The government may be facing a shutdown by the Senate Democrats and with good reason. It seems the House Republicans, in passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government operational through April 2017, removed two provisions that could result in a filibuster in the Senate. Those provisions would protect the health coverage of retired …
Dec 09 2016
Jun 30 2015
In a late announcement Monday afternoon, the Supreme Court stayed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed limits on a woman’s right to choose. In a 5 -4 decision, the court allows Texas abortion clinics to remain open.
The Supreme Court issued a brief, two paragraph order (pdf) on Monday permitting Texas abortion clinics that are endangered by state law requiring them to comply with onerous regulations or else shut down to remain open. The order stays a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed broad limits on the women’s right to choose an abortion within that circuit.
The Court’s order is temporary and offers no direct insight into how the Court will decide this case on the merits. It provides that the clinics’ application for a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision is granted “pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition” asking the Court to review the case on the merits. The Court adds that, should this petition be denied, the stay will automatically terminate. Otherwise, the stay “shall terminate upon the issuance of the judgment of this Court.”
Justce Anthony Kennedy joined the liberal judges to grant the clinics a reprieve. The court has yet to decide if they will hear arguments in the case in the fall.
May 20 2015
Last week many received an e-mail from Democracy for America claiming the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would cut Medicare for senior citizens by $700 million:
There’s a big — brand new — attack on Medicare that’s just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP. The bill would cut a whopping $700 million from Medicare, hurting seniors who need access to health care.
That’s right, Republicans insisted on cutting Medicare spending to pay for a Trade Adjustment Assistance program that Democrats got added to the bill in order to support workers who lost their jobs due to trade deals like the TPP.
A few bloggers were a little confused by this claim and dug a little deeper.
Lambert Strether, at naked capitalism, had a few good questions:
1) Has Trade Adjustment Assistance been added to the TPP Fast Track bill?
2) Has $700 million been cut from Medicare as a result?
3) Does Trade Adjustment Assistance serve any public purpose?
The answer to question #1 is No.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA) and the Trade Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”) are separate pieces of legislation, so when DFA says that TAA has “just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP,” that’s not correct. Still, that doesn’t mean that a deal wasn’t cut, and that seems to be just what’s happened. [..]
And the bills indeed moved in tandem; the Senate voted for closure of both Fast Track and TAA last Thursday, May 14.
The answer to #2 is Yes. The cut is in the TAA. It was added by Republicans who insisted that the cost of bill be offset:
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), would rely on $700 million in reduced Medicare spending in 2024 to pay for [sic] healthcare coverage and other benefits for workers who lose coverage because of any agreements negotiated under fast-track trade authority sought by President Barack Obama.
The $700 million in savings would be achieved by increasing Medicare cuts that were part of the sequester by 0.25% in 2024.
Lambert points out the more colorful language from the National Journal
Apparently using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for [sic] everything under the sun has become the new legislative norm for Congress,” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement to National Journal. “Rather than balancing priorities or considering a penny of new revenue, congressional leaders are proposing to once again funnel Medicare resources into unrelated programs and fixes-this time it’s the trade adjustment assistance program.
Brown lists a ton of reasonable seeming tweaks and enhancements. Reading through the list, though, I’ve got to say I’m both ticked off and skeptical:
Ticked off, because how come the millions who got kicked out of the labor force when the powers-that-be decided to downsize it aren’t eligible for the same treatment? For example, it sounds like the Health Care Tax Credit workers screwed over by trade deals get is a better deal (at least in terms of dollars, even though it’s a tax credit) than COBRA, which is what workers screwed over by recessions and depressions get. What a horrible patchwork.
And skeptical, because in today’s post-crash and crapified labor market, is training really the answer? Especially for over-50s?
So I’m not convinced that TPP + TAA nets out positive for workers, or even makes them whole. [..]
Bottom line is that TAA is a bandaid on a cancer, and the Democrats – assuming good faith, which I think with Sherrod Brown it’s fair to do – traded away something for nothing, as so often. If corporations can go to a rigged court and sue for lost profits, how come workers can’t go to a rigged court and sue for lost wages?
Over at Salon, lapsed blogger David Dayen had this to say about the TAA and the Democrats sell out of seniors:
There’s substantial disagreement on whether TAA actually helps workers get new jobs, but Democrats strongly support the program. Even pro-trade Democrats made renewing TAA a condition of passing fast track, and the two bills will move together in the Senate this week. But even though supporters constantly talk up the economic benefits of trade, they nevertheless offset the $2.9 billion in TAA funding by cutting other spending. Supposedly, trade increases jobs and therefore federal revenue, leaving enough money available to pay for TAA. But in Congress’ eyes, some other priority has to pony up that cash nonetheless.
That priority happens to be Medicare. TAA is partially financed through $700 million in Medicare cuts. Sequestration expires in fiscal year 2024, but the TAA bill expands it by piling those cuts onto the back end. Most of the other $2.2 billion gets financed through customs user fees. [..]
The other problem here is that it fundamentally breaks that promise – already, before any vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any other fast-tracked agreement – that no laws will change in this new era of corporate-friendly “free trade.” This continues a troubling trend, identified by Paul Krugman, about not being able to trust the White House’s categorical denials about the consequences of their trade agenda. They said the investor-state dispute settlement process couldn’t weaken regulatory priorities; that’s not true. They said Dodd-Frank would be protected in any trade deals; that’s not true either. To quote Krugman, “The Administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.” The Medicare cuts represent another drop in that bucket. [..]
Every hit on the credibility of the free trade agenda makes it less likely that the bill will pass the House. Republicans claim they are gaining momentum in picking up votes, but all public whip counts show the tally coming up short. Adding Medicare cuts into the mix makes voting for fast track an even heavier lift for the House Democrats likely needed to get the bill the required votes. Republicans have repeatedly torched Democrats for Medicare cuts in campaign ads. They cannot relish giving another opening for that attack.
These are all bad bills that in the long run will hurt the vast majority of workers. So fight back by arming yourself with the facts then contact your congressional representatives via letters, e-mail and phone calls. Get together with a few people, make an appointment and visit their offices to express your concerns. Delegations get attention. Write letters to the editors of newspapers. And don’t let up, be persistant and polite.
The lies about TPP need to be exposed and this agreement needs to be stopped.
Jul 01 2014
Considering it has sided with corporations in so many of its rulings over the last few years, the out come of the last two rulings by the US Supreme Court for this session were predictable down to the vote.
As in its decision in Citizens United, in a five to four vote, the court rules that just like people, corporations, too, have religious beliefs.
Supreme Court Rejects Contraceptives Mandate for Some Corporationsby Adam Liptak, New York Times
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.
The 5-to-4 decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the court’s five more conservative justices, said a federal religious-freedom law applied to for-profit corporations controlled by religious families. He added that the requirement that the companies provide contraception coverage imposed a substantial burden on the companies’ religious liberty. He said the government could provide the coverage in other ways.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court’s four-member liberal wing, said the contraception coverage requirement was vital to women’s health and reproductive freedom. Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan joined almost all of the dissent, but they said there was no need to take a position on whether corporations may bring claims under the religious liberty law.
In an Illinois case with another 5 – 4 ruling, the justices ruled that in-home healthcare workers who are paid by the state cannot be compelled to pay union dues.
Supreme Court Ruling Allows Some Public Workers to Opt Out of Union Fees by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times
The Supreme Court ruled narrowly on Monday that some government employees did not have to pay any fees to labor unions representing them, but the court decision declined to strike down a decades-old precedent that required many public-sector workers to pay union fees.
Writing the majority 5-4 opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. concluded that there was a category of government employee – a partial public employee – who can opt out of joining a union and not be required to contribute dues to that labor group.
Justice Alito wrote that home-care aides who are typically employed by an ill or disabled person with Medicaid’s paying their wages would be classified as partial public employees, which would not be the same as public-school teachers or police officers who work directly for the government.
Because states often set wages for partial public employees like home-care aides and because unions often do not conduct collective bargaining for them, these aides cannot be required to pay union fees, Justice Alito wrote. He wrote that requiring these home-care aides to pay would be a violation of their First Amendment rights.
Apr 19 2014
Naya Taylor found out that her primary care physician, Aja Lystila, considered her to be less than human. When Taylor requested the start of hormone therapy in order to treat her gender dysphoria, Lystilla first claimed that she was not experienced enough to supervise the hormone therapy of transgender person. But the clinic in which Lystilla works provides hormone therapy to non-transgender patients every day.
Later the truth of the matter came out, when clinic staff told Taylor,
We don’t have to treat people like you.
When they said, ‘we don’t have to treat people like you,’ I felt like the smallest, most insignificant person in the world. The doctor and office provide hormone replacement therapy for others at the same clinic, they just refused to do that for me.
The Affordable Care Act is partially a civil rights law in that it prohibits health care providers that receive federal funds from discriminating against any individual on the basis of sex for the purpose of health care.
Taylor is being represented by Lambda Legal in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday charging Dr. Lystila and the Carle health care services group which operates the clinic with denying medical care. Lambda Legal claims that discrimination based on sex extends to discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity, as per Title IX.
Dec 01 2013
This week has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last four shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked here eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them.
Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to serve an area once supporting 10 obstetricians. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.
As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish-right here in the US. How did we get here?
Oct 26 2013
You could label this “what were they thinking” but we’re talking about the Republican Party here. IT seems that in the midst of the latest “crisis,” the failure to launch of the Healthcare.gov web site, the genius Republicans of the House of Representative decided to ask a murder suspect to testify as an computer expert. No, I am not pulling you leg.
House Republicans Asked Murder Suspect John McAfee to Testify on Obamacare Website
by David, Crooks and Liars
According to emails obtained by CNBC, House Republicans asked the founder of McAfee Associates to “guide our oversight and review” of the Affordable Care Act website.
In 2012, McAfee went on the run from Belize authorities after being suspected of the murder of his neighbor. He was later detained in Guatemala and deported to the United States, but has not been charged with a crime.
“This is the Committee of jurisdiction for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare),” House Committee on Energy and Commerce counsel Sean Hayes wrote to McAfee’s lawyer on Oct. 14. “For three years we have been monitoring the implementation of the law and have been trying to dig into what has happened with the Exchange rollout.”
“Given the failures of Healthcare.gov, and Mr. McAfee’s expertise, I was hoping he might be able to discuss his views with staff on the hill,” the email continued. “It would be an informal discussion: we would take notes but these would not be for attribution, it would mainly guide our oversight and review of the program.”
“This would hopefully not be a heavy lift for him: what problems could lead to the compromise of personal identifying information? What could we be doing to prevent data or identify theft? What advice generally does he have?”
The deal fell through when the House wouldn’t pay for Mr. McAfee’s travel expenses. In case you aren’t aware of the hilarity of this invitation, Rachel Maddow gives us the Cliff Note version of Mr. McAfee’s biography
Can you imagine the hilarity of McAfee’s testimony as his mind wanders from the technicalities of launcing a web site to his sexual prowess and drug expertise? C-Span’s ratings would soar.
May 18 2013
M. C. Crawford is 8 years old. He was Identified as a male at birth until doctors determined that he had ambiguous genitalia, with parts of both female and male reproductive structures. When a court terminated the parental rights of his mother and he was abandoned by his father, he was placed in state custody. At 16 months old doctors removed his penis and one testicle, leaving enough to form a clitoris and labia. A bit after that the child was adopted in South Carolina by Pam and Mark Crawford.
The first thought that I had was, let’s make sure they don’t do the surgery.
Unfortunately the Crawfords were too late. They raised M. C. as a girl until about a year ago, when he told his parents he wanted to be raised as a boy.
On Tuesday lawyers for the Crawford family said they were filing suit against the Department of Social Services.
Oct 06 2012
Ida Hammer, 34, is originally from Utah and now lives in the borough of Queens, New York City. Raised a Mormon, Ida is a writer and an activist. She moved to NYC four years ago and immediately began hormone treatment and living as a woman.
Among the places she publishes her writing is The Vegan Ideal. She also has published in On the Issues magazine. Trans Violence Is Violence against Women is from last December. She organizes Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project.
Ida has won an enormously important battle with her insurance carrier.
Ida approached her insurance company, MVP Health Care, in July, 2011 about having her genital realignment surgery covered. Of course, MVP declined…twice.
My insurance company denied my claim on the grounds that it was ‘cosmetic’ surgery. (But) my doctors determined that the surgery was necessary, and the insurance company was second-guessing my doctors.
Sep 08 2012
The big news about transpeople is not something which is likely to help us win friends and influence people. On the other hand, the headlines are of some interest. Transgender-inmate ruling is movement’s latest win says the AP’s Megahn Barr.
So I guess we have won recognition as a “movement”. On the other hand Michelle Kosilek is not going to win us any friends. Federal Judge Mark Wolf has ordered a state-funded gender reassignment surgery for Kosilek, who during her transition in 1990 murdered her wife, Cheryl McCaul. He strangled her with wire and left her body in the trunk of a car at a mall in North Attleboro, MA. Kosilek is currently serving life without parole.
Wolf has ruled that Kosilek has suffered from gender identity disorder (newly rechristened “gender dysphoria”) since she was a young child, was “born in the wrong body” (Goddess, I hate that phrase), began taking hormones while in prison and requested treatment for her disorder. Such treatment was denied. As a result Kosilek twice has tried to commit suicide and also has attempted self-castration. For 12 years her attorneys have been arguing that the Constitution states that she has the right to treatment for her condition.
Mar 10 2012
Rebecca Hagelin recently coughed up a hairball of hatred in the Washington Times…which I spent several days trying to totally ignore while finding other things to write about.
But I just haven’t been able to let it slip away. There is too much damage that she is advocating. Hagelin is advocating the death of transgender children.
Not willing to accept the medical experts on the existence of transgender children, Ms. Hagelin uses her extensive background on the subject of gender (being a mother and all, I guess…and having read the Bible)…to deny the existence of transgender youth and attack their medical treatment.
It’s the latest madness in a world that has lost not only its moral bearings, but also its common sense.
No one seems to be standing up to protect the child whose parents, hearing the child’s expressed wish to “be” a different sex, whisks the child off to the doctor for “treatment.”
The “treatment” Ms. Hagelin opposes consists of delaying the puberty of children who express gender-variance through the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists in a completely reversible procedure to buy time for the children to sort out their identities.
Ms. Hagelin opposes this because they may…and many do…choose to go on to change their sex to align with their gender. Research has shown that this path has a success rate of over 95%, while the path Ms. Hagelin recommends (denying that children can be transgender or have anything done about it) has a failure rate of upwards of 40% (the suicide rate for untreated gender dysphoria).
Dec 18 2011
What is Government?
Why do we submit to the law?
We can’t run very fast. We have no sharp teeth or claws. Long ago it became obvious that it was in humanity’s self interest to ban together for our mutual security. We each give up a small amount of personal freedom, for the greater good of the whole. That is the basis of the social contract.
As citizens, our responsibility is to uphold the laws of government. The government, in turn, also has obligations. The bare minimum of those obligations are to protect the majority of people from enemies both foreign and domestic. What enemies do we wish to protect ourselves from? At the very least hunger, disease, invasion by hostile forces (external security), and threats to our self-governance (internal security).
So how are we doing in that respect? Lousy.
We all but wiped out hunger in the US shortly after the Kennedy administration (ended 1963), but the government intentionally reintroduced it in the Reagan administration to drive down worker wages. What is left of our health care system is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Foreign NGO’s have been invited by the Supreme Court to financially manipulate campaigns and thus our government. Internal threats to self-governance are too numerous to recount here, and in any case the Supreme Court has abandoned all pretense that this was a democracy and officially ruled the US a plutocracy.
We are in essence living in a failed state. Just because I am writing about the US, don’t think your country is doing any better. Most of the Western world is in the same boat.
Other articles have detailed the complex road we took to get here. That is not the purpose of this series. This series discusses how we get out.
Specifically, how to tell our government “No!”