Saturday, December 31, 2011
Following years of dedication on the part of conservationists to reintroduce the animals to their native habitats, things are looking up as the first gray wolf to be seen in California in nearly eight decades is spotted.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Hear those jingle bells in the distance? It's a sleigh coming up the drive, led by that chubby, jolly, old... conservative brother-in-law.
What with Christmas upon us and the family coming around, it's time for the next edition of what to do when that pesky brother-in-law, or aunt, or whomever, hits you with so many Fox canards that you can't even enjoy your new iPod.
I like those flat tax plans from Perry, Gingrich, and the rest of them... those guys really get what wrong with our crazy tax system!
Response: Yeah, those plans do sound simpler than the current mess, that's for sure -- but I'm afraid they're not as simple as you might think. Or as fair. (Dramatic pause, as your audience looks up expectantly from their figgy pudding.)
First off, if we really want everyone to pay one tax rate and we set that rate so as not to lose a lot of revenue, a lot of people's taxes could go up. Remember old Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan... sounds pretty flat, right? Well, over 80% of taxpayers faced higher payments under his flat tax plan. And the ones with the biggest breaks on these flat plans are the richest taxpayers. Rick Perry's flat tax lowers tax payments for multi-millionaires by a cool $1.5 mil.
Now look, we all know every tax change is going to have winners and losers, but I don't think most people want to whack the middle class so the rich can do a lot better
What's that? You're willing to trade a little more on your tax bill for simplicity?I hear you but here's the problem. Flat taxes can end up being more complicated than they sound. They often work like national sales taxes -- like in Europe, just a straight 20%, say, on what you buy. But in those cases, they usually exclude basic necessities so now you have to keep track of that, and fight over what get exempted.Next, to make sure you avoid the Cain problem of some people paying more, both Perry and Gingrich proposed that you could either pay the flat tax or stick with the current system. So, guess what? Now you get to figure out your tax bill both ways so that you can figure out which is cheaper. That sure doesn't sound simpler to me.Anyway, you know what makes the system we have complicated? It's not the different rates. If that's all it was you could just look your income up in a set of tax tables, find your liability, and be done with it in literally seconds. And that would be true whether we have one rate or a hundred rates.What complicates things are all the exemptions, credits, and special privileges for different types of income. For a lot of people, you pay a higher rate for money you earn teaching children, like Aunt Debbie does, than for money you make when you sell a stock. That's both unfair and too complicated.So I say let's add simplicity and fairness by just taxing every dollar as a dollar no matter who earned it on which day of the week. And keep the progressive rates in place, so everyone can pay their fair share.
You liberals love Social Security, but everyone knows it's a dinosaur program, about to go extinct. None of you kids are ever gonna see a dime from it, so you might as well drop it.Response: That's a mistake a lot of people make, bro, but it's simply not true. In fact, the folks who keep the books on this point out that for about the next 25 years, Social Security can pay full benefits. After that, it will be able to pay 75% of scheduled benefits. And by the way, even with that reduction, those benefits will be higher than they are today (that's because they're scheduled to go up over time, so even with the reduction, they'll be higher than today's).
Still, you've got a point--there's not enough retirement security in America. The real dinosaur in the room, unfortunately, is the guaranteed pension. Fewer and fewer jobs provide that anymore -- it's all 401(k)'s, where you get to bet your future on the stock market-good luck with that these days (note heads nodding in affirmation). In fact, if you think about it, the only guaranteed pension you can depend on is... wait for it... (dramatic pause)... Social Security! And believe it or not, a lot of conservatives want to turn Social Security into a stock market plan-(shake head despondently, with pity for those who don't get what a bad idea this is...).
So we've got to mend it so that it can pay full benefits, not just 75% over the long-term horizon. One thing to keep in mind is that the funding shortfall of the program is just about equal to the high end part of the Bush tax cuts--the part that just goes to households about $250K and that's supposed to expire at the end of 2012. So fixing the program in perpetuity shouldn't be that hard a lift.And there's other stuff we could do. Did folks know that the tax to fund the program only hits salaries up to $110,000? That means that if you make a million bucks, about 90% of your salary is tax free when it comes to the payroll tax that funds Soc Sec. That ain't right.
So rest assured, with some smart, fair tweaks, the program will be around for many Christmas's to come. The bigger concern is that Social Security on its own won't provide enough income to provide a comfortable retirement for a lot of folks. But it's still a solid foundation for folks to build upon, one that we should be sure to make more solid for generations to come.This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I come neither to bury Mitt Romney nor to praise him. Instead, I hope to persuade you that you should be rooting for Romney to win the Republican nomination for president. And yes, by "you" I mean liberals who are planning to vote for Barack Obama in 2012.Now, I realize this proposition is counterintuitive. However reluctant Republicans seem to be about getting behind their supposedly inevitable standard-bearer, most Democrats and independents understand that Romney is by far the strongest of a remarkably weak Republican field.
If Obama's re-election is all that matters, then of course it would be better for the president to take on a divisive figure like Newt Gingrich, the latest anti-Romney flavor of the month among conservative Republicans. Needless to say, Obama supporters would be beside themselves with joy if the Republicans were to nominate an even more flawed candidate like Herman Cain (who could be gone by the time you read this), Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann.
Romney, unlike most of his Republican rivals, is a credible candidate with real management experience in both the private sector and in government. You can picture him as president without breaking into a cold sweat. As governor of Massachusetts, he was a competent leader who did some good things (most notably on health care, as you may have heard) and some bad (demagoguing against same-sex marriage). Until he started running for president midway through his sole four-year term, he was moderate, pragmatic and results-oriented -- everything today's Republican Party is not.
I realize this is not a good week to try to make a case for Romney. His lying ad about Obama was repulsive in its cynicism -- but no more so than his flogging of Perry for taking pretty much the same position on immigration that Romney himself did a few years ago.Yet if Romney fails to win the nomination, it could be disastrous for the country, for the Republican Party and even for the Obama presidency. Let me take these one at a time.
1. It would be bad for the country. Nearly three years into the Obama era, the economy is still in miserable shape. With Europe collapsing as a result of the debt crisis afflicting Greece and Italy, and now spreading to other countries, we could very well be heading into another recession in 2012.Obama's bold-if-not-quite-bold-enough steps in 2009 -- the stimulus package, the bailout of the financial and auto industries and related measures -- may very well have averted a 1930s-style depression. But that's of little comfort to millions of Americans who are out of work, stuck with bad mortgages and angry. Obama could lose his re-election bid even to the likes of Gingrich or Perry if things get worse. If they get much worse -- well, would you want to bet against Bachmann or Ron Paul if the unemployment rate hits 15 percent?
My point is that Obama could lose no matter who his Republican opponent turns out to be. Given that obvious fact, do you really want to take a chance on Obama's losing to anyone other than Romney?2. It would be bad for the Republican Party. The party of Lincoln -- not to mention Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush -- has become a destructive force in recent years, wedded to discredited ideas such as tax cuts for the wealthy and climate-change denialism. Above all, today's Republicans are devoted to destroying Obama, echoing their sex-obsessed persecution of Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
In the long run, the implosion of one of our two major parties benefits no one. The American form of representative democracy works best with an effective governing party and a responsible opposition. If Republican voters nominate Romney, it would send a signal to John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell, as well as their Tea Party allies, that they're sick and tired of their relentless, self-serving obstructionism.3. It would be bad for the Obama presidency. Despite my fears that even a fringe candidate could beat Obama if the already-ailing economy collapses, it is more likely that the president wouldn't have to break a sweat in dispatching Gingrich, Perry or Bachmann. And that wouldn't bode well for a second term, as Obama wouldn't earn a mandate so much as have one handed to him.
Given Romney's incessant pandering, I may be too optimistic in hoping that an Obama-Romney contest could play out as a serious conversation about our country's future. But a boy can dream, can't he?
Romney currently finds himself in an impossible position: he's widely described as the inevitable nominee, yet the Republican Party's right wing -- its dominant wing -- loathes him. This week the New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Gingrich -- no surprise, but a complication for Romney given how crucial the Granite State is to his chances.The prospect that the president may face an extreme, supposedly unelectable Republican may seem enticing to those hoping for a second Obama term. As always, you should be careful about what you wish for.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
When I was a kid, I thought I was a lot tougher than I was. My mother taught me that if you acted like you could handle yourself, then you could. But sometimes that meant enduring unnecessary pain.
My family could not afford to see a doctor and had to confront health needs alone.
Several families like mine have endured illnesses simply because they could not afford medical evaluations, making early detection or prevention of them difficult.
A report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finds last year's health insurance reform is already changing this.
Preventative care has become much more affordable. For Medicare beneficiaries, the cost burden of services -- such as mammograms, colonoscopies and blood pressure checks -- has been lifted entirely.
This year, more than 17 million seniors have received preventive measures they desperately needed, without copayment, deductibles or coinsurance, according to HHS. And an additional one million seniors have received free wellness visits.
This is particularly great news for women. More women have struggled with chronic illnesses than men.
In 2009, the Commonwealth Fund found that more than half of women delayed or avoided preventive care because of cost concerns. Even moderate co-pays for preventive services such as mammograms or pap smears have deterred women from visiting a doctor.
Yet chronic diseases, which account for 75 percent of the nation's health spending, are often preventable. The Affordable Care Act is helping women -- young and old -- avoid the onset of illness and improve their quality of life.
In its report, HHS announced new guidelines that will ensure women of all ages receive preventive health services at no additional cost. HHS's announcement follows a report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine that included fundamental preventive services are a basic health need of all women.
Starting in 2012, new health insurance plans will not only put money back in the pockets of women, but they will cover a wider net of preventive care services, such as Human Papilloma Virus DNA testing, HIV screening and counseling, FDA-approved contraception, breastfeeding support and domestic violence screening and counseling.
Too many women like my mother lacked the preventive services they needed to stay healthy because of cost concerns. It's up to us to make sure today's women know about the benefits available to them.
HealthCare.gov is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more. And the Department of Health and Human Services Web site provides great guides, too.
In a country as great as ours, no one should be forced to struggle without medical coverage because of an illness that could have been detected and treated.
This blog comes from MomsRising.org and CustomFitWorkplace.org and presents innovative ideas to strengthen 21st Century American families through public policy, business practice, and cultural change.
Glenn Beck told his audience that Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom was the "best thing you can read." The book shot up the Amazon bestseller list instantly as Beck's cult-like followers rushed out to buy it.
Beck was unaware that Hayek's friend, and sometimes sparing partner, John Maynard Keynes, also called it a "grand book" and said he found himself "in agreement with virtually the whole of it; and not only in agreement with it, but in deeply moved agreement." The New York Times said this book, by the Nobel Prize winning economist, is one of the staples of the conservative Tea Party movement.The Tea Party and Glenn Beck would do well to educate themselves as to Hayek's actual view in his essay, "Why I Am Not a Conservative." Conservatives concentrate on Hayek's opposition to state socialism, but have little understanding of his radical classical liberal ideas and ignore his opposition to conservatism. Hayek saw himself as a liberal, in the classical sense of the word. And, while Keynes differed greatly from Hayek's views on economics, Keynes saw himself in the same ideological camp as his friend. Hayek was "not averse to evolution and change" and said that when "spontaneous change has been smothered by government control, it [liberalism] wants a great deal of change." This, he argued, was in conflict with the "conservative attitude" which was a "fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such." Hayek said his position "is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead." Conservatives focus on Hayek's distrust of centrally imposed, top-down change. Meagan McArdle, for instance, invoked Hayekian theory to claim, "changing the explicitly gendered nature of marriage... might be accidentally cutting away something that turns out to be a crucial underpinning." This confuses Hayek's opposition to imposed change with opposition to all change. Hayek's view was that for a new social order, or social rules, "To become legitimized... [they] have to obtain the approval of society at large -- not by a formal vote, but by gradually spreading acceptance," much the way that same-sex marriage has gained support. This is particularly true when the change recognizes a "conflict between a given rule and the rest of our moral beliefs." Then we "can justify our rejection of an established rule." For example, when denying same-sex couples the right to marry conflicts with our acceptance of equality of rights before the law, we can justify changing the laws on marriage according to Hayek's insights.
Hayek warned that conservatives, however, "are inclined to use the powers of government to prevent change or to limit its rates to whatever appeals to the more timid mind."Another difference between Hayek and conservatives is he saw order emerging from voluntary interactions of people, while "Order appears to the conservative as the result of the continuous attention to authority." The conservative, he said "feels safe and content only if he is assured that some higher wisdom watches and supervises change, only if he knows that some authority is charged with keeping the change 'orderly.'" Hayek believed in the rule of law, with government powers strictly limited to general rules of social order. Contrast this with a conservative who "does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not be too much restricted by rigid rules." Hayek warned that the conservative is "less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them" and said "he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people."
Hayek saw conservatives as lacking principles but not "moral conviction." He wrote, "The conservative is indeed usually a man of very strong moral convictions," but "has no political principles which enable him to work with people whose moral values differ from his own for a political order in which both can obey their convictions." Hayek's liberal social order allows people of differing convictions the freedom to pursue their own values. The joking response to conservatives, "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married," actually encapsulates Hayek's view of a liberal society, which allows people of different views the freedom to pursue their own values. Those who oppose erotica are free to NOT buy it, those who oppose abortion are free to shun abortions, those who oppose gay marriage don't have to get gay married!
It is here that Hayek's liberalism is most clearly in opposition to both conservatism and socialism. "I sometimes feel that the most conspicuous attribute of liberalism that distinguishes it as much from conservatism as from socialism is the view that moral beliefs concerning matters of conduct which do not directly interfere with the protected sphere of other persons do not justify coercion."Conservatives invoke supernatural claims to justify intransigent opposition to change, not so with Hayekian liberals.
"The liberal differs from the conservative in his willingness to face [human] ignorance and to admit how little we know, without claiming the authority of supernatural forces of knowledge where his reason fails him. It has to be admitted that in some respects the liberal is fundamentally a skeptic -- but it seems to require a certain degree of diffidence to let others seek their happiness in their own fashion and to adhere consistently to that tolerance which is an essential characteristic of liberalism."Hayek's wrote, "What distinguishes the liberal from the conservative here is that, however profound his own spiritual beliefs, he will never regard himself as entitled to impose them on others and that for him the spiritual and the temporal are different spheres which ought not to be confused."
Hayek never feared evolutionary change in society, nor believed religious values sufficient reason for using power of the state to prevent change. Hayek, the intransigent opponent of socialism that Beck and conservatives admire, also saw himself equally opposed to their conservative agenda, something conservatives ignore at their peril. More confusing for these so-called admirers of Hayek would be the fact that Hayek opposed their conservative agenda for precisely the same reasons he opposed socialism. But that, I suspect, is a brew too strong for the so-called Tea Party.
Rick Perry (R-TX), the Republicans' flavor of the day before they embrace the more marbled beef of Chris Christie (R-NJ), told Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that he would be committing "treason" if he "printed money prior to the next election," and that, if he dared come to Texas after committing such an act, he would be treated "ugly."While the Beltway was, properly, taken aback by the not-too-subtle physical threat to Bernanke by a sitting governor who aspires to be president, they all overlooked Perry's time qualifier, "before the next election." That ought to dispel any doubt that the Republican Party will prevent an economic recovery so that they might win the next election.
Presumably, if Bernanke launched QE3 (the means to expand the money supply) after the election, it would not be treason, and Bernanke could go to Texas without fear for his life or health.So, what was Perry really getting at? It seems clear that Perry was warning Bernanke not to improve the economy before November 2012 because it might help President Obama's re-election chances. That is, they will prevent 14 million Americans from getting jobs. They will make millions more family members suffer. And, they will express outrage that anyone even suggested that that is what they are doing. It was one of these authentic, unscripted moments in which the candidate said what he really believed. Indeed, he began his answer to the voter question about the Federal Reserve by stating he did not want to address it. But, could not stop himself. Robert Gibbs is absolutely correct. The Republican Party will keep millions of Americans from having jobs, a payroll tax cut, and unemployment insurance so that the economy will suffer, just so the President will have a more difficult time winning re-election.
Their frontrunner just said so. There is no other plausible (or implausible) explanation for qualifying his outrageous accusation and implied physical threat against Chairman Bernanke with an election-related timeframe.
So, Mr Gibbs, you have the "smoking gun." Use it as evidence. Use it often.
Saturday, April 09, 2011
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
The government shutdown might happen this Friday - and let me emphasize the word 'might'. It's quite clear that the assholes who act as spokesmen for the 'party of Abraham Lincoln' haven't yet made up their minds whether or not a shutdown will benefit them politically. It didn't in 1994, but they seem to think that it might work this time around. Back in '94 there was little publicity involving what was about to happen. Seventeen years later they're not being as clumsy. They're out there on the talk show circuit in droves this morning, bracing the public for the storm on the horizon, chanting their silly mantra:
'How can the Democrats allow this to happen?'
We'll know soon enough if the propaganda has the desired effect. My guess is that, like in '94, this is going to blow up in their clueless faces. I certainly hope so. Watching the utter implosion of the Republican party is an absolute joy that is difficult to put into words. I can barely contain myself.
I hate to be seen as a cheerleader for the Democrats, I really do. I often feel like I'm in a restaurant and the waiter is asking me, 'Would you like a nice cool glass of donkey piss to wash down that juicy plate of elephant shit you've ordered, sir?' Our choices these days are sparse - no question about it. But when everything has been sliced and diced, I feel that am left with no choice but to side with the Dems. The alternatives are too depressing too even think about. 'Stick with Tweedle-dee', I tell myself, 'Tweedle-dum is brain-damaged.' He's also a bit of a pervert.
Or think of it this way:
'Hmm....Which record shall I put on the ol' turntable - 'Go Away, Little Girl' by Donny Osmond, or 'Sugar Sugar' by the Archies?'
The choice is very easy, but hardly satisfying - While 'Sugar Sugar' may rock - barely - it's not going to send me into the clouds. Unfortunately, those are the kind of choices we're faced with these days.
Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Strange days indeed
Most peculiar, Mama!
At least the Democrats - some of them - still understand the truism that we're never going to get our 'fiscal house in order' until the people and corporations who have more money that they know what to do with are taxed at the rate they should be. The economy will never recover as long as the tax burden is placed on the back of the poor and middle classes. And please, don't shoot back at me that tired old myth that the poor do not pay taxes. Everyone pays taxes. Remember that the next time you pay $4.31 for a $3.99 pint of Nicolai Vodka.
I paid more in taxes last year than General Electric. You did, too.
And then there's that nasty subject of defense spending. Do you want to know why I love Bernie Sanders? Because he seems to be the only human being in Washington with the guts to say (or the sense to say) the unspeakable truth that no one else has the courage to say: We spend way-too-much of our national treasure on weapons of mass destruction. You know! Those things we took out Saddam Hussein for possessing that he never even possessed? If our representatives only had the foresight to understand this, a lot of the problems that plague the body politic would vanish. Not only that, we could reinvest in our infrastructure - and that would translate into jobs - lots and lots of them. It would also mean a long overdue renaissance for the middle class. But that's never going to happen. The chances are pretty good that your congressman or woman is bought and paid for by the military industrial complex.
Instead, the conservatives of both parties would rather privatize Medicare and Social Security. Instead of investing in our badly neglected infrastructure, they want tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy. Good luck, America.
The Republicans are telling us that they wish to 'restore fiscal sanity in Washington'. The only problem is that their proposals are beyond insane. The lunatics have not only taken over the asylum, they're writing the fucking prescriptions. Line up for your medications, boys and girls!
This excellent article by Robert Reich was posted this morning on that horribly subversive, commie-loving website AlterNet:
Why We Must Raise Taxes on the Rich, ASAP!
Just one of many reasons why I love this site!
Sunday, March 20, 2011
For reasons difficult to understand (at least, rationally), Republicans have long seemed to dislike public employees. Generally, it's centered on workers making too much money, a concept Republicans don't mind in the private community. But if a public employee dares make above a sustenance wage, bring out the commentators and pitchforks. If a public employee makes $100,000, that is a sign of the Apocalypse.(What most Republicans tend never to ask, mind you, is why that public employee is making $100,000. So, they never hear that usually a) the employee is a head supervisor with decades of expertise, b) cutbacks in government funding forced layoffs, which require this expert to work extra overtime, and c) someone with that much experience in private business generally earns significantly more. But why ask about reality, when howling at the moon is easier?)
Now, I understand there's a difference between a private worker earning $300,000 for a corporation, and a public employee getting $60,000 paid by taxpayers. The former is deservedly rewarded for helping make a profit. The other is serving the public good to make citizens' lives better. Personally, I think the latter is noble-minded and something selfless to be admired and appreciated. But hey, that's just me.
I understand, too, that the patron saint of conservatism, Ronald Reagan, said, 'Government is the problem,' which set that unshakeable philosophy in impervious stone. And so, we tend to hear from many Republicans the all-encompassing ridicule, 'Would you like to see Big Government run...?' - followed by the name of some private industry, always meant to suggest that the government can't run anything properly, while private business is near-godlike.
Government red tape can indeed be one of Dante's seven levels of hell. But given that 60% of all new restaurants fail in their very first year, I wouldn't care to see the National Restaurant Association in charge of snow removal.
But let's be fair. For the sake of argument, let's accept the conservative Republican view that the government is terrible at running things, and if private business did the work, taxes would be lower. Okay? Great! So, then, let's ask the exact same question as before, just - reversed.'Would you like to see private industry run...?' And now fill in the blank with some government agency.
Because we're just being fair. Right?Would you like to see private business run the Armed Forces? Just make everything a private militia. It's already in the Constitution. Let the branches compete, and only the strongest would survive. That's Business 101. The military could even be outsourced overseas. If a private investor wanted to buy his own brigades, that's the business spirit that made America great. And the president wouldn't have to worry about spreading himself too thin as Commander-in-Chief, a job most haven't really been qualified for anyway.
Would you like to see private business run the nation's police departments? They certainly have experience already with Home Security companies. And if a private consortium wants to start up another police force, just imagine all the extra protection.Would you like to see private business run the fire departments? Volunteer fire brigades worked swell in the 1850s, so they're time-tested. And remember last year when a Tennessee fire department let a house outside its district burn down because the owner had forgotten to pay his $75 fee? Just think of the money collected by private companies. It wouldn't be a piddling $75. Charge what the service demands - which is a lot.
Would you like to see private business run libraries? They are such a drain on government spending. If a businessman can't turn a profit lending free books, he'll just close the branch. There could be a huge business opportunity here - why even lend books? Sell them. You could close down all those brick-and-mortar libraries and do transactions online.And would you like to see private business run the school system? We have great private schools right now, just make all schools private. If somebody can't afford a good school - or afford a school at all - it's like buying a new car. If you can't afford one, walk. Maybe education isn't for everyone anyway. Just smart, rich people.
And while we're at it, if you really hate how government operates, wouldn't you like to see private business run the Senate, House, judiciary, and President? We're always hearing about wealthy Republican CEOs spending their personal fortunes to become governor so they 'can run this state like a business.' Why not extend that to its logical conclusion? Just let private business run the entire country. You don't need a Chief Executive, just a Chief Executive Officer. The best people would clamor for the job - with so much privatized, there'd be little to run, and a guaranteed $150 million bonus, like on Wall Street. And since the public always says they hate politicians, you wouldn't need any. The CEO of United States Incorporated (a fully-owned subsidiary of Nabisco, a division of China, Ltd.) would simply appoint senior and junior executives to Congress. And hire ombudsmen instead of Federal judges.Hey, just make everything in government private! Because if Republicans think government is so bad, it only makes sense to turn it all over to private business. Republicans have pretty much done that with their own party already. So, they've got a good handle on where to start.
Now, of course, this is just exaggeration. Obviously. Private business does much well, as does government. But accepting that is difficult for conservatives because it totally changes their issue. It's no longer, 'Government is the problem,' as the unmovable, blanket GOP starting point. Rather, it's now becomes a fair question of debate: what does government do well (and do well with its public employees)? And where does private business fail?In the end, government is not the problem. Nor is private business. The problem is being close-minded.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Republicans took their assault on clean air to the House yesterday, as they ran EPA administrator Lisa Jackson through the ringer at an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing.With the cast of characters doing the questioning, it's no surprise that things got heated...
Rep. Fred Upton (R) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) shamelessly introduced the “Energy Tax Prevention Act” after a closed-door meeting with a list of who's who of big time polluters — including the American Petroleum Institute, National Mining Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.The measure seeks to protect the profits of polluters under the guise of saving jobs.
“The Chinese government and other competitors have no intention of burdening and raising the cost of doing business for their manufacturers and energy producers the way E.P.A. plans to do here in America. Our goal should be to export goods, not jobs,” Upton sneered.Tell that to the athletes who showed up to the Beijing Olympics in surgical masks because the air pollution was so horrific.
Is that the pollution standard you'd like to see in America?Hell, why not adopt China's child labor regulations while we're at it; it would at least boost manufacturing jobs...
Meanwhile, the other sponsor is none other than Rep. Jim Inhofe, Capitol Hill's resident climate change crackpot.Inhofe has not only compared the EPA to the Gestapo, but has also cavalierly compared environmentalists to the Third Reich.
Jackson remained poised during the proceedings, standing by the EPA's claim that they are responsible for regulating greenhouse gas pollution. Here's a bit of her opening statement:Based on the best peer-reviewed science, EPA found in 2009 that manmade greenhouse gas emissions do threaten the health and welfare of the American people.
EPA is not alone in reaching that conclusion. The National Academy of Sciences has stated that there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that the climate is changing and that the changes are caused in large part by human activities.Eighteen of America’s leading scientific societies have written that multiple lines of evidence show humans are changing the climate, that contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science, and that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and the environment.
The Upton/Inhofe legislation argues the EPA doesn't have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.The Supreme Court begs to differ. In a 5-4 decision, the court found the EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act if the agency's scientists found that CO2 posed a public danger — which they have.
“Chairman Upton’s bill would, in its own words, repeal the scientific finding regarding greenhouse gas emissions," Jackson added. "Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question — that would become part of this committee’s legacy.”If it passes, it would represent the first time in history that Congress overturned a scientific finding, Jackson noted.
Seeking to quell some of the partisan rancor, Rep. Henry Waxman (D) revealed a letter from George Bush's EPA chief that essentially agreed with current EPA administration that greenhouse gases were indeed a public health issue.Stephen Johnson, Bush's EPA chief, wrote a memo to Bush in 2008 regarding findings supported by science that greenhouse gases were related to rising temperatures, and that the EPA must develop regulations on the gases.
'This bill appears to be part of a broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public,' Jackson added.As long as the big time polluters keep lining the pockets of Republican congressmen, it looks like that broad effort will keep trudging on... scientific evidence be damned.
EPA Chief Bullied by Republicans originally appeared in Green Chip Stocks. Green Chip Review is a free 2x-per-week newsletter, is the first advisory to focus exclusively on investments in alternative and renewable energies.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
I have no idea what the U.S. Constitution meant to say about health insurance -- and, frankly, I don't think any Constitutional scholar does either. There was no health insurance when the Constitution was written.So, my best guess may be about as good as anyone's, and my best guess is: not much. That may be why interpretations of how the Constitution pertains to the Obama Administration's health reform package seem to have more to do with political affiliation than any irrefutable position staked out by the Founding Fathers. The federal judge in Florida who just found the whole magilla unconstitutional is -- surprise -- a Republican. Democrats to date have -- surprise again -- uniformly gone the other way.
My plea in this post is a variation on the theme I've already established for this topic: maybe we are on our own. Maybe the founders did not anticipate drug-eluting coronary stents, chronic ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, or the costs, co-pays, and deductibles that come along with them. Maybe we need to use our own common sense, rather than keep telling one another why long-dead people meant to say what our particular team wishes they meant to say.I suppose even common sense might take us in opposing directions, but here's where mine takes me. Healthcare is not a 'commodity' like any other.
The crux of the Constitutional debate seems to be whether or not the federal government can compel us to buy any commodity. What my common sense tells me is that in the case of healthcare, it is not the government, but the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that compel the 'purchase.'
If you can't afford a car, you can get by without one. If you can't afford nice clothes, you can manage with Good Will. If you don't ski, there is certainly no reason to buy skis, or lift tickets.But if you are hit by a bus, or fall off your roof, or drive a shovel into an underground electric cable, or have a heart attack, or get struck by lightning, or develop diabetic ketoacidosis ... you will get treated. The only option is for passers-by to leave you lying, writhing, seizing, or bleeding -- because you have not expressly, in advance, chosen to 'purchase' health care. Chances are, if you were conscious while seizing or hemorrhaging, you might want the opportunity to reconsider.
But there is no opportunity to reconsider priorities, commodities, or purchases during a calamity. During a calamity, the default judgment of passers-by, the default action of a society of fundamentally decent, compassionate people is ... to shoot treatments at you first, and ask questions about your insurance status and credit score afterward. Would anyone really want this to work differently? Can you envision the world where you are left on the sand to bleed after a shark attack until we verify your financial assets?
Now let's consider the heavy hand of government against which the Republican version of what the founding fathers meant to say protects us.
Maybe you, the one bleeding, seizing, or dying -- are not compelled to 'buy' health insurance -- because nobody's the boss of you. Maybe you get treated for your calamity, and simply don't pay the bill. But then I, and everyone else, are compelled to 'buy' what you did not. We pay more taxes to support the public provision of care. We pay higher insurance premiums to cover higher hospital charges to account for the fact that a certain percentage of customers get care they don't pay for. If health care is a commodity, then by not requiring some to buy it, we are -- ipso facto -- requiring others to buy it for them. Where's the Constitutional protection against that?
There is none -- and can be none -- because health care is not a commodity. It is an event, a crisis, an occurrence. And paying for it simply ... happens. There isn't much in the free market system that looks like this. There isn't any particular reason why the founding fathers would have anticipated this issue.
The problem with debating how what the Constitution says about commodities applies to healthcare is that healthcare is not a commodity. It is, all too often, as unintended and unplanned as it is unavoidable. Health care is not a commodity, and the Constitution does not seem to have said anything in particular about whether or not to send out an ambulance to deal with someone who can't pay for it, and then impose the bill on those who can.
My common sense tells me that health care is, and should be, a case apart. And therefore before we imagine different meanings in the words of those who never imagined health insurance, perhaps we should consider what would be the sensible way to handle a 'purchase' the purchaser is apt to be in no condition to refuse.
Not because of anything the Constitution or Obama Administration did or didn't say. But simply because the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune may fall on any of us at any time -- and when they do, somebody will be left to pay the bill.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
'We've brainwashed our kids so brilliantly so even though they know something is disgusting and gross, they'll still eat it if it's in that friendly little shape,' explained Jamie Oliver, star of the reality television series Food Revolution.Food Revolution piloted last year with the goal of educating American families on nutrition and the dire need for reform in diet and lifestyle.
The program focused mainly on areas that are statistically unhealthy, including one city in West Virginia, where the celebrity chef and health campaigner from the UK started a grassroots campaign in the United States to curb obesity.'I'm here because I need this community to inspire and show Americans that just a little effort can make a massive difference,' Oliver said during season one of the show.
Focusing on school lunch programs as a core problem with childhood obesity, Oliver's program won an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program.And this year, Oliver will take to the road again to uncover the less-than-savory truth behind America's school lunch programs in Southern California...
The show's second season will not only examine what children are eating in the school cafeteria; but it will also include visits by Oliver to families' homes and to Jamie's Kitchen, a space Oliver established in Los Angeles as his kitchen classroom and production set.There's only one minor problem...
Oliver is meeting serious resistance with Los Angeles school district to gain access to their cafeterias.The Los Angeles Unified School Direct has outright refused to let cameras into the schools — despite Oliver's assurance he is not looking to cause trouble in the school system, but rather to shed light on their lunch program for the purpose of improvement.
A spokesman for the district told the Los Angeles Times LA Unified is avoiding the formula inherent in reality television: 'You either have to have drama or create conflict to be successful. We're not interested in either.'The resistance from the LAUSD has led Oliver and others to wonder just what the ladies with hairnets are serving up to students for lunch.
Is the district concerned or fearful about what Oliver could uncover in their lunch programs?And if so, seems like a good opportunity to shed some light on their program...
In a district where 80% of the nearly 700,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the majority of the student body stands to have access to a nutritious meal at least once a day — and lessons in what food choices to make the rest of the time.Following Food Revolution's success in Huntington, West Virginia, last year, Los Angeles public schools could benefit greatly from Oliver's experience and know-how in reforming school lunch programs.
Parents and community members in the Los Angeles area are behind Oliver, going as far as to write to Board of Education members in their district to express distress at the school system's refusal to let someone who could potentially help their children even get a look at a single cafeteria or meal program.Oliver maintains that he will work with families in their homes in the Los Angeles area, as well as local grocery stores and fast-food chains when Food Revolution starts again this spring — regardless if the LAUSD allows him access to the schools.
School lunches are becoming a greater focus in the nutrition story and a building block for America's growing health problems.Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the century. Instances of childhood obesity in the United States have risen three times in the last 30 years, and continue to increase at a staggering rate.
By the end of this year, cases of obesity among children are expected to reach more than 40%...Earlier this year, a group of retired military officers petitioned Congress for a nutrition bill, demanding healthier school lunch programs around the country.
First Lady Michele Obama's Let's Move! initiative aims to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, focusing on making healthy food accessible and affordable (especially to children and in school meal programs), promoting making healthy choices, and education in nutrition and the importance of an active lifestyle.In December, the Child Nutrition Bill was signed into law, allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update the national school nutrition standards for all food sold outside of school meals. The new proposed meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in more than 15 years...
The law will effectively remove junk food from school cafeterias and vending machines. This bill marked the first increase in funding for the national school lunch program in more than 35 years, which will allow schools to meet improved nutrition standards.The buzz on school lunches is becoming a national priority as health care experts place a new importance on early childhood education in nutrition and lifestyle. Studies show that proper nutrition can benefit children not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, as well.
When Oliver first began implementing healthy menus in England's public schools, researchers found a direct correlation between the schools with healthier meals and improved test results, as well as a 15% decrease in absences (as a result of illness).But as a spokesman from Huntington, WV, explained following Oliver's time spent in their schools, change is not easy...
"We’re having some trouble getting the kids to eat the food. It’s a change that’s going to take some time.”As with anything, change takes time.
But that time might be later added to the life of many children who avoid obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression and social anxiety because they are informed — and because they have a choice between the salad bar and the daily slice of pizza.
BrigidJamie Oliver Denied Access for Lunch Program Reform originally appeared in Green Chip Stocks. Green Chip Review is a free 2x-per-week newsletter, is the first advisory to focus exclusively on investments in alternative and renewable energies.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Lunacy. Lunatic. The lunar effect. All through human history, the moon has been blamed for some amazing things. Everything from schizophrenia to werewolves; increases in crime rate and increases in emergency room visits. Even epilepsy has been blamed on the effects of the lunar cycle. While I’ve never personally tangled with a werewolf, I know many people believe there is some connection with the full moon and people acting a fool.
There is something about the moon that draws us. Beautiful, mysterious, changeable; the object of poetry and passion. Sometimes it looks full and bloated; red and bloody; even every once in a while… blue. I can sympathize with our distant ancestors for being moonstruck. After all, our moon goes through some pretty interesting changes over the course of a year.
Some studies seem to suggest there is a connection between the cycles of the moon and human behavior, while more studies say there is no connection. Some surgeons won’t operate during a full moon because they say lunar cycles impact survival rates, and I’ve read more than one psychological study which claims that symptoms of various conditions respond to lunar cycles.
What’s really interesting about the moon is that the more we know about it, the more we recognize that it really does impact our lives. I’m not going to say that it impacts medical conditions, but it certainly has a lot to do with stabilizing the Earth’s wobble so we have a climate with which we can live. It may or may not impact criminal behavior, but it definitely has a whopping impact on our oceans. It even significantly effects the speed at which the Earth rotates.
I think our moon is unbelievably beautiful, and I enjoy the rich cultural tradition with which it’s associated. Is the lunar effect real? I dunno, but for me, it doesn’t need to be."