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STONE SOUP MUSINGS



Mix together a hearty portion of news, blend in a cup of opinion, and season with religion, politics, humor or other essential seasonings to taste. Serve with a garnish of comments. Read "The Stone Soup Legend".



Updated: 2017-10-26T05:22:28.870-04:00

 



Talk about throwing people under a bus

2010-05-18T12:58:54.899-04:00

Let me rephrase that title: Talk about throwing people under a wheelchair. This comes from an interview with Tea Party favorite Rand Paul in Lexington over the weekend. Paul is running for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky.
Paul was asked whether he supports the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark 1990 legislation that established a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Paul said he advocates local governments to decide whether disabled individuals deserve rights. Requiring businesses to provide access to disabled people, Paul argued, isn’t “fair to the business owner.”
Nope, it's not fair. Business owners should spend their money on political candidates like Paul instead of disabled people just trying to make a living.

Even more bizarrely, Paul believes his suggestion is nothing more than common sense:
PAUL: You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions — like for example if you have a three story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner. [...]
So, in Paul's opinion, it makes more sense to physically isolate someone in a wheelchair from his/her coworkers on the third floor. He should have been honest and said what he really meant - their desks should be placed in the boiler room or a corner of the janitor's closet where they'll be out of sight of "normal" people.

Honestly, this is one of the more despicable things I've heard from conservatives/teabaggers lately, and there's been a lot of terrible stuff said about immigrants, gays, Muslims, blacks, etc. One would almost think they want to achieve some sort of racial purity.

Update: This article from Bloomberg Businessweek highlights why the disabled need the ADA:
A federal report castigated a Texas company for abusing and underpaying several mentally disabled men who were housed in a ramshackle building while working at an Iowa turkey processing plant.

The report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Henry's Turkey Service underpaid the men at least $1 million over three years, verbally and physically abused them, and committed several major violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Des Moines Register reported Friday.
It all boiled down to greed.
The report found that West Liberty Foods paid Henry's Turkey Service as much as $11,000 per week for the disabled men's labor. Henry's Turkey Service then paid the men a combined total of between $340 and $500 per week, or about 41 cents an hour, The Des Moines Register reported.


(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)



McCotter's Slanted Newsletter On Health Care Costs

2010-05-05T14:42:33.391-04:00

From Thad McCotter's latest newsletter comes this ominous news:
On April 22, 2010, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new analysis of President Obama’s government health care plan, confirming our nation’s health care costs will increase rather than decrease and violating a pledge the President made to the nation on September 10, 2009.
McCotter then went on to list many of CMS's negative conclusions without noting the positives, and he also neglected to provide analysis explaining the difference between the CBO's earlier estimate and this one. Fortunately, Ezra Klein provided the facts:
The Congressional Budget Office's estimates look at the deficit. CMS is looking at total national health expenditures. This often confuses people into thinking that there's conflict between the two sets of numbers when there isn't: CBO says that federal spending is going to go up to pay for the coverage expansion, but that savings and revenue will go up by even more, leading to a net reduction in the federal deficit.

CMS is looking only at the spending side. And here's what it finds: In 2019, implementation of the Affordable Care Act will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by 34 million people and increase nation health expenditures by 1 percent.

One percent.

And that 1 percent is actually 1 percent and falling: When the legislation is fully implemented in 2016, the spending increase will be 2 percent. But cost controls kick in over those years and bring it down to 1 percent. Assuming the trend holds, the second decade will see national health expenditures fall below what spending would've been if the bill hadn't passed.
Or, to put it in dollars and cents (emphasis added):
Third Way, the centrist policy outfit, sent over its own analysis of the data. "The fact is that by 2019, national health spending per insured person will be $15,132 compared to $16,812 without the new law," they write. "That’s 10 percent less spending per insured person than it would have been, according to the actuary’s report."
That study suddenly doesn't look so bad. We'll be insuring 34 million people and spending less money than we would have been if nothing had been done. That sounds like a good deal to me.


(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)



Give me your tired, Your poor...

2010-04-27T15:46:27.581-04:00

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Something tells me Republicans can't keep a straight face when they read those words on the Statue of Liberty. The GOP could care less about the less fortunate among us, and just the thought of having to help the "wretched" must send chills up their spines. As evidence, consider their recent track record: NO to health care reform. YES to protecting Wall Street. And perhaps the most egregious example is Arizona, where they recently passed an immigration bill that makes them look more like a police state than a democracy.

And don't forget the Tea Party. Republicans have gone out of their way to promote and defend these people because they're primarily white, wealthy men - a.k.a. their base.

The GOP may claim they don't have a double-standard when it comes to race in this country, but Alternet asks us to imagine this: What If the Tea Party Were Black?
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters — the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? ...

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.
You get the picture. Republicans have a double-standard, and so do tea party members. How else to explain their silence about Arizona's immigration law? I'd like to hear them answer this question that someone asked over at Washington Monthly:
Shouldn't the tea party crowd be having a cow over this new immigration bill that Arizona just passed? Doesn't that sound like big government tyranny to them? Giving the police the power to demand "papers" from someone just on their own suspicion?
I somehow doubt we'll see them marching in the street in defense of their Hispanic brothers and sisters. They only care about their own sorry, white butts. This is what "white privilege is all about" (as anyone who lived through the civil rights era knows only too well):
The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be...
Recent events - and votes - tell us who Republicans really represent: White America, the wealthier the better.


(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)



A Recipe for Scrambled Eggs - Republican Style

2010-04-23T14:33:27.456-04:00

When I read Eclectablog's post about ousted Congressman Walberg's town hall meetings focused on repealing the recently passed health care bill, I couldn't help but wonder if Walberg liked Sue Lowden's "chickens for checkups" idea too. After all, Walberg thinks it's perfectly acceptable for the uninsured to get their health care by walking into an emergency room. Yep, that's a cost effective way to provide health care to people - not. Even Mitch McConnell admits it's a bad idea:
It's not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, the doctors in the hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance.
Okay, so we all know Walberg's idea is lame, but what about this "chicken for checkups" idea? Could it work? Personally, I live in a condo and I doubt the association board would approve a chicken coop outside my door, but even assuming they agreed, would my doctor take a chicken in lieu of cash? Are there even enough chickens in the world to cover health care expenses? According to TPM, absolutely not. "There aren't enough chickens in the world -- let alone the United States -- to cover the costs of health care in this country alone."

They crunched the numbers so we wouldn't have to:
Total U.S. health care costs in 2008: $2.3 trillion
US population: About 300 million
Average cost of health care per person: $7,681
Average weight of a chicken: 5.9 lbs
Market price per pound: 85 cents
Average spot price per chicken: $5.02
Average number of chickens per resident needed to cover health care costs: 1,530 chickens
Total number of chickens needed to cover United States health care costs: 459 billion chickens
Estimated worldwide chicken population: 16 billion chickens
Current worldwide chicken shortage to cover U.S. health care: 443 billion cluckers
Cluck, cluck. It looks like Lowden and Walberg are both peddling a bunch of chicken poop when it comes to health care reform.



A Valentine Story: Republicans + Teabaggers

2010-02-03T13:15:44.877-05:00

I've always felt that teabagger candidates and protesters were out of touch with mainstream Americans, but now we have a poll showing just how far off the cliff they've fallen. Or, as this HuffPo article put it, this DKos/Research 2000 poll of more than 2,000 self-identified Republican voters illustrates the incredible paranoia enveloping the party. Some results:
39 percent of Republicans believe Obama should be impeached, 29 percent are not sure, 32 percent said he should not be voted out of office.

36 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States, 22 percent are not sure, 42 percent think he is a natural citizen.

31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a "Racist who hates White people" -- the description once adopted by Fox News's Glenn Beck. 33 percent were not sure, and 36 percent said he was not a racist.

24 percent of Republicans believe Obama wants "the terrorists to win," 33 percent aren't sure, 43 percent said he did not want the terrorist to win.

23 percent of Republicans believe that their state should secede from the United States, 19 percent aren't sure, 58 percent said no.

53 percent of Republicans said they believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama.
Talk about being disconnected from reality. The media really needs to start getting tough with this group and their enablers. When high profile Republicans are quoted in newspapers saying they don't know "whether President Obama is a citizen of the United States or not," and candidates for office devote their time speaking to tea party crowds, they validate this kind of irrational, paranoid thinking, and by extension make themselves look irrational too.



Good News/Bad News On The Environmental Front

2010-01-27T11:35:06.971-05:00

First, from the NYT, comes the bad news. A new ranking of the world’s nations by environmental performance puts some of the globe’s largest economies far down the list, with the United States sinking to 61st and China to 121st.In the previous version of the Environmental Performance Index, compiled every two years by Yale and Columbia University researchers, the United States ranked 39th, and China 105th. The top performer was Iceland, which gets nearly all of its power from renewable sources, followed closely by Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Finland. “Countries that take seriously the environment as a policy challenge do improve, and those that don’t deteriorate,” said Daniel C. Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, who oversees the index project. The paper does note that because most of the data is from 2007 and 2008, "the index does not fully reflect new efforts by the Obama administration" to improve environmental performance. It also notes that the U.S. scores well in forestry and safe drinking water, but our ranking is abysmal because we score low in areas like heat-trapping emissions and urban air pollutants.Increasing renewable energy would help decrease our emissions. The good news is that we're advancing quickly in one area - wind power. Despite a crippling recession and tight credit markets, the American wind power industry grew at a rapid pace in 2009, adding 39 percent more capacity. The country is close to the point where 2 percent of its electricity will come from wind turbines. According to the NYT, that's up from virtually nothing a few years ago, and they reported that the American Wind Association said "the amount of capacity added last year, 9,900 megawatts, was the largest on record, and was 18 percent above the capacity added in 2008, also a banner year." The nation’s wind turbines generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 9.7 million homes, according to the report. Last year, Texas consolidated its lead as the nation’s top wind producer, with a total capacity of 9,410 megawatts, about three times more than the second-largest producer, Iowa. They were followed by California, Washington and Minnesota. And guess what the AWEA credits for the growth of wind power? “The U.S. wind industry shattered all installation records in 2009, and this was directly attributable to the lifeline that was provided by the stimulus package,” said Denise Bode, the trade association’s chief executive.However, as extraordinary as growth has been in this area, they also point out that it would be better if Congress would pass a a federal mandate requiring that a certain percentage of power come from renewable sources. Mandates already exist throughout the European Union and in China, and in the U.S. 29 states have adopted a renewable power standard, including Michigan, which set a standard of 10% of electricity from renewable resources by 2015. “The wind manufacturing sector has the potential to employ many more Americans in green jobs, but without a renewable electricity standard to provide a long-term market, the sector will be slow to grow,” the trade group said in its report. I'm so tired of the U.S. falling behind in everything but the strength of our military. The U.S. should be leading the way in this area instead of falling further behind. And although we're fortunate to have Gov. Granholm and other Democrats with foresight and vision pushing for higher standards, we're still stuck with obstructionist Republicans who would rather help their fossil fuel cronies than our environment. Just imagine how much better our country could be if Republicans didn't always stand in the way.(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)[...]



Supreme Court Overturns Corporate Campaign Spending Limits

2010-01-21T11:53:06.690-05:00

The Supreme Court just struck down a key campaign-finance restriction that bars corporations from pouring money into political ads, and the ruling divided the court along ideological lines with the newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, joining the liberal wing in dissent.
The ruling is a victory for Washington-based Citizens United, the corporation that created “Hillary: The Movie.” The 90-minute film, which creators sought to air on a video-on- demand channel during Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, features interviews with a number of prominent critics of the New York senator, including Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich.
Guess who helped fund Citizens United? Wealthy sources, like the Betsy & Dick DeVos Foundation.

So, what's at stake? This is what a constitutional law expert had to say.
"American citizens have repeatedly amended the Constitution to defend democracy when the Supreme Court acts in collusion with democracy's enemies, whether they are slavemasters, states imposing poll taxes on voters, or the opponents of woman suffrage. Today, the Court has enthroned corporations, permitting them not only all kinds of special economic rights but now, amazingly, moving to grant them the same political rights as the people. This is a moment of high danger for democracy so we must act quickly to spell out in the Constitution what the people have always understood: that corporations do not enjoy the political and free speech rights that belong to the people of the United States." [emphasis added]
Voter Action, Public Citizen, The Center for Corporate Policy, and the American Independent Business Alliance have started an organization - Free Speech for People - in an effort to correct the damage the Supreme Court has done to the First Amendment, and the only way that's possible is to pass a constitutional amendment of our own that puts people ahead of corporations.

Please read their resolution and sign your name in support. What the Supreme Court did today dramatically dilutes the vote and the voice of every American who does not control a large corporate treasury. And the decision unleashes billions of dollars in corporate money to dominate legislatures and elections. The problem actually goes beyond money in politics and elections, "The courts have used the fabrication of the First Amendment corporate rights doctrine to strike down a range of democratic enactments in recent years, from those concerning clean and fair elections; to environmental protection and energy; to tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and health care; to consumer protection, lottery, and gambling; to race relations, and much more."

Free speech is for people — not corporations. Please join their campaign and protect our democracy.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)



Broadband Suffers From Lack Of Big Government

2010-01-19T10:50:07.348-05:00

Yet another area where the U.S. trails the rest of the world. Via Paul Waldman at TAPPED:
But a new report on global broadband shows that the country that invented the Internet, the microchip, and most of what makes our global digital village possible ranks a pathetic 18th in broadband speeds. The top spot is taken, as usual, by South Korea, where their smoking fast connections give them an average speed over three times as fast as what our pokey little modems give us. We also don't score too well when it comes to broadband penetration (the proportion of households that have broadband, as opposed to the actual speed people are getting). Our slow broadband is also really expensive. So that's nice.
We trail countries like Romania, Sweden and the Czech Republic. And on a year-to-year basis, all the countries in the top 10 saw a boost in speed. Ireland topped the list with a 73 percent gain. What about the United States? We were hit by a 2.4 percent decline in speed.

Waldman says they are multiple reasons we lag so far behind, but "the most important one is probably that we don't have enough big government. With a combination of public infrastructure investments and regulations forcing ISPs to share lines, other countries have driven down prices and driven up speeds."

Republicans have been too busy giving tax breaks to the rich and taking care of their corporate cronies over the past couple of decades to care about our public infrastructure. Thankfully, the stimulus bill President Obama signed in February provides $7.2 billion for projects that will increase the spread of broadband. He also instructed the FCC to come up with a plan to achieve universal high-speed access.

Those are good first steps, but something also needs to be done about bringing the price down or making it available for free to low income individuals. Voters depend on the media for information about our democracy and that information shouldn't be limited only to those who can afford to buy it.



National Tea Party Convention Embraces Right-Wing Media

2010-01-14T13:35:45.075-05:00

The teabaggers appear to be playing by the George Bush/Republican playbook. Via Think Progress:
Having previously announced that the National Tea Party Convention would be closed to the press, organizers announced yesterday that they would reverse course. However, the Nashville Post reports that only five media organizations will receive credentials for the entire convention, and they all conveniently happen to be right-wing outlets:

The five approved outlets are: Fox News, Breitbart.com, Townhall.com, World Net Daily and The Wall Street Journal. All five are widely considered to be Right-leaning organizations.

The press release explains that the requests for credentials have been overwhelming and that to preserve the nature of the event they are limiting press availability.
They also used the excuse that as "we have set expectations that this is a working convention, we have tried not to make it a media event.”

Right...because Fox News is always so circumspect and diplomatic when it reports the news and they would never turn any event into a media circus.

A media event is exactly what the teabaggers wanted, and by inviting only these right-leaning organizations their message will be tightly controlled and scripted. Ironically, their website currently claims they believe in "Free Speech." I think they should change that to reflect what they really mean - "Free Speech as told by right-wing media outlets."



Salaries Could Be Squeezed For Some Time To Come

2010-01-08T11:51:45.063-05:00

A new CBS MoneyWatch article confirms what Muskegon Critic pointed out the other day: Increased productivity does not translate into prosperity for average Americans.

In fact, MoneyWatch warns that a "combination of short-term factors and long-range changes may conspire to squeeze salaries for some time to come," and annual raises "could be in jeopardy."

So how did we get to this point? It turns out real wages have actually been flat for years.
Looking back, it turns out a decade’s worth of easy credit and faux real estate wealth obscured the fact that incomes for the majority of workers weren’t keeping up. After healthy salary growth of roughly 1.8 percent annually from 1995 to 2000, for example, inflation-adjusted, or real, wages for the median worker remained essentially flat from 2000 until 2007 when the recession started, according to government data (average wages increased roughly 2 percent, but that number is skewed by huge gains at the top). In fact, after the recovery in 2002, notes Shierholz, no real wage growth occurred at all for the median worker — despite an increase in productivity of 11 percent over the seven-year time frame. [emphasis added].
In other words, we've been working our tails off and have little to show for it. So who reaped the productivity gains?
Typically, companies and their shareholders.
And what do experts point to as the reason for our declining prosperity?
Shierholz and other economists attribute the disconnect between wages and output to declining unionization and the need to keep prices low in a competitive global environment.
The "kill the unions" and "outsource everything" crowd accomplished what they set out to do - drive wages down for average Americans. And the scenario for new jobs created doesn't look any rosier.
A 2009 analysis of figures from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that sectors that expanded through this decade have paid an average annual compensation of $55,300, compared with $65,100 for industries that are shrinking. This is partly because many of the newly-created positions are in service industries, which tend to be less organized and have less bargaining power. Think home healthcare and “green” jobs versus auto manufacturing and heavy industry.
In fact, six of the top 10 fastest-growing jobs are low wage.

There are steps Washington can take to start improving living standards for average Americans, but as long as people keep voting for anti-union, globalization embracing politicians, I don't see things changing.



Hoekstra Is A Danger To Your Health And Well-Being

2009-12-30T11:44:38.415-05:00

While Hoekstra runs around trying to profit from the attempted bombing over Detroit and score points with teabagger Republicans, it's important to put this incident into perspective. Via Blue Texan at FDL (see his chart below):

Terrorism Still Less Deadly in US Than Lack of Health Insurance, Salmonella
If you count the Ft. Hoot shooting as a terrorist attack, which even the likes of Pantload doesn’t, 16 people have died in the United States as a result of terrorism in 2009. The other three deaths include the Little Rock military recruiting office shooting (1), the Holocaust Museum shooting (1), and Dr. George Tiller’s assassination (1), the last two coming at the hands of right-wing extremists.

On the other hand, 45,000 Americans died because they didn’t have health insurance and 600 died from salmonella poisoning.
Clearly, lack of health insurance is more of a threat to Americans than a terrorist attack, yet Hoekstra voted NO on health care. He's clearly in no position to be shooting off his mouth and calling on the president to "lead in the fight to keep Americans safe" after that vote.

(image)



Merry Christmas!

2009-12-24T00:01:01.534-05:00

Here's a Christmas card for all my blogging friends from man's best friend (no, not Joe Lieberman) - and me!

May all your Christmas wishes come true.



Senate Health Bill Provides Enormous Help To Poor

2009-12-23T16:20:44.227-05:00

Everyone seems to be trashing the Senate's health reform bill. That's fine, dissent is good, but I don't think we should let it blind us to the positives, such as the enormous good the bill will do for the poor and middle class. (Via Jonathan Cohn at TNR.)
This bill would mean Medicaid coverage for an additional 15 million people a year, all of them living below or just above the poverty line. For a sense of scale, that's more than double the entire population now covered by the state Children's Health Insurance Program.

This bill would also subsidize coverage in the exchanges for (roughly) another 15 million people a year, the majority of whom would also qualify as low-income by any reasonable standard.
"Do the math," he says, and we'll see that this bill is "arguably, the single most progressive initiative in a generation."

And if you don't believe Cohn, he asks you to consider what his colleague Harold Pollack at the Huffington Post had to say [emphasis mine]:
Fully implemented, the bill would provide about $200 billion per year down the income scale in subsidies to poor, near-poor, and working Americans.

$200 billion is a big number. It exceeds the combined total of federal spending on Food Stamps and all nutrition assistance programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, TANF cash payments to single mothers and their children, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Institutes of Health.
That money won't be allocated to wars or tax cuts for the rich, it's going to help the poor and middle class.

Trash the bill if you want, but don't let yourself lose sight of the good it will do.


(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)



Bottled Water Tax: "The People Deserve To Get Something In Return"

2009-12-21T12:36:08.217-05:00

LG John Cherry has an op-ed in the Detroit News today that talks about his plan to restore the Michigan Promise Scholarship with a water bottle tax. Go read it, but here's the best part (emphasis mine): Right now, bottlers across the state remove water from our wells essentially for free, and we lack the necessary funding to safeguard this precious resource. In other words, we're losing one resource -- our talented work force -- while giving away another resource, our water, for free.You don't need a Ph.D. in mathematics to solve this terrible equation. It's time for the bottlers to pay their water bill, just like you and I do. We can use the proceeds from that water bill to fund the education that our young people need to compete, as well as protecting the water resources that Michigan desperately needs.By conservative estimates, a charge of 10 cents per bottle, paid by bottling companies that operate in Michigan, would raise $118 million per year. The cost of the Michigan Promise Scholarship, on the other hand, is about $100 million per year. Not only would this modest charge on each bottle of water that leaves Michigan raise enough funds to pay for the entire Michigan Promise program, we'd still have $18 million a year to spend on wetlands regulation and other conservation initiatives. [...]This is the people's water, and the people deserve to get something in return. Ironically, employers like to point out they need an educated workforce to be successful and profitable, and Nestle, the parent company of Ice Mountain, is no exception. Like every Michigan employer, we rely on an educated workforce. Yet Nestle is complaining that Cherry's proposal penalizes Michigan employers, risks jobs, and that bottlers may resort to supplying products from outside the state in order to remain competitive on the price consumers pay for bottled water products.A Nestle Water Company spokesman also claimed that the tax would nearly double the price consumers paid for a case of water. "Let's look at the math," said Flaherty. "Most bottled water is purchased in cases of 24 bottles of .5 liter size, for about or less than $4.00 per case -- putting the price per bottle at about 16 cents. A 10-cent per bottle tax on Michigan manufactured products nearly doubles the price for consumers, and would be unsustainable in the highly competitive beverage marketplace."Consumers are very savvy, and rarely could be convinced to pay nearly double for Michigan-produced bottle water when lesser-priced options exist," said Flaherty. "I challenge you to ask consumers if they'd pay $6.50 for a case when they can pay less than $4 for the same product made elsewhere." True, consumers are savvy, but we also care about educating our children. I have a suggestion for Nestle. You pay the 10 cent tax per bottle on the water you currently get for free without passing it on to consumers and in return you'll get an educated workforce, an improved "corporate neighbor" image and the gratitude of citizens who just might go out of their way to buy your product. I'd say that's a win-win for everyone involved. After all, your company admitted that bottled water profits were down in part because of public criticism. Why would you want to anger us even more?[...]



Don't Give Up On Health Care Now

2009-12-16T16:37:58.031-05:00

I am extremely disillusioned with the shape the healthcare bill has taken, but I'm not willing to say it shouldn't pass and/or we should start over. I'll let Kevin Drum speak for me. He makes a compelling argument for seeing this bill through.With the public option now out of the healthcare bill, is it still worth passing? Regular readers will be unsurprised that I think the answer is pretty firmly yes—and that liberals who now want to pick up their toys and hand reform its sixth defeat in the past century need to wake up and smell the decaf. Politics sucks. It always has. But the bill in front of us—messy, incomplete, and replete with bribes to every interest group imaginable—is still well worth passing. Six defeats. Think about that. More from Kevin:When big legislative efforts go down in flames, they almost never spring back onto the calendar anytime soon — and that's especially true when big healthcare bills fail. It didn't happen in 1936, it didn't happen in 1949, it didn't happen in 1974, and it didn't happen in 1995. What makes anyone think it will happen in 2010? Drum also makes the point that if healthcare reform dies this year, it dies for a good long time, and Republicans know it. And even though it's not the bill we wanted, it's a good start. Via Ezra Klein: "This is a good bill," Sen. Sherrod Brown said on Countdown last night. "Not a great bill, but a good bill." That's about right. But the other piece to remember is that more than it's a good bill, it's a good start. With $900 billion in subsidies already in place, it's easier to add another hundred billion later, if we need it, than it would be to pass $1 trillion in subsidies in 2011. With the exchanges built and private insurers unable to hold down costs, it's easier to argue for adding a strong public option to the market than it was before we'd tried regulation and a new competitive structure. With 95 percent of the country covered, it's easier to go the final 5 percent. And with a health-care reform bill actually passed, it's easier to convince legislators that passing such bills is possible. Here's some other things we'll be getting: Insurers have to take all comers. They can't turn you down for a preexisting condition or cut you off after you get sick.Community rating. Within a few broad classes, everyone gets charged the same amount for insurance.Individual mandate. I know a lot of liberals hate this, but how is it different from a tax? And its purpose is sound: it keeps the insurance pool broad and insurance rates down.A significant expansion of Medicaid.Subsidies for low and middle income workers that keeps premium costs under 10% of income.Limits on ER charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients.Caps on out-of-pocket expenses.A broad range of cost-containment measures.A dedicated revenue stream to support all this. Drum is right. This is still a huge achievement, one that will benefit tens of millions of people in very concrete ways and will do it without expanding our long-term deficit. And he also points out "this is more than Bill Clinton ever did, more than Teddy Kennedy did, more than LBJ did, more than Truman did, and more than FDR did."Don't throw in the towel now.[...]



Poll: Let The Wealthy Pay Higher Taxes

2009-12-10T12:16:49.392-05:00

A new Bloomberg poll shows Americans want the government to do something about the economy.
Americans want their government to create jobs through spending on public works, investments in alternative energy or skills training for the jobless.

They also want the deficit to come down. And most are ready to hand the bill to the wealthy.

A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Dec. 3-7 shows two- thirds of Americans favor taxing the rich to reduce the deficit.
Raising taxes on the rich was popular across party lines too: About half of Republicans back the idea and it is more popular among Democrats and Independents.

Steve Benen summarized the polls results best:
In other words, here's a poll showing widespread support for the Democratic economic agenda.
That's because mainstream America is rational, unlike those teabagger Republicans whose only answer for every problem is cut taxes, cut taxes...


(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)



Who's More Popular Than Traditional Republicans?

2009-12-08T10:32:19.869-05:00

Teabagger Republicans. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, Republicans have fallen to third place in terms of popularity.
In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
So are Republicans worried? Nope. Greg Sargent asked for the GOP's leadership view of the poll and this was one senior GOP aide's reply:
This proves one of the major points that Democrats have tried hard to deny: the Tea Party movement is not some fringe group of ultra-conservatives, it is most popular among independents, many of whom believed President Obama’s campaign promises about doing things differently in Washington, and feel burned by the fact that he has governed in a relentlessly partisan fashion.
Partisan? Did he really say partisan? Three words: Health care reform. Obama reached out to Republicans and they said NO.

I think GOP leadership has to spin this in a favorable light. After all, several Glenn Beck inspired Tea Party candidates are causing problems for a number of GOP lawmakers, including John McCain. They're caught between a rock and a hard place. They can't afford to ignore the teabaggers, and they can't afford to embrace them at the risk of losing their moderate members.

And I don't take too seriously the GOP spokesperson's comment that "the Tea Party movement is not some fringe group." Again, really? What else would you call a group that invited Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman to speak at their national convention next year. And don't forget about Joe the Plumber.

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that any independents with a smidgen of commonsense will embrace the teabaggers, the same group that shows up at rallies with guns and posters comparing health care reform to pictures of dead bodies at the Dachau concentration camp. These people are not mainstream Americans, they're extremists.

And when a fake party "that doesn't have organized candidates or organized fundraising is more highly thought of than one of the two traditionally dominant political parties," that's a sign that Republicans are in big trouble, no matter how much they spin this poll.



All I Want For Xmas Is...

2009-12-03T15:09:23.638-05:00

(Via Fox News Detroit)

A man in Riverview has an unusual Christmas display on his lawn and the neighbors aren't too happy about it. His signs support national health insurance, but the mom next door is upset because her kids are asking questions. "I just don't think Christmas is the time to make a political statement," she said.

Fox asks what you think. I say that young man probably speaks for millions of people who would love to wake up to health insurance under their tree on December 25th.

(object)



Holiday Shopping Tips for Progressives

2009-11-25T20:00:00.938-05:00

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I wanted to pass along a few shopping tips before heading out to spend the holiday with family and friends.

If you're picking up a bottle of wine for your host or guests, consider buying Wine Spectator’s 2009 Wine of the Year: Columbia Crest’s Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Reserve 2005. According to FDL, members of the United Farm Workers helped pick the grapes. If you don't like red wine, check out these other labels that use UFW members (as well as other products like strawberries, dates, and almonds).

Moving beyond Thanksgiving to Black Friday, you can show your support for union workers by clicking here and checking out the box in the left upper corner to find union made products and services.

Or maybe you want to avoid naughty companies that force their employees to labor long hours under dangerous working conditions for poverty wages? Then Working in These Times advises you to read the "Shop With a Conscience Consumer Guide" from Sweat Free Communities, as well as this Sweatshop Hall of Shame 2010 report that highlights some of the big apparel and textile companies that use sweatshops in their global production. (Ikea, Abercrombie and Fitch, Wal-Mart, Hanes, L.L. Bean, and Kohl's among others.)

And from Michael Whitney at FDL comes this reminder about shipping your packages:
UPS is almost entirely union employees (Teamsters), with impressive wages, benefits and treatment for workers. FedEx, on the other hand, doesn’t even consider their employees to be employees, with meager pay, no benefits, no vacation days, and no respect. Check out this handy chart to see the stark difference between how UPS and FedEx treat their employees.
Finally, before heading out the door, you might want to check out Gizmodo, because no matter where it's made and who makes it, some "deals" really aren't deals at all!

(I'm so thankful my family likes gift certificates and cash. It makes life much simpler.)



Sen. Carl Levin is The Real Deal

2009-11-23T15:30:01.357-05:00

The Republican Party is staking its future on people like Sarah Palin for commonsense solutions to our nation's problems. Meanwhile, Democrats don't have to look any further than Sen. Carl Levin. This is his commonsense approach to paying for the war in Afghanistan.
Higher-income Americans should be taxed to pay for more troops sent to Afghanistan and NATO should provide half of the new soldiers, said Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

An “additional income tax to the upper brackets, folks earning more than $200,000 or $250,000” a year, could fund more troops...

White House Budget Director Peter Orszag has estimated that each additional soldier in Afghanistan could cost $1 million, for a total that could reach $40 billion if 40,000 more troops are added.

That cost, Levin said, should be paid by wealthier taxpayers. “They have done incredibly well, and I think that it’s important that we pay for it if we possibly can” instead of increasing the federal debt load, the senator said.
"Incredibly well" is an understatement. The Bush tax cuts cost almost $2.5 trillion over the decade after they were first enacted and 52.5 percent of the benefits are going to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers. And, of course, we can't forget the war profiteers cronies who made a killing off Iraq, i.e., Blackwater, Halliburton, KBR, etc.

Had the Bush administration showed some commonsense and opposed tax cuts to pay for increased defense spending, he wouldn't have squandered Clinton's surplus and left office with a record budget deficit of more than $1 trillion.

Traditionally during wartime, taxes have been raised to pay the costs of war, but Bush and the GOP had some grandiose idea that Iraq's oil would pay for the war. So, they drummed up a lie to get things started and proceeded to cut taxes for their rich cronies, leaving our country in economic shambles.

So kudos to Sen. Levin and his commonsense approach to paying for the Afghanistan War. Besides, if rich Republicans have to dig into their trust funds to pay for war, it's a pretty sure bet they won't be so quick to support it.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)



The Stock Market is Up, I'd Rather Have a Job

2009-11-19T13:51:42.832-05:00

Robert Reich has an article on the disconnect between stocks and jobs that asks a great question: How can the stock market hit new highs at the same time unemployment is hitting new highs? Simple. The market is up because corporate earnings are up. Corporate earnings are up because companies are cutting costs. And the biggest single cost they’re cutting is their payrolls. So they let people go and, presto, their balance sheets look better and their stock prices rise. Reich points to Caterpillar as an example. They earned $404 million in the third quarter, or 64 cents a share, yet analysts had only expected 5 cents. So how did Caterpillar manage to drive their stock up 165 percent since March? They cut 37,000 jobs.Or consider this example from Too Much: The latest case in point: the just-announced $4.5 billion merger deal that will fold the 99-year-old Black & Decker tool-making powerhouse — the folks who brought us the world’s first pistol-grip power drill — into its chief tool-making rival, Connecticut's Stanley Works.“It’s a match made in heaven,” Stanley flack Tim Perra told reporters last week.Heaven for who? Not consumers. The new “Stanley Black & Decker” may soon have enough marketplace dominance, says Morningstar business analyst Anthony Dayrit, “to raise prices” on do-it-yourself gizmos that range from power tools to window locks.And workers won’t find much heaven in the merger either. Black & Decker and Stanley together currently employ a workforce just over 40,000. The merger the two companies announced last week will eventually cost an estimated 10 percent of those workers their jobs, starting with staff at the Black & Decker headquarters just outside Baltimore. And here's yet another example from economically depressed Las Vegas: Last February, Las Vegas kingpin Steve Wynn announced an across-the-board wage and hour cutback for all employees at his resort empire. The total savings for Wynn Resorts: between $75 and $100 million. Last week Wynn Resorts announced a special $4-per-share dividend. Total cost of the dividend payout to Wynn Resorts: $492 million. Total dividend check that will go to Steve Wynn: $88.6 million. The Great Recession has been a boon for corporations and CEO's. As Reich points out, "They’re using this sharp downturn to cut payrolls even below where they were when times were good. Outsourcing abroad, setting up shop in China and elsewhere, contracting out, replacing people with software and automated machines – they're doing whatever it takes to get payrolls down so earnings bounce up."Higher earnings may be good for Wall Street, but not so much for Main Street. More from Reich: "Yes, the economy is growing again, but the surge in productivity is a mirage. Worker output per hour is skyrocketing because companies are generating almost as much output with fewer workers and fewer hours." The bottom line: Higher productivity doesn't put money in the average worker's pocket. Since 1980, productivity has grown 70 percent, but wages only increased 5 percent.But, but, but... I can hear the Jim Kramer's of the world already. Higher stock prices=higher fund balances for all Americans. That's true. But what good does a 5 or 10 percent increase do me if I'm out of work and have to live off of that money? It buys me short-term security today but leaves me financially insecure when I retire. Instead of worrying about stock market profits, we need policies that put people back to work at decent wages and keeps them working.[...]



Health Care Reform: Keep It Separate From Religion

2009-11-17T16:39:44.740-05:00

Thank you for respecting a woman's right to choose, Congressman Schauer, and for also having the courage to say what many women think - "The government doesn't belong in the room when these very personal, private decisions are being made." And neither does the religious right, Council of Catholic Bishops and Bart Stupak. They certainly don't speak for all people of faith.From the United Church of Christ: UCC Minister and Co-Team Leader for the Cleveland-based Team, the Rev. Loey Powell, reiterated the UCC's 40-year history of support for reproductive health care and said of the amendment, "We join [partner faith] groups in expressing our disappointment that the House bowed to pressure exerted at the last minute from anti-abortion lobbyists ... Once again women's health and well-being have been compromised in the halls of Congress." United Methodist Church: The United Methodist Church’s official positions on abortion and immigration stand in opposition, however, to restrictions placed in the bill that limit coverage for all of God’s children living in the United States. H.R. 3962 excludes immigrants and women whose circumstances indicate need for an abortion. These restrictions even include persons who now have such insurance.The bill establishes a two-tiered system of health delivery. It essentially penalizes women and immigrants with fewer economic resources. National Council of Jewish Women: "This Stupak-Pitts amendment is an egregious assault on the rights of women and an enormous step backward for those who believe in the separation of religion and state. It enshrines one religious view of abortion into law and enlists the federal government to enforce it. Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:We call on the Senate to ensure that health care reform is freed of religious ideology and restrictions that will prevent women from making their own reproductive health care choices. Ideally, I think our leaders should heed JFK's words: I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote. . . . That is the kind of America in which I believe. . . . Whatever issue may come before me as president - on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject - I will make my decision in accordance with . . . what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. Along with 40 other Democrats, Stupak is threatening there will be hell to pay if his amendment is removed, and the Council of Catholic Bishops is threatening to withdraw their support for reform too. Their religion may condone turning their backs on the uninsured, but mine believes health care is a matter of social justice.There are hundreds of religions in this world and we'll never find common ground acceptable to everyone. However, as this blogger so eloquently put it... Freedom of religion in our nation means, first and foremost, the right of individuals to live their lives in accord with their most cherished religious beliefs, and free of government interference. [...]At the same time, though, the reciprocal of that freedom is an equally fundamental responsibility. This is the responsibility not to use the authority of the government to compel individuals to live their lives in accord with our "religious dictates" that they do not share. Mu[...]



Health Care and Gay Rights Helped by Yesterday's Election

2009-11-04T16:22:49.065-05:00

Regardless of Republican gloating, I'm not reading too much into yesterday's election. They picked up a couple of governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, but Democrats picked up two seats in Congress, and those two seats might just make the difference in getting health care reform passed.

Via Brian Beutler at TPM:
The NY-23 seat abdicated by Republican John McHugh (who resigned to become Secretary of the Army) went to Democrat Bill Owens--the first Democrat to hold the seat in over a century. And the CA-10 seat abdicated by Democrat Ellen Tauscher (who resigned to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs) went to Democrat John Garamendi.

That creates some simple arithmetic. Yesterday, Democrats had 256 voting members in the House. By week's end, they'll have 258. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could afford to lose no more than 38 Democratic votes on a landmark health care reform bill. Next week, after Owens and Garamendi are sworn in, she can lose up to 40. For legislation this historic and far-reaching, she'll need every vote she can get--and both seem likely to support reform.
I'll give up two governorships in return for getting health care reform passed.

And this news will be music to the ears of gay rights activists: "As gay marriage was being voted down in Maine, several openly gay candidates in the South scored victories."

In the south!! So go ahead and gloat, Republicans. It doesn't matter, because mainstream America is not red. (Are you paying attention, Dems?)



Health Care Bill is a Pro-Life Issue Too

2009-11-03T12:09:00.069-05:00

In this FDL Action Health Care Update, I read that Bart Stupak is threatening to block the House health care bill from passing over the issue of tax dollars for abortion. He wants to vote his conscience and strip abortion-related provisions out of the House bill, in spite of the fact the bill already contains restrictions to prevent federal funding of abortions.

Okay, I can respect that, but isn't health care for the uninsured a moral issue too? And how does Stupak square his concern for fetuses with the lack of respect he shows this group of people?
In his letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Stupak expressed concern over reports that terrorist suspects would have priority over United States citizens waiting for the vaccine.
Apparently "suspected" terrorists are less worthy.
It might only be 229 more vaccines but I would rather see 229 vaccines go to pregnant women of young children to be protected from H1N1 not to a group of people who are beheld as suspected terrorist against our country.
I'm not trying to beat up on Stupak. I think his heart is in the right place, and he votes with Democrats more than 90% of the time, but I'm tired of the way this argument always gets framed. We should respect all life, including the lives of terrorists and the uninsured, not just the lives of fetuses.

The good news is that Stupak does support health care reform and still plans to support it.
If everything I want [is] in the final bill, I like everything in the bill except you have public funding for abortion, and we had a chance to run our amendment and we lost. OK, I voted my conscience, stayed true to my principles, stayed true to the beliefs of this district, could I vote for healthcare? Yes I still could.
I hope the other 39 House Democrats aligned with Stupak vote Yes. Health care for the uninsured deserves their respect and support too.



Good Corp, Bad Corp

2009-10-29T14:58:11.778-04:00

Kudos to the Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids for respecting the hard work of their employees. On October 3, Local 386 members employed at Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ratified a new contract. The new agreement increases wages and pension benefits, while protecting health care coverage and increases sickness and accident and life insurance coverage. [...]The five-year contract contains wage increases totaling 11 percent over the course of the agreement, and the company’s contributions to the employees’ RWDSU pension will increase by $2 per week each year. By the last year of the contract, the company will be contributing $80 per week to the plan. I've always liked and bought Country Fresh products, and now I have another reason to remain a loyal customer. Not only do I help the company's profits, but I help the 156 employees who overwhelmingly voted to ratify the contract.The polar opposite of Country Fresh is Boeing. The company decided to put a new assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. Boeing claims they chose right-to-work South Carolina in part "because of frustration with labor strife in Seattle, where four strikes in the past 20 years by the machinists union delayed deliveries." However, according to the Seattle PI, the union offered a 10-year, no-strike contract and was willing to discuss a longer agreement to get Boeing to commit to locating the second 787 line in Everett, Washington.And this little tidbit from the same article is infuriating: Boeing already took billions in tax credits and handouts... Now, the company is taking the jobs promised by the 787 program and leaving Washington workers and taxpayers high and dry. What's the company getting from South Carolina? A package that eliminates income and other taxes for a decade and the state will provide low-interest construction bonds.The problem with all these incentives according to this journalist is that they're a downward spiral on our race to the bottom.Of course the problem isn't a lack of "commitment" to the aerospace industry in a region where generations of workers have devoted their lives to making Boeing planes. The problem is that people in Washington just don't come as cheap. We have this bad habit of paying people a decent wage, and providing good unemployment pay and benefits for people who are injured on the job--all things that apparently must change if we're to be competitive.But then, if you consult the advocacy groups trying to insure the "competitiveness" of South Carolina, they say the same thing. "South Carolina's workers' compensation costs are the highest in the Southeast for small business" frets the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition, a group that works to improve the business climate in Boeing's new home. They won't be satisfied until South Carolina's "climate" has been made as cheap as Georgia's, Tennessee's, and Virginia's.And on down it spirals. It's not a winnable game, not if we want to keep any allegiance to our own values. In a few years, Boeing will be playing S.C. off Mississippi. Boeing could learn a few things about values from Country Fresh.(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)[...]