Tag Archive: democrats

 photo FamilySurvivalProtocolColliseumBannergrayscale900x338_zpsb17c85d0.jpg



Jim Steinle (L), father of murder victim Kathryn Steinle (in photo, R), allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant, testifies about his daughter’s murder during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on U.S. immigration enforcement policies, on Capitol Hill in Washington July 21, 2015. (Photo: Newscom/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Senate Democrats blocked legislation that would punish “sanctuary cities” in a 54-45 vote Tuesday afternoon.

The bill, called the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, needed to overcome a 60-vote threshold. It would withhold certain federal funding from states or cities that refuse to comply with requests from federal immigration officials to turn over immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 4.13.27 PM

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced the legislation, which includes a provision known as Kate’s Law, named after 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was fatally shot in San Francisco on July 1. The bill would impose a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five years for illegal immigrants who are convicted of re-entering the United States after being convicted of an aggravated felony or have three strikes for trying to enter the country illegally.



Read More Here

 photo FamilySurvivalProtocolColliseumBannergrayscale900x338_zpsb17c85d0.jpg




History Dept.

The Freedom Caucus’ Unprecedented Insurgency

At least since the Civil War, there hasn’t been a faction fighting both parties at the same time.

October 18, 2015

AP Photo

Congress has never seen anything quite like the House Freedom Caucus. There’s always someone unhappy on Capitol Hill and it’s not unusual for malcontents to band together. A rebellion made up of members who refuse to work with either party, however, is something that hasn’t happened in living memory.

“This is an unusual and indeed unprecedented development in the history of the party,” says Geoffrey Kabaservice, a research consultant to the Main Street Partnership, a centrist GOP group.

Parties—particularly those with large majorities—almost inevitably split into factions. And congressional history is replete with examples of groups that balked at party leadership. But the insurgents we remember—the ones who weren’t quickly and completely marginalized—managed by and large to find common cause with members of the other party. Southern Democrats, for instance, forged a “conservative coalition” with Republicans that dominated Congress for much of the 20th century.

There hasn’t been a bloc like the Freedom Caucus for at least a century, one that refuses to work with its own party leadership while being steadfastly unwilling to reach across the aisle. “There have been groups that often broke from the party, but in doing so, they didn’t stand as a third force,” says former GOP Rep. Mickey Edwards. “This group is very different.”

The Freedom Caucus, rather than breaking from Republican ranks, has forced Republican leaders to break from them. It’s a perverse sort of political jujitsu. One of outgoing Speaker John Boehner’s supposed crimes was that he went begging Democrats for help passing legislation when he couldn’t find the votes within his own caucus. Some rank-and-file Republicans, meanwhile, have made a separate peace with Democrats on reviving the Export-Import Bank. Normally the opposite would happen and it would be the insurgents reaching across the aisle. But that presupposes an interest in governing.

“I can think of a number of major examples throughout history where a party has had divisions of consequence,” says Laura Blessing, a senior fellow at the Georgetown Government Affairs Institute. “It’s rare that those divisions would represent a position on the fringe of the political system, where they’re not working with either party.”

Both the tactics and the playing field have changed for today’s dissenters. In the past, some members would squawk at autocratic leadership or the stated policies of their own party and look for ways to disrupt proceedings, but they had some kind of endgame in mind. Once they deposed a leader or got their way on a key vote, they took some quiet satisfaction.

What is distinctive about the current crop of congressional rebels is their willingness to use any lever they can find to cause trouble—debt-ceiling fights, funding fights, leadership succession struggles. “The thing that (today’s) conservatives are very good at—because they don’t care about precedent or the party’s history—is trying out different things,” says Kabaservice, author of Rule and Ruin, a history of the decline of moderate Republicans.

 photo FamilySurvivalProtocolColliseumBannergrayscale900x338_zpsb17c85d0.jpg



Golden Gate Bridge 0002.jpg

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Marshal beach


Senate Dems block ‘sanctuary cities’ bill

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked legislation to crack down on cities that don’t comply with federal immigration law.

Senators voted 54-45 on a measure to end debate on legislation from Sen. David Vitter. Sixty votes were needed to overcome the procedural hurdle and move toward a vote on the bill itself.

Two Democrats broke rank and sided with Republicans in the vote.

The Louisiana Republican’s legislation would have limited federal grants to so-called “sanctuary cities” and increased penalties for undocumented immigrants who reenter the United States illegally after being deported.

Vitter argued that Democrats misunderstand the legislation, saying that “there are a lot of myths about our bill versus the facts.”

“We have several myths versus facts as part of the record, and I urge everyone, starting with our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to study that carefully,” he added. “This is an important issue. Sanctuary cities are a real problem, and we need to fix them.”

The issue of sanctuary cities captured the political spotlight in July after the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant who had already been deported five times.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) referenced Steinle’s shooting ahead of the vote, pressuring Democrats to “put compassion before left-wing ideology today.”

But Democrats were intent on blocking Vitter’s legislation from moving forward, suggesting that it undercut law enforcement and was an unacceptable substitute for a broader immigration reform proposal.

“Today’s vote is nothing but a political show vote. Senator Vitter knows his legislation has no chance of passing the Senate or being signed into law,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also derided the bill on Monday, calling it “vile” and the “Donald Trump Act,” after the 2016 GOP front-runner.

Read More Here

 photo FamilySurvivalProtocolColliseumBannergrayscale900x338_zpsb17c85d0.jpg

Global Community Report Banner photo FSPLogoGlobalCommunityFulloldworldmapbckgrnd_zps43d3059c.jpg

The U.S. national debt grows at a rate of 45.486 dollar per second!


10/05/15  6:28pm CDT

$ 65.903

Debt per citizen

$ 113.353

Debt per taxpayer

x billion U.S dollar
2004  7.379
2005 7.933
2006 8.507
2007 9.008
2008 10.025
2009 11.910
2010 13.562
2011 14.781
2012 16.059
2013 16.732
2014 17.810

For Real Time National Debt Numbers Visit The US Debt Clock


Since our worlds collided on that  fated day in 2008 when the American dream became even more elusive for the majority of us there  has been some time to reflect on our mistakes.  Some of us have learned from  what  we have lived and  experienced.  Others, however, are still stuck in the  partisan la la land of Rabid Conservatism or Rabid Liberalism.  Each side pulling for its own without  taking pause to understand the long-range  consequences of their actions.

Politicians will do  what  politicians do best,  protect their pockets and those  who  keep them full.  What excuse do the common folk (non-corporate or  lobbyist) have?  You vote  Republican or Democrat  because they hold the best  future for our  country?  Or do you vote because  it is all you  know  and  you cannot  fathom the  fact that  both  sides of the  aisle  serve the  same  master?  It  has  gone  way  beyond the  scope  of  political  party  or leanings.  It is time to  put those patriotic gestures, slogans  and  mindsets  to  actual  use by truly  putting  your  country  first.  We must  put a  stop to  the criminal Washington/Corporate  agenda  that  is  killing us.

Until we truly and  seriously address the  criminals  who are  selling our  Nation and  our  children’s  future to the  highest  bidder we  are  doomed.  Are  you ready to  face the  truth  or  will you  just  sit back and blame another  while  you  do  nothing to  change the problem?

The  only answer to  the putrefaction that  is taking  place  all across this  nation is in the  hands  of the  people.  Many  laughed  at the  Occupy  movement.  Some vilified those  who wanted  to make a  difference  and  voice their displeasure with the  status quo.  How many  of  you have  done  anything to make a  change?  How many  of you have cared  enough  to even consider  what role  you  may have to play?

Truly, I do not see a way  out of this  unless people  stop seeing right or left and  start seeing stars and  stripes.  This  nation depends on  it’s People, not its politicians.  Why have  we become so  complacent that we are  no longer  willing to  fight the  good  fight  for our  freedom and  our  way  of life?  When did  this  nation  become  the  home  of the  lazy and  the  weak?  It is  time the  strong  and the  brave stood up, if  there  are  any left.

What  will it take  to  make  you  see that politics is a trap?  An illusion to make  us  believe  we  have a  choice  when in reality  we have  none.  They  have  both  evolved to  serve the  same  masters and  fulfill the  same  agenda.  An agenda  that  serves  neither  you  nor me.  When will you  wake  up from  your  blue  and  red  slumber  to  see that we have all been  lied  to ?

When do we take  America back as a  People  not  a political party?

The  time is  growing  short  people!  Unless you open  your  eyes  and  understand  what  is truly  at  stake.  You  will never live in America  the Land  of  the  Free and the  Brave  again.  We will simply  exist in a land run by petty politics  and  corrupt corporations willing to  do  whatever it takes to  maximize their  bottom line.  Even if it means exploiting our children’s lives and futures.

Is that  an outcome you are willing to live with ?


Just  in case  you still don’t have a  clue  what  I am  talking  about.  Here  is  a  very short list  of examples of the  Corporate Assault on Our Lives And Our Health   that  our  politicians have  allowed to take place for a  price.

GMO’s  in our food supply

Digestive disorders, Obesity,Endocrine disorders on the rise

Glyphosate in our foods, our water and our  breast milk

Kidney and  Liver  damage on the rise

Fracking chemicals in the water supply

Cancers on the rise

Fluoride in the  water  supply

Vaccines causing deadly reactions in children and adults

Autism on the rise

Heavy metals in our food supply

Alzheimer’s on the rise

Deadly chemicals being pawned off as  sugar  substitutes from saccharine  to splenda all have  been  found  to  cause  cancer in  animal studies.  The  biggest  culprit and most  dangerous  thus  far  being  Aspartame.

Life saving  drugs monopolized  by Big Pharma to  bloat prices beyond  most people’s  reach.  Daraprim being the latest going  from  $13.50 per pill to  $750.00.  Basically condemning those who cannot afford them to die.

There  are  so many  more examples  you  just  need to  open  your  eyes  and  want to see the truth

~Desert Rose~


David Korten: From Serving Money to Serving Life: A Sacred Story for Our Time

Published on May 5, 2015

When we get our story wrong, we get our future wrong. Much like the Trans-Pacific Partnership “trade deal”, everything we are told about capitalism and our economy is a pack of lies. Time for a new story, says preeminent scholar and critic of corporate globalization, David Korten, the best-selling author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning. David has a brand new book, Change the Story, Change the Future – a Living Economy for a Living Earth. He is the co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, founder and president of the Living Economies Forum (formerly the People-Centered Development Forum), a member of the Club of Rome, and a former board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and associate of the International Forum on Globalization.

This Earth Day address was recorded April 22, 2015 at Seattle University Pigott Auditorium.


Local Communities Dismantling Corporate Rule, part 1

Published on Feb 12, 2014

Community Rights educator Paul Cienfuegos explains how “We The People” are exercising the authority to govern ourselves and dismantle corporate rule. When small farmers in rural Pennsylvania wanted to say “no” to a corporate factory farm coming into their community, they learned they couldn’t, because it would violate the corporation’s “rights” and state pre-emption laws. So they did something technically illegal – their town passed an innovative ordinance banning corporate factory farming. It worked! The corporation left town. Pittsburgh upshifted the approach: Rather than define what we don’t want, define what we DO want. Their “Right to Water” stopped natural gas fracking in the city. Ordinances like this have been passed in over 150 communities in 9 states. Tune in to learn how this works. Episode 258. [paulcienfuegos.com, celdf.org, YouTube channel “Community Rights TV” and communityrightspdx.org]

Peak Moment TV exists because of viewers like you. Subscribe to news and donate at http://www.peakmoment.tv, right side. Thanks for being in the Peak Moment community.

Local Communities Dismantling Corporate Rule, part 3


Why Is Congress Ignoring Our $18.4 Trillion National Debt?

Have we forgotten about the national debt? Congressional Republican leaders and the Obama administration have begun private talks about a new two-year spending plan that would keep the government operating beyond the 2016 election but would do little to address more fundamental structural problems, including entitlement and health care spending for an aging population.

Even before Congress completed work on a short-term spending measure to avert a government shutdown at least until early December, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and President Obama held preliminary talks on a possible multi-year budget agreement to increase spending for both defense and domestic programs by lifting fiscal 2016 discretionary spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Related: New CBO Director Renews Warning on Long-Term Debt

The agreement would be similar in scope to a two-year mini-budget agreement that was struck by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) following a 16-day government shutdown in late 2013 that temporarily put an end to inter-party budget warfare. That agreement allowed for $45 billion more in spending above the caps in 2014 and $20 billion more in 2015, as well as $20 billion of deficit reduction.

Read More Here


The Daily Signal

Obama Is Willing to Put Our National Security at Risk With a Veto

USS Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (Photo: U.S. Navy Specialist 2nd Class Paolo Bayas)

The Russians are bombing CIA-backed rebels in Syria and continuing to hold parts of Ukraine. ISIS continues to spread in the Middle East and inspire attacks around the world. Iran is receiving hundreds of billions in sanctions relief, some of which will likely go to destabilizing the Middle East. China is building illegal islands in the South China Sea. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are streaming across Europe. The Taliban is on the rise in Afghanistan. And our national secrets are being vacuumed up by Chinese hackers.

At the same time, our national defense budget is being slashed.

Since 2011, the defense budget has been cut by 15 percent in real terms. If you include the war budget, which has been going down as we reduce troops in Afghanistan, the national defense has been cut 25 percent in four years.

As a result of these budget cuts, the U.S. military is smaller than it was on 9/11 and in many cases the smallest it has been in recent history.

The world is a mess, our military is being slashed, and now President Obama is going to veto a bipartisan bill that would increase the national defense budget by 6 percent in real terms.

The House of Representatives just passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA), and it is headed to the Senate. This is a bipartisan bill that has been signed into law every year for 53 straight years, but Obama plans to veto it for one simple reason: it doesn’t increase non-defense spending. The president believes that defense and non-defense spending should be increased, and, according to the White House, “he will not fix defense without fixing non-defense spending.”

Read More Here


John Boehner Admits Republicans are Willing to Put U.S. at Risk to Play Partisan Politics

February 16, 2015 By Allen Clifton
Republicans are anything if not predictable. The moment they gained power back in the Senate it was obvious that they were going to use that power to play petty partisan politics. The truth is, controlling Congress means very little as long as the person in the White House has veto power.
So no matter what sort of propaganda Republicans spew about the nonsense they’re going to undoubtedly shove through Congress, it’s still on them to send the president legislation that they know he will sign, otherwise they’re essentially just wasting time.
The president is the one person who’s voted into office on a national scale, meaning that they’re the one individual who truly “represents the majority of the people.” So no matter what anyone in Congress says, it’s beholden upon them to make sure whatever bills they’re sending to the president’s desk actually have a chance at being signed. It’s extremely rare for both the House and Senate to have the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.
All that being said, as many already know the Department of Homeland Security is set to run out of funding fairly soon. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge deal; all it would take is for Congress to pass a bill funding the department, which would almost certainly be signed by President Obama.
Simple, right?

Senators Seek To Force Approval Of Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted: 05/01/2014 4:10 pm EDT Updated: 05/01/2014 4:59 pm EDT



WASHINGTON –- Senate supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline say they think they have enough votes to pass a bill that would force the approval of the controversial project. A group of 56 senators — all 45 Republicans plus 11 Democrats –- introduced legislation on Thursday that would bypass the Obama administration and grant approval for the pipeline.

Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced the bill on Thursday. Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are cosponsoring it.

Because it crosses an international border, the decision on the pipeline falls under the authority of the State Department. The State Department announced another delay on a decision last month in response to a court decision that invalidated the pipeline’s proposed route through Nebraska, saying that it would wait to decide until there is more clarity on where the pipeline will ultimately run. The legislation would grant approval to “any subsequent revision to the pipeline route” in Nebraska, without requiring further environmental analysis.

“We continue to hear delay, delay, delay from the Administration about the Keystone XL pipeline. I’m beyond sick of it,” Heitkamp said in a statement Thursday. “We have strong bipartisan support in the Senate for this project –- and I’m proud to have recruited support from 10 other Democrats last month. Now, all of those Democrats also signed onto this bill that we crafted to fully approve the construction of the Keystone pipeline. If the Administration isn’t going to make a decision on this project after more than five years, then we’ll make it for them. End of story.”


Read More Here

Enhanced by Zemanta


The Hill

Pelosi warns focus on deportations a ‘gift’ to Republicans

Getty Images

Immigration reformers shifting their focus from Congress to the White House over deportations risk undermining efforts to pass a comprehensive reform bill this year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Thursday.

Pelosi said she supports the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s calls for the administration to reduce deportations. But simultaneously taking pressure off of House Republicans, she added, is a “gift” to GOP leaders, allowing them to dodge a sensitive issue that could hurt them in the 2014 election.

“That’s a gift to the Republicans,” she said. “Because the fact is, the Republicans are never going to move unless they think there’s a price to play politically for not bringing the bill to the floor.”

Pelosi stressed that legislation remains the Democrats’ ultimate goal, and urged reformers to stay focused on Congress getting a bill.

“I see the pain and suffering of the deportations,” she said. “But the answer, the medicine for every ill in the deportations is to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Pelosi did not say that congressional Democrats or the White House should no longer consider reduced deportations. But her warning that the actions of pro-immigration groups could deliver Republicans a political benefit could raise questions about the strategy overall.

Many Democrats are calling on President Obama for reduced deportations, and Obama has asked Department of Homeland Security leaders for an across-the-board review of his deportations policies.

The move has made many critics hopeful he’ll expand the administration’s deferred action program, which allows some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as kids to remain in the United States temporarily, to a broader population.


Pelosi: Race playing role in GOP’s reluctance to move immigration bill

Greg Nash

Issues of race have made GOP leaders reluctant to back immigration reform, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) charged Thursday.


The Democratic leader suggested that the Republicans would have moved a reform bill long ago if whites were the only beneficiaries.”I think race has something to do with the fact that they’re not bringing up an immigration bill,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “I’ve heard them say to the Irish, ‘If it were just you, this would be easy.’ ”

The remarks came in response to a question about the often-testy relationship between congressional Republicans and the administration of President Obama, the nation’s first black president.

There’s long been grumbling among Democrats that Obama’s race has exacerbated the partisan divide between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans, highlighted recently by a flare-up between Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

Pelosi was reluctant to say that race issues have fueled those tensions, arguing more broadly that Republicans have been “very disrespectful” of White House officials regardless of their ethnicity.


Read More Here

Enhanced by Zemanta


Healthcare cuts canceled after Dem complaints

Getty Images

The Obama administration announced Monday that planned cuts to Medicare Advantage would not go through as anticipated amid election-year opposition from congressional Democrats.

The cuts would have reduced benefits that seniors receive from health plans in the program, which is intended as an alternative to Medicare.

Under cuts planned by the administration, insurers offering the plans were to see their federal payments reduced by 1.9 percent, which likely would have necessitated cuts for customers.

Instead, the administration said the federal payments to insurers will increase next year by .40 percent.

The healthcare law included $200 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over 10 years, in part to pay for ObamaCare.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on Monday said changes in the healthcare market meant it did not need to make those cuts to Medicare Advantage this year.

It cited an increase in healthy beneficiaries under Medicare, which it said has lowered projected costs for that program.

CMS separately is delaying a risk assessment proposal that was set to take affect under ObamaCare.


Read More Here



Obama administration proposes 1.9% cut in Medicare Advantage payments

February 21, 2014 8:08 pm by

Barack ObamaMedicare Advantage plans could see payment reductions of 1.9 percent next year under proposed rates announced Friday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Insurers, who have led a fierce lobbying campaign against payment reductions, have said the combination of the health law’s lower payment rates, new fees on health plans and other factors, including automatic federalspending cuts known as “sequestration,” mean that Medicare Advantage plans will see their Medicare payment rates drop by 6 percent – or even more — in 2015.

CMS said Friday its preliminary estimate is “the combined effect of the Medicare Advantage growth percentage and the fee-for-service growth percentage.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans said they are reviewing the details of the announcement to determine the total impact of the federal payment rates. In a statement, AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni was critical of the proposed rates, saying, “The new proposed Medicare Advantage cuts would cause seniors in the program to lose benefits and choices on which they depend.”


Read More Here



Obama flip-flops on Medicare drug coverage

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

The Obama administration, in an abrupt about-face, said on Monday it would drop proposed changes to Medicare drug coverage that met wide opposition on grounds they would harm health benefits for the elderly and disabled.

Late last week, more than 370 organizations representing insurers, drug makers, pharmacies, health providers and patients urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw changes it had proposed for Medicare Part D.

One of the federal government’s most successful and cost-effective healthcare programs, Part D provides drug benefits for the elderly and disabled through private insurers to 36 million enrollees.

Critics said the changes, if adopted in coming months, could not only undermine Part D benefits but impact drug benefits available through Medicare Advantage, a program that allows Medicare beneficiaries to obtain their major medical coverage through private insurers.

“Given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder input, we do not plan to finalize these proposals at this time. We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner advised in a letter sent on Monday to members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The proposals were opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The Republican Party had already begun to look for ways to leverage popular anger over the changes into campaign attacks on Democratic incumbents who could be vulnerable in November’s election showdown for control of Congress.

Elated critics of the proposed changes said the government had effectively agreed to start over in the face of broad, bipartisan opposition.


Read  More Here



New York Times SundayReview

The Obama administration’s proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans — the private insurance plans that cover almost 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries — are fair and reasonable. As it happens, they are also mandated by law. Yet Republicans, sensing a campaign issue, are telling older and disabled Americans that the administration is “raiding Medicare Advantage to pay for Obamacare.” The health insurance industry, for its part, is warning that enrollees will suffer higher premiums, lower benefits and fewer choices among doctors if the cuts go into force.

Some of this could in fact happen, although the industry has cried wolf before and continues to thrive. But the key point is this: Over the past decade, enrollees in Medicare Advantage have received lots of extra benefits, thanks to unjustified federal subsidies to the insurance companies. Now they will have to do with somewhat less, unless the insurers are willing to absorb the cuts while maintaining benefits. Enrollment in these private plans, offered by companies like UnitedHealth and Humana, has more than doubled since 2006, in part because of lower premiums and extra benefits, like gym memberships, that are not included in traditional fee-for-service Medicare.

What made these perks possible was, in effect, a subsidy from taxpayers and other Medicare beneficiaries. The federal government paid the private plans, on average, 14 percent more in 2009 than it would cost to treat the same people in traditional Medicare. The insurers used this extra money to reduce enrollees’ costs and add benefits.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act rightly required that these subsidies be reduced, although it stopped short of completely eliminating them. The reductions began to take effect in 2012, and have not, so far, visibly harmed beneficiaries or the plans. Since enactment of the law, Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 10 percent, the opposite of what some expected, and enrollment has increased by nearly 33 percent, according to the administration. But as the law intended, federal payments to the private plans dropped — from 7 percent more than services under traditional Medicare in 2012 to 4 percent more last year. The administration now proposes to further reduce the payments to Medicare Advantage plans in 2015. The loudest criticism has come from Republicans, but plenty of Democrats have chimed in.

Read More Here



Enhanced by Zemanta

The Hill

Lauren Schneiderman

The budget deal worked out by House and Senate negotiators is on the verge of unraveling over the exclusion of federal unemployment benefits, several leading Democrats warned Wednesday.

The lawmakers are outraged by a GOP move to add the Medicare “doc fix” to the package but not a continuation of unemployment benefits — a strategy they say could sink the entire package by scaring away Democratic votes.


Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Sandy Levin (Mich.) said the move creates a “new dynamic” undermining Democratic support for the plan announced Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

“I think it puts at risk the whole bill, and it surely puts at risk my vote,” said Levin, the top Democrat at the House Ways and Means Committee.

Van Hollen echoed that message.

“This does now add a new dynamic that could upset the applecart that could put at risk the budget agreement,” he said.

It’s not clear whether Democrats would sink the first bipartisan budget deal in years over the unemployment insurance (UI) issue. But with GOP leaders intent on leaving town on Friday — and with GOP leaders showing little appetite to extend the benefits before they expire on Dec. 28 — the Democrats’ only real leverage is to threaten to do so.

“Obviously, once the budget passes you don’t have much leverage in terms of votes on things that remain,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. “That may be the last vehicle.”

Some Democrats on Wednesday morning appeared poised to back the Ryan-Murray budget agreement. But they also cautioned that the addition of the Medicare language without a UI extension could erode that support.

“It’s something we should do, but why wouldn’t we do unemployment insurance if we’re doing that?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked Wednesday morning after a meeting of her caucus in the Capitol.


Read More Here



Yahoo News

Bipartisan budget deal sets off some grumbling

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Backers of a narrowly drawn budget deal are selling it as a way to stabilize Congress’ shaky fiscal practices and mute some of the partisan rancor that has helped send lawmakers’ public approval ratings plummeting. But the bipartisan pact doesn’t solve long-term tax and spending issues, leaving liberals and conservatives alike grumbling.

House and Senate floor votes are being sought on the plan announced Tuesday by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, and applauded by the White House, with the aim of securing passage before lawmakers go home for the holidays.

But skepticism surfaced in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and leading deficit hawk, panned the new deal in an interview Wednesday, saying it fails to address core issues of wasteful spending in Washington. He said it was probably “the best” that Ryan and Murray could get at this time. But said he was disappointed in its failure to address core fiscal issues such as duplication and wasteful spending in Washington.

The agreement, among other things, seeks to restore $63 billion in automatic spending cuts affecting programs ranging from parks to the Pentagon. The deal to ease those cuts for two years is aimed less at chipping away at the nation’s $17 trillion national debt than it is at trying to help a dysfunctional Capitol stop lurching from crisis to crisis. It would set the stage for action in January on a $1 trillion-plus spending bill for the budget year that began in October.

The measure unveiled by Ryan, R-Wis., and Murray, D-Wash., blends $85 billion in spending cuts and revenue from new and extended fees — but no taxes or cuts to Medicare beneficiaries — to replace a significant amount of the mandated cuts to agency budgets over the coming two years.

The package would raise the Transportation Security Administration fee on a typical nonstop, round-trip airline ticket from $5 to $10; require newly hired federal workers to contribute 1.3 percentage points more of their salaries toward their pensions; and trim cost-of-living adjustments to the pensions of military retirees under the age of 62. Hospitals and other health care providers would have to absorb two additional years of a 2-percentage-point cut in their Medicare reimbursements.

The plan doesn’t attempt to resuscitate earlier attempts at an accommodation that would have traded tax hikes for structural curbs to ever-growing benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security. But it would at least bring some stability on the budget to an institution — Congress — whose approval ratings are in the gutter.

“Our deal puts jobs and economic growth first by rolling back … harmful cuts to education, medical research, infrastructure investments and defense jobs for the next two years,” Murray said.

Ryan is set to pitch the measure to skeptical conservatives at a closed-door GOP meeting on Wednesday. Democrats are set to discuss it as well, but the measure won an immediate endorsement from President Barack Obama if only tepid approval from top Capitol Hill Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee.

“Tonight’s agreement represents a step toward enacting a budget for the American people and preventing further manufactured crises that only harm our economy, destroy jobs and weaken our middle class,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“This agreement makes sure that we don’t have a government shutdown scenario in January. It makes sure that we don’t have another government shutdown scenario in October,” Ryan said. “It makes sure that we don’t lurch from crisis to crisis.”


Read More and Watch Video Here


TPM Livewire

House Budget Dem: If There’s A Medicare Payment Fix Vote, Let’s See Unemployment Insurance Too


AP Photo / Charles Dharapak

House Democrats are urging lawmakers to include a vote on unemployment insurance alongside a budget deal if Republican lawmakers insist on including a short-term fix to the Medicare payment system as well.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, standing along side Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), said Republican lawmakers have begun pushing to include a Sustainable Growth Rate fix (often called a short term doc fix that addresses a Medicare payment problem) alongside the budget proposal introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA).

Physicians who treat patients under Medicare are scheduled to take a huge pay cut in the new year if Congress doesn’t enact this “doc fix.” Many lawmakers have expressed support for reversing the pay cuts baked into current law should, but such a fix is costly.


Read More Here



Enhanced by Zemanta


New poll reveals growing discontent with NSA surveillance

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Photo: EFF Photos/cc/flickr A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Thursday poll reveals that while a growing number of Americans feels that the National Security Agency violates privacy, the party the least critical of the agency’s surveillance activities are Democrats.

The poll found that, overall, an increasing number of Americans believes that the NSA’s activities intrude on their privacy. Sixty-eight percent said that the agency’s activities violate the privacy of some Americans. Forty-eight percent said that those intrusions were unjustifiable; that’s up from 40 percent in a July poll.

Forty-six percent said that agency “goes too far” in its surveillance activities.

But the poll revealed significant partisan differences.

Only 37 percent of Democrats responded that the surveillance agency “goes too far”; that’s compared to 47 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents.

Also, asked if the NSA intrusions on “some Americans’ privacy rights” were justifiable or unjustifiable, Democrats were 18 points less likely than Republicans and independents to say they were unjustifiable.

The poll also asked respondents about Edward Snowden.

It found that 60 percent of Americans said that the whistleblower’s disclosures have harmed U.S. security—a surge from 49 percent in their July poll.

Support for Snowden was strongest from youth; just 35 percent of respondents under 30 say he should be charged with a crime, compared with 57 percent of older respondents.

And while over half (56 percent) of those under 30 said Snowden did the “right thing” in revealing the extent of NSA spying, only 32 percent of those over 30 agreed.


Enhanced by Zemanta

A Commentary By Sebastian Fischer and Marc Pitzke

Photo Gallery: US Congress Votes to End Shutdown Photos

The United States has temporarily avoided federal default. As the Republicans lick their wounds, the Democrats are triumphant. But no one should be happy, because the debacle has exposed just how broken the American political system truly is.

The president kept things short, speaking for only three minutes on Wednesday night to praise the debt compromise reached by Congress. After he finished, a reporter called after him: “Mr. President, will this happen again in a couple of months?” Barack Obama, who was on his way out the door, turned and answered sharply, “No.”



But such optimism has proven to be unrealistic in the past. With his re-election in 2012, Obama thought he could break the Republican “fever.” Instead, the conservatives paralyzed the government and risked a federal default just so they could stop Obama’s signature project: health care reform. And this despite the fact that “Obamacare” had been approved by a majority of both houses of Congress, was upheld by the US Supreme Court, and was endorsed by the American people in the voting booths.

No, the democratic process cannot reduce this “fever,” and probably won’t during the next fight, either. On the contrary, the political crisis has turned out to be a systemic crisis.

America’s 237-year-old democracy is approaching its limits. Its political architecture was not designed for long-lasting blockades and extortion, the likes of which have been enthusiastically practiced by Tea Party supporters for almost the last four years. The US’s founding fathers proposed a system of checks and balances, not checks and boycotts.

In hardly any other western democracy are the minority’s parliamentary rights as strongly pronounced as they are in the US, where a single senator can delay legislation, deny realities, and leverage the system.

Non-Representative Democracy

In Germany, the government is built from a majority in parliament. In America, the president and his allies in Congress have to organize majorities for each new law. But for a long time Obama has hardly been able to find any — not for immigration reform, or new gun control laws, or even for the budget, as the world’s largest economy has been making do with emergency spending measures since 2009.

Scarcely 50 right-wing populists, led by Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz, have been pushing their once proud Republican party into a kamikaze course. Why are the other Republicans letting them do this? They are afraid of radical challengers within their own party in their local districts.

Meanwhile, the Democrats hardly pose a threat, because over the past several years the borders of the congressional districts have been manipulated in such a way that they almost always clearly go Republican or Democratic. As a result, America loses the representative nature of its representative democracy. In the congressional elections in 2012, Democrats won 1.17 million more votes than Republicans, but Republicans got 33 more seats in the House of Representatives.


Read More Here

Enhanced by Zemanta

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,188 other followers