Sunday, April 3, 2011

Last Call

If you want to know what the future of one-party Republican rule of America will look like in 2012 and beyond, you have to look no further than Florida in 2011.

In the next 30 days, Florida lawmakers are poised to make it easier for insurance companies to raise rates, make it more difficult for women to receive an abortion and hand over control of prisons to private companies.

These are just a few of the proposals the Republican-led Legislature is pushing in the final weeks of their 60-day session. Others include dramatically changing the way the state handles Medicaid, state pensions, courts, growth and the environment.

The proposals are detailed, sweeping, and encompass many conservative issues that legislators have resisted enacting in the past. And they are moving forward for one reason: They have the votes. With a veto-proof majority, a hard-right conservative governor, and a determination to seize the moment in a non-election year, legislative leaders have packed the agenda — and Democrats are powerless to stop them

Powerless.  Florida Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the state legislature.  They were given it by Florida voters who said "Boy, Democrats suck.  They didn't fix the economy in Florida at all.  I'm going to sit this one out."

So Gov. Rick Scott and his buddies have free reign to do whatever they want now.  And it gets worse, much worse.

“You’ve got a very conservative governor, president, and speaker, so they’ve gone down some roads that people have kind of been afraid to go down before,’’ said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.

The governor has already signed major legislation to change the way teachers are paid and to reduce compensation for the unemployed, and the Legislature has overridden seven vetoes of former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Next up are dozens of bills that remove government oversight, dismantle regulations, and shift state jobs to the private sector. Also on the docket are plans to ask voters to amend the state constitution to remove the ban on providing tax dollars to religious organizations, to make it easier for the Legislature to overturn rules imposed by the state Supreme Court, to ban public funding of abortions and to prohibit any laws requiring a person to buy health insurance.

Unstoppable, wingnut theocracy.   Corporate rule run amok.  Republicans looting the state and making it possible for them to loot the state for the foreseeable future.

Florida's reality now is what America will face very soon unless the Republicans are reined in.  Democrats in Florida sat out 2010.  Now they will pay for decades.  National Republicans want to go even further than where Florida is now to the right.  If given the kind of unchecked power they have in Florida, the country will be unrecognizable in a matter of months.

And all that had to happen was enough people saying "My vote doesn't matter.  Both sides are the the same.  Why should I bother?"

The lesson of Florida, 2011.  Even if you choose not to vote, you still have made a choice.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

The Wall Street Journal is the best source of unintentional comedy on Earth.  Today's laugh riot is provided by Matt Ridley, who wants to find a "market-related" solution to obesity and health care costs.  Nowhere in the article does it occur to Ridley that the wide availability of cheap, unhealthy mass-produced fast food and the multi-billion dollar agriculture giants that power it might have something to do with it.  That's not the funny part.

The last two paragraphs may be the most amazingly hysterical thing I've ever read.

In due course, the obesity problem will be solved, I suspect. The ultra-rich have already solved it. Most of them are very thin these days, quite unlike in ancient times. That's because they can afford the solutions that work for them, from low-carb diets to personal trainers. 

If economic growth continues to spread, as it has over the past two centuries, most people will be ultra-rich by today's standards within two generations, and slim figures will also spread. Still, it would be nice to find a way for people to lose weight without having to wait for them to get rich first.

If economic growth continues to spread the way it has in the last two generations, the ultra-rich are going to need those personal trainers to stay in shape in order to escape the blood mobs coming for them.

That, and for clueless hacks like Ridley here.

Bombing, Charlie Sheen Style

DETROIT – Charlie Sheen and his "goddesses" took the stage to thunderous applause Saturday night for the first leg of his "Torpedo of Truth" tour. The 70-minute show hadn't even ended when the first reviews were in, and they were brutal.

The former "Two and a Half Men" star showed that comedic success on the screen doesn't necessarily translate to the stage, and the capacity crowd at Detroit's 5,100-seat Fox Theatre rebelled before the show ended, chanting "refund!" and walking out in droves.

He's the train wreck that just keeps on giving.  Clearly, something pretty major is going on.  A lifetime of addiction can make a person snap, but it just seems like a trigger went off and he's been hell bent on destroying his career since.  The good news is, rock bottom surely isn't too far away.

Baby Steps Aren't Enough

The saga of the prematurity-prevention drug Makena and the outrage over its pricing continues: on Friday, the maker of the drug, a subsidiary of KV Pharmaceutical, announced it would reduce its price 55%, from $1,500 to $690 per dose.
There is just one problem.  That is not enough.

This is a drug that was recently only ten dollars per dose. There is no explanation for this decision.  No sound need or reasoning has been given.  Don't want Obamacare?  Groovy, baby.  Protect the consumer and make sure drug companies don't do this.  And while you're at it, make sure health insurance companies can't do thisOr this.  Or even though it's old news, this.

Aldi Darned

The New York Times ran an article showing that Wal-Mart and Target may have a surprising competitor: Aldi.

Aldi first came to the United States in 1976, but it opened a relatively small number of stores a year — 25 or so on average. Within the last few years, it has accelerated its expansion by adding more than 250 stores, with plans for 80 more both in 2011 and 2012, said Jason Hart, co-president of Aldi’s United States division, in a recent interview.

The company capitalizes on the bargain hunter, who is not embarrassed to choose frugality over name brands. Aldi’s mainly sells its own private-label items at cheap prices — a five-ounce bacon-wrapped beef filet costs $1.79 at the Queens store.
“It’s the one format that seems to have increased the most, and has sustained a number of new stores,” during and after the recession, said Jonathan P. Feeney, a grocery analyst with Janney Capital Markets. As “prices are going to go up, it’s going to be a growing opportunity.”

Wal-Mart and Target are behind in the small market scene, and belatedly they have realized they overlooked a real opportunity.  In exchange for value customers don't have as much choice, but for bargain hunters it is a good way to extend their grocery budget.  I can say from experience some of their products are  actually better than what I purchase at a Kroger or Wal-Mart.  It also teaches a lesson to consumers and sets more realistic expectations.  Sometimes you have to shop around for savings.  Sometimes you don't always get what you want, and stores aren't obligated to beg you to come in.  The savings for advertising and other expenses have allowed an underdog to be competitive against the likes of Wal-Mart.  Or in shopper lingo, that's like a BOGO neener-neener.

In The Worst Of Times, The Best In Us Shows Through

This is what bravery looks like.  Doomed to die, some brave workers are spending their last days alive trying to save the people who have a chance.

"My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation," she said. Fox News said she was tearful as she spoke.

"He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term," she added.

Dubbed the Fukushima 50 (actually around 300 people who work in shifts of 50), the workers know they have surely been exposed to lethal levels of radiation.  It's likely most if not all will die within weeks.  Yet these people are staying and doing their best to protect their families.

Earlier this week, a Japanese minister conceded there was no end in sight to the crisis, although some of the world's largest cement pumps are being sent to Japan, initially to pump water but then to possibly entomb the site as was done in Chernobyl.

The Main Event

Because Democrats have basically folded on the 2011 budget, and are going to ultimately fold on the debt ceiling fight, the real issue is going to be the future.  And Republicans are betting they can force Democrats to go along with massive, draconian cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to make permanent the Bush tax cuts.

The main event is the 2012 budget battle.  And Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are opening with every gun they have and daring the Democrats to do anything about it other than to cower and capitulate.

While Mr. Ryan and top Republican aides would not discuss specifics, there are strong indications that the proposal will draw on deficit reduction plans that Mr. Ryan laid out in his 2010 “roadmap plan” and a second proposal he wrote with Alice M. Rivlin, a director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration.

In that plan, Ms. Rivlin and Mr. Ryan proposed that Medicaid financing be converted into a block grant program, with states given a set allotment of money and new discretion to shape health coverage programs for the poor. Their Medicare proposal would allow those nearing eligibility to remain with the current system, and it would create a program that would provide payments to Medicare enrollees to buy private health insurance.

Top Republicans have been divided on how much to tinker with Social Security, given strong Democratic opposition, its less significant contribution to the budget deficit and the political explosiveness of making any changes to the program. Officials say the budget will probably provide guidance on how to shape Social Security based on recommendations from last year’s presidential deficit-reduction committee.

Republican leaders have not previously embraced Mr. Ryan’s proposals on Medicare and Social Security, but Mr. Boehner said he had tired of watching Congress avoid difficult decisions on entitlement programs.

“You can’t continue to whistle past the graveyard,” he said. “We are imprisoning the future for our kids and our grandkids if we do not act, and it’s time to act.”

Democrats said they intended to draw sharp distinctions between their approach and that of Republicans. 

Sure they will.  Let's review the Ryan-Rivlin plan, shall we?

The plan, to be released Tuesday, calls for a controversial overhaul of Medicare, the health care program for seniors, and imposes deep cuts in Medicaid, which provides health benefits to low-income Americans, according to House Republican sources with knowledge of the proposal.

Starting 10 years from now, in 2021, Americans would no longer enroll in the Medicare program, but instead receive vouchers for private insurance, according to the GOP sources, who stressed anyone 55 or older now would not be affected by the change.

The plan is modeled after one Ryan proposed last year with Alice Rivlin, budget director under President Bill Clinton.

Details of how Ryan's Medicare voucher program would work are still unclear, but the Ryan-Rivlin plan said the amount of the voucher -- a lump sum payment from the government -- would be calculated in part by taking the average federal cost per Medicare enrollee.

The GOP aims to save billions of dollars in revamping Medicare, a large contributor to the massive federal deficit and debt.

Sources said they did not yet know how much savings Ryan would project by drastically changing the Medicare program.

On Medicaid, Ryan's plan calls for deep cuts, as much as $1 trillion. The program would also fundamentally change -- the federal share of the Medicaid system would become block grants to the states.

Privatize Medicare, make massive cuts to Medicaid, make the Bush cuts permanent.  Take money from America's poor, and from anyone 45 and under right now.  Give it to America's top 1%.  I can't wait to see the devil in these details, because I bet it's going to make a lot of assumptions when it comes to deficit reduction.

The question is simply how many Democrats will go along with the plan, and will they force the President to join them.  And when the horrible truth dawns on America, Obama will be blamed.

The GOP is going for the whole shooting match.  I doubt enough Dems will stand fast against them.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 67

I've got your Sunday morning movie right here, folks.

You can now watch the Oscar-winning documentary on the financial crisis, Charles Ferguson's brilliant Inside Job, at Open Culture, for free.  It's worth picking up the DVD version at Amazon absolutely, but if you haven't yet seen this film, set aside two hours and do so today as a public service to yourself as an informed consumer.  It will explain the financial crisis to you in stunning clarity and rich detail, and features very candid interviews with some of the major players:  Obama economic advisor Paul Volcker, Rep. Barney Frank, IMF chief Dominique Straus-Kahn, billionaire George Soros, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, New York state AG and Gov. Elliot Spitzer, economist Nouriel Roubini as well as people from all over the financial industry.

These are the folks I've been quoting and following in this blog for close to three years now, guys.  The film, narrated by Matt Damon, is must-watch stuff for anyone who is even remotely interested in how the bottom fell out of our economy:  the bottom was cut out on purpose.

It was, after all, an inside job.

Go watch.
Related Posts with Thumbnails