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Archive for March 16th, 2011

Potter: Health Insurers Are Not Poor

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:48 am by HL

Potter: Health Insurers Are Not Poor
Wendell Potter: One of insurance industry’s most reliable allies, Sally C. Pipes of the conservative think tank Pacific Research Institute, attempted in a Feb. 24 column in Forbes magazine to suggest that insurers spend so much of their revenues paying claims they’re just barely staying afloat. … Pipes told us that the health insurance sector is among the least profitable in America — “with a mere 2.2 percent profit margin.” … [This] is being done for the sole purpose of convincing us that insurers are blameless when it comes to the high cost of health care and the rising number of people without coverage, or adequate coverage, in the United States.

Late Late Night FDL: That Mellow Saxophone

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:47 am by HL

Late Late Night FDL: That Mellow Saxophone
The Brian Setzer OrchestraThat Mellow Saxophone.

The Brian Setzer OrchestraThat Mellow Saxophone.

What’s on your mind?

“Where…all the children are below average.”
“Emergency” doesn’t mean what I think the Republicans think it means.

NPR mug via gargola87 at flickr.com

One might think trying to create jobs or at least pretending to try to create jobs would be the thing the GOP majority would work on … or they could address  concerns about natural disasters.

[Insert Belushi voice (not Jim)]

But nooooooo!

Funny what counts as an “emergency” these days:

House Republicans are holding an emergency meeting of the Rules Committee on Wednesday to take up legislation that would block funding to NPR in the wake of James O’Keefe’s hidden camera prank on the news organization.

That will teach Click & Clack and those commies at The Thistle & Shamrock. Republican world, where climate change doesn’t exist but James O’Keefe is truthful.

Now on to the Senate, to consider John McCain’s emergency motion to bring back Amos ‘n’ Andy.

Priorities people.

Update and breaking: Something very bad is going on in Bahrain. Someone is taking advantage of the world’s being distracted by other events.

Afghanistan MIA From Deficit Debate

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:46 am by HL

Afghanistan MIA From Deficit Debate
While Republicans race to cut spending, including outlays for education, health care and social services, they never mention one of the real reasons for the deficit: the cost of the war in Afghanistan and the mess we’ve made in Iraq.

By Bill Boyarsky

While Republicans race to cut spending, including outlays for education, health care and social services, they never mention one of the real reasons for the deficit: the cost of the war in Afghanistan and the mess we’ve made in Iraq.

Related Entries

Robert Reich: Safety on the Cheap

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:45 am by HL

Robert Reich: Safety on the Cheap
Profit-making corporations have every incentive to underestimate the probabilities of potential disasters and lowball the likely externalized harms. This is why it’s necessary to have such things as government regulators.

Haley Barbour: ‘Iowa Feels A Whole Lot Like Where I’m From’
DES MOINES, Iowa — Skipping the Iowa caucuses? Not Haley Barbour. In a week that made clear he’s all but running for president, the Mississippi…

Obama Administration’s Plan To Punish Banks
NEW YORK — The Obama administration is seeking to force the nation’s five largest mortgage firms to reduce monthly payments for as many as three…

Fox News’ Union-Busting Crusade

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:44 am by HL

Fox News’ Union-Busting Crusade

Fox News’ coverage of the recent protests in Wisconsin was rife with falsehoods about unions and attacks on the pro-union protesters. This continues a long pattern of smears and fabrications that characterizes Fox News’ campaign to scapegoat and vilify labor unions.

Fox Smears Wisconsin Pro-Union Protesters

Fox & Friends Falsely Portray Wisconsin Protesters As “Violent”

Fox Pushed Falsehood That Public Sector Workers Earn More Than Private Sector Counterparts

Fox Uses Cropped Video To Vilify NEA

Fox & Friends Takes A Victory Lap After WI Senate Passes Anti-Union Bill

Fox Falsely Suggests State Budget Shortfalls Are Result Of Public Union Collective Bargaining

Fox Falsely Blames Public Unions For WI Budget Shortfall

Fox Stokes Fears That TSA Collective Bargaining Will Harm National Security

Fox Dubiously Blames Unions For Slow NYC Blizzard Response

Fox Blames Unions For State Budget Problems

Fox Smears NLRB Nominee Becker With Misleading GOP Attack

Fox Figures Repeat Falsehood That Employee Free Choice Act Would Eliminate Employees’ Rights

Fox Pushed Falsehood That Union Auto Workers Make More Than $70 Per Hour

Fox Smears Wisconsin Pro-Union Protesters

Beck Cites Wisconsin Protests To Claim That “Evil [Is] Spreading Around The Globe.” Glenn Beck claimed that protests in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as in the Middle East and Mexico are part of “evil spreading around the globe.” [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 2/17/11]

Fox Nation Calls Union Supporters “Despicable.” Fox Nation called the protesters “Despicable Union Supporters.” [Fox Nation, 2/17/11]

McGuirk: Protesters Are “Act[ing] Like A Bunch Of Selfish Spoiled Europeans.” Bernard McGuirk, producer of Fox Business’ Imus in the Morning, said that the protesters were acting ” like a bunch of selfish spoiled Europeans,” which he said was “almost embarrassing.” [Fox News, Hannity, 2/17/11, via Nexis]

FBN’s Byrnes: Protests Could “Borderline … Get Violent.” Fox Business’ Tracy Byrnes claimed that protests in Wisconsin are “actually, borderline gonna get violent, it sounds like.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/10/11]

The EPI report also included a graphic showing the average compensation for public and private sector employees in Wisconsin by education:


The February 18, 2011, EPI post accompanying this graphic stated:

The campaign against state and local workers is often justified with claims that they are privileged relative to their private-sector peers or have somehow been cushioned from the effects of the recent recession and slow recovery. These claims are clearly false.

In Wisconsin, which has become a focal point in this debate, public servants already take a pretty hefty pay cut just for the opportunity to serve their communities (Keefe 2010).  The figure below shows that when comparing the total compensation (which includes non-wage benefits such as health care and pensions) of workers with similar education, public-sector workers consistently make less than their private-sector peers.  Workers with a bachelor’s degree or more–which constitute nearly 60% of the state and local workforce in Wisconsin–are compensated between $20,000 less (if they just have a bachelor’s degree) to over $82,000 a year less (if they have a professional degree, such as in law or medicine). [EPI, 2/18/11]

Fox Uses Cropped Video To Vilify NEA

Hannity Airs Cropped Video, Suggests Chanin Does Not “Care About The Children.” From the February 24 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

HANNITY: Let me show both of you. This is the former National Education Association general counsel on why the NEA is so effective. I’m playing this because it is my belief that rank and file are often abused. Rank and file money goes to the unions. Unions support Democratic candidates. Democratic candidates funnel exorbitant benefits to them that they kick the can down the road and can’t afford. But do they care about the children? You decide. We will roll this tape.

BOB CHANIN (former National Education Association general counsel, video clip): It is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year, because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them.

HANNITY: Not because we care about children. Not because we have creative ideas. Not because of the merits of our position. [Fox News, Hannity, 2/1/10]

  • Prop. 13 “Capped Property Taxes” And “Created A Constitutional Requirement That All Tax Increases Pass The [State] Legislature By A Two-Thirds Majority,” Which “Made California Virtually Ungovernable.” Cohen and Dreier further explained that the “most important budget problem is the fiscal straitjacket created by Proposition 13, the original tax-revolt ballot proposition that voters approved in 1978, which capped property taxes and made it extremely difficult to raise revenues.” They explained that the law “did more than simply limit property taxes. It created a constitutional requirement that all tax increases pass the Legislature by a two-thirds majority,” which Cohen and Dreier argue “has made California virtually ungovernable.” [The American Prospect, 2/1/10]
  • California Fiscal Crisis “30 Years In The Making” Because Prop. 13 Made It “Far More Difficult To Raise Taxes Or Pass A Budget In California Than In Other States,” And State “Didn’t Resolve How To Pay For The Services That People Want.” A Time article titled, “How California’s Fiscal Woes Began: A Crisis 30 Years in the Making,” reported that “the Golden State’s budget problems are hardly new. The seeds of them were planted more than 30 years ago. They begin with the 1978 property tax revolt and the victory of Proposition 13.” The article quoted former California Assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg saying of Proposition 13: “One side was to protect the people from the government suddenly and wildly raising property taxes. … That was done. But we didn’t resolve how to pay for the services that people want. So we have created this crazy government structure in Sacramento held together by duct tape and bailing wire. It’s not coherent and needs to be changed.” [Time, 7/1/10]
  • Former CA Assembly Budget Consultant: “The State Got Off Track In General After Prop. 13 In Terms Of Balancing Spending With Revenues.” In a Sacramento Bee article, Dave Doerr, senior tax consultant for the California Taxpayers Association and a former California Assembly budget consultant, said that “[t]he state got off track in general after Prop. 13 in terms of balancing spending with revenues … and once they did, it wasn’t long before they were way off track.” [The Sacramento Bee, 9/21/09]

Fox Smears NLRB Nominee Becker With Misleading GOP Attack

Republican Strategist On Fox: Becker Wants To Forbid Employers To “Communicate Or Participate” In Union-Organizing Elections. Discussing Craig Becker’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked Republican strategist Justin Sayfie: “Tell us why Becker is so controversial.” Sayfie replied:

SAYFIE: Well, he’s controversial because he — the National Labor Relations Board is supposed to decide disputes between employers and employees, and he has been a scholar who’s written quite extensively on labor issues. And one of the things that he believes — he’s stated before in his writings — is that employers should have no role in union-organizing elections at all. We all know about the card check bill that was proposed earlier this year and that was discussed where there would be no more secret ballots in the union-organizing elections. His previous views would state that the employers wouldn’t be allowed to even communicate or participate and to have any role in those elections at all. [Fox News, America Live, article (subscription required) for the February 1993 issue of the Minnesota Law Review, Becker, then an assistant law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, wrote that “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives.”

  • Becker: “I Understand That There’s A Different Role That I Will Have Than The One I Played As A Scholar.” During a February 2 congressional hearing on his nomination (around 51:20), Becker referred to the Minnesota Law Review article and stated, “I understand that there’s a different role that I will have than the one I played as a scholar, and I respect that part of that role is to respect the will of Congress.” [Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, 2/2/10]
  • Becker: “If I Am Confirmed … I Will Be Bound By The Law As Enacted By Congress.” In response to written questions by members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Becker further stated, “If I am confirmed as a Member of the NLRB, I will be bound by the law as enacted by Congress. I will also fully respect and apply any applicable precedents of the Supreme Court. I will also respect the prior precedents of the Board itself, consistent with the principle of stare decisis. I would review scholarly and academic work cited by parties to Board proceedings or otherwise brought to my attention. They would, of course, be given no controlling weight of any sort.” [Craig Becker, Answers to Questions for the Record, 2/3/10]
  • Becker: Employers Have A “Legitimate Interest” And “Indisputable” “Right” To Express Views On Unionization. During his February 2 congressional hearing, Becker stated, “The current law clearly provides a right to employers to express their view, not only the National Labor Relations Act, but the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It’s clear that employers have a legitimate interest and have a right, which is indisputable, to express their views on the question of whether their employees should unionize.” [Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, 2/2/10]

Fox Figures Repeat Falsehood That Employee Free Choice Act Would Eliminate Employees’ Rights

Gingrich: Unions Were “Taking Away Your Right To A Secret-Ballot Vote.” Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claimed that passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would lead to “labor unions taking away your right to a secret-ballot vote before being forced to join a union. [Fox News, Happening Now, 1/19/09]

Rove: Bill Would Lead To Unions “Taking Away The Working Man’s Right To A Secret Ballot.” Fox News contributor Karl Rove said that the legislation would lead to “taking away the working man’s right to a secret ballot. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 11/11/08]

Baier: “The Bill Would Make It Easier For Employees To Form Unions And Would Do Away With The Secret Ballot In Votes To Unionize.” Fox News anchor Bret Baier stated:

Pennsylvania Republican senator Arlen Specter says he will oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check. The bill would make it easier for employees to form unions and would do away with the secret ballot in votes to unionize. Specter was the only Republican who supported the measure two years ago, and without his vote this time around, card check would likely fail or never be brought to the floor. [Fox News, Special Report, 3/24/09]

FACT: The Legislation Would Not Have Eliminated Employees’ Right To A Secret Ballot

  • Christian Science Monitor: Legislation “Gives Workers A Choice Of Forming A Union Through Majority Sign-Up (‘Card Check’) Or An Election By Secret Ballot.” Christian Science Monitor reported, “The proposed law gives workers a choice of forming a union through majority sign-up (“card check”) or an election by secret ballot. The current election process, governed by the National Labor Relations Board, strongly favors employers, unions say. [The Christian Science Monitor, 3/11/09]
  • NY Times: “Business Groups Have Attacked The Legislation Because It Would Take Away Employers’ Right To Insist On Holding A Secret-Ballot Election.” The New York Times reported that opponents attacked the bill because it would deny employers the ability to require a secret-ballot election, not that it would deny employees’ the right to hold secret elections. [The New York Times, 11/8/08]

Fox Pushed Falsehood That Union Auto Workers Make More Than $70 Per Hour

O’Reilly: “The Average Autoworker Now Makes 70 Bucks An Hour.” Bill O’Reilly claimed that “with health and retirement, the average autoworker now makes 70 buck an hour – far more than their counterparts at the Japanese companies.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 2/24/09]

 Trace Gallagher: “The Hourly Compensation And Wage Of The Big Three” Is “Around $73” Compared To “Hourly Compensation And Wage For The Average American At $28?” From the December 2, 2008 edition of The Live Desk:

TRACE GALLAGHER: [I]s it tough to justify to your constituents when you have the hourly compensation and wage of the Big Three at around $73 and you have the hourly compensation and wage for the average American at $28? I mean, it’s a big disparity to ask those making 28 bucks in wages and benefits to pay for those who are making 73 bucks in wages and benefits. [Fox News, The Live Desk, 12/2/08]

FACT: That Figure Is A Gross Distortion Of Labor Costs.

  • Baker: Figure Is “Not True.” Economist Dean Baker called the figure “not true,” writing that “the trick is to add in GM’s legacy costs, the pension and health care costs for retired workers. These legacy costs are a serious expense for GM, but this is not money being paid to current workers. The person on the line in 2008 is not benefiting from these legacy costs. [The American Prospect, 11/18/08]
  • UAW President: The $73 An Hour Figure Is Outdated And Inaccurate. Ron Gettelfinger, UAW president, said in a prepared statement before the Senate Banking Committee, “Contrary to an often-repeated myth, UAW members at GM, Ford and Chrysler are not paid $73 an hour. The truth is, wages for UAW members range from about $14 per hour for newly hired workers to $28 per hour for assemblers. The $73 an hour figure is outdated and inaccurate. It includes not only the costs of health care, pensions and other compensation for current workers, but also includes the costs of pensions and health care for all of the retired workers, spread out over the active workforce. Obviously, active workers do not receive any of this compensation, so it is simply not accurate to describe it as part of their “earnings.” [Senate Banking Committee, Testimony of Ron Gettelfinger, 12/4/08]

Study: U.S. States ‘Poorly Prepared’ For Radiation Emergency

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:43 am by HL

Study: U.S. States ‘Poorly Prepared’ For Radiation Emergency
A new study in a journal published by the American Medical Association (AMA) finds that, from a public health standpoint, U.S. states are “poorly prepared” to respond to a major radiation emergency.

MLK Day Bomb Suspect’s Father: My Son Didn’t Do It
The father of the man suspected of planting a bomb in a backpack along a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., says his son was home with him the day of the incident.

The GOPs Slinky Economic Logic

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:40 am by HL

The GOPs Slinky Economic Logic

Democrats Eye Strickland for DNC Chairman

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:39 am by HL

Democrats Eye Strickland for DNC Chairman
Jonathan Martin reports that former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who lost his re-election campaign to John Kasich (R) in November, is a strong contender for becoming the leader of the DNC should Tim Kaine leave to run for Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) seat.

“The Ohioan has emerged as a contender because he has an array of strengths that will be important to the party going into President Obama’s reelection. He hails from one of the most pivotal swing states on the presidential map, has raised millions over two gubernatorial runs and a 12-year career in Congress, and is comfortable in front of the camera as a surrogate.”

Bloomberg Approval Tanks to Lowest in 8 Years
A new Quinnipiac poll in New York City finds voters disapprove of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 51% to 39%, his lowest score since 2003.

Said pollster Maurice Carroll: “Is it the snow, the third-term blahs, the weekends away, the presidential chatter? Whatever the explanation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s once-upon-a-time stretch of 70-plus job approval numbers has gone south. This is his first negative number since 2003.”

No-Fly Zone Over Libya Could Backfire & Undermine Protests in Middle East

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:37 am by HL

No-Fly Zone Over Libya Could Backfire & Undermine Protests in Middle East
I recorded a few minutes of comments outlining my concerns over the Libya No-Fly Zone debate. In short, a no-fly zone is a high cost, low return strategy that doesn’t necessarily create a military tipping point in favor of the…

Itamar: Already, The Aftermath
Today – The Netanyahu government has announced that, in response to the murders at Itamar, it would build 500 new housing units in the territories. Mourning for the victims has barely begun, but the government has already managed to desecrate…

Maine Gov. LePage Asks For ?Shared Sacrifice,? But Is Exempt From His Own Pension Changes

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2011 4:36 am by HL

Maine Gov. LePage Asks For ?Shared Sacrifice,? But Is Exempt From His Own Pension Changes

Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME)

Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) has called for “shared sacrifice” when it comes to balancing his state’s budget. “If you want prosperity, you have got to make sacrifices,” LePage said. However, as Zaid Jilani pointed out, LePage’s proposed budget asks the middle-class and public employees to bear the brunt of filling the state’s budget gap, while cutting taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents.

As part of his budget, LePage proposed raising the retirement age for public employees and freezing their cost-of-living adjustments. He also increased the amount that public employees are required to pay into their pension fund from 7.65 percent to 9.65 percent, which constitutes a cut in take-home pay for these employees. However, as Mike Tipping at the Kennebec Journal reported, the change doesn’t apply to LePage’s own compensation:

One public employee currently paying 7.65 percent, however, won’t see an increase.

The governor has exempted himselfIf LePage faced the same increase as state employees, it would cost him $5,880 over his term.

LePage, upon leaving office, will be eligible for a $26,000 annual pension. A Maine teacher has to work for 25 years to receive the same benefit. Adding insult to injury, the money raised from increased employee contributions won’t even go towards immediately shoring up the state’s pension system, but “will instead pay for other budget priorities, including $203 million in tax cuts.”

The increased attention on LePage’s treatment of his own compensation led state finance commission Sawin Millet to say, “I won’t speak for where [LePage] would be on it, but I suspect that he’s not aloof from, or opposed to, considering that idea for himself.” “I intend to have that conversation, given the stories that have occurred over the weekend,” Millet added. As the Lewiston Sun Journal reported, “previous governors have reportedly sought separate statutory changes to their compensation to match their budget messaging.”

(HT: Dave Dayen)

Cross-posted at The Wonk Room.