Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’d like to take a moment to step back from the world of politics to say “Thank You!”
“Thank you” to our colleagues who have patiently and generously given their time to mentor and support our endeavors.  Hopefully your kind efforts have been rewarded.
“Thank you” to all of you that we have never met but who have graciously invited us into your busy lives.  We appreciate your interest.  Whether you agree with us or not…thanks for being there.
Most of all, we’d like to thank our family and friends.  Your support and encouragement means the world to us.
Happy Thanksgiving!        

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Country Turns A Blind Eye Toward Mental Health Issues

The Connecticut State’s Attorney’s office has released its report on the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.   Twenty year old Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six staff members before turning the gun on himself.
The report paints a very disturbing picture of a troubled youth who exhibited all the signs of a walking time bomb.
Adam Lanza had a deep fascination with video games, guns and mass shootings.  Lanza spent most of his days locked in his room playing violent video games including one titled: “School Shootings.”  Lanza was obsessed with mass shootings.  Investigators found a spread sheet documenting a chronology of mass shootings over the years.  Lanza seemed particularly fascinated with the Columbine shooting of 1999. 
Lanza’s room itself was off limits to visitors; the windows draped in black plastic bags.  He communicated with his mother via email.
The home was a veritable armory.  Photos in the report show a vast array of firearms and ammunition.  Lanza was carrying over 30 pounds of munitions when he entered the school.  He still had over 250 live rounds on him when he took his own life.
Adam Lanza was clearly a very disturbed young man with an obsession for violence.  Yet his mother catered to his violent peccadilloes.  She encouraged his use of firearms, took him target shooting and wrote him a check just days before he went on his shooting spree, so that he could buy himself a coveted pistol for Christmas.
On December 14 we will mark the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, one of the most horrific and gut wrenching shootings in our history.  Twenty young children’s bodies ripped apart by a mentally disturbed young man who did everything but shout from the roof tops that this terrible day was coming.
It is a condemnation on our society that a year has passed and we have done nothing to prevent this terrible tragedy from reoccurring.  We continue to turn a blind eye to the mental health issues that plague this country because we are paralyzed by the constitutional freedoms that we hold so dear.  Imagine the uproar if the authorities would have questioned Lanza’s mother about allowing her clearly disturbed young son unfettered access to those guns.  Imagine the uproar if a retailer had refused to sell the shooter that much coveted Christmas present.
We cannot imagine the grief and suffering that will envelop the Newtown, Connecticut community a few days from now.  There is little we can do to soothe their anguish because there is nothing we can do to bring back the innocent.  What we can do is take steps to make sure this never happens again.
It is time to address the mental health issues in this country.  It is time to properly fund our mental health institutions, educate the public and amend our laws so that tragedies like Sandy Hook never happen again.     

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reid Goes "Nuclear" on McConnell

Over the past five years senate Republicans have creatively used any number of procedural rules to advance their agenda.  Their primary weapon of choice has been the filibuster. 
Republicans have strategically and systematically used the filibuster to block presidential nominees to the judiciary, render government agencies powerless and circumvent written law; all for the stated purpose of impeding the president’s agenda.
Republicans oppose the formation of the Consumer Protection Agency under the Dodd-Frank Bill.  The bill became law.  Republicans filibuster the president’s nominee to chair the agency thereby rendering the agency powerless.
Republicans oppose the National Labor Relations Board.  The board was enacted into law by congress.  Republicans filibuster the president’s nominees to sit as commissioners on the board thereby rendering the board powerless.
Major Republican donors oppose the FHA.  Republicans can’t oppose the FHA because the real estate lobby will go crazy.  So Republicans filibuster the president’s nominee to head the FHA thereby rendering the agency powerless.
Republicans filibuster the president’s nominee for Secretary of Defense…while the country is at war.  They filibuster cabinet appointments, under secretary appointments, judicial appointments…
If Republicans don’t like a law and they don’t have the votes to repeal it…can’t find the votes to defund it…can’t find the votes to amend it…then they will filibuster anything they can to render the law moot.
Republicans have used the filibuster more times during the Obama administration than it was used in the PREVIOUS SEVEN PRESIDENTAIL ADMINISTRATIONS COMBINED. 
Majority Leader Harry Reid said it best:  “In the entire history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees.  Half of them have occurred during the Obama Administration.”
Over the past five years Republicans have made such liberal use of the filibuster that as a matter of course it now takes 60 votes to get anything past in the senate.  The concept that “majority rules” is a long lost thing of the past.
That is until yesterday.
There are currently three vacancies on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.  The DC circuit is considered the second most important court in the land because it is in this court that has jurisdiction over executive orders.  The most important court in the land is of course, the Supreme Court.  Many justices serving on the DC Circuit find themselves appointed to the Supreme Court    
The court is currently divided equally between four judges appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democrats.  There are currently three vacant seats. 
The president, as he is required by the constitution, placed the names of three abundantly qualified individuals into nomination.  Leader Reid warned Minority Leader McConnell that there would be dire consequences if McConnell’s caucus filibustered the appointments.  Reid warned McConnell that Democrats were tired of Republicans holding the government hostage through use of the filibuster.  Reid warned McConnell that if Republicans filibustered the president’s nominees to the DC district court he would use his authority as majority leader to exercise what is known as the “nuclear option.”  In translation it means that Reid would change the current rule which required 60 votes to end debate and replace it with a simple majority vote.
Reid had had threatened to “go all nuclear” on the Republicans before.  But each time cooler heads prevailed.  They reminded Reid that at some point in time the power in the senate was bound to shift.   Democrats had been in the minority before and had not been bashful about using the filibuster to delay Republican nominees. 
But this was different in Reid’s eyes.  Republicans had been unabashedly using the filibuster to circumvent laws passed by congress.  This was obstructionism gone rogue.
McConnell believed that Reid was bluffing.  Republicans filibustered all three of the president’s nominees.  Reid had had enough.  With the president’s support Reid went “nuclear,” changed the rules and forever altered the way business will be conducted in the senate.
There are currently 93 vacant seats in the federal courts.  McConnell challenged Reid on the three vacancies in the DC Circuit.  McConnell overplayed his hand and lost.  Now the president can fill all 93 vacancies and there is nothing republicans can do to stop him.
Republicans went nuts!  McConnell warned that Democrats would rue the day “sooner than you may think.”
McConnell is correct.  Democrats may well lose the senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. If that should that happen Democrats will find themselves without the filibuster to stem the Republican tide.
And that is exactly how it should be. 
If a party wants to rule as the majority then it needs to make its case to the voters and win an election.  A minority party should not be able to use procedural tactics to circumvent the law.  And a president, Democrat or Republican, should have a mandate to pick his own team.
Republicans like to talk about how they are the defenders of the constitution.
You won’t find the word “filibuster” mentioned anywhere in that document.

50 Years Later...I Still feel The Pain

Where were you the day they shot JFK?
If you are old enough to have lived through the Kennedy assassination you have probably been asked that question at least 50 times over the last 50 years.  Those of us old enough to have been cognizant of the events of that crisp November day most certainly remember where we were… and what we felt when we learned that they had shot the president.
Just one month shy of my twelfth birthday, I was laying on the couch in my parents’ living room watching TV.  I was sporting a new set of braces on my unruly teeth; having spent the morning in the clutches of a cruel and unfeeling orthodontist.   I was feeling quite sorry for myself; my only solace, a day home from Sister’s Felicity’s interrogations.
I still remember the state of shock and disbelief that swept over me when they cut into local programming to announce that the president had been shot.  I remember hoping against hope that the wounds were not fatal…that somehow he would pull through.  And I remember to this day the pain deep in my stomach when they confirmed that the president had died from his wounds.
My mother burst into tears.  I had never seen my mother cry before that day.  That day we wept together.
The Kennedy Campaign opened my eyes to the world of politics.  As a youngster I remember watching the convention the night he won the nomination.  I understood little of it.  But the crowds, the signs, the whole spectacle was fascinating. 
I didn’t understand Kennedy’s politics. Hell, I didn’t understand politics period.  What did I know of civil rights?  Two of the kids that I played with every day happened to be black.  The only thing that separated me from them as far as I was concerned was the manner in which they kicked my ass on the makeshift ball field that we frequented after school.  All I knew was that Kennedy was young and inspiring and I wanted him to win.
I remember watching Kennedy debate Nixon.  I remember Kennedy’s cool, calm demeanor.  I remember the beads of perspiration on Nixon’s lip.  Kennedy made me feel safe.  Nixon gave me the creeps. 
I vividly remember the Cuban missile crisis…pictures of Khrushchev pounding the desk with his shoe…the constant air raid drills.  It was all very real…and very scary.  Kennedy saved us.  Only later in life did I learn that he saved the world from a nuclear holocaust.
The days following the assassination were a blur.  I watched Jack Ruby murder Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.  The funeral was surreal.  The flag draped coffin lying in state…the rider less horse, empty boots riding backward in the stirrups…the sound of the drums. 
I remember watching Jackie Kennedy closely.  Perhaps it was because she was the last remaining link to a fallen president and a time lost forever.  Or perhaps it was because her features were similar to those of my own mother.  I watched how she carried herself and how she ushered her children, and with them a nation, through an excruciatingly difficult time. I remember watching John John’s salute…
And then, suddenly, it was over…
The press had dubbed the Kennedy years in the White House: “Camelot.” It truly was a magical time.  The young energetic president, brimming with vitality…his stunning, intelligent cultured wife…their two beautiful children…all packaged together at a moment in time that resonated with masses.  Kennedy gave us sense of hope and the promise of a better future…that we as a country could do anything.  A “New Frontier” was ours for the taking.
Then, in a flash, it was gone.  And we were left bewildered and very afraid of what the future might bring.
I have lived through the horrors of 9/11 and witnessed the impact that day had on this country.  But for me nothing compares to the sense of sorrow and loss that came over me on that fateful day of November 22, 1963.
They took something from us that day.  They took something from me.  And try as I might I can’t seem to get it back.
So every year, for the past 50 years, I remember the anniversary of that terrible day.  The sorrow and emptiness in the pit of my stomach returns as I remember what we lost…
…and what might have been.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

ACA Reducing Health Care Costs

The Affordable Care Act was designed to accomplish two very important goals: 1.) make affordable health care available to every American and 2.) reduce the cost of health care in this country.
The jury is still out on goal #1.  Even though parts of the law have been in effect for three years the enrollment piece has only been up and running for 6 weeks.  The difficulties with the website have been well documented.  They are inexcusable.  Presumably they will be fixed.  History will eventually determine to what extent the botched rollout will have on reaching this long term goal.
There is however ample evidence that the ACA is well on its way to achieving goal #2.
USA TODAY highlights a new report which states that over the past three years our “health care spending has risen by the lowest rate ever recorded.” 
The White House Council on Economic Advisors states that health care costs from 2010-2013 rose only 1.3%.  The report further states that for the first time in history Medicare spending over the same period did not increase while Medicaid spending decreased by 0.5%.
According to Council on Economic Advisors Chairman, Jason Furman “If just half the recent slowdown can be sustained, health care spending a decade from now will be $1,400 per person lower…Reduced health care costs for employers could lead to 200,000 to 400,000 new jobs per year by the second half of the decade.”
The USA article goes on to say that due to the cost reductions the Congressional Budget Office “reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending projections in 2020 by $147 billion since 2010.”
Health care experts agree that the reduction in spending is due in part to the Affordable Care Act.  Republicans of course disagree.
Brendan Buck, a spokesperson for Speaker Boehner is quoted in the article saying that the slow growth in health care spending “was the result of the terrible economy under President Obama, not his health care law.”
Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research responded to Boehner’s political attempt to throw cold water on the report: 
“The idea that it is the economy is just silly” said Baker.  “In 2008-2009…fair enough, but now that we are four years out, no one could say that with a straight face…Suppose the opposite were happening.  Suppose growth went up 8%.  Does anyone doubt that we would be blaming President Obama and the Affordable Care Act for that?”
The early returns indicate that the ACA is in fact reducing the cost of health care.  Whether the cost reductions are sustainable is yet to be determined.
Health care spending encompasses 1/6th of our economy.  It’s a really big deal!  Republicans have no alternative plan.  So when it comes to the ACA all they can do is highlight the negative and lie about the positive.  It is easy to criticize.  It is difficult to govern.          

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Money For War...We're Not Broke After All!

On October 7, 2001 United States military forces invaded Afghanistan.  The alleged purpose of this military action was to root out and kill those responsible for the attacks on September 11.  Somewhere along the way the mission changed from hunting down and killing bad guys to nation building and the democratization of a country still living in the fourth century.  2,193 lives have been lost and over $700 billion spent to extract revenge and prop up a government awash in corruption. 
A war weary nation gave a collective sigh of relief when the president announced that the US would end military operations by December 31, 2014. America’s longest war was finally ending. 
Or was it? 
Today we learn that the war in Afghanistan will continue…until 2024…”and beyond.”
The increase in violent uprisings throughout the country has made it clear that US trained Afghan forces are not ready to defend the government against Al Qaida and Taliban insurgents.
NBC NEWS has obtained a document that outlines an agreement between the United States and the Afghan government for US forces to remain in country through 2024 “and beyond.”  The agreement is open ended but allows either party to terminate the accord upon giving written notice.
Negotiations are still underway.  The US wants to maintain key military outposts along with 10,000 troops to provide force protection and conduct offensive operations.  The Afghan government would prefer 7,000 troops restricted to a more defensive posture.  But a key sticking point, that the US government would maintain exclusive legal jurisdiction over US military and civilian personnel, has been granted by the Karzai government.  It was Iraq’s refusal to grant similar legal protections for US forces that sent American troops packing.
If an agreement is reached, it will cost US taxpayers billions in treasure not to mention the damage to American families facing multiple deployments.
Let’s take a moment to put this agreement into perspective.
Secretary of State Kerry is negotiating an agreement to prop up a corrupt regime that will cost taxpayers billions over the coming decade(s).  Meanwhile Democrats and Republicans are trying to reach a budget deal that addresses our $17 trillion dollar debt and near $1 trillion dollar annual deficit.  We have $80 trillion…yes trillion, in unfunded obligations over the next ten years.  The country is already reeling under the sequestration cuts that have rolled back billions in social safety net programs on which millions of Americans depend.  Another government shutdown over our continued fiscal difficulties looms large. 
Yet here we are on the verge of dumping billions more down the Afghanistan black hole.  Too what end?
If we can’t afford to feed, clothe and care for our own here at home…what in the hell are we doing spending billions to prop up a corrupt government overseas?
America’s longest war continues.  Evidently we’re not broke after all.                

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cheney Family Feud A Distraction

Once you get past the clown show surrounding the escapades of mayor of Toronto you will find that today’s top political story concerns a family feud between the daughters of former Vice President and current war criminal, Dick Cheney.
Dick and Lynne Cheney have two daughters.  One, Mary Claire, is a gay woman who is married.  She and her spouse, Heather Poe, have two children.  The other, Elizabeth Lynne Cheney Perry, is a political opportunist who does not support her sister’s lifestyle.  The war of words between the two has gone viral.  Evidently the two sisters will not be spending the holidays together.
Dick and Lynne support Mary’s lifestyle and have come out in support of gay marriage.  Dick has not always held this view.  But Dick is not the first conservative to change his tune when ideological “family values” clash with the realities living under ones’ roof.  (See: Portman, Rob; US Senator R-OH.)
None of this would matter very much if not for the fact that Liz, the daughter of a former vice president and current war criminal, has decided to run for the US Senate seat currently held by Republican incumbent Mike Enzi.  The 69 year old Enzi, who has held the seat since 1997, had indicated that he might not be up for another six years in the fun house.     
Liz has not lived in the great state of Wyoming since she was a toddler.  She has no political experience.  She has lived off her lineage, plying her trade as a screechy talking head on FOXNEWS; voicing her opposition to anything that gets within 100 yards of the president.  
As we said, Liz is a political opportunist.  Seeing an opportunity, Liz moved back to Wyoming to take Enzi’s seat.  She had promised the incumbent that she wouldn’t run if he decided to return for another term.  Enzi decided to give it a go.  Liz decided to primary him from the right.  Her qualifications are: …she is Dick Cheney’s daughter…and Mike Enzi has been around for too long.  Simple!
The residents of the good state of Washington don’t seem to be very interested in the Cheney family feud…or for that matter in Liz’s bona fides.  Enzi leads Cheney by 53 points. 
If all of this fascination with the Cheney clan seems like nonsense…you’re right.  The sad part is that stories like this and the clownish mayor of Toronto distract the media and the public from focusing on topics that really matter…like jobs.
Jobs!  You remember “jobs” right?  The one thing that every Democrat and Republican running for office during the last election promised was that they would focus on the economy and create jobs.  Jobs!  Jobs!  Jobs!
So where are the jobs?
The DOW went over the 16000 mark yesterday.  Wall Street is cruising.  The top 1% of wage earners are rolling in it.  Yet Main Street is struggling.
The economy is still sluggish.  Unemployment is still high.  40% of the country makes less than $25,000.  Republicans refuse to consider a raise in the minimum wage.  They cut food stamps and other social safety net programs that millions depend on to exist.  They say these are handouts for the loafers and the takers.  But 47% of the people that rely on these programs work 40+ hours a week.  They just don’t make enough to take care of their families.  You can’t gin up the economy unless the middle class and working poor have the money they need to spend on groceries, diapers, etc. 
This isn’t about “loafing or taking.”  This is about surviving.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, understands the plight of the working poor.  In keeping with the holiday spirit one Ohio Wal-Mart has set out large Rubbermaid bins near their main doors.  Each bin displays a sign that reads:  “Please donate food here so Associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.”
Seriously!  Perhaps Wal-Mart might consider paying their “Associates” a decent wage so they can afford to buy their own Thanksgiving dinner.  Wal- Mart posted profits in 2012 of $15.7 billion.
Enough with the Cheney clan and the freak show in Toronto!  The only story we want to see about Dick Cheney is the one where he is hauled off to The Hague in shackles and an orange jump suit.
These soap operas only serve to distract us from focusing on events that truly matter.
Jobs!  Jobs!  Jobs!


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Sleeping Giant Has Awakened!

We’d like to begin today with the following point of information.
In the interest of full disclosure we would like to go record as stating that we love Rachel Maddow.
If we had a daughter we would be most happy if she were the embodiment of the host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.  Smart and witty, Maddow manages to use her very large Stanford educated brain to clarify weighty matters in a way that those of us who are less gifted can comprehend. 
It is in that light that we credit a segment she aired last Friday night as the inspiration for today’s rant.  For you won’t find any graduates of the Rand Paul School of Plagiarism here.
Since BaraK Obama was elected to a second term there have been four major social issues that have been swallowed up by the black hole that is the current United States Congress.  They are: background checks for all gun purchases, immigration reform, increasing the minimum wage and the Employee Non-Discrimination Act that says you can’t fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation. 
Each of these issues is highly favored among a vast majority of the electorate:
-Background checks for all gun purchases – 81% approval rating overall, ranging from 80%-83% among Independents, Democrats AND Republicans.
-Immigration Reform – 87% approval rating overall, ranging from 86%-88% among Independents, Democrats AND Republicans.
-Increasing the minimum wage – 76% approval rating overall, ranging from 58%-91% among Independents, Democrats AND Republicans.
-Employee Non-Discrimination Act – 73% approval overall, ranging from 60%-80% among Independents, Democrats AND Republicans.
Given their wide ranging popularity…why haven’t these issues passed through congress?
The answer of course is because congress is controlled by 40-50 radical right wing Tea Party Republicans dedicated to standing in the way of everything the president proposes.  Their weapons of choice: the filibuster and the threat of a primary challenge against any lawmaker who dares to stand in their way.  The result of this obstructionism is a politically polarized and paralyzed federal government, either unwilling or unable to conduct the people’s business.
There are 300,000,000 Americans.  222,000,000 are of age and eligible to vote.  Why are 222,000,000 million eligible voters allowing 40-50 right wing radicals to control their destiny?
A few weeks ago the country was facing a government shutdown.  85% of the country opposed a government shutdown.  Yet the Tea Party was almost giddy at the prospect.  Once the deed was done one Tea Partier after another appeared in public literally ecstatic over what they had achieved.  At that time, we along with many others warned that if the Republican Party allowed the radical right to shut down the government, it would mark the beginning of the end of both to both Tea Party and the Republican Party’s relevance on the national political stage.  It appears that our prediction is coming to fruition.
Recently there were primary elections in two very conservative districts in the Deep South; one in Florida, the other in Alabama.  Both seats were held by Tea Party Republicans.  Both incumbents were challenged by candidates who favored a more moderate pragmatic form of governing.  Both challengers favored fixing the ACA rather than repeal.  Both favored background checks on all gun purchases.  Both favored ENDA.  Both favored immigration reform including a tough stringent path to citizenship.  Both made it clear that they were NOT members of the Washington establishment.
Both moderate challengers won.
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker was recently asked to describe his vision of a successful Republican candidate for the presidency in 2016.  Walker said he felt the candidate had to be a Washington outsider…preferably a governor who knew how to balance budgets and get things done.  Obviously Walker was referring to himself.  Can you say Walker/Christie or Christie/Walker in 2016?
We most certainly are not members of the Scott Walker fan club.  Yet we believe the governor is right on this issue.  People are tired of Washington gridlock and they are voicing their displeasure at the ballot box.  Tea Partiers in ultra conservative districts are finding themselves the victims of a primary challenge.  And it is certainly no coincidence that Walker is playing the “Washington outsider” card for all its worth.  Especially given that the presumptive frontrunner for the presidency is the consummate Washington insider…Hillary Clinton.
The sleeping giant has awakened.  222,000,000 prospective voters are beginning to speak out against the gridlock in Washington.  Incumbents and challengers are getting the message.   
Republicans and Tea Party members beware.  Voters want to see progress.  They want to see stuff getting done.  Simply being the party of “NO” is no longer an option.
We sense that there is real change in the air.  But this time it is cloaked in neither Red nor Blue.     

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dems In Disarray!

The Democrats are in disarray…digging themselves into one huge credibility hole.
Yesterday, with the help of their leader, they dug the hole even deeper.
Frantic congressional Democrats stormed the White House the past few days giving the president an earful over the train wreck that is the ACA rollout.  As always, their concern was not about the American people or the affects this flawed rollout may be having on their constituents’ lives.  Their concern, of course, was all about the manner in which the ACA mess was negatively impacting their chances of keeping their jobs.
The president unfortunately responded to their hysteria.  Looking all the worse for wear, a beleaguered Obama went before the public to apologize once again for the problems with the ACA.  He deflected blame from his hysterical Democrat colleagues and then announced a wrongheaded solution that will only cause more problems for him down the road. 
You undoubtedly recall that the president had promised the nation that under the ACA:  “If you like your current health care plan you can keep it.”  Faced with the uproar from the millions of Americans who were receiving cancellation notices because their health plan did not meet the minimum coverage standards under the ACA, the president attempted to fix the problem.  He announced a plan that would allow policyholders and insurers to maintain their policies for one year even if they didn’t meet the ACA minimum requirements.  The “fix” also requires insurance companies to explain to policy holders the deficiencies in their policies as compared to the minimum coverage required under the ACA.
It comes as no surprise that Speaker Boehner derided the president’s effort; saying that the only way to fix the problems caused by the ACA is to scrap the law in its entirety.
Where oh where do we begin?
First of all…the White House needs to stop putting the president out there to say: “I didn’t know!”
“I didn’t know we were tapping the phones of AP White House reporters.”  “I didn’t know the NSA was eavesdropping on Americans’ phone calls and emails.”  “I didn’t know the ACA website wouldn’t work.”  If he is being truthful, that he really didn’t know these things, then he needs to find people who will tell him what he needs to hear not what he wants to hear.  In his remarks yesterday he sounded as if he were exasperated by his lack of forewarning about the ACA website.  Let’s hope his exasperation results in some changes in the White House.  He might start by including in his inner circle and outsider who understands the intricacies of the insurance industry.
Next, the president needs to get his chin off his chest and fight for what he believes in.  Mr. President, if you believe in the ACA fight for it.  Those junk insurance policies that you are waffling on undermine the very core of the ACA.  Let them be cancelled.  These policies cost next to nothing because they provide next to nothing. 
ACA detractors say that people should be able to choose the coverage they want.  We agree in principle.  But in reality the same people who buy those low cost “catastrophe” policies will still be going to the doctor when they become sick or injured.  And we will be the ones paying the freight when their “catastrophe” insurance carrier says, “sorry no coverage” or when they can’t come up with their huge deductibles.  If you want to fix the cancellation problem, Mr. President, fix the damn website.  Then those folks will be able to find something that suits their needs and doesn’t place a financial burden on the rest of us.
As for your “fix” to the problem…it has no teeth.  Your decree that those individuals who had their contracts cancelled should be reinstated and allowed to keep their coverage is unenforceable.  You can’t force the insurance carriers to reinstate the policies…and if they do reinstate them…you can’t force the carriers to do so at the same premiums.  The insurance industry has spent the past three years figuring out how they were going to handle this roll out and how they were going to account actuarially for all the changes required of them under the ACA.  You can’t just wipe all that out with a wave of the hand and a simple “Never mind.” 
Finally, with regard to Speaker Boehner and his cadre of detractors, your response should be short and simple.  “I’m not going to respond to those who have nothing constructive to say.  If you don’t like this law then show the American people a detailed alternative.  It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize.  Pass a bill for once.”
There is a very real chance that the ACA rollout will mark the beginning of the end for the Obama presidency.  That will certainly be the case if the administration continues down its current path.
Set politics aside Mr. President.  End the insular bunker mentality.  Seek out those who will tell you the truth… 
…and fix the damn website!              


Thursday, November 14, 2013

US Budget Deficit Drops 24%...but nobody is listening as ACA dominates the conversation.

The Obama administration projected that 450,000-500,000 individuals would sign up for health care coverage during the first month of the ACA rollout.
Yesterday the administration finally released the numbers.
26,794 health plans sold through the plagued federal website.
79,391 health plans sold through the state run exchanges
106,185 total health plans sold during the first month.
Not good!
An insular White House says that they are working on a number of administrative solutions that over the next few months will fix the current difficulties.  They urged people to be patient.  They have said publically that the website will be fixed by the end of the month and once the website is fixed these problems will go away.  But privately White House staffers are saying that’s not going to happen.
Not good enough.
Democrats are enraged.  A number of House Democrats descended on the White House yesterday and in a closed door meeting demanded that the administration fix the problem…now!  They informed the president that if the White House didn’t offer a viable solution by tomorrow many of them would join Republicans in supporting a bill sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton.  The Upton bill allows individuals to keep their current coverage even if it doesn’t meet the minimum standards under the ACA.  “The president made a promise,” they said.  “He has to keep it.” If passed such a bill could gut the very foundation of the ACA. 
Senate Democrats are equally upset.  Many of them will meet with the president today to voice their displeasure.  Several Democrat Senators have joined with Republicans to craft a bill that would implement a transition period by delaying the deadline for enrollment for one year.  The Landrieu Bill could also do irreparable damage to the ultimate success of the ACA.
The president is not up for re-election, but many House and Senate Democrats are.  The ACA debacle is killing them.  Democrats don’t want an “administrative solution.”  Democrats want to go on record as wanting people to be able to keep their current health plans as the president promised.  Democrats want a vote.
The cacophony of noise over the ACA is drowning out any attempt by the administration to change the narrative.
According to the Associated Press, the Treasury Department just announced that the US government deficit for the first month of the 2014 budget year is down 24% compared to this time last year.  The AP tells us that the government “ran an annual deficit in 2013 of $680 billion, the lowest in five years and the first in that period below $1 trillion.”
This is great news! 
But nobody is listening.
The president needs to do something with the ACA to change the current narrative that is killing his administration.
We expect some type of announcement today.    


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Unable To Win An Election, GOP Resorts To Gimmicks

For the third time in two weeks Senate Republicans have blocked the president’s nominee to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 
The DC court is considered the one of the most powerful courts in the land, second only to the Supreme Court, because it holds jurisdiction over challenges to executive orders and government regulatory policy.  It is no coincidence that several Supreme Court justices have come from the DC Circuit. 
The 11 seat court is currently occupied by 4 Democrat appointments, 4 Republican appointments and three vacancies.
Republicans used the filibuster to block a vote on the president’s nominee knowing the Democrats could not produce the 60 votes needed to end cloture.  The act sent Democrats into a tirade…again…renewing their threat to amend the senate rules to allow approval of the president’s nominee by a simple majority.  The only thing stopping Majority Leader Reid from using his authority to act on the threat is the knowledge that his party will one day find itself in the minority and wish to make use of the filibuster rule.
For their part, Republicans said that they were not blocking the president’s nominees for political reasons but simply because they did not feel that the court’s workload warranted filling the three vacancies.  They accused the president of trying to “pack” the court.
This assertion is as disingenuous as it is factually incorrect.
First of all “packing the court” is what FDR was doing when he tried to add 6 seats to the already 9 seat court to he could push through his agenda unabated by his opposition.  The president is simply attempting to fill the three vacant seats that already exist…something he has every right to do.
And the nonsense about the court’s workload is just pure unadulterated political bull.  Republicans are simply continuing to do what they have done for the 5 years the president has been in office…use every tool at their disposal to stop his agenda.  If a Republican were sitting in the White House you can rest assured that he/she would be filling those seats…workload be damned.
Congressional Republicans have abused the filibuster to the extent that the government cannot function.  Maybe Harry Reid should change the rules as is his right.
If Republicans want to run the show in Washington they might stop using gimmicks and start by winning an election.    

Bubba Puts Obama Between A Rock And A Hard Place

The smartest politician in the Democratic Party just weighed in on Obamacare. 
Somewhere President Obama is cringing.
In a recent interview, former president Bill Clinton said that President Obama should keep his promise and allow all Americans who like their current insurance coverage to keep it.
“I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made and let them keep what they’ve got.”  Clinton made his remarks during a website interview with
Clinton was offering his solution to the situation where, contrary to the President’s assertion that “if you like your health care coverage, you can keep it…period,” 5 million Americans have received cancellation notices from the health insurance companies because their policies do not meet the minimum coverage standards established under the Affordable Care Act.  Clinton says that the president has to keep his promise.
Either your word is good…or it isn’t.
The problem for the president is that if he amends the law not only does he weaken the very foundation on which the law was based, he plays into the hands of his political rivals who have been looking for any flaw to embolden their desire to defund or repeal the bill.
A recent released Quinnipiac Poll shows the president’s approval ratings at an all time low of 39%.  To put this into perspective…that mirrors George W. Bush’s approval rating in the aftermath of his handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Perhaps even more damaging is the Quinnipiac number that shows that 52% of those polled no longer trust the president.  It is the first time since taking office that he has lost the trust of a majority of Americans.
The botched ACA website is one thing.  If the website is fixed as promised by November 30 then PERHAPS people will enroll and the positive stories will begin to outweigh the negative.
But the broken promise is a whole different animal.  It is a genie that you can’t put back in the bottle.  It kills any chance that the president might have had on immigration reform, tax reform or anything else on his agenda, at least until after the mid-terms.  In fact this whole botched rollout/broken promise issue is certain to haunt Democrat candidates in 2014.
Bubba has put Obama between a rock and a hard place.  But the truth is the truth…the president made a promise and broke it.  He has to fix this.
There is one piece of news on which the president can take some comfort. 
The same Quinnipiac Poll showed the approval rating for congress at 9%...that’s 9%!!!
We’d like to meet some of those 9% who think congress is doing a good job.  It would be a VERY interesting conversation.
Must be family members…      

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Defining The Narrative

If you are following the media coverage of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you cannot help but come away with the impression that this piece of legislation is an unmitigated disaster of unprecedented magnitude.  The narrative leads you to believe that the implementation is so flawed and the concept of universal health care so complicated that the only reasonable recourse is to scrap the entire thing and start over. 
That is what the Republican Party wants you to believe.  And they are doing an excellent job of conveying that message through the media.
The question that comes to our mind is: “Why.”  Why are the Obama administration and the Democratic Party allowing this to happen?  Why are Democrats allowing their opponents to define the narrative on their most significant legislative accomplishment in decades?
We stipulate that the website is a disaster.  That the cancellation notices received by individuals holding junk policies should have been both foreseen and better handled. We agree that the 5% of the population impacted by these notices is not an insignificant number.  And we concur that having a minuscule 50,000 people sign up in the first month is far below expectations.
But why are we only hearing these negative stories?
Why aren’t we hearing about the millions of people who lost their jobs and would have lost their health care as well if not for the ACA?
Why aren’t we hearing about the tens of millions of people who are able to get coverage even though they have a pre-existing condition…something they could not have done before the ACA?
Why aren’t we hearing about the tens of millions of high school and college grads who have no prospects of immediate employment with benefits but are able to maintain coverage under their parents’ policy thanks to the ACA?
Why aren’t we hearing from the tens of millions who would have faced bankruptcy simply because they got sick but are able to avoid financial ruin thanks to the ACA?
Why aren’t we seeing testimonials from these individuals on the news?
Why aren’t ACA surrogates pointing out ad nauseam that the cost of health care rose only 4% in the last two years thanks to the ACA…the lowest increase in decades?
Why aren’t we seeing ads touting the success of the state run exchanges in signing up individuals in dire need of heath care and contrasting them with those states that refused to participate leaving millions of their citizens at risk?
Why aren’t we seeing ads featuring personalities who cater to the 18-34 years olds explaining why they should sign up?
Why aren’t we seeing surrogates reminding people of what it would be like if Republicans got their wish and dismantled the ACA?  “Lose your job…lose your coverage.”  “Got a pre-existing condition and need coverage…tough!”  “Just got graduated and can’t find a job…you won’t find health care coverage either.”  “Are you having sticker shock because your health care coverage premium has increased 40% over the past 4 years…too bad?”
Why we aren’t seeing surrogates asking the ACA detractors one simple question over and over and over again:  “You don’t like the ACA…fine!  What’s your alternative?”  “Because going back to the old days where skyrocketing health care costs were bankrupting families and threatening the economy is not an acceptable alternative.”
Have Democrats and the administration been doing some of this “push back”?  Yes!  But it has been sporadic and disorganized.  They need a comprehensive marketing plan to sell this law and remind us  of all the good things that it has provided for the American people.
The biggest mistake that Democrats have made in the ACA rollout is allowing Republicans to define the narrative…
…because there is more to the ACA than a website.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Trash Day!

If you follow politics you are probably familiar with the phrase: “put it out with the trash.”  For the uninitiated, here is a primer.
Friday is ‘trash day” in Washington DC…specifically, Friday night after close of business.  That is when Washington insiders release volumes of information to the media; most of it nonsense…most of it irrelevant to the manner in which we live our daily lives.
It is among this mountain of nothingness that political class likes to disseminate information that may be politically damaging or embarrassing to whatever their cause might be at the time.  The hope is that the media will overlook the information as they scour this dumpster of material.  The theory is that even if the media manages to find the embarrassing nugget their reporting will fall during the weekend news cycle.  There it will reach smaller numbers and a less interested populace and hopefully lose its legs by Monday morning.  Thus the meaning of “put it out with the trash.”
That was certainly House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s plan when late last Friday night he informed the media that the House would not be voting on immigration reform this year.
As the third ranking member in the Republican Party, McCarthy has been pressured for months by Hispanic special interest groups to vote on the senate’s immigration reform bill.  They protested outside his office and badgered him constantly whenever he appeared in public.  Finally McCarthy relented and addressed the question. 
“Will the House take up a vote on the senate’s immigration reform bill?”  “Not his year” McCarthy said.  “There isn’t enough time.”  McCarthy vowed to take up the matter next year.
Not enough time?  Even under Eric Cantor’s lazy congressional schedule of “two weeks off for every one week worked” there are still 13 remaining days when the House will be in session.  The senate bill was passed last June.  Its components have been debated ad nauseam for the past five months.   How long does it take to vote?  Five minutes?  Yea or Nay?  Red button or green button!  Done!
The truth is that the senate bill has bi-partisan support and will pass in the House if Speaker Boehner allows a vote.  But Republicans want no part of this bill.  Because if there is one thing Republicans care about as much as keeping their own jobs…its preventing this president from doing his.  The president wants to pass immigration reform.  Republicans will do anything to keep him from getting a win.
McCarthy’s vow to take up the matter next year is simply a lie.  When was the last time you saw anything of consequence passed during an election year? 
Whatever happened to the “kinder, gentler more inclusive Republican Party that we were promised after the last elections?  Remember!  Romney had just gotten his butt kicked by the president.  Republicans retreated behind closed doors to finger point and figure out away to avoid another embarrassment in the future.  They emerged from that conclave promising to work with Democrats, to be more inclusive, to reach out to women and minorities.  They even produced a slick pamphlet out lining all the wonderful things they were going to do to be a “more inclusive” party. 
The only thing Republicans have done since that meeting is to vote to defund or repeal Obamacare 40+ times.
Republicans are stalling on immigration reform.  They will stall again next year as well.  They are gambling that in 2014 they can maintain control of the House and gain control of the Senate.  Then they will craft their own immigration reform bill…one that is heavy on fences, walls and alligator filled moats bet missing any path to citizenship.
Meanwhile, if you want any real news out of the Republican Party you’ll have to look in the trash.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Boehner Should Allow Vote On ENDA

The US Senate passed the Employee Nondiscrimination Act yesterday.  The vote was 64-32, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats in bi-partisan support of the measure.  The bill protects employees from being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.
The bill now moves to the Republican controlled House where it faces an uphill battle.  Speaker Boehner has indicated that he is not inclined to schedule the measure for a vote, stating that he believes the legislation will only serve to encourage frivolous lawsuits that will hurt small businesses and cost American jobs.
Speaker Boehner should take a moment to brush up on his US History.  His argument is the exact same hollow argument used by those who stood in opposition to the Civil Rights Act in the 60’s.  It stands in ignorant opposition not only to the cultural shift in our society but to the basic tenants on which our nation was created…that all men are created equal.
How do you fire a good employee because of their sexual orientation?  How do you deny a promotion, or withhold a raise just because you are uncomfortable with their gender identity?  In 20 states across this country such discrimination is now legal under the law.  The Employee Nondiscrimination Act would render such behavior illegal.
This is a no brainer! 
We call on Speaker Boehner to do the right thing and schedule the senate bill for a vote.         

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Republicans Rain On Their Own Parade

You can’t make this stuff up!
Republican Governor Chris Christie has just been elected to a second term…by 22 points…in a very blue state…a state which Barak Obama won by double digits in 2012.
One would expect Republicans to be celebrating this very important landslide victory.  Kudos all around to the governor and his incredible campaign staff…right?
A party on the verge of political irrelevance thanks to its own political infighting and the wrongheaded decision to shut down the government finally has cause to celebrate a major victory.
“Celebrate good times, c’mon!”
Not this bunch!
Barely 24 hours after a major win Christie finds himself under attack…from within his own party.  Christie’s unpardonable sin apparently is his willingness to compromise to get things done.
When asked to comment on Christie’s victory, Senator Marco Rubio downplayed the win as insignificant.  “I think we need to understand that some of these races don’t apply to future races….every race is different…it has a different set of factors…but I congratulate him on his victory “
Senator Ted Cruz also congratulated the governor on his victory but added this caveat: “I think it is terrific that he is brash, he is outspoken, and that he won his race…But I think we need more leaders in Washington with the courage to stand for principle. And in particular, Obamacare is not working.”
Senator Rand Paul had a different take.  When asked to comment on Christie’s victory he went off on a rant criticizing political figures for using tax payer money to promote their candidacy.  Paul was referring to a series of television ads to promote tourism in New Jersey in which Christie made a cameo appearance.  The ads ran during the governor’s race.
To be clear…we do not agree with most of what Governor Christie stands for politically.  And his record as governor leaves a lot to be desired.  Unemployment in the Garden State is higher than the national average and 70% of those affected by Sandy are dissatisfied with the governor’s handling of the rebuilding efforts.  In fact a few of the storm’s victims have filed lawsuits to ask a very specific question…What happened to the $850 million in federal relief aid designated for Sandy victims?
That said, the guy just won a major landslide victory in a very blue state.  You would think his own party would give him some “props.”
Not this bunch!
Republicans continue to line up in a circular firing squad.
Democrats are smiling!