Monday, September 14, 2009

Blue Dogs Are Simple-Minded Republican Sympathizers And “Re-Election First Screw You Democrats”.

Blue Dogs Are Simple-Minded Republican Sympathizers And “Re-Election First Screw You Democrats”.

Senator Olympia Snowe said on the CBS Face the Nation program yesterday that "It would give real momentum to building consensus" to take the public option for health care off the table.

If The Democrats Will Just Do It The Republican Way, There Is No Problem In Agreeing To A Plan.

Dear Ed,

On Wednesday night, President Obama addressed Congress and the nation to set the record straight on health care reform, reiterate its importance and debunk some of the myths being widely propagated by the Right.

The president laid out the facts. And the Right apparently couldn't handle it.

The GOP response to the speech was delivered by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), an insurance company apologist and one-time "birther" who parroted one right-wing lie after another about the health care reform plan -- lies that the president had clearly addressed and refuted only moments prior.

During the actual speech, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) brought the Right's town hall mob tactics to the halls of Congress when he shouted "You lie!" as the president set the record straight about his health care plan.

The popular right-wing blog called Rep. Wilson a "great American hero" as soon as he was identified as the congressman who shouted at the president.

WorldNetDaily, the epicenter of countless right-wing lies that eventually bubble up through the Right's media echo chamber, was quick to start selling "YOU LIE!" bumper stickers (with President Obama's campaign logo as the O in the word "you," of course).

Tea Party extremists and radical anti-choice leader Randall Terry paid personal visits to Wilson's office to express their support, with Terry saying, "last night, I jumped out of my chair when he yelled that; I was so fired up!" (He then distributed cards depicting the Boston Tea Party printed with the lines, "Remember the Boston Tea Party? We won't pay for murder in health care.")

And even despite Rep. Wilson's apology, several other right-wing members of Congress like Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) have defended his actions.

The Right's defense of town hall mob-like incivility, even from a member of Congress, says a lot. But more important to note is that even when so directly confronted with the truth, the Right seems completely undeterred in spreading their dangerous and inflammatory lies about health care reform.

The Religious Right group Concerned Women for America's web site actually features a banner that implies President Obama wants to kill you. And right-wing commentators like FOX News' Sean Hannity are even flatly lying about what the president said in his speech.

"You lie" might be the Far Right's new mantra, but it's obvious that they are the real liars. And they are using their lies to impede the progress Americans voted for last November. We cannot let them be successful, but they are already scoring some victories.

An end-of-life counseling provision has already been stripped because of ridiculous paranoia -- spread by the likes of Sarah Palin -- over so-called "death panels," even though many conservative Republicans (like Rep. Boustany) supported the same legislation as a stand-alone bill. And now, even after the president dispelled the myth that "illegal aliens" would be covered, Democratic negotiators in the Senate have decided to add a proof of citizenship requirement that would place a disproportionate burden on poor and minority citizens to produce documents they might not have in order to receive health care (some of the people in the most dire need).

If the extremist rhetoric and lies of the Right are effective in derailing this piece of the progressive reform agenda, the same tactics will work in stopping progress on civil rights, the courts, education, immigration reform and more. It's time to take a stand.

The biggest battle is in the Senate, where most Republicans have made their intent to obstruct any progressive health care reform painfully clear. The key votes on passing an effective health care reform bill will be those moderate Democrats from swing and "red" states. And with the president's speech causing a spike in public support for health reform, the Republican senators from Maine (a "blue state") need to hear from constituents as well.

It's imperative that these target senators hear from their constituents not to let the Right's lies influence them on health care reform. If you live in a state with target senators, please call them and tell them to support REAL reform. If you don't live in one of these states but know people who do, please urge them to call their senator or senators with the same message.

If the health care reform fails, the Far Right wins, and becomes further emboldened to go after the other issues we care about -- judicial nominations, religious liberty, LGBT equality, voting rights, you name it. And they will get bolder and bolder in their efforts with every win they get.

Health care reform targets:

Alaska: Sen. Begich
Arkansas: Sens. Pryor and Lincoln
Colorado: Sens. Bennet and Udall
Connecticut: Sen. Lieberman
Delaware: Sen. Carper
Florida: Sen. Nelson
Indiana: Sen. Bayh
Louisiana: Sen. Landrieu
Maine: Sen. Snowe and Collins
Minnesota: Sen. Klobuchar
Montana: Sen. Baucus
Nebraska: Sen. Nelson
New Mexico: Sen. Bingaman
North Carolina: Sen. Hagan
North Dakota: Sens. Conrad and Dorgan
Virginia: Sen. Warner
Wisconsin: Sen. Kohl

Find contact information for your senator here or use the Capitol Switchboard at 202-244-3121.

-- Your Allies at People For the American Way

P.S. Senators need to hear from their constituents often and throughout the duration of the debate. If their offices are closed, send an email or leave a message. Then try to call the next business day. There's too much at stake to be silent.

Hi Ed.,

We're coming down the home stretch for the public option. Progressives in the House of Representatives start counting votes for the public option today.

Liberal leaders in Congress - like Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Raul Grijalva - are trying to gauge where your representative stands on fighting for the public health insurance option in health care reform.

We need at least 40 members of the House to pledge to vote for only a strong public option. By our count, we can rely on at least 17 members to say "No" to triggers, co-ops, and other faux public options.

You can help us find the remaining 23 members of Congress by calling your representative now. Can you help us whip the vote for a strong public option?

Call the House switchboard now at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative in the House. Clicking here will let us know you called.

It comes down to this: will progressives stand up against a health care bill written by insurance industry lobbyists? Or will they follow the lead of Rep. Grijalva, who slammed the insurance industry bill as "not legitimate," and fight for what the President says we need to keep costs down?

Here's what we need you to say when you reach your representative's office:

  1. State your name, city, and state, and that you're calling because you strongly support only a true public option in health care reform.
  2. Say that you expect your Representative to support nothing less than a strong public option - that means no co-ops, no triggers.
  3. Ask if you can count on your Representative to only vote for a strong public option and vote against any bill that doesn't have a strong public option. Again, that means no co-ops, no triggers.

Can you call your member of Congress now? Dial (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative in the House.

When you're done, click here to let us know you called. and then report the office's response.

Thanks for your help in whipping the House to pass the public option.

Best, Jane Hamsher

The Reality Of Economic Recovery

Great news, America! Having just celebrated Labor Day, we can now bask in the revelation that our long economic nightmare is over. Forget recession, much less a depression, our country is poised to spring into a new era of financial prosperity!

We know that this is so because we're being told so by top economists, Wall Street bankers and others in the know. To put the icing on this happy economic cupcake, President Obama even interrupted his Martha's Vineyard vacation late last month to announce that he was reappointing Ben Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve banking system.

In our country's high-flying financial circles, Ben is being hailed as "a monumental figure" for engineering the multitrillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street giants. Those giants are now claiming to be profitable again, and the Dow Jones average has begun to tick upward, so there's joy in the upper stratosphere of our economy, and those who dwell there have blessed Bernanke's ordainment as the high priest of America's monetary policy.

And why wouldn't they love him? After all, the compassionate Bernanke and other bailout officials allowed them to retain their high positions in the Wall Street hierarchy (despite their demonstrable ineptness, malfeasance and failure). So happy days are here again, and banking executives are now popping champagne corks and showering themselves with bonuses and perks -- as if nothing unpleasant had happened in the past couple of years.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and other banking baronies have already set aside billions of dollars each to divie up at year's end -- bonus booty for their self-indulgent barons.

This is irrational exuberance at work, but -- hey -- a big bonus is the perfect psychotic sedative, making one's irrationality seem normal.

Meanwhile, if you're among the vast majority of Americans who do not reside at the top, chances are that you don't measure economic recovery by Wall Street profitability, stock prices and executive bonanzas. A more relevant measure for you might the availability of good jobs. If so, good luck.

Since our present economic dive began (not long after Ben took the helm at the Fed, by the way), our economy has shed almost 7 million more jobs than it created. Indeed, there are fewer jobs available today than in 2000, even though about 12 million additional workers have entered the job market since then. While bankers are hoisting self-congratulatory flutes of Dom Perignon and giddily reverting to the irrational, grab-all-you-can ethic of executive pay, our country's official jobless rate is headed beyond 10 percent.

Consequently, wages are down, household income has fallen in eight of the last 10 months and consumer spending is now nothing but wishful thinking. This is why workaday folks are less inclined than their Wall Street brothers to enshrine Bernanke's "monumental" likeness on Mount Rushmore.

Well, say most politicos and pundits, even the job situation is improving. In July, they note, the unemployment rate dropped by one-tenth of one percent. What they did not note is that this speck of "good" news was not the happy result of more people getting jobs. Rather, the blip was caused by the fact that 450,000 Americans had become so discouraged by their months of fruitlessly searching for work that they simply gave up the hunt in July.

In statistical la-la land, you see, those who aren't actively looking for jobs are not counted as unemployed.

Maybe they should take the advice recently suggested by The Onion: Get drunk. Just before Labor Day, this satirical newspaper's lead story was headlined, "Nation's Unemployment Outlook Improves Drastically After Fifth Beer." According to the Onion's parody, economists found that out-of-work people's spirits perked up somewhere between the third and fourth beer, but the fifth brewski was when things turned really rosy for them.

Behind the official stats, the real jobless numbers are sobering. When you tally up the officially unemployed with discouraged workers and the underemployment (part-time workers who want full-time jobs), 19 percent of Americans -- 30 million people -- can't find the work they need. This is our economy's true crisis, and there can be no happy talk until we deal with it.

Columnist, national radio commentator, public speaker and author of the forthcoming book, Swim Against The Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be — consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses and just-plain-folks.

Health Care Issues: US Costs Vs. Other Countries

By The Associated Press (AP) – 1 hour ago

A look at key issues in the health care debate.

THE ISSUE: U.S. health care costs are significantly higher than those in other developed countries.

THE POLITICS: Americans spend an average of $7,290 a year on health care, more than twice the average for developed countries. Despite that, the United States lags in life expectancy, infant mortality and preventable deaths. The idea that the U.S. overpays for health care is a major driver behind President Barack Obama's push to overhaul the system, and it translates into a political blame game: Democrats accuse insurance companies of making "immoral" profits. Conservatives and business charge that costs are driven up by malpractice suits that force doctors to practice defensive medicine by ordering too many tests. Consumers themselves also drive up costs by demanding excessive tests and services, but that's a message politicians are reticent to deliver.

WHAT IT MEANS: There are several major reasons for the disparity between what the U.S. spends and what it gets, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. One is the large number of Americans who lack health insurance or are underinsured, either because their employers don't provide it or they are out of work. Only the U.S., Turkey and Mexico among OECD's 30 member nations fail to provide something close to universal coverage. If everyone were covered, costs and risks would be spread over more people and that would help control costs, the organization says.

_ Jim Drinkard

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Senate Health Care Plan To Create Winners, Losers


WASHINGTON — Hospitals and drug makers like what they see in the early version of a health care plan that may evolve into the one that ends up on President Barack Obama's desk.

But insurers and doctors say they aren't happy. Neither are advocates for low-income workers and some business groups representing employers.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has promised a formal proposal within days and plans to convene a bill-drafting session the week of Sept. 21. The Baucus plan is important for two reasons: It's the only proposal that's been worked out in close consultation with Republicans, and it also seems to be headed in the general direction Obama wants to take.

"It's the logical starting point for negotiations," said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, an information company serving industry and government clients. An 18-page summary of an early version of the Baucus plan circulated last week.

His proposal is widely seen as making major concessions to industry. There's no government insurance plan to compete with private carriers, and no requirement on employers to provide coverage — as legislation drafted by House Democrats would provide.

In another significant break with House Democrats, Baucus wouldn't raise taxes on upper-income earners to pay for health care. That should please tax-averse Republicans. Instead, he uses a series of "fees" on medical industries to help pay for his plan.

"There are no deal killers in here," said Robert Laszewski, a health care industry consultant.

But it looks like there's still going to be plenty to argue about in the fine print. Here's a sampling of initial concerns already being raised by groups and some lawmakers:

_ Consumers

The Baucus plan would require individuals and families to get health insurance from an employer, a government plan or by buying it on their own. Because coverage is so expensive, it would provide tax credits for millions of middle-class people, mainly those who have to purchase their own plans. Ignoring the requirement would result in a stiff fine.

But Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., says the way eligibility for the tax credits is being computed might result in a meager benefit that leaves many consumers with insurance sticker-shock.

The credits would be based on the percent of family income that's eaten up by health insurance premiums. But Rockefeller points out that premiums are only one part of health care costs. People with insurance also face an annual deductible and co-payments every time they go to the doctor or pharmacy. That can add up for someone in poor health.

Rockefeller says the tax credits should be based on an individual's total medical costs, including premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

"Affordable health care is about more than your monthly insurance premium," said Rockefeller. "It's also about whether you can afford the co-payment for your prescription drug or 20 percent of the cost of a test or scan that you need. Health reform must reflect that reality."

_ Employers

Employers won't get off free under the Baucus plan, says Kathryn Bakich, a senior vice president with the Segal Group, a benefits consulting firm.

Although there's no requirement to offer insurance, an employer will be charged a $400 fee if their workers receive a tax credit from the government to purchase coverage. But here's the catch, Bakich said: Even if just one employee gets help, the fee would be multiplied by the total number of employees at the firm.

"This is a very hard provision to understand," said Bakich. Advocates for the poor say it could discourage some companies from hiring low-income workers.

There may also be a problem for big companies that provide generous benefits.

Large companies typically don't buy coverage, but "self insure" by setting aside enough to cover employee medical costs. Then they hire an insurance company to administer their plan.

Under the Baucus plan, high-cost insurance worth more than $8,000 for an individual and $21,000 for a family would pay a 35 percent tax on any amount over those thresholds. The tax would be levied on a big company's insurance administrator and presumably passed through to the company itself.

"People do seem startled at the tax," said Bakich. "Thirty-five percent is not a minor thing."

R. Bruce Josten, a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, complained the Baucus plan will drive up the cost of coverage. "He'll tax anything and everything that moves in health care," Josten said.

_ Insurers

Some critics say the Baucus plan amounts to a government bailout of the health insurance industry.

Not only would the government subsidize tens of millions of new customers, but insurers wouldn't have to worry about competing with a new public plan that could draw consumers away with the promise of lower-cost, nonprofit health care.

Yet Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, isn't smiling. In addition to the tax on high-cost plans, Baucus has proposed cuts in a lucrative arrangement insurers have under Medicare and a $6-billion annual "fee" on the industry, allocated according to each company's market share.

Dreams of fat profits from a health care overhaul may vanish.

"What we do see is the insurance industry being forced to shoulder a significant share of the cuts in health care reform," said Zirkelbach, who represents the main health insurance trade group.

How interest groups respond to the Baucus plan will require a combination of hard calculation and political finesse.

Hospitals and drug makers are satisfied that Baucus has upheld the deals they struck with him to make contributions to the health care overhaul. Doctors are upset Baucus has not given them as much relief from scheduled Medicare fee cuts as have Democrats in the House.

Consumers and low-income people will have help from liberals like Rockefeller, who argue that the interests of average folks have not been adequately taken into account.

But health industry groups and other business interests will have to contend with the perception that Baucus has already cut them a good deal. Asking for more could come off as being greedy.

"We are still only in the second act of this play," said Alexander Vachon, a Washington health policy consultant. "Industry still has time to step up if they feel it's not workable."

Starting this week, they'll all be running their spread sheets.

We've got big news -- Glenn Beck's show is making less than half the money it was making when we started calling on companies to pull their advertisements from the show. This is huge and it's thanks to you -- more than 200,000 ColorOfChange members have spoken out, and 62 advertisers have listened.

Data from a media tracking firm shows how deeply we're hitting Fox's pockets; they are now sacrificing more than a half-million ad dollars a week to keep Beck on the air.

Of course, Beck and his supporters are fighting back with everything they've got. Today, we need your help to make sure the 62 companies who have pulled their ads from Beck's show stand strong, and to turn up the pressure on his remaining advertisers. Please join us in thanking the companies that have pulled their ads, and in calling on his remaining advertisers to stop supporting him:

During the last week in July, Beck's show pulled in over $1 million from advertising. The first week in September, that number was down to less than $500,000, even as his ratings have gone up.1

It's clear that our campaign is making a significant financial impact, despite Fox's insistence otherwise.

What's happening is a simple matter of supply and demand. Fox has a limited amount of time devoted to ads each day. If 62 companies refuse to run ads during Beck's show, the demand for that time is reduced, and the rates the network can charge for the show plummet. In Beck's case, almost no major companies are willing to advertise during either of his twice-a-day broadcasts, so Fox can't collect as much ad revenue as they could before. If we can keep the advertisers away, Fox will have to decide sometime soon whether it's worth losing money to keep Beck's poison on the air.

Beck's smear campaigns

Beck claims to be a patriot who asks hard questions and gives his viewers the facts. In reality, he consistently uses lies, distortions, and exaggerations to stir up anger and fear, and to distract his viewers from working towards real solutions to the problems facing our country. He seems determined to create an atmosphere in which the White House can accomplish nothing, and he's doing it partly by launching vicious smear campaigns on Obama'a character, policies and advisers.

Last week, Beck and his supporters took credit for both Van Jones' resignation2 and for the demotion of Yosi Sergant, who was "reassigned" at the National Endowment for the Arts following vicious attacks by Beck 3. And Beck has made it clear he's got other targets.4

Holding the line

Our campaign is working. Respectable companies don't want to be associated with Beck or support his show with their dollars. It's resulting in a major loss of funding for his show, and at the same time, it's making clear that Beck's race-baiting and fear-mongering are far outside the mainstream.

The longer Beck stays isolated, the more of a problem he'll be for Fox, and the harder it will be for him to spread his lies and distortions. If we can keep the pressure on, Fox will have to make a choice: 1) drop Beck because it doesn't make business sense to keep him; or 2) communicate to the world that they're so intent on providing a platform for race-baiting and fear-mongering that they don't care if they lose money (a serious problem for a public company like News Corporation, the owner of Fox).

More than ever, it's time to keep the pressure on. You can help by joining us in thanking the advertisers that have stopped supporting Glenn Beck, and calling on those whose ads are still running on his show to follow suit:

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the team
September 14th, 2009

Help support our work. is powered by YOU -- your energy and dollars. We take no money from lobbyists or large corporations that don't share our values, and our tiny staff ensures your contributions go a long way. You can contribute here:


1. Propreitary study conducted by leading media monitoring organization using industry-standard data.
(for press inquiries, contact

2. "White House Official Resigns After G.O.P. Criticism," New York Times, 9-06-09

3. "Beck Strikes Again; Yosi Sergant Reassigned at NEA," Washington Post, 9-10-2009

4. @glennbeck on Twitter, 9-03-09

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