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The CBO Report on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

April 15, 2014 in What's Up!

healthBack in February, Republicans attacked Democrats over a CBO report showing that the health-care law was reducing labor supply by about 2 million workers in 2017. “Obamacare to print even more pink slips,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office said (even though the report was talking about workers’ desire to remain in the workforce, not about whether employers think the law is too costly to hire people). But a new CBO report released Monday now has Democrats celebrating and Republicans relatively silent.
According to the budget office, the health-care law is estimated to cost $5 billion less than the previous projection for 2014, and $104 billion less than the projection for 2015-2024. Perhaps more importantly, the report says that health-care premiums are lower than originally expected — the average cost of a “silver” plan is estimated to be about $3,800 in 2014, down from previous estimates.
All this isn’t to say that the law is in hunky-dory shape: We don’t know what the premiums will be for 2015, and we don’t know the demographic mix of the millions of Americans who have signed up in the exchanges. But what this CBO report does is paint a MUCH MORE nuanced portrait of the health-care law than opponents would believe. Bottom line: Obamacare has now enjoyed maybe its best two weeks of news (CBO report, 7.5 million sign-ups) since the law’s passage in 2010.

 

Give the President a Congress that he can work with.  Replace House Speaker John Boehner.  Vote Democrat in 2014.

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WILL WE ALLOW THE KOCH BROTHERS TO BUY AMERICA?

March 22, 2014 in What's Up!

KochBrothersThere is an old adage, “all’s fair in love and war” and whether or not we buy into that saying, it is a fact that there has been waged on the United States a “political war” by Charles and David Koch and their allies. Let me explain.

Charles and David Koch are two of the most powerful individuals in America but also two of the most dangerous and anti-Americans in recent times.  Because of their enormous wealth, they have been able to influence the outcome of political elections and legislation at both the national and state levels. 

Through one of its major Super Paks, Americans for Prosperity, during the 2012 presidential election, the Koch brothers spent over $400 million dollars in an attempt to purchase the presidency, Senate and House.  Moreover, conservative Billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, personally spent an additional 101 million dollars on Republican candidates.  Almost 6 Billion Dollars were spent during the 2012 elections and it is estimated that approximately two-thirds were spent by Republican Super Paks and individuals.  The President and every democrat running for national or state offices were targeted with a major invasion of “negative” political ads filled with distortions and lies.  Even with several states attempting to implement actions to suppress voting by African Americans, women, Hispanics, young people and the poor through legislation making it difficult for these constituencies to vote, and in gerrymandering legislative districts, the American people responded with a determination not to allow the Koch Brothers and their allies to deprive them of their right to vote.  Because of the overwhelming response to the Koch Brothers “buy America” campaign, President Obama won a second term by more than 5 million votes, and the Democratic Party picked up additional seats in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

Despite their 400 million dollar investment the 2012 elections were a major defeat for the Koch Brothers and they went away licking their wounds determined to fight another day.  Now, they have resurfaced with vengeance, determined to purchase the 2014 elections.  Through their Americans for Prosperity Super Pak, the Koch Brothers have already spent an estimated 30 million dollars in negative ads targeting democrats and we are not even close to November.  In embracing this “all’s fair in love and war” saying, the Koch Brothers have hired “actors and actresses” to “play the role” of average Americans.  Because these paid actors have been distorting the facts, several news organizations have debunked the ads as out-right lies.  Of course, the Koch Brothers will never let facts get in the way of their agenda and this is just the beginning of their quest to takeover federal and state governments by purchasing their candidates.  In addition to their unlimited spending on the 2014 election, the Koch Brothers have also implemented a massive “ground operation” where thousands of paid folks will be knocking on doors in many communities spreading lies and misrepresentations about democratic candidates.  Their major focus will be on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

This myriad of unlimited spending in political races was brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  In this decision the Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions.   The conservative lobbying group, Citizens United, wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act or “BCRA”).  In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that portions of the BCRA, Section 203, violated the First Amendment.  In other words, the Court said that organizations are people and they can spend as much money as they want in political elections.

Although the Democratic Party has by some standards, significant financial resources, they have nothing compared to the unlimited funds available to the Koch Brothers and their constituencies.  How, then, will Democrats be able to compete in the 2014 elections where they will be outspent by a factor of at least 3 to 1?  In my view, the only way that the Democratic Party can retain the Senate and “possibly” take the House is by turn-out.  That is how the 2012 elections were won. 

During the 2010 mid-terms, in addition to the rigging of some state legislative districts, the Republican base turned out in greater numbers than the Democratic base.  Consequently, John Boehner became the House Speaker who has been presiding over a “do nothing” majority conservative House since 2010.  Under Boehner’s leadership, the most “significant” legislation they have passed has been to vote 51 times to repeal ObamaCare. 

If the Republican Party obtains control of the House and Senate in 2014, here are just a few things that will happen:

·        ObamaCare will be repealed;

  • ·        Social Security and Medicare will be destroyed;
  • ·        Food Stamps for the poor will be eliminated;
  • ·        The US Postal Service will be privatized;
  • ·        Unemployment insurance benefits will be significantly reduced or eliminated;
  • ·        The middle class will see higher taxes;
  • ·        The rich will see lower taxes;
  • ·        Immigration reform will be side-tracked;
  • ·        Legislation to restrict gay and lesbian rights will be passed;
  • ·        Legislation affecting women’s reproductive rights will be passed;
  • ·        The Voting Rights Act will not be fixed;
  • ·        Corporations will be given the “green” light to ship jobs overseas;
  • ·        Seniors will be disenfranchised;
  • ·        Violence against women legislation will not pass;
  • ·        Civil Rights will be gutted;
  • ·        Domestic policy will be compromised;
  • ·        Unemployment will significantly increase; and
  • ·        The President’s agenda for the working class will be done.

Although the President will veto much if not all such legislative actions, nothing else in Congress will be accomplished.  We should be reminded, however, that a two-third majority in Congress can over-ride a presidential veto. 

You may recall that on June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.  The 5-4 ruling authorized by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.  The Voting Rights Act had previously been used to block a voter ID law in Texas and delay the implementation of another in South Carolina. Both states are no longer subject to the preclearance requirement because of the court’s ruling.

As of December 18, 2013, restrictive voting bills have been introduced in more than half of the states:

·        At least 92 restrictive bills were introduced in 33 states.

·        Of those, 13 restrictive bills are still pending in 5 states;

·        Of those, 5 restrictive bills are currently active in 2 states in that there has been legislative activity beyond introduction and referral to committee; and

·        8 states have already passed 9 restrictive bills this session.

The 2014 elections will become one of the most significant elections in history if the American people buy-in to the adage that “all’s fair in love and war.”  The Koch Brothers are determined to buy America and as noted above, will be assisted by state voter suppression bills.  As Americans, we should insist on a fair elections process and not succumb to the onslaught of money to buy elections and the only way we can stand united in this process is to vote.  It is not only our right that some want to remove but our responsibility, but that’s just my take.

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CHILDREN AND VIOLENCE

March 12, 2014 in What's Up!

How far does violence extend, how do we determine exactly who is responsible for the violence that children are seeing on television and in music.  What about video games, who is taking the responsibility for the violence and awful things that are occurring right before the eyes of the youth today.  Many politicians are looking to eagerly blame the media and entertainment industry.  Is that the correct place to lay the blame?  Perhaps parents are the people ultimately to blame.

More parents today than ever before are working longer hours just to stay afloat financially.  This alone results in phenomenal numbers of children being left with a television as the babysitter in charge of teaching right from wrong.  How does a child learn the difference between right and wrong when their parents are nowhere to be found?  Where does the parents’ responsibility to parent a child and the governments’ right to parent a child merge?

Does the government even have a right to parent children?  Should the government be allowed to determine what is appropriate for all children to watch, or should that be ultimately left up to the parents to decide on their own?  There have been television shows, movies, musical artists and even books banned because the government does not approve. 

Where is the line drawn in who controls what the children are watching?  Is it really up to the parents, or is it left to the children to decide on their own?  When did parents lose the ability to control what their child watches, and when did the parent become subject to the child’s own opinion?  While some advances in technology have been wonderful, there is also much effort by the government to control what a parent does with their own child, and it is this more than anything that has caused controversy on a civil liberties basis. 

There have been several inventions and developments that are able to help parents monitor their children; from the v-chip to programs that log instant messenger programs.  These developments are great for the parents looking to monitor their child themselves, but what about the music industry?  Most parents are constantly told that the violence their child is exposed to is the fault of the music industry.  The blame is placed on the singers and producers for releasing the music. 

CHILDREN AND VIOLENCEMuch blame is placed everywhere but the parents for taking responsibility for their own children and determining what is best for them.  With politicians attempting to punish some area of the entertainment industry each time a national tragedy occurs, it puts a major crimp on the ability of parents to decide for themselves what is acceptable for their child and what is not.  Many are left to allow their child to choose from the options that are left, once the government has omitted the choices that are bad. 

Is this censorship or helping raise children?  Many seem to think it leans heavily towards censorship, a place the government should not be treading.  Many others tend to feel that it should be a high priority of the government to protect everyone from something that can potentially be bad, without even giving people the option to make their own decisions.

The issue as to what extent the government should intervene with the way in which we live our lives is hotly contested, and it works in a much larger circle than just the control of our children.  Should the government take a step back and allow society to use its freedoms and powers for self regulation, or is there a need for intervention to ensure the greater good and justice for the welfare of society as a whole?  For the time being, it seems as though the most pragmatic approach relates somewhere in the middle, although it will be interesting to see developments in this area over the coming years, but that’s just my take.

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