Friday, December 31, 2010
The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less -- right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical -- the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.
The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 40 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane.
Der Spiegel has run an interesting feature called "A Superpower in Decline," which attempts to explain to a German audience such odd phenomena as the rise of the Tea Party, without the hedging or attempts at "balance" found in mainstream U.S. media. On the Tea Parties:
Full of Hatred: "The Tea Party, that group of white, older voters who claim that they want their country back, is angry. Fox News host Glenn Beck, a recovering alcoholic who likens Obama to Adolf Hitler, is angry. Beck doesn't quite know what he wants to be -- maybe a politician, maybe president, maybe a preacher -- and he doesn't know what he wants to do, either, or least he hasn't come up with any specific ideas or plans. But he is full of hatred."
The piece continues with the sobering assessment that America’s actual unemployment rate isn’t really 10 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.
Some social scientists think that making sure large-scale crime or fascism never takes root in Europe again requires a taxpayer investment in a strong social safety net. Can we learn from Europe? Isn't it better to invest in a social safety net than in a large criminal justice system? (In America over 2 million people are incarcerated.)
Jobless Benefits That Never Run Out
Unlike here, in Germany jobless benefits never run out. Not only that -- as part of their social safety net, all job seekers continue to be medically insured, as are their families.
In the German jobless benefit system, when "jobless benefit 1" runs out, "jobless benefit 2," also known as HartzIV, kicks in. That one never gets cut off. The jobless also have contributions made for their pensions. They receive other types of insurance coverage from the state. As you can imagine, the estimated 2 million unemployed Americans who almost had no benefits this Christmas seems a particular horror show to Europeans, made worse by the fact that the U.S. government does not provide any medical insurance to American unemployment recipients. Europeans routinely recoil at that in disbelief and disgust.
In another piece the Spiegel magazine steps away from statistics and tells the story of Pam Brown, who personifies what is coming to be known as the Nouveau American poor. Pam Brown was a former executive assistant on Wall Street, and her shocking decline has become part of the American story:
American society is breaking apart. Millions of people have lost their jobs and fallen into poverty. Among them, for the first time, are many middle-class families. Meet Pam Brown from New York, whose life changed overnight. The crisis caught her unprepared. "It was horrible," Pam Brown remembers. "Overnight I found myself on the wrong side of the fence. It never occurred to me that something like this could happen to me. I got very depressed." Brown sits in a cheap diner on West 14th Street in Manhattan, stirring her $1.35 coffee. That's all she orders -- it's too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. She also needs to save money. Until early 2009, Brown worked as an executive assistant on Wall Street, earning more than $80,000 a year, living in a six-bedroom house with her three sons. Today, she's long-term unemployed and has to make do with a tiny one-bedroom in the Bronx.
It's important to note that no country in the European Union uses food stamps in order to humiliate its disadvantaged citizens in the grocery checkout line. Even worse is the fact that even the humbling food stamp allotment may not provide enough food for America’s jobless families. So it is on a reoccurring basis that some of these families report eating out of garbage cans to the European media.
For Pam Brown, last winter was the worst. One day she ran out of food completely and had to go through trash cans. She fell into a deep depression ... For many, like Brown, the downfall is a Kafkaesque odyssey, a humiliation hard to comprehend. Help is not in sight: their government and their society have abandoned them.
Pam Brown and her children were disturbingly, indeed incomprehensibly, allowed to fall straight to the bottom. The richest country in the world becomes morally bankrupt when someone like Pam Brown and her children have to pick through trash to eat, abandoned with a callous disregard by the American government. People like Brown have found themselves dispossessed due to the robber baron actions of the Wall Street elite.
Hunger in the Land of the Big Mac
A shocking headline from a Swiss newspaper reads (Berner Zeitung) “Hunger in the Land of the Big Mac.” Though the article is in German, the pictures are worth 1,000 words and need no translation. Given the fact that the Swiss virtually eliminated hunger, how do we as Americans think they will view these pictures, to which the American population has apparently been desensitized.
This appears to be a picture of two mothers collecting food boxes from the charity Feed the Children.
Perhaps the only way for us to remember what we really look like in America is to see ourselves through the eyes of others. While it is true that we can all be proud Americans, surely we don't have to be proud of the broken American social safety net. Surely we can do better than that. Can a European-style social safety net rescue the American working and middle classes from GOP and Tea Party warfare?
Thursday, December 30, 2010
As of Nov. 1, 2009, there were 38,896 registered Republicans. This November’s report shows 36,617 Republicans.
The Democrats saw a gain of 222 registrants, with a 2010 of 20,696.
See News Story in the Valley News
Hall said that the flow of corporate dollars is why he and the Democrats lost control of Congress.
"The country was bought," he said. "The extremist, most recent two appointees to the Supreme Court, who claimed in their confirmation hearings before the Senate that they would not be activist judges, made a very activist decision in that it overturned more than a century of precedent. And as a result there were millions of extra dollars thrown into this race."
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
In the meantime however, redistricting experts and politicos say that despite all of the breathless speculation, there is a whole lot of nothing happening for the next several months. Part of that is because despite the release of new population numbers for the country (308,745,538, thank you very much) and the state (19.4 million, third behind California and Florida, whoo-hoo!), we are still waiting on the granular, election district-by-election district kind of results that are required before any new lines can be drawn. Here is how the battle will be joined in the days ahead:
Juan Williams hit out at Sarah Palin on "Fox News Sunday," saying she could not match President Obama intellectually.
Williams was speaking about the potential Republican presidential candidates for the 2012 elections, and decrying them as "weak." He mocked the idea that someone like Indiana Congressman Mike Pence could go head to head with Obama.
"There is nobody out there except for Sarah Palin who could absolutely dominate the stage and she can't stand on the intellectual stage with Obama," Williams concluded.
This prompted a chorus of "oooohhhs" from the rest of the panel.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
- Our Gorgeous Mosaic: The Power 150
- After Passage of 9/11 Health Bill, NY Lawmakers Take Victory Lap
- Jimmy McMillan Says He Will Challenge Obama in '12 [VIDEO]
- Paterson to Veto Prevailing Wage Bill
- Morning Read: All I Could Do Was Express Joy That It Was One More Flop in His Life
- Gillibrand Says Battle Over Zadroga Will Be Fought Again in 2014
- Albany to Spidey: We've Got Our Eye On You
- Documents Reveal Depth of Bloomberg Administration Assistance On 'Ground Zero Mosque'--UPDATED
- The Education of Kirsten Gillibrand
- Obama Signs Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal [Watch]
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Over at The Awl, Abram Sauer, who covered this story thoroughly during the election season, has made a review of this review process. You'll never guess what he found out!According to documents filed with the FEC in October 2010, Target continued donating to a bevy of anti-gay politicians even after Steinhafel apologized and committed to reforming the review process for future political donations. These donations even included some of the same anti-gay politicians the company had already been criticized for supporting.
Here’s the Democratic statement (attributed to John Sampson and Martin Dilan), which amounts to the sort of foot-stomping and finger-wagging previously seen from the GOP minority — the word “should” makes what will likely be the first of many appearances by the new minority conference:
“As we begin to assess the new Census data New York uses to draw its political lines, Senate Republicans are already making it clear they will not keep their pledge to reform state government through non-partisan redistricting.
“On the day they claimed the Majority the GOP broke their first promise – Senate Republicans signed onto Mayor Koch’s NY Uprising pledge, but incoming Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is now refusing to take a firm position on nonpartisan redistricting. Imagine how many other election promises will be broken in the New Year.
“We are disappointed that New York will lose two congressional districts as a result of the 2010 Census. This must serve as a wake-up call to state government to improve our economy and grow New York’s population, especially Upstate and in Western New York.
“We look forward to receiving actual redistricting data in March. The redistricting data will inform us where New York has gained or lost population and guide us in the redrawing of district boundaries for the House of Representatives and State Legislature.
“Senators truly committed to reform should support both an independent redistricting process and new district lines that will fairly represent all New Yorkers without bias or partisan advantage that disenfranchises key regions of the state and in diverse communities.
“The main source of Albany’s dysfunction is the absence of competitive elections which stem from the drawing of partisan political lines that protect political incumbents instead of preserving the public’s interest. Non-partisan redistricting, broad ethics reform, and continued improvements to the state’s electoral system will ensure more voter participation and instill greater faith in our government.”
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
"I'm opposed to giving people money for doing nothing," he told the crowd of 250 cheering GOP activists in a state with a 10.6 percent unemployment rate.
Chuck Schumer appeared on "Good Morning America" today with a stark warning for senators dragging their feet on the 9/11 Health Bill.
"It's not too late," he told host George Stephanopoulos. "But it will be if we don't do anything, because thousands will die because they don't get adequate medical care."
Schumer added that he believes the bill will pass unless one of his colleagues uses procedural maneuvers to keep it from coming to the floor.
Earlier today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg convened with the New York congressional delegation in the Blue Room at City Hall and pressed for passage, telling a news conference, "It's a vote on whether we should stand by those who stood by America in its hour of greatest need. It's a vote on whether we should fulfill our obligation to the men and women in uniform, and in hard hats, whom we rightly call heroes." Full Story
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said he voted against the first responders bill because Republicans had threatened to vote against everything until tax cuts for the rich were extended and a measure to fund the government was passed.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
- Gillibrand Celebrates Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal
- Weiner: Give The G.O.P an Outstretched Hand and 'They are Going to Want an Arm and Even More Flesh'
- The Week That Was In New York Politics
- Reshma Not Interested In 2012 Re-Match, Eyes 2013 Instead
- Jon Stewart Devotes Whole 'Daily Show' to 9/11 Health Bill [VIDEO]
- Elsewhere: Possible Christmas Miracle
- In Wake of Wal-Mart Price Hike, Union Urges Pols to Donate Campaign Cash--UPDATED
- After Tax Vote, New York Tea Partiers Fume
- Cox Knocks Gillibrand on Tax Cut Vote
- Cuomo Announces Inaugural Plans
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Without the bill, all of the tax cuts that Bush signed into law would have expired at the end of the year, and American families would be looking at thousands of dollars in higher taxes, Obama said at a signing ceremony.
These questions, undoubtedly, were on the mind of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) when he launched his Twitter screed against the pork-barrel projects included in the omnibus. The syrup-research expenditure made ranked fifth on McCain's list of the ten most egregious wastes of money in the omnibus bill -- a surefire example of the pure backwardness of the appropriators in Congress.
Dig a bit deeper, however, and that $165,000 starts to sound a lot less like a testament to fiscal lunacy.That industry is at a crossroads. While international demand for maple syrup is rising, a poor harvest in 2008 crippled the U.S. supply, and much of that void has been filled by Canadian manufacturers. If domestic producers are to survive -- and maintain U.S. consumers' access to reasonably-priced syrup -- they need a technological breakthrough.
Friday, December 17, 2010
The crucial vote was not on final passage of the tax cuts, but on the vote before, to reduce the generosity of the estate tax cut. Had it been included in the final measure, the bill would have gone back to the Senate. An identical version of that amendment passed in December 2009 with 225 votes, but it failed this time 233-194, with 60 Democrats voting against tightening the estate tax.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
An informative and potentially productive political debate has broken out over fiscal policy. But it is not between Democrats and Republicans — the leadership on both sides of the aisle is trying hard to agree that a moderate stimulus is worth the cost: increasing the national debt by nearly $900 billion.
And the new debate is not particularly due to the president’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission or other serious efforts to put the real math on the table; those technical discussions have so far been brushed aside.
On one hand, there are those like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, who are in favor of the tax deal currently on the table. This seems to be where most of the Republican mainstream is. On the other hand, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney have come out strongly against the proposal.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a sweeping tax package that would save millions of Americans thousands of dollars in higher taxes while also reducing their Social Security taxes and extending jobless benefits.
The $858 billion package now goes to the House, where many Democrats are unhappy with a provision that allows estates as large as $10 million to pass to heirs tax-free. Democratic leaders, however, say they expect the bill to ultimately pass and become law.
But for Minnesota's middle class, struggling to get by in a tough economy, there's a lot in this bill that will really help: tax cuts for working families, a payroll tax holiday, energy tax credits, and the extension of Recovery Act initiatives that are already making a difference.
And for the Minnesotans truly suffering right now -- men, women, and children on the edge of economic disaster -- the alternative is simply unacceptable. If we let Republicans block unemployment benefits, even temporarily, there will be a lot more pain for working families, a lot more homeless kids spending Christmas in a shelter or a car.
If this is the prelude of a permanent extension of the Bush tax breaks for the super-wealthy, we're in big trouble. We'll lose our ability to make the investments we need to grow our way out of long-term budget deficits: education, infrastructure, and research and development. And I am taking the president at his word that he will fight harder to put an end to these wasteful tax breaks in 2012 than he did in 2010.
This isn't a great deal by any stretch of the imagination. But I got into this line of work because I wanted to stand up for Minnesota families trying to put food on the table and build a better life for their kids. And, for them, the only thing worse than a bad deal would be no deal at all. That's why I voted yes yesterday -- and why I will continue my fight for economic policies that create jobs, address our deficit problem, and build new opportunities for Minnesota.
WASHINGTON -- A major swath of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog caucus has written a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking for neither "delay" nor changes to the "essential" deal struck by President Obama and congressional Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts.
The letter was passed to The Huffington Post by a somewhat distressed aide, who noted that somewhere between 27 and 31 members have signed on already. It reads as follows:
Monday, December 13, 2010
For the holidays,29 percent of voters surveyed in a Siena College Research Institute poll released today would like to see a balanced budget with no new taxes.
But when asked the hard questions about cutting, they indicated a strong preference against cutting Medicaid and education — the two largest areas of the state budget — and instead opted for higher taxes on New Yorkers earning more than $1 million a year.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Thursday derailed a bill to aid people who got sick after exposure to dust from the World Trade Center's collapse in the Sept. 11 attack.
Supporters were three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote on the bill that would have provided as much as $7.4 billion in health care and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors. The bill failed on a test vote, 57-42.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
During the meeting, Beardsley reportedly presented a challenge to Democrats as he delivered his acceptance speech.
Beardsley, whose appointment was not unanimously, allegedly challenged the Democrats to produce the letter ( posted below this article) they claimed to hold, according to seven committee members who were present at the meeting.
“He said that if the Democrats can produce the letter, he would pay for a full page ad in the newspaper,” committee member Cheryl Holmes, who was present at the meeting, recalled.
Her statement was corroborated by six other committee members who were in attendance.
Beardsley’s statement was apparently in response to a story that appeared in the Dec. 1 issue of The Valley News. The Democrats alleged that the Republican legislator had sought their support during the 2003 election and was willing to join with them in exchange for the Democratic line in the November election.
The Oswego County Democrat Committee members allege they have two documents from Beardsley to back up their allegations and accepted his challenge by providing a copy of one letter to The Valley News.
In a questionnaire dated May 22, 2003, Beardsley’s response to the question of whether he believed the Republican-led legislature has done all it can to curb spending, the response is noted as “Most defeinetly (sic) no!!”
Beardsley also noted that he would not vote for a legislature chairman without binding himself to a party caucus majority member vote.
“I will vote for the best person I believe for the post,” he wrote.
The new GOP chairman offered the statement that as the supervisor for the Town of Hastings he had “appointed a Democrat to a town position.”
The document is witnessed by then-Legislator James Bryant, who, according to Legislator Doug Malone, accompanied Beardsley when they met to discuss the endorsement.
Malone and Oswego County Democrat Chairman Mike Kunzwiler said they learned of Beardsley’s challenge from Republicans and offered the document as proof.
“There’s the proof,” Kunzwiler said. “He accuses people of lying.”
Malone said he didn’t understand why Beardsley would deny existence of the letter. “He challenged me and Mike and there is it,” Malone said. “We didn’t forget. I stand by what I said before. We shook hands, we broke bread.”
Story from the Valley News
Monday, December 6, 2010
Republicans call extension of the Bush-era tax cuts their top priority in the lame duck Congress, and they insist that the midterm election gave them a mandate to freeze tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.
“The American people want us to stop all the looming tax hikes and to cut spending,” incoming House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday, “and that should be the priority of the reminding days that we have in this Congress.”
Trouble is, a new poll shows that Boehner may be mis-reading the election results. According to a new CBS poll, 53 percent of Americans want the Bush-era tax cuts extended only for households earning less than $250,000 per year.
Only 23 percent of Americans say that Congress should extend all of the Bush tax cuts — the adamant position of Republican lawmakers.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
I have one question for President George W. Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress. Where are the jobs?
From 2001 to 2007, the period immediately following the tax cuts and preceding our current recession, the economy grew at a paltry pace of 2.39 percent per year. This was the slowest period of growth since World War II. Slower, by a significant margin, than the growth rate of 3.21 percent in the 1970s, when two massive energy crises, a stock market crash, and record unemployment brought our economy to its knees.
The Bush tax cuts failed to bring the growth they promised. Our jobless recession continued for more than a year after the first round of cuts, and our eventual – and short-lived – rebound was no more significant than it would have been without the cuts. By comparison, our strong economic recovery overseen by President Clinton after the dip in the early 1990s happened quicker and on a much greater scale without giving a kickback to millionaires and billionaires.
I went back and read the Congressional Record from that first 2001 debate, which was about balancing the budget, growing the economy, and bolstering the middle class. Unfortunately, we are still striving for these noble goals today because our predecessors failed to deliver.
President Bush started his Administration with a $128 billion surplus and a $3.4 trillion debt. He left the White House with a deficit more than ten times that ($1.3 trillion) and a debt that had more than doubled ($8 trillion).
As for the middle class, 66 percent of all growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top one percent of Americans. According to Republicans, this massive relief to our highest earners should have trickled down to the rest of us through small business growth and job creation. The Bush tax cuts have been in place for a decade, and in that time, the rate of jobs created by start-up businesses fell.
Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the U.S. rose by 16 percent, reaching 7.8 million in 2009. Meanwhile, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps. Approximately 21 percent of children live below the poverty line. And the top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income. Americans are falling out of the middle class, not into it. And they deserve relief. I absolute support extending the Bush tax cuts for those who work the hardest and invest the most in our economy – the real drivers of American growth, the middle class.
Let’s restore sanity and fairness to the tax cut conversation. We simply cannot afford to hand over the bank vault to our nation’s millionaires and billionaires while the middle class picks up spare change.
As in 2001 and 2003, we will soon have a Republican Speaker of the House. As an engineer, I believe that the problems we face today have solutions, and I am committed to working with any leader who presents a reasonable way forward. But the rhetoric I’m hearing from the other side of the aisle doesn’t match the math.
For example, while the middle class tax relief offers a person earning $50,000 per year a tax cut of about $1,000, Bush's tax plan for the wealthy gives a person earning $1,000,000 a yearly tax cut of over $100,000. That means a millionaire will see a cut that amounts to 10 percent of his salary while a middle class worker will see relief that amounts to just 2 percent. The middle class is unquestionably the driving force of the American economy and the American spirit. Giving our wealthiest citizens - who amount to about 2 percent of the American population in both Republican AND Democratic districts - a dramatically higher tax cut than the rest of us is unfair, un-American and disingenuous to a priority concern of the American public, our national debt.
Taking a look at three influential Republican leaders and incomes in their home districts, a different story emerges. On average, only 1.7 percent of their constituents make over $200,000 per year – the minimum annual earnings to qualify for the special high-income tax cut package Republicans support. These leaders, like every other Member of Congress, swore an oath to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office” to which they were elected – to fairly represent their constituents in Washington. Not the few thousand who make more than $200,000 per year, but the entire 340,000 filers in their districts, who demand fairness in our tax code.
If there was one message I heard loud and clear this November it was that we simply cannot afford to continue business as usual in Washington, D.C. We must take a serious look at our debt and how we are spending public dollars and collecting taxes. Our middle class has been ignored for far too long in this country, and tax cuts are just one piece of the puzzle.
We can and will rise together, with careful planning and smart policy. In the debate over extending tax cuts, the choice is clear: I stand with the 98.1 percent of my district in the middle class. I hope my colleagues will review their own district numbers and do the same. After all, a thoughtful government deserves nothing less.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Morin filed the lawsuit in May 2007 after losing her chief clerk’s position. She since took a slightly lower-paying attorney-referee’s position in Oswego County.
She claims she was driven from her job by Tormey, former executive assistant John Voninski, Family Court Judge Bryan Hedges and Hedges’ law clerk, William Dowling, because she refused to gather dirt for Tormey on Democratic Family Court Judge David Klim in his unsuccessful bid for state Supreme Court in 2002. Klim died in 2006.Full Story
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Senate Republicans intend to block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current post-election session of Congress, officials said Tuesday, adding that the leadership has quietly collected signatures on a letter pledging to carry out the strategy.