schedule. Here it is:

The Prophet of the Ruling Class
Statism: Clueless bureaucrats making rules you must obey. Are we still allowed to shoot thugs with lead? Excerpt: So now the EPA has been petitioned to ban the use of lead in bullets and fishing weights. For hundreds of years, human beings have used lead for those purposes, and life on earth has not exactly come to an end. Now we are told that the lead used in hunting and fishing is harming animals and fish, and it must stop. The scary thing is that one individual, EPA Director Lisa Jackson, has the power to impose such a ban. It's the same for every aspect of American life: A small group of elite administrators, czars, judges, or politicians -- often just one person -- think they have the right to decide what's best for 320 million Americans. The political elite has always existed, but in the past, its influence was limited by a national consensus that the democratic will of the people came first. (...) What Heilbroner envisages is the rise of a new elite centralized in government, media, and the universities. This group of decision-makers would operate "on behalf of" the public and on the basis of "scientific principles" of social control. As Heilbroner writes, "Not alone economic affairs ... but the numbers and location of the population, its genetic quality, the manner of social domestication of children, the choice of lifework -- even the duration of life itself -- are all apt to become subjects for scientific investigation and control" (The Limits of American Capitalism, New York, 1966, pp. 129-130).

The Revolt of the States
Excerpt: As we all know, SB 1070 has become a cause célèbre in the national media. The new law requires, among other things, that foreign nationals carry documentation of their citizenship status. Furthermore, SB 1070 allows local police to check this documentation and to verify an individual's status if, in the course of their routine police activities, they have reason to suspect that that individual is in the country illegally. As a result of these provisions, local police can more easily turn individuals over to federal authorities for deportation.... As a result of a lawsuit brought against Arizona by Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of the federal government, Judge Susan Bolton was able to file temporary injunctions against several portions of the SB 1070. But instead of being overcome with disappointment, attendees at the summit were jubilant about the fact that significant portions of SB 1070 had actually become law. That this was not reported in the mainstream media should surprise no one. These details were even neglected to a large extent by the conservative media, which tended to be preoccupied with commenting on what commentators saw as the inappropriate nature of Judge Bolton's ruling. But the fact remains that significant portions of SB 1070 were not affected by her ruling and are now law in the State of Arizona. To take just one example, one section of the bill mandates a fine of up to $5,000 a day payable to the State of Arizona by any city which openly declares itself a so-called "sanctuary city." This would include the city of Phoenix, which, under the leadership of Mayor Phil Gordon, has a policy of not allowing police to question anyone's citizenship status. When Judge Bolton ruled that the federal government had supremacy in the area of immigration law that could not be overturned by states or localities, she effectively ended the ability of Mayor Gordon to thumb his nose at federal immigration law. Of course, if Mayor Gordon feels that strongly about Phoenix remaining a sanctuary city, he does have the option of having his city pay a fine of $5,000 every day to the State of Arizona. The section of SB 1070 that mandates the abolition of sanctuary cities under penalty of law was not struck down by Judge Bolton, and so it stands. Another section of SB 1070 makes it illegal for an employer to pick up a day laborer on a busy street under penalty of getting his car impounded. This section of SB 1070 was also left standing by Judge Bolton. This provision goes a long way to shutting down public areas where illegal immigrants congregate looking for work and makes Arizona a less attractive state for illegal immigrants to settle in.

Kerry introduces law to bring Muslim workers to U.S.
Why are some forms of religious discrimination okay? Would a law setting up this for Christian workers pass muster?

If only Tony could have been there
At Thursday's Chicago Democratic fundraiser, it was President Obama, Alexi Giannoulias, who is seeking the Senate seat formerly held by the chief executive, and piles of cash. It was just like the good old days, except for one thing: If only Tony Rezko could have been there. When Obama showed up to raise money for Giannoulias' Senate campaign, the two probably didn't discuss the imprisoned Rezko, the subsidized housing developer and felon who was a business associate of both. Both men were responsible for providing millions in cash to Rezko's crooked enterprises, too. As a state senator, Obama thrived on Rezko's campaign cash while promoting housing programs that made him and other government-subsidized developers wealthy at the taxpayers' expense: state tax credits, rent and development subsidies, grants, state loans, exemptions from local ordinances, and mandates that Illinois municipalities build more subsidized housing. At one point, Obama even wrote a letter to Chicago and Illinois officials on Rezko's behalf, urging them to give Rezko and a business partner (another Obama friend) a $14 million construction loan that came with $885,000 in cash for the two developers. The project in question wasn't even in Obama's state Senate district. For his part, Rezko took the money and let his subsidized slums go to seed. He later made Obama's purchase of a gorgeous Chicago mansion possible when he agreed to buy an adjacent lot that the seller insisted on unloading along with the house. Giannoulias, meanwhile, once served as vice president of his family's bank, Broadway, which recently collapsed because of its shaky business practices ( Some of Broadway's loans to Rezko were already known, but we learned Monday from the Chicago newspapers that the bank had made an additional $22.75 million loan to one of Rezko's companies in February 2006. This was well after Rezko had become radioactive, and despite the fact that another Rezko company had declared bankruptcy and defaulted on an earlier $10.9 million property loan from Broadway.

Portland lemonade stand runs into health inspectors, needs $120 license to operate
The Empire Strikes Back! Excerpt: It’s hardly unusual to hear small-business owners gripe about licensing requirements or complain that heavy-handed regulations are driving them into the red. So when Multnomah County shut down an enterprise last week for operating without a license, you might just sigh and say, there they go again. Except this entrepreneur was a 7-year-old named Julie Murphy. Her business was a lemonade stand at the Last Thursday monthly art fair in Northeast Portland. The government regulation she violated? Failing to get a $120 temporary restaurant license.

Defense of trickle down economics coming from unlikely places
Excerpt: Sort of.... Not that long ago, the New York Times ran an article by Motoko Rich which includes these lines: The economic recovery has been helped in large part by the spending of the most affluent. Now, even the rich appear to be tightening their belts. Late last year, the highest-income households started spending more confidently, while other consumers held back. But their confidence has since ebbed, according to retail sales reports and some economic analysis. The same article noted that the richest 5% of America were responsible for 33% of the country's spending and economy. The thrust of the article was that rich people are sitting on all their money and thus it’s their fault things are rough so stop blaming Democrats and vote for them. Yet in that article the writer admitted that, yes trickle down economics - the much-maligned economic philosophy of fiscal conservatives such as President Reagan - was true: the wealthy drive the economy and their spending is what results in money for everyone.

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