10 Brutal Ways the American Safety Net Is Being Shredded

http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-brutal-ways-american-safety-net-being-shredded?akid=13331.123424.rqA_Q7&rd=1&src=newsletter1039872&t=1

Source: alterNet

Author: Alex Henderson

Emphasis Mine

On the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act of 1935, which established the social security system in the United States, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal is on life support as the American middle class continues to be squeezed and millions of Americans struggle with poverty.

1. Income Inequality Is Going from Bad to Worse

FDR firmly believed that capitalism cannot function well without a strong middle class, and even auto magnate Henry Ford agreed with him: Ford famously said that American workers needed to be paid a decent wage in order to be able to afford his products. And during the post-FDR America of the 1950s and 1960s, having a robust middle class was great for a variety of businesses. But in 2015—with the gains of the New Deal having been imperiled by everything from union busting to the outsourcing of millions of American jobs—income inequality in the U.S. is a huge problem. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released a report on income inequality among OECD members and found that the U.S. was among the worst offenders. The U.S., Mexico and Turkey had some of highest income inequality of OECD countries, while Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland and Belgium fared much better. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría commented that “high inequality is bad for growth,” and he’s absolutely right.

2. Republicans Yearn for Social Security Privatization

Although President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Republican, he supported elements of the New Deal and saw the need for a strong social safety net: in fact, Eisenhower expanded social security, and in 1954, he bluntly asserted that any oligarchs who would “attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor law and farm programs” were “stupid.” But in the 21st century, Republicans have been going after social security with a vengeance. The privatization of social security was proposed by President George W. Bush in 2004, and far-right Republicans, the Tea Party and wingnut lobbying groups like the Club for Growth have been doubling down on the idea of privatizing social security. GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush called for social security privatization at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in June, and he also favors raising the social security retirement age to 69 or 70, which would be especially bad for blue-collar workers who have spent decades in physically demanding jobs.

3. The 1% Continue to Dodge Taxes

FDR had no problem asking the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes: the U.S.’ top marginal tax rate rose to 94% in the early 1940s, when the country entered World War II. Taxes for the ultra-rich didn’t go down much under Republican Eisenhower, who lowered the top tax rate to 91% in the 1950s—and after that rate decreased to 28% under President Reagan, it rose to 39.6% under President Clinton and decreased to 35% under President George W. Bush. Looking at the last 80 years of tax history, one sees a clear pattern: the American middle class does much better when the 1% pay their fair share of taxes. And even though the Tea Party tries to paint Barack Obama as a soak-the-rich president, their assertion is laughable because Obama extended the Bush tax cuts and hasn’t been nearly as forceful as FDR or Eisenhower when it comes to taxing the 1%.

4. The Minimum Wage Is Much Too Low

One of the important elements of the New Deal was FDR’s strong belief in a national minimum wage. FDR began to push for a federal minimum wage after taking office in January 1933, saying, “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of a decent living.” And Congress enacted one in 1938, when the U.S.’ first federal minimum wage was set at 25 cents per hour. But in recent years, the federal minimum wage (which was raised to $7.25 an hour in 2009) has not kept up with inflation. Economist Robert Reich has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which he sees as a crucial part of economic recovery. And in some cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle, city councils have raised their local minimum wages to that amount. But at the federal level, an increase to even $10.10 an hour (President Obama’s proposal) is a steep uphill climb when both houses of Congress are dominated by far-right Republicans who hate the poor with a passion.

The U.S. desperately needed a New Deal 3.0 after the crash of September 2008 and a program of aggressive reforms. Instead, most of the welfare that followed the Panic of 2008 has been corporate welfare rather than programs to help America’s embattled poor and middle class. Overall, the U.S. has been moving away from the New Deal when it should be reinvigorating it. Below are 10 ways in which the New Deal (and by extension, LBJ’s Great Society) continues to be under attack in the United States.

5. Infrastructure Continues to Deteriorate

The New Deal was great for the U.S.’ infrastructure thanks to programs that built or strengthened everything from roads to water and electric systems to municipal power plants. But in recent years, the American infrastructure has been seriously decaying—and a major wake-up call came on May 12, when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia and eight passengers were killed. But the nation’s railways are only one of the ways in which the U.S.’ infrastructure has deteriorated. According to Ray LaHood (former secretary of transportation for the Obama Administration), 70,000 bridges in the U.S. are now structurally deficient. That is in addition to all the roads that are in desperate need of repair. And when it comes to high-speed rail travel, the U.S. lags way behind Europe (where one can get from London to Brussels in just under two hours or from Madrid to Barcelona in less than three hours).

6. Union Representation Has Reached Historic Lows 

One of the most important pieces of New Deal-era legislation was the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, a.k.a. the Wagner Act, which did a lot to advance labor unions in the U.S.: by the mid-1950s, around 35% of America’s labor force was unionized. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a mere 11.1% of salaried U.S. workers (factoring in both the public and private sectors) were union members in 2014. Among private-sector workers, the number was a paltry 6.6%. And the decline of unions has been encouraged bad working conditions: according to the Economic Policy Institute, executives at large companies earned, on average, 296 times as much as their average workers in 2013 compared to only 20 times as much in 1965. But as much as labor unions have declined in the U.S., Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (a GOP presidential hopeful for 2016) and his fellow Republicans would like to see them decline even more. Walker recently set a disturbing precedent in that state when he supported anti-union legislation that prohibits private-sector unions from requiring members to pay union dues; Walker has, in essence, made Wisconsin a northern “right to work” state. And it’s safe to say that Walker, based on his actions in Wisconsin, would be among the most anti-union presidents in U.S. history.

7. “Too Big to Fail” Is Bigger Than Ever

Unlike many of today’s extreme-right Republicans and neoliberal corporatist Democrats, FDR was not afraid of offending the banking sector. FDR said of the banksters of the 1930s, “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.” One of the New Deal achievements that banksters detested was the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which mandated a strict separation of commercial and investment banking and was designed to prevent another major Wall Street calamity like the crash of 1929. Glass-Steagall served the U.S. well for many years: although there were some tough recessions in the mid-1970s, early 1980s and early 1990s, none of them cut as deep as the Great Depression. But the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 was a major blow to the New Deal and paved the way for the crash of September 2008, clearly the most devastating financial event in the U.S. since 1929. Unfortunately, there was no real banking reform after the 2008 calamity, and as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders points out, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are now “80% larger” than they were in 2007. Critics of the banking sector propose bringing back Glass-Steagall, including Reich (who warns that another major Wall Street crash “is not unlikely”) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And Sanders has proposed New Deal-like legislation that would break up the U.S.’ largest banks.

8. Medicare, An Expansion of the New Deal, Is a Major GOP Target

Medicare, which established a single-payer health care system for Americans 65 and older, was not part of the New Deal per se: Medicare came into being in 1965 as part of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society (which was very much an extension of the New Deal). And the program proved to be so popular that even Republican President Richard Nixon (who was considered an arch-conservative in his day) expanded Medicare in both 1969 and 1972. But these days, far-right GOP wingnuts in the House of Representatives—especially Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—have repeatedly called for drastic Medicare cuts and for replacing traditional Medicare with a privatized voucher program. In June, a variety of pro-Medicare groups (including the Alliance for Retired Americans and the Medicare Rights Center) sent a joint letter to the House criticizing representatives who wanted to cut $700 million from the Medicare program.

9. Home Ownership Is Becoming Increasingly Difficult for Many Americans, and the Rent Is Too Damn High

Before the New Deal, five-year or 10-year mortgages were the norm in the U.S., and were unaffordable for most Americans. But FDR saw home ownership as a crucial part of building a strong middle class: between the Federal Housing Administration, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and the introduction of 30-year fixed-rate mortgages—all of which came about under FDR—home ownership in the U.S. gradually increased. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, home ownership in the U.S. went from 45% in 1920 and 47% in 1930 to 55% in 1950, 61% in 1960 and 62% in 1970. But the Crash of 2008 has been terrible for American homeowners, resulting in countless foreclosures, and banksters have been allowed to acquire and rent out many foreclosed homes. The private equity firm Blackstone Group had, as of late 2013, bought almost 40,000 homes in the U.S. in order to rent them. To make matters worse, all those post-2008 foreclosures have caused rents to skyrocket all over the country. And the more one pays in rent, the harder it is to save for a down payment on a home. To quote Jimmy McMillan, the rent is too damn high.

10. Wingnut Attacks on Food Stamps Never End

The American food stamps program started on a pilot basis under FDR’s secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, in 1939 but became permanent when LBJ signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 into law as part of his Great Society. In recent years, the U.S.’ economic decline has been so painful that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of Americans poor enough to quality for food stamps was 46.2 million in 2014 compared to only 17 million in 2000. Food stamps, as envisioned under the New Deal and the Great Society, are designed to be a stepping stone for the poor—and the benefits (which presently average $127.91 per month per person, according to USDA figures) are hardly lavish. But that has not prevented Republicans in Congress from repeatedly proposing dramatic food stamp cuts during the Great Recession. And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to punish and shame food stamp recipients by subjecting them to drug-testing.

Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-brutal-ways-american-safety-net-being-shredded?akid=13331.123424.rqA_Q7&rd=1&src=newsletter1039872&t=1

Paul Krugman Reveals the Outrageous Con Job Behind the Savage GOP Budget

“The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.”

Source: AlterNet

Author: Paul Krugman, Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

It can be tough, Paul Krugman allows in Friday’s column, to keep up the level of outrage at Republican lawmakers who do not seem to be in any way bound to the rules of honor or honesty in their budget proposal. Like, not at all.

“Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits,” Krugman opens, “but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar ‘magic asterisk’ — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

“But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spendingone on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.”

How bad is it? It is beyond horrendous. It may be tempting to ignore these budget proposals, or convince one’s self that such budgets never become law, but the fact is, as Krugman points out, the “modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.” Some of the proposals are well known: drastic cuts in food stamps, Medicaid and a disastrous end to Obamacare health insurance subsidies, both of which amount to a deliberate plan to roughly double the number of Americans without health insurance. Other cuts would have to come from Social Security and Medicare, though the Republican authors do not come right out and admit that. It almost goes without saying that the budgets call for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which includes the taxes that pay for it, or, Krugman estimates, $1 trillion in revenue, with absolutely no hint on how to make up for that. “It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior,” Krugman writes. “The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant. And the Obama administration has been remarkably scrupulous in its fiscal pronouncements.”

What’s really going on? The charitable explanation is that the Republicans honestly believe the demonstrably false horseshit that tax cuts for the rich help anybody but the rich, and somehow magically create revenue for the government. (Yeah, makes no sense.) Krugman, of course, does not buy it. And it makes him very, very angry, as it should make all of us.

I’m partial to a more cynical explanation. Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.

But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained. So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings.

Does this mean that all those politicians declaiming about the evils of budget deficits and their determination to end the scourge of debt were never sincere? Yes, it does.

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/paul-krugman-reveals-outrageous-con-job-behind-savage-gop-budget?akid=12915.123424.Qf-t4O&hrd=1&src=newsletter1033571&t=3

The Real Truth About ObamaCare

Source: RSN

Author:Robert Reich

“Despite the worst roll-out conceivable, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working. With less than two weeks remaining before the March 31 deadline for coverage this year, five million people have already signed up. After decades of rising percentages of Americans’ lacking health insurance, the uninsured rate has dropped to its lowest levels since 2008.

Meanwhile, the rise in health care costs has slowed drastically. No one knows exactly why, but the new law may well be contributing to this slowdown by reducing Medicare overpayments to medical providers and private insurers, and creating incentives for hospitals and doctors to improve quality of care.

But a lot about the Affordable Care Act needs fixing — especially the widespread misinformation that continues to surround it. For example, a majority of business owners with fewer than 50 workers still think they’re required to offer insurance or pay a penalty. In fact, the law applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees who work more than 30 hours a week. And many companies with fewer than 25 workers still don’t realize that if they offer plans they can qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits.

Many individuals remain confused and frightened. Forty-one percent of Americans who are still uninsured say they plan to remain that way. They believe it will be cheaper to pay a penalty than buy insurance. Many of these people are unaware of the subsidies available to them. Sign-ups have been particularly disappointing among Hispanics.

Some of this confusion has been deliberately sown by outside groups that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, have been free to spend large amounts of money to undermine the law. For example, Gov. Rick Scott,  Republican of Florida, told Fox News that the Affordable Care Act was “the biggest job killer ever,” citing a Florida company with 20 employees that expected to go out of business because it couldn’t afford coverage.

None of this is beyond repair, though. As more Americans sign up and see the benefits, others will take note and do the same.

The biggest problem on the horizon that may be beyond repair — because it reflects a core feature of the law — is the public’s understandable reluctance to be forced to buy insurance from private, for-profit insurers that aren’t under enough competitive pressure to keep premiums low.

But even here, remedies could evolve. States might use their state-run exchanges to funnel so many applicants to a single, low-cost insurer that the insurer becomes, in effect, a single payer. Vermont is already moving in this direction. In this way, the Affordable Care Act could become a back door to a single-payer system — every conservative’s worst nightmare.

Emphasis Mine

See:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/22724-focus-the-real-truth-about-obamacare

The Tea Party Republicans’ Biggest Mistake

Source: Robert Reich’s Blog, via RSN

Author: By Robert Reich

Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama and a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, has just changed his tune. He now says: “My primary focus is on minimizing risk of insolvency and bankruptcy. There are many paths you can take to get there. Socialized medicine is just one of the component parts of our debt and deficits that put us at financial risk.”

Translated: House Republicans are under intense pressure. A new Gallup poll shows the Republican Party now viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. That’s the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992. The Democratic Party is viewed favorably by 43%, down four percentage points from last month.

So Republicans are desperately looking for a way of getting out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves – and the President has given them one. He told them that if they agree to temporarily fund the government and raise the debt ceiling without holding as ransom the Affordable Care Act or anything else, negotiations can begin on reducing the overall budget deficit.

What’s the lesson here? The radicals who tried to hijack America didn’t understand one very basic thing. While most Americans don’t like big government, Americans revere our system of government. That’s why even though a majority disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, a majority also disapprove of Republican tactics for repealing or delaying it.

Government itself has never been popular in America except during palpable crises such as war or deep depression. The nation was founded in a revolution against an abusive government – that was what the original Tea Party was all about – and that distrust is in our genes. The Constitution reflects it. Which is why it’s hard for government to do anything very easily. (I’ve never been as frustrated as when I was secretary of labor – continuously running into the realities of separation of power, checks and balances, and the endless complications of federal, state, and local levels of authority. But frustration goes with the job.)

No one likes big government. If you’re on the left, you worry about the military-industrial-congressional complex that’s spending zillions of dollars creating new weapons of mass destruction, spying on Americans, and killing innocents abroad. And you don’t like government interfering in your sex life, telling you how and when you can have an abortion, whom you can marry. If you’re on the right, you worry about taxes and regulations stifling innovation, out-of-control bureaucrats infringing on your freedom, and government deficits as far as the eye can see.

So when Tea Party Republicans, bankrolled by a handful of billionaires, began calling the Affordable Care Act a “wholesale takeover of American health care,” many Americans were inclined to believe them. Health care is such a huge and complicated system, affecting us and our families so intimately, that our inherent distrust of government makes us instinctively wary. It’s no accident we’re still the only advanced nation not to have universal health care. FDR decided against adding it to his plan for Social Security because he didn’t want to jeopardize the rest of the program; subsequent presidents never got close, at least until Obama.

The best argument for the Affordable Care Act is that our current healthcare system is so dysfunctional – the most expensive in the world with the least healthy outcomes (highest infant mortality, shortest life spans, worst rates of chronic disease) of any advanced nation – that we had no choice but to try to fix it. Even so, it’s a typical American fix: It’s still based on private health providers and private insurers. All government does is subsidize the poor, require insurers to take in people with pre-existing health problems, and pay for it by requiring everyone to be insured.

The Tea Party Republicans’ mistake was to assume that Americans’ distrust of big government, and, by extension, the Affordable Care Act, would allow them to ride roughshod over the process we have for making laws.

Their double-barreled threat to shut down the government and cause the United States to default on its obligations if the Affordable Care Act isn’t repealed or at least delayed is a direct assault on our system of government: If even unpopular laws can be gutted by a majority in one house of Congress holding the rest of government hostage, there’s no end to it. No law on the books will be safe. (Their retort that Congress holds the “purse strings” and can therefore decide to de-fund what it dislikes is bunk; appropriation bills have to be agreed to by both houses and signed into law by the president, like any other legislation.)

While most of us distrust government, we’re indelibly proud of our system of government. We like to think it’s just about the best system in the world. We don’t much like politicians but we canonize the Founding Fathers, the Framers of the Constitution. And we revere the fading parchment on which the Constitution is written. When we pledge allegiance to the United States we bind ourselves to that system of government. Anyone who seeks to overthrow or undermine that system is deemed a traitor.

And that’s exactly what some Tea Partiers have begun sounding like – traitors to the system, radicals for whom the end they seek justifies whatever means they think necessary to achieve it. As such, they began losing support even among Americans who had bought their view of the Affordable Care Act.

So they’ve had to back down, and soon, hopefully, we can move to the next stage – negotiating over the size of government. That should be stronger ground for the Tea Partiers. But the President, Democrats, and any moderate Republican who dares show his face can still gain ground by framing the question properly: The size of government isn’t the real issue. It’s who government is for. The best way to reduce future budget deficits is to ensure it’s for all of us and not just a privileged few.

That means revenues should be raised from the wealthy, who have never been wealthier – limiting their deductions and tax credits, closing loopholes like “carried interest,” and taxing financial transactions. Spending should be cut by ending corporate welfare – terminating tax subsidies to oil and gas, ballooning payments to agribusiness, sweetheart deals for military contractors, and the “too big to fail” subsidy for Wall Street’s biggest banks. Future health-care costs should be contained by using the government’s bargaining leverage over providers (through Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act) to force a shift from fee-for-service to payments-for-healthy-outcomes. And we should spend more on high-quality education and infrastructure for everyone.

Americans distrust big government, and always will. There’s ample reason – especially given the huge sums now bankrolling politicians, coming from a relative handful of billionaires, big corporations, and Wall Street. But we love our system of government. That’s what must be strengthened.

By using tactics perceived to violate that system, the Tea Partiers have overplayed their hand. If they don’t stop their recklessness, they’ll be out of the game.


Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/19833-focus-the-tea-party-republicans-biggest-mistake

 

The morning after

From:The New Republic

By: Johathan Cohn

“The pundits are unanimous. Mitt Romney had more energy, offered more specifics, and may even have come across as more empathetic. I agree and polls suggest voters saw it the same way.

The debate may not change the dynamics of the election. But if I knew nothing about the candidates and this was my first exposure to the campaign, I’d think this Romney fellow has a detailed tax plan, wants to defend the middle class and poor, and will take care of people who can’t find health insurance.

Problem is, this isn’t my first exposure to the campaign. I happen to know a lot about the candidates. And I know that those three things aren’t true. Romney has made promises about taxes that are mathematically incompatible with one another. He’s outlined a spending plan that would devastate the middle class and (particularly) the poor. And his health care plan would leave people with pre-existing conditions pretty much in the same perilous situation they were before the Affordable Care Act became law.

My standard for candor in politics is whether candidates have offered the voters an accurate portrait of what they’ve done and what they are proposing. Tonight, Romney did precisely the opposite. And that really ought to be the story everybody is writing, although I doubt it will be.

Some details:

1. Taxes. President Obama repeatedly described Romney’s tax plan as a $5 trillion tax plan. Romney repeatedly took exception. The figure is correct. Romney has not given many details about his tax plan, but it’s possible to extrapolate from his promises and the Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute, did just that. Crunching the numbers, they determined that his proposed rate cut would cost… $5 trillion.

Romney has said he would offset those cuts by closing loopholes. The Tax Policy Centerhas analyzed that promise and found that it is mathematically impossible, unless Romney raises taxes on the middle class or lets his tax plan increase the deficit—neither of which Romney has said he’s willing to do. Romney has challenged the Tax Policy Center conclusion and did so again tonight, referring mysteriously to “six studies” that supposedly prove he’s right. He’s also been cryptic about what deductions he’d cut and, tonight, even suggested maybe he’d back away from some of the cuts if the numbers didn’t add up—although, as always, he was so vague that the statements could mean absolutely nothing.

I wish Obama had pressed him on this inconsistency even more directly than he did: “OK, governor, you say you can offset the $5 trillion cost of your tax plan. Tell us how, with real numbers. Are you getting rid of the home mortgage deduction? The exclusion for health insurance? Be straight with the American people about what you are proposing.” Obama didn’t do that, but it’s a question Romney has never been willing to answer.

2. The deficit and spending cuts. Asked by moderator Jim Lehrer how he’d cut the deficit, Romney outlined his plan for cutting spending. It included three main provisions.

First, Romney said, he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act. He’s serious about that, I presume. The problem is that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care law reduces the deficit. Repeal it and the deficit goes up. Then Romney said he’d review programs and cut all that are non-essential, singling out PBS. Well, fine. That’s pennies on the budget. It wouldn’t be nearly enough to make a meaningful dent in the deficit.

After that, Romney mentioned “turning programs over to the states.” Here there is real money, particularly if Romney includes Medicaid, which will soon eclipse Medicare as the government’s most expensive health insurance program. But Romney suggested this would work because the states are more efficient. This is what he usually says. The implication is that the states can spend a lot less on the programs without dramatically reducing services.

That’s nonsense. Medicaid already pays less than every other insurance program, private and public. Cutting more from the program would inevitably force states to reduce whom or what the program covers. A year ago, when the House Republicans proposed a similar scheme, a Kaiser Family Foundation report by Urban Institute researchers crunched the numbers and determined that the Medicaid cut would mean between 14 and 27 million people would lose health insurance.

By the way, the researchers assumed states would deal with declining Medicaid money exclusively by cutting eligibility for the able-bodied and non-elderly. In fact, most of the program’s money goes to the disabled and elderly. Most likely, they’d feel at least some of the pain.

3. Medicare: Over and over again, Romney attacked Obama because the Affordable Care Act reduces Medicare spending by $716 billion. As you probably know by now, Paul Ryan’s budget made the exact same cut. And less than a year ago, Romney was praising this budget to the hilt.

But there’s another problem here: Romney’s own budget numbers don’t add up. Remember, he’s promised to cap non-defense spending at 16 percent of GDP. And he’s said he won’t touch Social Security. If he walls off Medicare, too, that would mean even sharper cuts across the board. How sharp? The Center on Budget and Policy Prioritiesran the numbers. If Medicare is getting that $716 billion back, he’d have to cut other programs by an average of a third by 2016 and in half by 2022. Non-discretionary defense spending, which “has averaged 3.9 percent of GDP and never fallen below 3.2 percent,” would fall to 1.7 percent.

That’s simply not realistic. I have no problem believing Romney would cut domestic program deeply; his willingness to endorse the kinds of cuts he has specified, to Medicaid and food stamps, tell you everything you need to know about his priorities. But these figures are the stuff of fantasy. Either Romney can’t restore the Medicare dollars as he says or he’s not living up to his promises on deficit reduction.

The real shame of the exchange was that Romney’s own plan got so little attention. Again, I wish Obama could have pressed Romney harder, or explained more clearly, why the voucher scheme he proposes would likely end the guarantee Medicare now makes to seniors—and why current retirees, as well as future ones, would feel the impact.

4. Health care and pre-existing conditions. Yeah, this was the part when I jumped out of my chair. Obama said that Romney’s alternative to Obamacare wouldn’t protect people with pre-existing conditions. Romney said it would. Sorry, but Romney is just plain wrong here. I’ve written about this before, so I’m just going to quote something I wrote previously:

Romney, like most Republicans, has long favored “continuous” coverage protection. But, for complicated reasons … this protection is relatively weak unless it includes the sort of substantial regulation and subsidies that Romney, like most Republicans, has opposed. As a result, such protection would do very little for many of the people who need it most. Among other things, as Sarah Kliff points out … “There are tens of millions of Americans who lack continuous coverage.” (A typical example would be somebody who lost a job, couldn’t keep making premium payments, and let coverage lapse.)

For people in this situation, Romney and the Republicans have traditionally said they favor coverage through “high-risk pools.” But high-risk pools are basically substandard policies: Although they cover catastrophic expenses, they leave people exposed to huge out-of-pocket costs. They also tend to be underfunded, because they cost a lot of money but serve only a small number of people. …

So what would this mean in practice? Imagine for a second that you have cancer, diabetes, or Parkinson’s. With the coverage you’re likely to get form a high-risk pool, chances are that you’ll continue to struggle with medical bills. You’ll end up going into financial distress, just to cover your health are costs, unless you decide to start skipping treatment. And that’s obviously not a very good idea. These policies are better than nothing, for sure. But what you really need is comprehensive insurance and way to pay for it—in other words, the kind of protection that the Affordable Care Act will provide, starting in 2014, unless Romney and the Republicans repeal it.

I don’t want to pretend Obama was always as forthright as he could have been, any more than I want to suggest he was the more adept debater tonight. At one point, Obama talked about letting tax rates on higher incomes return to Clinton-era levels as essential to reducing the deficit. That’s true. But a truly serious approach to deficit reduction would let all taxes, even those on more modest incomes, return to Clinton-era levels (albeit after the economy is on sounder footing). Obama decried Romney’s plan to leave seniors “at the mercy of the private insurance system” but those are strong words from a guy whose own health care plan relies heavily on insurance plans, albeit with a lot more regulation than most conservatives like.

Still, these are tiny transgressions compared to Romney’s, which also included misleading statements about the origins of the deficit and claims of a jobs plan that is, if anything, even more unspecific than his tax plan. And I worry that nobody will call him on it.

As part of its post-debate analysis, ABC News asked correspondent Jonathan Karl to play the role of fact-checker. He picked out one statement from each side and rated it “mostly false.” But the Obama statement Karl picked was the description of Romney’s tax plan as costing $5 trillion—a figure, again, that comes straight from the Tax Policy Center. That’s not “mostly false.” If anything, it’s “mostly true.” Then Karl talked about Romney’s pre-existing condition promise, which really is “mostly false.” Sigh. ”

Update: Steve Benen and Greg Sargent noticed the same thing, so that’s a start.

follow me on twitter @CitizenCohn

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/108125/romney-debate-details-tax-medicare-pre-existing-contradictions-deceptions#

Top 5 Fibs In Paul Ryan’s Convention Speech

 

From: TPM

By: Brian Beutler

Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s headlining speech at the GOP convention in Tampa Wednesday night touched on many of the election’s defining issues. But it was also filled with prevarications — not just recitations of the conventions “you didn’t build that” theme, but on the very policy matters that have endeared him to the political establishment in Washington.

The speech effectively rallied his supporters in the audience. But on the merits it was chock full of misstatements of fact that undermine his reputation for brave, big ideas — which has hastened his rise through the ranks of the GOP.

Here are the top five examples:

Medicare

Ryan forged his reputation in large part by drafting and advancing an unpopular plan to dramatically cut and privatize Medicare. Though he didn’t mention that plan once on Wednesday, he included it in his last two budgets, both of which preserved the Affordable Care Acts cuts to Medicare — taken mostly from overpayments to private insurers and hospitals.

Instead, Ryan once again dubiously accused President Obama of being the true threat to Medicare.

“You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn’t have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama. An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for. The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.”

Obama did use those Medicare savings — in the form of targeted cuts in payments to providers, not in benefits to seniors — to pay for the health care law. Ryan’s budget calls for using them to finance tax cuts for wealthy Americans, and deficit reduction. But by now calling to restore that spending commitment to Medicare, Ryan and Romney are pledging to hasten Medicare’s insolvency by many years.

Ryan said the Obama presidency, “began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America.”

US Credit Rating

Standard & Poors downgraded the country’s sovereign debt rating in 2011 because congressional Republicans, of which Ryan is a key leader, threatened not to increase the country’s borrowing authority — risking a default on the debt — unless Democrats agreed to slash trillions of dollars from domestic social programs and investments. Ryan even briefly toyed with the idea that the country’s creditors would forgive default for “a day or two or three or four” as long as Democrats ultimately agreed to GOP demands.

Janesville GM plant

Ryan criticized Obama for — yes — not using government funds to prop up an auto plant in his district.

“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years,’” Ryan recalled. “That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”

Ignoring the inconsistency of a Republican chastising Obama for not bailing out more auto manufacturers, the plant in question closed before Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Debt Commission 

Ryan chastised Obama: “He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”

Ryan sat on that commission. He voted against it. Following his lead, so did the panel’s other House Republicans.

Protecting the poor

Near the end of his speech, Ryan claimed the campaign’s top priority is protecting the poor. “We have responsibilities, one to another — we do not each face the world alone,” he said. “And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak.”

Just under two thirds of the dramatic spending cuts in Ryan’s budget target programs that benefit low-income people. That plan also calls for large tax cuts for high-income earners.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/08/ryan-risks-reputation-with-misleading-nomination-speech.php

 

The Facts Behind Romney and Ryan’s Medicare Lies

First and foremost, the Ryan plan, in any form, would mark the end of Medicare as we know it—as a guarantee of health coverage for senior citizens

From: workingamerica blog

By: Seth D. Michaels

N.B.: A concise, lucid explanation of what they say, what they mean, and what we need.

“It took approximately five minutes after the announcement of Paul Ryan as the Republican running mate for the spin to begin. Anxious to pre-empt a conversation about Ryan’s plan to end the guarantee of Medicare, the Mitt Romney campaign ison the air with some (strikingly dishonest) Medicare ads of their own. They have plenty of money to advance this message, so it’s worth unpacking what’s really going on.

First and foremost, the Ryan plan, in any form, would mark the end of Medicare as we know it—as a guarantee of health coverage for senior citizens. Instead, it would give older people a voucher to go buy their own private insurance. The Ryan budget would also increase the eligibility age, delaying the time when retirees could get Medicare. That’s the proposal the U.S. House voted on and passed in March and it’s the model Ryan has continued to promote even as he’s suggested possible tweaks.

So let’s move on to the claims the Romney campaign is making. The Affordable Care Act is paid for partly through billions in future savings—about $700 billion over 10 years in reduced payments to health insurance companies and providers. A lot of that money stays in the Medicare system, by paying for free preventative care for seniors and closing the prescription drug “doughnut hole.” The attack leveled by Romney, Ryan and their allies—an attack that’s Jonathan Cohn rightly called “astoundingly cynical”—is that this constitutes a massive cut to Medicare.

But here’s the catch: in the Ryan budget that passed, these future savings are included, even as the rest of the ACA is repealed. So the same reductions that the Romney campaign is complaining about were voted on and approved by Ryan and virtually every House Republican.

In the ACA, the cost savings that come out of Medicare go back into the health care system. In the Ryan budget, they’ll be needed to pay for the massive tax cuts proposed in that plan. Cohn notes that not only does this money get pulled out of providing health care entirely, but the attack the Romney campaign is making is a “brazen misrepresentation of reality.” Or, to say it in fewer and shorter words, “a lie.”

The Ryan plan doesn’t replace the guarantee with the vouchers for 10 years, so that major change doesn’t immediately affect today’s retirees. But the repeal of the ACA’s provisions on prescription drugs and preventative care absolutely will. If those provisions are gone, seniors who are on Medicare now will be paying hundreds of dollars more out of pocket. Ryan’s cuts to Medicaid, which many seniors depend on for nursing home care, would also have a big impact—his proposed cuts to Medicaid and the repeal of the ACA Medicaid expansion are a big and under-covered change in his budget. Some 6 million of today’s retirees depend on Medicaid and could lose out under Ryan’s plan. This is what was in the Ryan budget the House passed, and he hasn’t backed off of this at all.

What’s more, if Ryan’s plan kicks in ten years from now, today’s Medicare beneficiaries will getan unpleasant wake-up call as the voucher plan starts to erode the program:

In 2022, when the limited-subsidy program would be introduced, seniors who qualified for traditional Medicare would be allowed to switch to the new program. If healthier or younger beneficiaries make the change to lower their out-of-pocket costs, those still participating in Medicare would be part of an insurance pool that is less healthy and more expensive. To cover those higher per-person costs, Medicare might well be forced to either raise premiums or limit reimbursements to health care providers—which could prompt many to stop taking Medicare patients.

Romney has suggested he may back off of the Medicare savings that Ryan included in his original budget. But in that case, the Ryan budget math gets even more implausible. And by the standards Romney has laid out for how he wants his budget to work, Medicare would have to be slashed either way. That these cuts to programs for vulnerable people would be required in order to pass his huge tax cuts for the rich adds insult to injury. As Derek Thompson notes, Romney’s proposals “have clear and inevitable conclusions: Tax cuts for the richest and spending cuts for the poorest.”

It’s hard to overstate how hypocritical and dishonest the new Romney-Ryan attacks over Medicare are, coming from two people who have pledged changes so radical that they’d leave it unrecognizable.

Emphasis Mine

see::http://blog.workingamerica.org/2012/08/15/the-facts-behind-romney-and-ryan%E2%80%99s-medicare-lies/