Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Dr. Nancy says the insurance companies are the bad guys here. No real mention of mandates, Tweety's upset over that. RayRay up next.

What do you guys think?

[UPDATE 10:50 PM] "Obama says Gates incident was racial profiling! (also, says stuff about health care or something.)"

Thanks, CNN, who I might already add is now publicly asking "Is this Hillarycare all over again now?"

You too, ABC.

Also, Mark Halperin is a Village "dorknozzle" as RayRay would say.
What sacrifices will Americans have to make under his proposals? Why hasn't the White House been more transparent about the policymaking process, as then-candidate Obama promised? Would he insist that members of Congress face the same limits on choice and access to care as the people getting their insurance from the new public health care plan he advocates? Those were among the excellent questions hurled at the president, and he countered only with partial responses and vague rhetoric.
You would think Obama's branch was in fact charge of crafting the laws themselves instead of enforcing them.

Can we admit the Village is trying to kill Obamacare now, people?


Obama's presser starting here shortly. Let's see what happens. Watching Tweety, RayRay, and Dr. Nancy on MSNBC.

8:01 -- Obama talking up his first six months. Stimulus...but unemployment is going to be a problem still. Takes time, top-heavy economy. I got a stinker of an economy. But we can rebuild it!

8:04 -- We must reform health care, the consequences of inaction are...bad. What's in for you?

8:05 -- Keep your coverage, limit out of pocket costs, more portability. If you don't have insurance, we've got an exchange for shopping around, and we're going to re-allocate health care costs. I've cut deals with all kinds of medical groups to get this done. I've got the AARP on my side too. I've got this under control.

8:08 -- Not about me. I've got good health care, so does Congress. It's about you. We'll get this done.

8:10 -- Ben Feller, AP: Which plan in Congress do you want, and how will you pay for it?
Obama: Let me explain. Without reform, we're screwed. How to pay for it? OK. 2/3 of it, tax dollars already being spent, just by being more efficient. Remaining 1/3, number of ways to do it, limit deductions for the wealthiest Americans. Other ideas are out there, just not going to put it on the middle class. Followup, will it get done? Obama, that's my job, I'm President. Status quo is the worst health care plan out there right now. Health care costs have eaten wage increases.

8:18 -- Question 2: Why the rush, Mr. President? (sigh)
Obama: The American people are asking me to do this. Also, default position is inertia in Washington (good line). Have to set a deadline to get things done. We need to take advantage of the opportunity....but if it's not right, I won't sign it if the bill doesn't work. For example, ways to cut costs weren't in all the we're putting them in, panels of doctors helping us.

8:22 -- Question #3: CHUCK TOOOOOOOODD. You gonna cover everybody, or how many more people? (decent, non-stupid question.) Obama: I want to cover everybody, but everybody is single-payer, and I don't have a single payer plan. The estimates I am seeing are 97%-98%, even with a mandate. Might have to make hardship exemptions. We save money by insuring people who aren't insured.
Followup: You can't blame the GOP on this, you know. (sigh.) Obama: I'm not blaming them. It's not about politics. I like that some Republicans are working with us, and they ARE contributing ideas (even if they don't vote for it). As far as my team, they'll come around.

8:27 Jake Tapper, ABC on #4: What will you make the American people sacrifice? Obama: Paying for stuff that doesn't make them healthier. Look, we make stuff more efficient, we can get this taken care of. Look, we're wasting billions now. Let's make the system more efficient. Why not pay for the half-price pill that works just as well as the full-price one? We're going to have to ask Americans to be smarter health care consumers. Yeah, look, deficits suck. We're throwing around trillions. But here's the thing, we have to fix the problem now to fix the bigger problem later. It looks bad now. The reality is it would have been $2.2 trillion worse if I hadn't done anything. We inherited a disaster. We're not done fixing yet, and we're not going to add to the deficit.

8:35 Chip Reid, 5 CBS: What cuts will you make in MediCare? Will you take it out of politics? Obama: Yes, the GOP's MEDIPAC program created just that body to analyze health care, and then they ignored it. We're going to use it. We will not reduce benefits, we make them more efficient. Big Pharma gave us $80 billion, we're going to use it to help seniors.

8:38 Kristy Parsons: 6 Where's the transparency in the White House? Obama: On the health care execs in the White House, you were there taking pics. On C-SPAN, sure, let them do it. On TARP: Let me get back to you on that once I take a look at it. I will find out.

8:40 Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg: 7 Are you going to be a hardass on Wall Street or what? Obama: Look, these guys were ripping us off. As unpopular as it was, we had to save it from systemic risk. This is reality here. We're not on the cliff edge anymore. We're growing again. Banks are profitable again. But...we're not to the point where this won't happen again. We need regulatory reform. They are going to go back to doing what they were before, and now with moral hazard. But if shame isn't working, we'll reveal what CEOs are making, and yes, we've seen fees on risky deals as a way to deal with this.

8:46 Steve Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer 8: Can you guarantee that people will not be denied, and will you take this public option? Obama: They will get what Congress gets: choices. The public option will get private insurers to reduce costs. Insurance companies are making record profits this year. We have to have competition. Can I guarantee that people will never be denied? Look, your insurance companies are making the decisions now, not doctors. We want doctors to make the decisions based on care, not fees. (pitches his trip to Cleveland tomorrow to the Mayo Clinic, smart)

8:51 THE REAL STEVE KOFF 9: Why are you going to Cleveland Clinic if not for an endorsement tomorrow (who the hell was the last guy?) Obama: Naughty not Steve Koff guy. Anyway, because it works over there. I want people to see this in action.

8:52 Lynn Sweet: Skip Gates! 10 (Thanks Lynn for staying on subject...eyeroll) Obama: I know Skip Gates. Well, if I tried to break into THIS house, I'd get shot. (heh). My understanding is he showed his ID and got arrested anyway. I wasn't there, so any of us would be angry, 2, the cops were stupid, and 3, there's a history of racial profiling, I worked on a bill about that in Illinois for blacks and Hispanics. Race remains a factor. Progress has been made, I'm proof of that...and yet. Long way to go. Peace.

...and now everyone is saying the Skip Gates case is the news, not the 50 minutes on health care "3 card monte". Ugh.

While You're Waiting For The Main Event

Couple of things while you're waiting on the Obama presser (or not):

Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich isn't quite up to the full 100% "the GOP Plan is to break Obama" Jim DeMint stage, but he's willing to go halfway on it.
George Voinovich (R-OH) said on CNBC Wednesday that a desire to prevent the Democratic president from scoring a historical victory with a public health plan accounts for at least 50 percent of the GOP opposition to the plan.

Squawk Box host Carl Quintanilla asked the senator: "How much of this disagreement with the administration is about the policy of health care and how to fix it, and how much of it is Republicans' ... desire to declaw the president politically?"

To which Voinovich responded: "I think it's probably 50-50."

I want to know with Jim DeMint around who are the Republicans bringing the Obama Derangement Syndrome average down for the party?

Also, DougJ at Balloon Juice has your Obama Presser Drinking Game on tap.

I'll be blogging the presser if only to see what the most ridiculous question of the night will be, and if Obama calls on another blogger for a question, causing the entire rest of the White House Steno Pool to walk out.

The Avalanche Picks Up Speed

CNBC's Jeff Cox looks at the growing damage the commercial real estate collapse is causing for small and medium sized banks.

The commercial real estate beast has begun to expose its claws in earnings, posing the single greatest threat to the banking industry's recovery through the rest of the year.

As bank earnings begin to pour in, a recurring theme has established itself: More diversified institutions like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are showing stronger resiliency, while others, particularly at the regional and local level with little ability to offset commercial real estate losses, are going to suffer.

"The larger banks that have multiple revenue streams, some of those streams are doing very well," said David Twibell, president of wealth management at Colorado Capital Bank in Denver. "For the smaller banks, the primary revenue generator is going to be the lending side of the business. That's still a real mess out there. Particularly relating to commercial real estate, it's getting worse, not better."

By "multiple revenue streams" we of course mean "fat counterparty checks from the $100 billion plus the government threw into the AIG black hole." That's something regional and local banks didn't get a slice of, and that's why they are hurting badly and will continue to hurt well into 2010 and beyond.

"Banks are writing off commercial real estate loans now at a bigger rate than in the last 20 years," said Kathy Boyle, president of Chapin Hill Advisors in New York. "It's a double-whammy. Banks have another shoe to drop on their balance sheets, and regional banks tend to have a much bigger exposure."

The larger money center banks like Goldman and JPMorgan either have active trading desks or diversified enough interests that they won't be saddled as badly as some of their smaller brethren.

Some analysts had been growing more bullish on the sector as a whole as the contagion from the subprime mortgage collapse seemed to fade.

But second-quarter earnings are showing that the industry now must wrestle with deterioration in the commercial markets, as well as continued consumer weakness likely to be reflected in credit card defaults.

Analysts say they'll be watching regional bank earnings as they accelerate in the coming days. The current poster child for commercial loan troubles,CIT Group , is scheduled to report earnings Thursday.

"There are still significant problems in the commercial real estate market," Twibell said. "We're probably in the third or fourth inning of that, whereas in the residential side we're in the seventh or eighth inning. There are so many problems, it's tough for me to get excited about banks despite the move higher."

Oh, I'm betting some banks are going to be moving higher...the megabanks who have gotten the huge payouts from the government. The banks that weren't Too Big To Fail? Watch for them to keep being snapped up by the big boys. So far 57 banks have gone under in 2009. A whole lot more are going to go under before all are said and done and the FDIC quietly assumes all the debt and sells the assets to bigger banks.

The practical upshot of the financial crisis and bailout will be that the financial industry will be an oligarchy within several years. There's your reform, folks. Your local hometown bank, serving the tri-county area since 1908? It's not going to survive the commercial real estate bust. It'll get dismantled, stripped, and recycled into another Wells Fargo or Chase or BoA branch. Even better, it'll get closed down...after all there's already a megabank a tenth of a mile down the road next to the Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, the FDIC gets stuck with all the bad assets...and that means we all get stuck with them.

Major League It Ain't

Mets VP Tony Bernazard shows us how to motivate your minor league farm system through physical competition.
In a surreal turn to a fast-sinking season, the New York Daily News, citing multiple sources, reported Wednesday that Tony Bernazard, the team's vice president for player development, challenged players from one of the club's minor league teams to a fight.

According to the report, Bernazard pulled off his shirt and challenged some members of the Double-A Binghamton Mets during a postgame tirade. Bernazard's actions came about 10 days before the All-Star break, according to the report, and that he particularly targeted second baseman Jose Coronado. A source told the News that Bernazard directed a slang term associated with a woman's anatomy at Coronado, who is hitting .250 in 58 games for Binghamton. The Double-A Mets are 37-58 following Tuesday night's 6-5 win over Connecticut.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya acknowledged that Bernazard spoke to the minor leaguers in a "stern voice," according to the report, but did not have a sense of the tenor and content of the speech. "I know he did have a team meeting with them," Minaya told the Daily News. "It was not a 'you-guys-have-been-great meeting.' I know he spoke to them in a stern voice. But as far as what he was wearing, what kind of shoes he was wearing, I don't know anything about that."

On Wednesday afternoon the Mets released a statement on the report: "We take these reports seriously and are investigating the matter."

An organization source told the News that allegations of underage drinking on the team was a factor in Bernazard's tirade.

And you thought your boss was bad. Honestly, I'd pay to see that fight.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Balloon Juice's DougJ asks:
Apropos of some comments yesterday, here’s a question: have there been any polls about the percentage of Republicans who are birthers? And who will be the first major Republican presidential candidate to embrace birtherism?
I'd say judging by the fact the "Obama is a Seekrit Muslim" thing keeps scoring in the low teens, I;'m going to say that at least that many Republicans believe that.

As far as #2 there, somebody, anybody, please ask Sarah Palin what she thinks about it. Preferably on live national TV.

[UPDATE 3:12 PM] Bonus Questions from the crew at LG&M:
The Birfer theory really boggles me: I can't even understand the thought process involved. Obama's been a (very minor, initially) public figure since at least his time as editor of the Harvard Law Review, and at the very least since then there's never been any change in his biography, in which he was born to Stanley Ann Dunham in the state of Hawai'i, a birth that was announced in the local paper. What exactly do these nutcases surmise - that he wasn't born to Dunham, but instead was born to some other woman overseas and smuggled as a newborn to Dunham's hospital? What possible reason could a newlywed college student have for doing such a thing? How would it make any sense? Even in their most unhinged fantasies, why would Obama's family have plotted from his infancy to fake the location of his birth and the identity of his mother?
Because he's The Enemy, capital T, capital E, as in "the way Gandalf refers to Sauron". It doesn't matter. The birth certificate being forged or missing or from Andromeda Seven is Al Capone's missing tax returns to Eliott Ness, a technicality they can use to get the guy because he's EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL.

Through the birther idiocy comes the greater ability to de-legitimize Obama and everything he is trying to do. If his birth certificate is wrong/a lie/huge cover up/SEEKRIT MUSLIM then everything he does as President has to be called into doubt, too.

Birther Of A Nation, Part 4

Salon's Joan Walsh catches Liz Cheney (natch) playing footsie with the Birthers.
Tuesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," rising GOP shill/star Liz Cheney refused to denounce the "Birthers" -- the right-wing fringe movement devoted to denying (for a changing array of reasons) that Obama is eligible to be president. Instead, Cheney defended the Birthers by blaming Obama for their rage.

I wasn't planning to blog so I took notes in real-time, and I can't promise Cheney's quote is verbatim. But she said the same thing twice, so I'm confident I caught her drift. After King showed video of the crazy birther who disrupted a meeting with poor GOP Rep. Mike Castle, demanding he acknowledge Obama was born in Kenya (that's one birther claim); and after Carville denounced them as a "poor, pathetic" fringe group, King gave Cheney a chance to distance herself from them. But Cheney demurred, telling King the Birther movement exists because "People are uncomfortable with a president who is reluctant to defend the nation overseas."

The rarely shocked Carville seemed briefly speechless, and even King, not known to be the most combative interviewer, tried a second time to get an honest reaction from Cheney -- which I read as expecting her to separate herself from the crazies. But Cheney repeated her talking point about Obama inadequately defending the nation overseas. Unbelievable. Carville called her on it, accurately: "She refuses to say, 'This is ludicrous,' because she actually wants to encourage these people to believe this."

Now, I've debated Cheney, so I know she'll do anything from rudely interrupting to lying to make her point, but even I expected her to take King's opportunity to distinguish her brand of Republicanism from the hooligans who run with the Birthers. But she didn't. Wow. The GOP keeps coughing up younger, supposedly more compelling, "new" leadership, from Sarah Palin to Mark Sanford to, now, Liz Cheney -- and they keep making clear they're not ready for prime time. It's remarkable.

The video is on Salon's site, and it really is something, but then today Liz Cheney digs the hole deeper:
Politico's Ben Smith wrote about my blog post, and asked Liz Cheney if she wanted to clarify her remarks. Cheney emailed this statement:

I don't have any question about Barack Obama's right to be President of the United States.

My concern is with his policies. I am deeply troubled about the path he is taking this country down -- massively expanding the size of government, weakening our national defenses, increasing taxes on all Americans and nationalizing health care. These are dangerous policies for the nation.

Cheney basically proved Carville right: By refusing to denounce the Birthers on CNN, then issuing a mealy-mouthed statement that she doesn't question Obama's right to be president, Cheney has it both ways: She curries favor with the Birthers and but affirms her basic sanity (if not integrity) to the Beltway media.

All this goes back to the point I made yesterday: the GOP Pretty Hate Machine has no intention of putting a leash on the Birthers. Like Liz Cheney they are courting the base here and they dare not tamp it down. In many ways they are actively encouraging the behavior to motivate their depressed ranks.

Remember Jim DeMint: The plan is to "break Obama". The Birthers are a means to that end. Dehumanizing, de-legitimizing and demonizing the President as the Enemy is a useful political function to the GOP. Of course the Republican pundits will be fueling these attacks while feigning that the outrage is a "legitimate response" by the people to the President's policies, and the "outpouring of anger" is all Obama's fault for somehow not addressing these concerns.

Obama has indeed done so, and has made his birth certificate public knowledge since June 2008, but of course the Birthers don't believe it (and they never will). Watch for the GOP and others besides Liz Cheney to continue to use the Birthers to attack the President. No matter how unhinged these guys get, the GOP will continue to back them. After all, they created the Birthers during the campaign. The Republicans don't have any real solutions to the problems America faces, and the voters rejected them totally in 2008. They have nothing left but to try to build hatred towards the President as the enemy of the people.

It's all the GOP has right now. Obama must be "broken".

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Looking over more of David Dayen's take on the California Budget deal, this struck me the most as he goes through "25 things" you should know about the deal:
19. Initially, the shortfall to Healthy Families, the state's version of SCHIP, was believed to be $90 million. But this budget would increase that to $144 million, with more lost from federal match, and at that rate, it's unclear if First Five will be able to step in and provide all the funding to cover the gap.

20. In particular, the health and human services cuts really make this a different state, one that's less forgiving, dirtier, shabbier, and simply a harder place to live. Not for the largest corporations in America, of course, whose massive corporate tax cuts from prior budget deals remain.

21. The faces of budget failure:

Miriam Ibarra, 31, of Victorville, sighed when she heard about the budget cuts affecting the Healthy Families program, the low-cost medical insurance program for the working poor. About half the children enrolled in the program appear likely to lose their healthcare.

"It would really affect me because I don't have any other kind of insurance," she said. "Honestly, I don't even know what I would do" without it.

Ibarra's husband is a truck driver who doesn't get health benefits because he is self-employed. Ibarra, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband go without health insurance. But the Healthy Families program covers the couple's two children, ages 14 and 10, for a premium of about $10 a month, with $5 co-pays for some visits.

22. Not much discussed in this budget is the multiplier effect of the cuts on federal matching dollars. Cuts to Healthy Families like the one described above are actually three times as much as they look on paper, because the federal government adds $2 to every $1 the state spends. The White House is very upset about cuts like this that significantly reduce coverage for children, and others that blunt the effect of federal stimulus dollars.

And that's the real killer here. Real people are going to suffer because of this deal, and the real problem is as long as that 2/3 majority rule stands before anyone can change anything, it's going to keep on being terrible.

The best part is that like Atrios says, Cali Republicans are going to trash the deal anyway.

The Old College Try

As I mentioned last week when the President's NAACP speech focused so much on the President's education agenda, it would be nice to see Congress act on it and start filling in the legislative details of the proposal. As Steve Benen notes, we're starting to see some of that this week now with Congress taking a look at eliminating the federal student loan cash cow for the banking industry.
It should be a no-brainer. The student-loan industry is getting government subsidies to provide a service the government can perform for less. The Obama administration has asked Congress to remove the middleman, streamline the process, save taxpayers a lot money, and help more young people get college degrees.

Yesterday, we started seeing some meaningful progress on the issue.

A bill that cleared a House committee Tuesday would largely remove private lenders from the federal student loan industry, generating an estimated $87 billion savings over 10 years to fund more government grants and loans.

The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 would eliminate an entire category of student loans issued by private lenders and subsidized by the federal government, vastly expanding direct lending by the government starting next July. Democrats would use the savings to fund a $40 billion increase in federal Pell Grant scholarships over 10 years, $10 billion in community college upgrades and $8 billion in pre-kindergarten changes, among other uses.

Republicans opposed to the legislation say it amounts to a federal takeover of student lending.

Look, the government already controls the entire lending process -- it helps students directly and it subsidizes private companies to direct funds to students. All Obama and his allies want to do is make the process more efficient and cost-effective. And all Republican critics of the idea want to do is keep the middleman in place to maintain the ideological facade of a "private" system.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said yesterday, "We can either keep sending these subsidies to banks and a broken system, or we can start sending them directly to students and their families."

Note the eerie similarities between the current federal student system of subsidies to private lenders and then private lenders offering services at a profit, and the proposed GOP health care plans, where the GOP wants to offer subsidies (in this case tax credits) to consumers, and then they turn around and give that money to the insurance companies. It's enriching the private sector by putting in a middleman to the process. The GOP doesn't mind middlemen and layers of additional bureaucracy as long as it's made up of private sector industries getting their cut. If we take the private sector middlemen out of the equation, the GOP gets all testy and screams GOVERMENT TAKEOVER.

Student loans aren't a jobs program for banks, guys...especially after we've fully established that the financial industry has no clue what they are doing. I'm all for this legislation. Let's recoup some of that taxpayer money we've given to the banks.

Dear America:

"You think Congress can fix health care? Hah! Why, the unmitigated gall of this small group of elitists! After all, only insurance and Big Pharma CEOs are qualified enough to know about the economics of health care, so we should listen to that small group of elitists instead!"

--John Stossel, Real Clear Politics

Bonus Gallup Poll: 16% of Americans don't have health insurance still. I'm sure the optimal solution is tax cuts.

Another Warning For Eric Holder And Obama

As I said ten days ago, if you want to know why suddenly "Obamacare is in dire straits" according to all the pundits, you have to go no further than Newsweek's warning to President Obama to reign in Eric Holder or pay the price:
While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months.
Less than a day after that article ran and the Village got wind that Holder might be going all "independent investigation" on them, the Wise Men of Washington revolted, saying that suddenly there was no way that Obamacare was going to be done before the August recess.
President Barack Obama's overhaul of the nation's health systems is unlikely to be completed by the White House's August deadline, lawmakers said Sunday as Congress turns its attention to other priorities.

Democrats and Republicans alike said the administration's sweeping health care proposals are moving forward on Capitol Hill but cautioned against rushing into a spending plan that could costs trillions of dollars over the next decade. Obama's health and human services secretary said she remains optimistic Congress would send the White House legislation before the year ends.

In fact just a few days earlier, we had the Congress chomping at the bit to quash Rahm Emanuel's notion that the public option was a negotiable point. Both henry Waxman and Chuck Schumer were crusading not only for a real health care reform plan, but one that included a public option. The plan was cruising along at a powerful clip.

Then the Newsweek article hit. The next day, Congress was suddenly "turning to other priorities".

Today, after the Sensible Centrists made good on their threat to try to derail Obamacare, the Village is delivering another warning on Eric Holder from the NY Times and David Johnston:

Mr. Holder has told associates he is weighing a narrow investigation, focusing only on C.I.A. interrogators and contract employees who clearly crossed the line and violated the Bush administration’s guidelines and engaged in flagrantly abusive acts.

But in taking that route, Mr. Holder would run two risks. One is the political fallout if only a handful of low-level agents are prosecuted for what many critics see as a pattern of excess condoned at the top of the government. The other is that an aggressive prosecutor would not stop at the bottom, but would work up the chain of command, and end up with a full-blown criminal inquiry into the intelligence agencies — just the kind of broad, open-ended criminal investigation the Obama administration says it wants to avoid.

In a sense, Mr. Holder put himself in this awkward position. Earlier this year he successfully argued, in the face of C.I.A. protests, for the release of legal memorandums produced by the Justice Department during the Bush administration. The memorandums showed that the administration had authorized the use of interrogation tactics like head-slapping, wall-slamming and waterboarding. The documents also put accusations of torture back in the public eye.
Once again the warning is that Obama has to put a leash on Holder or that Congress will make good on the threat to kill Obamacare. The pushback on the Obamacare plan ramped up considerably on Sunday, July 13th, just after the Newsweek article ran. Obamacare went from looking like progressing towards a deal to nearly dead in the space of about 48 hours, and the major event that happened during that time frame was the Newsweek article on the Holder investigations into torture. The White House said nothing about the Newsweek article, and Congress took Obama's silence to mean he had no objections to Holder's investigations proceeding. It was then that Obamacare's chances took a nosedive.

It makes sense then that the source of the friction is the investigations into torture. With Obama now having to commit all his political capital to the battle, the Village is again giving him a shot across the bow.

How will the President respond?

The GOP Plan's Waterloo Moment

As I said Saturday, Jim DeMint blew it big time when he admitted the GOP Plan was to "break" President Obama.
"If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said yesterday during a conference call with conservative activists. "It will break him."
That turned into a golden opportunity on Monday for the President to go on the counterattack:
“Think about that. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking American families, breaking America’s businesses and breaking America’s economy. We can’t afford the politics of delay and defeat."
That the GOP Plan just got broadcast this weekend to all of America is a serious problem for the Republicans, and yesterday the GOP leadership went into full damage control mode.
The conservative video site PJTV will be hosting an online health care forum just before President Obama's press conference tomorrow with Republican leaders, as conservatives work to demonstrate that they have their own health care solutions.

The forum, with Rep. Eric Cantor and other GOP legislators, is a sign of the growing effort on the right to build an online infrastructure to counter a powerful liberal web presence. But it's also an effort, Cantor said in a brief interview today, to push back on the White House's effort to cast Republicans as reflexive partisans who want only to derail the president.

I'd like to remind Ben Smith politely that it's not the White House making out the GOP as being "reflexive partisans", it's Jim DeMint admitting the GOP is trying to break Obama.
Asked about Jim DeMint's remark that health care could be Obama's "Waterloo," Cantor said:

"I don’t think that’s a good way to look at it. We are certainly at a crossroads for health care reform, but the reason that we are is that there’s a real sense of hesitancy by the American people to buy into what’s been proferred by the White House and Speaker Pelosi."

Yes, because the plan is to break Speaker Pelosi too. Sorry guys, the cat is out of the bag. The GOP Plan has nothing to do with solving America's health care problems or economic issues or dealing with Afghanistan or Russia or China or the rest of the world, the GOP Plan is to break Obama. That's all that matters to you guys. Case in point, Jim DeMint this morning:
In an appearance on NBC's "Today" show Wednesday, DeMint said it was time to "put the brakes on" Mr. Obama's plans, which he said would result in too much government sending and soaring deficits.

"It's not personal. We've got to stop his politics," he said.

DeMint acknowledged the need for reform but said it would be a mistake to rush legislation through Congress by the President's August deadline.
It's still all about stopping the President, not helping the American people.

After all, as DeMint said, breaking Obama is "nothing personal". Just business. And the business of the GOP is fueling as much Obama Derangement Syndrome as they can. It's somebody's Waterloo moment, alright. Just not Obama's.

Not A Done Deal Yet

While California lawmakers are scheduled to vote on approving the state's budget deal as early as tomorrow, everybody else in the state is lining up to tell the State Assembly exactly what they think about the Governator's budget.
Less than 24 hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders announced a plan to close California's massive budget deficit, Los Angeles County officials moved to sue the state, a union for government workers said it might strike, and Republicans threatened to back out of the deal over a provision to cut the number of prison inmates by 27,000.

The governor largely stayed out of sight, except for posting a brief video on Twitter in which he played with a big knife and talked about autographing state property to be sold at auction to raise extra money. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, began to brief their members, and staff started compiling a formal proposal in anticipation of a vote that could occur Thursday.

But as those preparations went ahead, the leader of the Republicans in the state Assembly reacted angrily to news posted on The Times' website about the deal's effect on prisons. Under the plan, some inmates would be allowed to finish their sentences on home detention, new incentives would be created for completion of rehabilitation programs, and parole supervision would be scaled back for the least serious offenders. The prisons now hold 168,000 inmates.

Soon after that news broke, Assembly GOP leader Sam Blakeslee sent members an e-mail with the heading, "Budget Double-Cross?" Blakeslee suggested that he had not known about the plans and said Republicans would not vote for it.

The budget deal needs a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature, meaning that it cannot pass without some Republican support. And with the left and the right of the political spectrum unhappy over different items -- and many legislators still in the dark about what, exactly, they will be asked to vote on -- the prospects remained uncertain.
So, exactly what happens if the Republicans jump ship on the prison release program and the Dems jump ship on, well, everything else? That two-thirds majority vote is looking less that assured right now. Local governments like LA County aren't going to sit around and do nothing while they get stripped, either.
Some of the most heated reaction came from city and county government officials. The plan would seize $4.7 billion in local funds through a variety of measures, essentially shifting part of the state's deficit to the local governments. The prospect of losing $313 million in redevelopment funds and $109 million in gasoline taxes prompted the lawsuit threat from Los Angeles County supervisors, a move other local governments are expected to echo.

And state worker unions were angry about the deal's plan to continue three unpaid furlough days a month, which amounts to about a 14% pay cut. The largest of the unions, Service Employees International Union Local 1000, has mailed out strike authorization ballots to its 95,000 members.

"Making state employees pay what amounts to a 15% furlough tax is just plain wrong," said union President Yvonne Walker. "We'll fight in the courts, in the Legislature and in the workplace to have it cut back."

But it was the effect that the deal would have on prisons that seemed to offer the most potential for trouble.

Neither the governor's office nor the Legislature had publicly released details of the prison portion of the agreement. When they were revealed, Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) insisted that he had not agreed to them.

He had agreed to a deal including prison cuts, Blakeslee wrote in a seemingly hurried e-mail to the GOP caucus, but his understanding was that the details were supposed to be ironed out in August.

"I have called and personally told both Karen and Darrell that their will be no republican votes for any portion of the budget if they allow such a bill to be part of the package," Blakeslee wrote, referring to Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).
Even if the budget is approved, lawsuits may tie this thing up for months or longer, and then who knows how much damage will result? It's a complete disaster. All sides are guilty, including the people of California who voted to make sure taxes could never be raised, requiring a two-thirds majority vote to do so.

You're seeing the consequences of that now. Nobody wants to pay taxes, but everybody demands excellent schools and services, or in the case of the TAXEN CUTTEN UBER ALLES they talk everyone into turning those services over to private sector firms who just pocket the money and kick it back to the government types who set up the deals. It's just graft and patronage all the way around.

As I said yesterday, only forced pain will get people serious about reforming government as a way to help people.

[UPDATE 9:45 AM] David Dayen at Calitics (still your best source on California progressive political analysis) calls shenanigans on the "27,000 prisoners released" part of the deal as a way for the Republicans to dump all the blame on the Dems.
OK, so the Governor's Corrections Secy is briefing reporters. And will you look at that, the Times' story was wrong, as was Asm. Blakeslee! The report of 27,000 released is misleading, says the Secretary, but the Administration is interested in some reforms, including a sentencing commission. Wow, that's great, at least in theory. They are offering early release credits that would maybe release 1,700 total. This looks more and more like a coordinated hissy fit laundered through a compliant media.
Deals within deals, wheels within wheels. The game is still whoever gets out of this mess with the most righteous indignation and the least blame wins.

And the people of California lose.

Kenneth The Governor Has A Health Care Plan

When a GOP lightweight wants to look all policy wonky, they call up Roger Murdoch's boys and get a Serious Op-Ed Piece in the Wall Street Journal. Today's contestant is Bobby "Kenneth the Governor" Jindal, trying to climb back into the 2012 ring by fronting the GOP health care plan.
First, Mr. Obama doggedly promises that if you like your (private) health-care coverage now, you can keep it. That promise is hollow, because the Democrats’ reforms are designed to push an ever-increasing number of Americans into a government-run health-care plan.

If a so-called public option is part of health-care reform, the Lewin Group study estimates over 100 million Americans may leave private plans for government-run health care. Any government plan will benefit from taxpayer subsidies and be able to operate at a financial loss—competing unfairly in the marketplace until private plans are driven out of business. The government plan will become so large that it will set, rather than negotiate, prices. This will inevitably lead to monopoly, with a resulting threat to the quality of our health care.

Second, the Democrats disingenuously argue their reforms will not diminish the quality of our health care even as government involvement in the delivery of that health care increases massively. For all of us who have seen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to hurricanes, this contention is laughable on its face. When government bureaucracies drive the delivery of services—in this case inserting themselves between health-care providers and their patients—quality degradation will surely come. House Democrats seem willing to accept that problem to achieve their philosophical aim—the long-term removal of for-profit entities from the health-care landscape.

Third, Mr. Obama’s rhetoric paints a picture of a massive new benefit that will actually cost average Americans less than what they pay today. The Democrats want middle-class taxpayers to believe they won’t feel the pinch of this initiative, even as their employers are assessed massive new taxes. They might as well try to argue that up is down. The analysis of the Democrats’ proposal by the Congressional Budget Office shows that it will not reduce government spending on health care, and that it will substantially increase the federal deficit—and this despite all the tax increases.

Which is funny because on Lie the First there, both the House Dem plans will hold the public option to the same financial standards of the private plans rather than having them "operating at a loss", meaning that the private and public plans can compete. Also, poor Bobby there is worried about a possible monopoly driving up costs and lowering quality when we have an oligopoly now, and from a technical standpoint, the tens of millions of employer-based health care plans ARE functional monopolies now: you either take the company plan from one health care provider, or you can self-insure for 2x or 3x or more the cost. For many Americans, there is no real choice.

On number 2, I see Bobby still hasn't learned the lesson of the difference between "There are things the government can and should provide" and "Let's underfund these services, they waste money." You get no cred talking about FEMA as a Republican, because your state didn't exactly pick up the slack there after Katrina, Bob.

Third, from what I'm seeing, the taxes are not on the employers themselves but those who can certainly afford it (thanks to Bush's tax cuts) and the CBO estimates admittedly take into account some costs, but not all the details of the plan have been worked out yet. Even the President has admitted those details need additional work to lower costs.

Jindal goes on to describe the GOP plan's talking points, which still amount to "Let's generate 50 million new customers for the insurance companies to profit off of." After all, tax credits and "use it by the end of the year or lose it" medical savings accounts will help those who don't earn enough to even have to pay income taxes in the first place, right? And "high-risk pools" won't be prohibitively expensive for those with pre-existing conditions with the pool being full of people with pre-existing conditions and "catastrophic insurance" won't bankrupt anyone should they have a $20,000 hospital stay deductible.

The GOP plans are a subsidy to the insurance companies, plain and simple. You'll be offered coverage. You just won't be able to afford it, or you'll be able to afford it (and be forced to buy it) but you can't afford to get sick. Hey, even worse, you won't be able to afford the insurance and will still have to buy it, thanks to neato tax credits. Republicans give you a tax credit, you turn around and give all that tax credit to your insurance company every year. Great plan, huh?

For the insurance companies, who will have even less motivation to compete, sure. For you...well remember the point of government in a Republican-run world: to enrich the private sector.

Mercy Me, It's Murtha

We haven't had any Blagogate-sized problems with the Democrats in a few months, mostly it's been various GOP governors doing idiotic things along with the C-Street Gang here since April...but that just might be about to change.
Is the noose tightening around John Murtha?

For months now, the Pennsylvania Democratic power-broker's name has been popping up in connection to a wide-ranging FBI investigation of defense contractors and lobbyists to whom he has ties. And yesterday brought more bad news...

Mark O'Hair, a former Air Force employee pleaded guilty (sub. req.) Monday in connection to getting a kickback from a defense contract that Murtha, who chairs the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, had provided.

Roll Call reports:

According to the plea agreement, filed in a federal court in Florida, in May 2005, "Congress passed a tsunami relief act which included within the provisions of the act an $8.2 million earmark for the development of the 'Mobile Common Data Link Gateway.' Coherent Systems International, Inc. (CSI) had lobbied for this earmark appropriation."

Roll Call reported in June that Coherent was represented by KSA Consulting, the lobbying firm that employed Murtha's brother, Kit, and that the Congressman had provided this earmark to Coherent by eliminating the same sum from a project that had been designated for a previous client of his brother's firm.

The O'Hair case appears to begin tying together the other strands of the FBI probe that has put Murtha -- who frequently appears on good-government groups' lists of the most corrupt lawmakers -- in the spotlight. In addition to the Coherent payment, O'Hair also approved a payment of $650,000 -- for products that were not part of the contact -- to Kuchera Industries, another defense contractor with close ties to Murtha. (Its founder, Bill Kuchera, has said, that the company would not exist were it not for Murtha.) Kuchera's headquarters were raided by the FBI earlier this year, and in May, the Navy suspended Kuchera after tips from company insiders suggested that taxpayers may have been billed improperly for Kuchera family expenses.

And O'Hair also approved a payment to another company that was represented by the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm founded by Murtha's former chief of staff. PMA was raided by the FBI last fall, and is being investigated for allegedly tying campaign contributions to earmarks doled out by Murtha and by another member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Pete Visclosky. Just in the last two years, Murtha has steered earmarks totaling around $93 million to PMA clients, and since 2002 he has taken in around $1.75 million from PMA and its clients.

Ominously, O'Hair has said he will cooperate with the Feds. Coherent's CEO, Richard Ianieri, who earlier this month pleaded guilty to soliciting kickbacks, has also indicated he'll cooperate.

If the Democrats have a Ted Stevens, the closest guy is Jack Murtha. He managed to keep his House job in 2008, but 2010 is looking more iffy, and there have been a lot of questions surrounding Jack Murtha for some time now. The obvious question now is who are Ianieri and O'Hair flipping on? If it's Murtha, and it breaks soon, another piece of the GOP's "2010 is 1994" playbook may just fall into place.

One of the big contributing factors to the success of the GOP's push in 1994 was the "Culture of Corruption" attacks on House Dems that ran into legal trouble in the early 90's. The House banking scandal, and the Congressional Post Office scandal that led to Dan Rostenkowski's conviction helped convince voters that 50+ years of having the Dems run Congress had made them crooked as hell, and the GOP managed to talk voters into cleaning up.

Murtha, should he run into legal issues himself, won't do it by himself. The GOP showed it could get just as corrupt in just 16 years. But it's certainly not going to help the Dems.

Still, we'll see. There have been grumbling and rumors surrounding Murtha for a long time now.


Related Posts with Thumbnails