Good Friday Evening!
Just a few for you tonight, I am still overwhelmed by things out of my control. Maybe I will just have a bowl of Frosted Flakes and chill out a while.
This is an open thread…
Oh man, this is too much!
Paul Ryan appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today and admitted to that the new “Ryan Plan” budget is based on the assumption that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed along with the planned Medicaid expansion.
Here’s the transcript of the interview.
Ryan explains that he plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program and Medicaid, food stamps, and “49 different job training programs spread across nine different government agencies” into block grants and let the states decide what to do with the money. Wallace had some questions.
Let me ask you about a couple of the specific cuts that you made last year, and tell me if they’re not in the new budget — I assume that they are. You cut Medicaid by $770 billion, over the next 10 years. You cut $134 billion from food stamps. You cut $166 billion from education, training and social services.
WALLACE: Can you honestly say by turning Medicaid into a block grant and giving it to the states that you can cut $770 billion –
WALLACE: — out of that program, over the next 10 years, and that’s going to have no impact on legitimate recipients?
RYAN: These are increases that have not come yet. So, by repealing Obamacare, and the Medicaid expansions which haven’t occurred yet, we are basically preventing an explosion of a program that is already failing.
So, we’re saying don’t grow this program through Obamacare because it doesn’t work. Prevent that growth from going because it’s not going to work, it’s going to hurt people who are trying to help, it’s going to hurt hospitals and states and, give the states the tools that they are asking for.
I’m kind of surprised Wallace didn’t do a Ricky Ricardo-type double take after that.
WALLACE: I’m going to pick up on this because I must say I didn’t understand it. Are you saying that as part of your budget, you would repeal, you assume the repeal of Obamacare?
WALLACE: Well, that’s not going to happen.
RYAN: Well, we believe it should. That’s the point. That’s what’s — but this is what budgeting is all about, Chris. It’s about making tough choices to fix our country’s problems.
And here’s the really crazy part. Wallace points out that, you know, Obama won the election and Medicare was a huge issue during the campaign and the voters rejected the Romney/Ryan plan.
Ryan doesn’t buy it:
I would argue against your premise that we lost this issue in the campaign. We won the senior vote. I did dozens of Medicare town hall meetings in states like Florida, explaining how these are the best reforms to save the shrinking Medicare program and we are confidently this is the way to go. It has bipartisan support. It’s an idea that came from Democrats in the first place.
Wha– ?! Has this guy gone around the bend or what? Haven’t the House Republicans already tried to repeal Obamacare more than 30 times?
Here’s the video from Think Progress:
This is a completely wacko, insane, what-is-he-smoking open thread!
Jay Carney was sent out today to mouth Obama’s slimy weasel words at the daily press briefing:
Q [Johnathan Karl, ABC] What about reducing the annual cost of living increases for Social Security recipients?
MR. CARNEY: Again, as part of a big deal, part of a comprehensive package that reduces our deficit and achieves that $4-trillion goal that was set out by so many people in and outside of government a number of years ago, he would consider that the hard choice that includes the so-called chain CPI, in fact, he put that on the table in his proposal, but not in a cherry-picked or piecemeal way. That’s got to be part of a comprehensive package that asks that the burden be shared; that we don’t, as some in Congress want, ask seniors to bear the burden of further deficit reduction alone, or middle-class families who are struggling to send their kids to college, or parents of children who are disabled who rely on programs to help them get through….
Q But I just want to be clear what you said at the beginning of that answer, which is the President….as part of an overall balanced approach, he does not rule out effectively reducing benefits for Social Security recipients?
MR. CARNEY: He has put forward a technical change as part of a big deal — and it’s on the table — that he put forward to the Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House, by the way, walked away from that deal even though it met the Republicans halfway on revenues and halfway on spending cuts and included some tough decisions by the President on entitlements. The Speaker walked away from that deal.
But as part of that deal, the technical change in the so-called CPI is possible in his own offer as part of a big deal.
Excuse me? Cutting Social Security benefits by means of the Chained CPI is NOT a “technical change.” Once again, Bernie Sanders explains what is really going on: Chained CPI: An economic, moral disaster.
How many candidates for Congress last year won on the following platform?
1. That Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are too generous. Social Security should be cut over the next two decades by more than $1,000 a year for 85-year-old widows living on $1,200 a month.
2. That benefits earned by disabled veterans as a result of losing their arms, legs or eyesight in Iraq and Afghanistan are too generous. Disabled veterans’ benefits should be cut over the next 15 years by more than $1,400 a year.
3. That working families and the middle class don’t pay enough in taxes. We need to enact an across-the-board tax increase that disproportionately hurts workers making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.
And yet all of these things will happen if Congress changes the way inflation is calculated by switching to a consumer price index (CPI) designed to lower cost-of-living adjustments….Wall Street billionaires and other supporters claim that changing the consumer price index is a “minor tweak.” Tell that to the millions of senior citizens trying to survive on just $14,000 a year whose Social Security benefits would be cut overall by $112 billion during the next decade.
Average 65-year-olds would get $650 a year less in benefits when they turn 75 and see a $1,000 a year cut when they turn 85.
Earlier, in response to an earlier question by Jonathan Karl, Carney supposedly took raising the eligibility age for Medicare off the table.
But why should we believe him? Sure enough Beltway Bob interprets the weasel words for us. On raising the Medicare age:
the cutoff for Medicare eligibility age has been under consideration repeatedly, giving health-care experts more time to run the numbers and parse their results. Their conclusion, essentially, was that raising the Medicare eligibility age is counterproductive: It cuts the deficit but raises national health spending as it moves seniors to more expensive insurance options. Some in the White House are simply more skeptical of the policy than they were two years ago.
The White House wants more revenues, and they want to get them through tax reform. But they’re not going to get $1 trillion in newer revenues. They’re hoping, at best, for another $600 billion or so. But that’s not enough for the administration to take the hit on the Medicare eligibility age. So they’re making their base happy and taking it off the table.
Does that mean it’s really off the table? Well, if Boehner went to the White House tomorrow and offered $1 trillion in new revenues, half of which would come via a carbon tax, in return for Medicare eligibility, I’m pretty certain the White House would hear him out. But the White House is pretty sure Boehner’s not going to offer that deal.
Here’s your Village in action. We have Ben White, POLITICO Chief Economic Correspondent, declaring on twitter that the White House offer to cut Social Security just isn’t going to get the job done:
If all WH has in return for another tax increase is superlative CPI I really don’t see any deal materializing.
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) February 11, 2013
Ok fine, he’s just being a typical jaded and “savvy” Politico reporter. Why, of course, anyone who’s anyone knows that simply destroying Social security won’t be enough.
But look at how the White House immediately responds:
@morningmoneyben Remember we have an offer on the table that includes CPI, but also inclues Medicare changes and spending cuts
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) February 11, 2013
@morningmoneyben R’s have no offer on the table, no plan, and no longer agree with their previous position that tax refom can reduce deficit
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) February 11, 2013
See? We really do want to cut Social Security but that’s not all! We also want to “change” medicare and cut more spending. Really! We just dying to enact more austerity and we’re willing to do it as far as the eye can see! Those Republicans won’t even agree to tax reform, (which everyone knows means that we’re going to lower corporate rates.)
Ok, how about if we agree to slash funding for education and Veteran’s health care? Would you give us credit then? How about if we agree to ritualistically kill Big Bird on national TV? Then will you believe that we’re Grown-ups? CAN’T YOU SEE THAT WE ARE THE GROWN-UPS!!!! Why won’t you give us credit for being grown-ups ? We try so hard….
Read the rest of Digby’s post for her review of yesterday’s Sunday House of Pain with Dancin’ Dave.
Have I mentioned lately how much I fucking hate these fucking mealy-mouthed granny starvers? (h/t Mike Malloy) If we’re really lucky, and John Boehner is as stupid as he looks and sounds, Ben White’s prediction will be correct and there won’t be a “big deal.” Assuming Obama doesn’t get down on he knees and beg the Republicans to cut Social Security anyway, that is.
Thursday Reads: GOP Wars on Democracy, Social Safety Net; Russia and Syria; MacDonald Follow-Up; and Ancient Cheese makingPosted: December 13, 2012 | |
Now that Rick Snyder has succeeded in turning Michigan into a right-to-work-for-less state, he and his Republican House have passed a supposedly “new and improved” emergency manager law. The Detroit Free Press reports:
The House passed the Local Financial Stability and Choice act in a 63-46 vote late Wednesday, with Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, as the only Republican to join Democrats in voting against it.
Immediate effect for the new bill was rejected 63-45, meaning it would take effect around the end of March if passed by the Senate, likely to happen Thursday, and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, as expected.
The legislation introduced by Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is similar to a draft Treasurer Andy Dillon and Gov. Rick Snyder had released. The administration said it’s designed to address shortcomings in Public Act 4 by giving local officials in financially troubled cities and school district more input in decisions.
Incoming House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said it is a “mirror image” of what voters just rejected and “another slap in the face to democracy perpetrated by this House.”
It appears that both Wisconsin and Michigan are now totally owned by the Koch Brothers. Think Progress reports on How Michigan Voters Can Repeal The GOP’s Anti-Union Powergrab, but this is starting to feel like whack a mole. Republicans seem determined to kill democracy one state at a time.
The New York Times Fed Ties Rates to Joblessness, With Target of 6.5%
The Federal Reserve made it plain on Wednesday that job creation had become its primary focus, announcing that it planned to continue suppressing interest rates so long as the unemployment rate remained above 6.5 percent.
It was the first time the nation’s central bank had publicized such a specific economic objective, underscoring the depth of its concern about the persistence of what the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, called “a waste of human and economic potential.”
To help reduce unemployment, the Fed said it would also continue monthly purchases of $85 billion in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities until job market conditions improved, extending a policy announced in September.
But the Fed released new economic projections showing that most of its senior officials did not expect to reach the goal of 6.5 percent unemployment until the end of 2015, raising questions of why it was not moving to expand its economic stimulus campaign.
Ben Bernanke indicated there isn’t much more the Fed can do at this point. Perhaps its time for GOP lawmakers to quit trying to destroy the economy?
I couldn’t believe this story about cops gone wild in New Hampshire. Raise your hand if you knew it was illegal to buy “too many” iPhones.
Police in Nashua, New Hampshire say they were forced to use a Taser on a 44-year-old Chinese woman who does not speak English after she was told to leave an Apple Store because she was trying to buy too many iPhones.
Through a translator, Xiaojie Li told WMUR that she had bought two iPhones from the Pheasant Lane Mall Apple Store on Friday and returned on Tuesday to buy more to send to her family in China.
“The manager of the Apple Store came and told her something, but she didn’t understand,” Li’s daughter explained.
Soon after that, shoppers captured cell phone video of police — who were providing security at the store’s request — using a stun gun on Li as she laid on the mall floor screaming.
The Apple store employees had to call the police because a customer was spending too much money in their store? That’s just one more reason I’ll never buy an Apple product.
Senator Bob Corker has introduced a bill that would cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by nearly $1 Trillion in reture for raising the debt ceiling.
Corker said the Dollar For Dollar Act would include $937 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar hike to the debt ceiling.
Corker offered some details about his bill during a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. Corker said his bill would raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and would include the Medicare Total Health package that would increase private-sector competition for covering the elderly. Corker also said there would be a form of means-testing, making wealthy Medicare recipients pay more of their healthcare needs.
Corker said he’d also “slowly” raise the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits, but did not specify an age.
“We should address [Social Security] now because it’s causing the government to spend more than it takes in,” Corker said. “It will be bankrupt by 2017 if we do nothing.”
Izzat so. Social Security will be “bankrupt” five years from now? Prove it, Corker. What an asshole. And this is the guy the corporate media has been presenting as a GOP moderate who is willing to work with Obama.
According to the Washington Post, Russia is admitting that: Assad is losing control and rebels might win in Syria
MOSCOW — Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia, said for the first time Thursday that President Bashar Assad is losing control of his country and the rebels might win the civil war, dramatically shifting the diplomatic landscape at a time of enormous momentum for the opposition.
While Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov gave no immediate signal that Russia would change its stance and agree to impose international sanctions on Assad’s regime, his remarks will likely be seen as a betrayal in Damascus and could persuade many Syrians to shift their loyalties and abandon support for the government.
Russia’s assessment could also further strengthen the hand of the rebels, who have made some significant gains in their offensive, capturing two major military bases and mounting a serious challenge to Assad’s seat of power, Damascus.
“We must look at the facts: There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory,” Bogdanov, the Foreign Ministry’s pointman on Syria, said during hearings at a Kremlin advisory body, the Public Chamber. “An opposition victory can’t be excluded.”
Here’s an interesting follow-up to Gene Weingarten’s excellent story about the Jeffrey MacDonald case, which I wrote about recently. Weingarten did a live chat at the WaPo on Tuesday in which he was a little more revealing of his own opinions. I learned that he had the same incredulous reaction when he heard the words supposedly chanted a by “hippie intruder” to MacDonald’s home, “Acid is groovy…kill the pigs.”
This is an odd thing to say about a 6,400-word story, but I found myself without the space to tell it as completely as I’d have liked. The introduction to this chat is mostly for those of you who have read the story and are still not persuaded, beyond a reasonable doubt, that MacDonald killed his family and that “A Wilderness of Error” is a deeply flawed and manipulative book. All the rest: Feel free to plow ahead into the questions.
I remember the killings. I was an 18-year-old hippie at the time, roughly the same age as Helena Stoeckley. I didn’t do as many drugs as she did, but I did plenty, including mescaline, LSD, and heroin. When I read in the newspaper that Jeffrey MacDonald – still presumed an innocent victim – told police that his attackers had been vicious hippie intruders who chanted “acid is groovy – kill the pigs,” I knew he had done it. As did every hippie in every city who read that statement with any degree of analytical thought. No self-respecting killer hippie would ever have uttered, let alone chanted, that uncool, anachronistic thing as late as 1970. That was exactly what some ramrod-straight 26-year-old Ivy League frat-boy doctor who was contemptuous of the counterculture would have thought a hippie would say.
Not to mention that hippies, um, didn’t kill people, at least not while stoned in drug-induced trances. The Manson gang were not hippies. They were weirdo murderers. They went around murdering people, not just Sharon Tate and her friends. They did not come out of the dark, descend on a house, do their savage thing, and then disappear back into the world never to be heard of again. That’s not how it works with murderous gangs who would kill sleeping children. Oh, and hippies also don’t arrive at a house intent on mass murder without remembering to bring along any weapons, relying on whatever knives and pieces of wood they might happen to find inside the house. The Manson people brought a shotgun.
But, okay. Forget all that. That’s just me bloviating. Maybe the MacDonald killers were different from all other killers. Maybe they were really disorganized, absentminded murderous hippies who talked funny and only killed just this once. Oh, and who came to hassle the doctor for drugs because they were drug addicts, and who killed his family, but never opened a closet to discover a big stash of syringes and drugs, including amphetamines. Or maybe they saw that stuff but didn’t steal it because murder may be one thing, but stealing is just plain wrong.
After that, he goes through the evidence and responds to readers’ questions. Check it out if you’re interested.
Finally, the Wall Street Journal had a fascinating science story yesterday: Europe’s First Cattle Farmers Quickly Added Cheese to Menu.
Researchers on Wednesday said they found the earliest known chemical evidence of cheese-making, based on the analysis of milk-fat residues in pottery dating back about 7,200 years. The discovery suggests Europe’s early farmers added a cheese course to their diet almost as soon as they learned to domesticate cattle and started regularly milking cows.
Scientists led by geochemist Richard Evershed at the U.K.’s University of Bristol tested ancient, perforated clay pots excavated at sites along the Vistula River in Poland, and found they had likely been used by prehistoric cheese mongers as strainers to separate curds and whey—a critical step in making cheese.
The pots have long puzzled archeologists, but their new analysis, reported in Nature, revealed unique carbon isotopes of milk in the traces of fatty acids that had soaked into the ceramic sieves.
“It is a no-brainer,” said Dr. Evershed. “They have to be cheese strainers.”
No one knows exactly when or where cheese-making began, but experts said the traces of milk fat on these unglazed clay strainers are the clearest evidence yet of the origins of this basic biotechnology, which launched a dairy trade that today produces more than 11 billion pounds of cheese every year and as many as 5,000 different named varieties world-wide, from Appenzeller to Zamorano.
As a cheese lover, I was very interested to learn about this.
That’s all I have for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?
Following on Dakinikat’s post last night, The Austerity Plot, here are some more links about Jonathan Chait’s very very bad recommendation that Obama should cave on raising the Medicare enrollment age.
David Dayen’s reaction was immediate and shrill: Jon Chait’s Miserable Endorsement of Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age.
Let’s look at Chait’s reasoning. I would probably start with the fact that he’s not 64 or 65. My parents are, and until my dad reached Medicare in November, they were paying $2,500 a month on the private market for health insurance. So I’ll be happy to provide him with their phone number so he can tell them how it’s “tolerable” for them to spend two years more than they expected doing that.
But soft! Here are his actual reasons. One, Democrats have to accept concessions (that’s always a good strategic place from which to begin a negotiation!), and the scolds seem to like raising the eligibility age. So let’s give ‘em what they want. This is a bizarrely content-free assertion. The phrase “If Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles wanted you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it?” springs to mind. Second, he thinks that Republicans will somehow forget that this only raises $100 billion, at most, over 10 years, and will then drop any demands to hit a particular number in the negotiations….
The one thing we know will be a side effect of increasing the Medicare eligibility age is that insurance premiums will skyrocket. It will make Medicare more expensive because they lose relatively healthy 65 and 66 year-olds from their risk pool, and it will make private insurance more expensive because they add relatively sick 65 and 66 year-olds to their risk pool. Insurers hate the idea for just this reason. As a result, everyone’s premiums will rise, and cost-shifting will ensue from the government to its citizens.
The original Shrill One, was even more shrill than usual.
…why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what.
So this looks crazy to me; it looks like a deal that makes no sense either substantively or in terms of the actual bargaining strength of the parties. And if it does happen, the disillusionment on the Democratic side would be huge. All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?
As Dakinikat wrote, Beltway Bob immediately accepted Chait’s assessment of the likely “deal,” even though he explained very clearly last night as host of the Rachel Maddow Show that doing this would be insane and counterproductive.
I do think it’s kind of important that progressives allow each other a bit of liberty in discussions about big fiscal issues: after all, even the Right-Wing Noise Machine is in a bit of disarray on the subject at the moment. I know some people think resisting anything that affects Social Security or Medicare benefits is the ultimate Red Line that cannot be crossed. Personally, my own fear is that in defending that Red Line, congressional Democrats will wind up making concessions on Medicaid and other low-income programs that in my opinion are more morally compelling than keeping Medicare precisely the way it is today.
Maybe my fears are misguided, or maybe I just don’t share the obsession of some liberals in keeping Medicare pristine as a potential model for a universal single-payer health care system somewhere in the distant future, even if that means today’s poor folks have to suffer as a lower priority.
Apparently, Kilgore doesn’t understand that millions of poverty stricken elders are on Medicare and that millions of middle class Americans rely on Medicaid for nursing home care in addition to Medicare. It’s not an either/or thing.
Atrios gave Chait the Wanker of the Day Award, and yesterday evening, Chait issued an “acceptance speech” that doubled down on his recommendations for Medicare cuts in a post that I personally found offensive–but then I’m one of those loser 65-year-olds, so what do I know?
I, along with millions of other losers, committed the horrendous crime of being born after WWII ended and thus became part of the despised population bomb called the “baby boom.” Never mind that we didn’t ask to be born when we were and that public officials have known about our huge numbers ever since 1960 at least, the problem is all our fault. Supposedly, Ronald Reagan fixed the problem by having us pay more into the system so that Social Security and Medicare would be there when we got old, but now that is all forgotten because the superrich need more money to sock away in foreign tax havens.
For decades we have known that the retirement of the baby boomers would be a monumental event for the economy. But now that it’s happening, many fiscal policy makers are acting as if the boomers are eternal teenagers and are turning a blind eye to how the boomers’ aging changes how we should approach economic policy. And this affects two of the central issues of the negotiations: how much the government should spend and how we can cut unemployment.
Consider the debate over spending. The Congressional Budget Office projects that if current policies continue, total federal spending will rise to 24 percent of gross domestic product in 2022. Republicans and Washington deficit hawks argue that this means spending is out of control, since over the past 40 years government spending has averaged 21 percent.
Their proposed solution is a cap on government spending as a percentage of the economy. Mitt Romney wanted to cap spending at 20 percent of G.D.P. Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, has proposed a cap of 20.6 percent with Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri. Just this week, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a 2016 Republican presidential aspirant, suggested an 18 percent cap.
These plans ignore the simple fact that you cannot repeal the aging of the boomers. The main reason expenditures are rising this decade is that spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is increasing by a whopping 3.7 percent of G.D.P. as the baby boomers age and retire. This demographic fact also has been driving increases in disability insurance payments as more knees give way and backs give out.
In addition, policy-makers need to be looking at unemployment differently, according to Baer and Liebman, but are they capable of doing that? Not likely. Read more about it at the link.
In other “news,” on Thursday, Fox News’ Monica Crowley (did you know she has a Ph.D.?!) claimed that Americans committed “national suicide” by re-electing Obama, because now the rich will have to pay more taxes.
“From a conservative perspective, November 6 was a national suicide,” Crowley asserted. “There is a very thin, fine, red line between us and total destruction of the American idea. That thin, red line was the Republican Party. If this party also commits suicide, this will be catastrophic.”
Raw Story (http://s.tt/1wd0V)
Charlie Crist has officially become a Democrat.
Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist announced his official switch from independent to the Democratic Party with a beaming Twitter post Friday night after a Christmas event at the White House.
Posing in a photo with an unidentified woman holding the official Florida voter registration papers, Crist tweeted he was “proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President @BarackObama!”
I wonder if he’s going to get a job in the administration? Or will he run for governor against Rick Scott?
Finally, Susie Madrak has a must-read post at Crooks and Liars: Obama Cheaps Out On Sandy Recovery to Prop Up Austerity Sham. It’s a quick read, so please go read it at the link.
That’s all I have for today. Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading list?