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flamin lib's Journal - Archives
Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion
Thu May 19th 2011, 03:18 PM
Why is Medicare such an issue?

Back in the ‘60s the Great Society decided that old people needed to be cared for. Private insurance wouldn’t do it because nobody gets to be 65 years old without some baggage; arthritis, high blood pressure or a plethora of other issues that will cause the last years of life to use up use up 35-50% of your lifetime health care expenditures, 27% in the last year alone. What would insurance companies charge if they knew how much that decade or two would cost them?

In the ‘60s the solution was be to pay a very small 1.45% of your earned income into a fund for all your working life to cover your last few decades of health care costs. It worked okay for awhile but then health care costs far outstripped both inflation and wage growth. To make things worse, upper incomes were shifted to un-earned and untaxed sources and the second worst economic disaster in American history befell us, costing jobs and the 1.45% in contributions each paid.

My family pays 1.45% of our income into Medicare for use later and 25% (ours and the employer’s) into private insurance for current coverage. What if everybody paid a graduated rate, say 2-25% depending on income, and got coverage from Medicare? What if employers passed on their health care savings to their employees to offset the increased taxes? What if interest income and capital gains were also taxed?

What if . . .
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion
Tue May 17th 2011, 04:35 PM
A few basic facts everybody seems to have either forgotten or never been made aware of: Government has always spent about 20%, +/- a point or two, of GDP. Government has always taken in about 20%, +/- a point or two, in revenues. The exceptions being times of war or great social upheaval like the Great Depression when revenues increased through savings and war bonds (borrowing) and tax increases. Businesses tax revenues, until 1980, were 5-6% of GDP with individual taxes making up the balance.

What happened? Beginning in 1980 tax reforms have allowed business tax revenues to fall below 2% of GDP and individual tax cuts have reduced government revenues overall to 14% of GDP. The government has also waged two wars, increased Medicare drug benefits, reduced taxes on un-earned incomes, reduced taxes on earned incomes across the board and off-shored most high-paying manufacturing and IT jobs further gutting tax revenues, none of which have been offset by revenue increases of any kind. All this under Republican leadership.

The Republican answer is to cut spending and leave all tax increases off the table. The deficit is currently $1.4 Trillion and the interest on the National debt is approaching $.5 Trillion, so to stop the growth of our debt with spending only we must cut $2 Trillion a year from a 2011 budget of just under $4 Trillion.

That $4 Trillion is divided into Discretionary and Non-discretionary spending. Discretionary spending is money that is voted on in the budgetary process each year and includes Defense, education, transportation, energy, research and development, government salaries, pensions and every other part of government you can think of. Discretionary spending is just under $2 trillion. We could disband the military, withdraw from all wars, NATO, the United Nations, sell all Federal holdings, disband every Federal agency and fire every Federal employee including elected representatives and still not balance the budget. It can’t be done.

Non-discretionary spending is money committed to by law and contract which includes Social Security, Medicare and the rest of the social safety net; also called “entitlements”. That must be where the problem is, right? Not so much. Social Security has a $2.5 Trillion surplus which has been loaned to the rest of Government in the form of special Social Security bonds. Social Security has been supporting the “discretionary spending”. Medicare is a problem because we pay a flat 1.45% of wages into it and medical care costs have increased 10-30% per year. Either fix health care costs or fix what we contribute.

If you want to see a comprehensive way to balance the budget and maintain the safety net read The People’s Budget proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus here http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?se...

fixed link
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion
Wed Dec 29th 2010, 09:39 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTW0y6kazWM

Once upon a time in America
We used to build things. Not just consumer goods but infrastructure. In the 1950s we created the world’s greatest interstate highway system and electrified virtually all of rural America. A decade later we sent a man to the moon and brought him safely back while developing a new technology that would drive our economy well into the 80s. We had the money to eradicate Small Pox from the face of the Earth, remove the scourge of polio and tuberculosis from our soil, give every veteran a college degree and build things, really big things. Now the Interstate is in falling apart, half of the bridges are in need of repair, sewer and water systems are broken, unemployment is at 10%, there is no money to maintain anything and everything we buy or use is made in China. How the hell did this happen?

The making of a perfect financial storm
In 1960 John Kennedy cut the top tax rate from 70% to 50% starting a trend that it seems never ended.
In the mid 70s banks invented credit cards making it possible to go into debt without collateral or a loan application. Then the Supreme Court nationalized bank’s interest rates neutralizing state usury laws. Over the next 35 years consumer spending went from less than 1 trillion to over 10 trillion dollars a year while outstanding consumer debt climbed from $200 billion to more than $2.4 trillion.
The 1980s gave us the Reagan revolution and fast-track free trade agreements that made it easy for corporations to outsource manufacturing so jobs began to flow across our borders into low paying countries without worker protections or environmental concerns. At the same time massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, increased pentagon spending and military adventurism throughout Central America and the Middle East necessitated borrowing from foreign countries to meet day to day expenditures. The deficit and debt exploded.

George H. Bush and Bill Clinton gave the economy a brief respite by raising taxes and spurring consumer spending, the only way to replace the GDP loss from outsourcing manufacturing. For a few brief years we actually enjoyed a budget surplus and a shrinking debt. However, Clinton continued to globalize our manufacturing with more free trade agreements and he signed the Graham, Leach, Bleighly act into law effectively erasing the financial restraints put in place after the Great Depression of 1929.

Enter George W. Bush. In less than three months we lost the surplus to even more tax cuts for the top 2% of incomes and corporations. Then, after ignoring terror threats in the face of blatant warnings from within and without our intelligence agencies, he used the 911 attack to start two wars which for the first time in the history of the United States were financed with foreign money. What few environmental and business regulations remained suffered from neglect and lack of funding. Jobs continued to flow overseas, income disparity increased and the deficit continued to grow and the debt to explode. In late 2000 Senator Phil Graham wrote, and Bush signed, the Commodities Modernization Act simultaneously creating and deregulating derivatives trading. Eight years later the entire U.S. banking industry imploded. The housing industry, the bedrock of our economy, died from bad loans hidden in convoluted mortgage backed commodities rated A+ by unregulated rating agencies. Almost every other industry followed suit.

This is what Obama and the Democrats inherited. So far all they have been able to do is nibble around the edges and it’s unlikely that any meaningful changes will come anytime soon.

What I would if I were King
Tax Reform: Leave income tax as-is up to $350k. Add two new brackets; $350-1,000,000 @ 40% and $1,000,000 up @ 50%. Tax capitol gains at the same rate as earned income (it’s called un-earned income for a reason). Raise or eliminate the cap on Social Security and Medicare. Implement a .01% tax on all stock, bond and commodity trades (Lincoln funded the Civil War with such a tax). Tax inheritance over $1 million/heir @ 50% (they did nothing to earn it so anything they get is a freebie). Change the Alternative Minimum Tax to $500k and adjust it to inflation. Close corporate loopholes that allow corporate headquarters in a P.O. Box in the Caribbean to avoid taxes. Close loopholes that allow corporations to hide profits in foreign branches (corporate tax revenues fell from 5% of GDP in 1980 to 1.4% in 2009). Penalize moving jobs offshore and reward new job creation inside our borders (U.S. corporations created 1.4 million jobs in 2009-all overseas).
Financial reform: Repeal Graham, Leach, Bleighly thus reinstating Glass Stiegel. Outlaw derivative trading and short selling, if it doesn’t exist or you don’t own it you can’t sell it. Regulate commodities trading to reflect real future value changes. Pass a national usury law with the maximum interest rate pinned to individual’s credit history and the Fed interest rate. Much of my other ideas have been implemented or will be by the new Consumer Protection Bureau.

Budget: Reduce Defense spending by 40% (about $225 billion) by closing foreign bases, cutting extravagant weapons systems purchases, phasing out civilian contractors and re-evaluating real world threats and tactics. Internalize all social spending and eliminate any private sector middle men. Enforce Pay-Go with an emphasis on user fees and taxes on those who would benefit where possible.
Domestic policy: Increase Federal R&D spending to 1950s levels. Revamp the GI bill to make it comparable to the one for WWII vets. Restructure the safety net to provide help early before a person loses everything. Find ways to reduce the cost of higher education and increase wages for teachers, paying them commensurate with their value to society (at $70k/year we can pick the very best school teachers). Move to Medicare for All financed by the lifting of payroll tax caps.

Foreign policy: Don’t even get me started . . .

Very little of this can happen short term because of sheer momentum, special interests, and simple Republican recalcitrance but some move toward any of these policies, in my opinion, is a move toward fiscal and social responsibility.

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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Nov 17th 2010, 01:09 PM
I just watched an interview with Ron Paul on CNN. As the titular father of the Tea Party his oft repeated mantra of Constitutional Authority has been adopted by that movement and been forced on the GOP as evidenced by the “Pledge to America” which says that all laws must cite a constitutional source for authority.

Well, I have news for them all. Congress can pass any frackin’ law they want to ‘cause IT’S IN THERE!

Section 8 delineates the powers of congress and along with maintaining a navy and such it says, in part:
----------------------
Section 8 - Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . .
{and}
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
----------------------

I had the opportunity to point this out to Tenther recently and it really hung ‘im up. The Tenth amendment reads:
----------------------
Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
---------------------

Section 8 delegates to the Congress the power to pass any law it deems to be in “the general Welfare”. It is an enumerated power. In the Constitution. Delegated by the Constitution to the Congress of the United States.

I could almost hear his brain bouncing around inside his head . . .
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon May 17th 2010, 01:24 PM
I know this because I’m on the Texas Republican Party email list. See, I sent them $1.00 about ten years ago so I get all the stuff they send out. They’ve probably spent $300 in postage on me, not counting printing costs and such.

Anyway, their latest e-newsletter lead with the headline that 401k plans will be seized by the Democrats. It’s utter bull pucky, there is no such plan. I’ll explain the small kernel of truth this lie is wrapped in down page.

First a few facts:

The only retirement vehicle that paid as it was expected to over the last 10 years is Social Security.

Social Security is the largest source of income for 54% of retired Americans.

22% of current retirees cite retirement accounts (IRA, 401k, Keogh) as a major source of income although 45% of current workers think it will be a major source.

37% of current retirees receive pension funds and only 23% of current workers have a pension plan.

From there the percentages for non SS funds get close to single digits.

38% of current workers pay into a 401K. 50% of all 401K funds will go to 6% of workers.

401K account’s values are down 20% from their value in 2000. That’s a bit of a bounce back from as much as a 50% loss.

The return on 401k investments is far lower than most people think. Most people think the average return is 10% a year. After broker fees and management fees the return is much lower. I have no firm numbers but speculate that the return varies from 5% to 7% depending on the plan (unless your employer matches your contribution in which case there is a 100% return on investment! Sweet if you have it). Unless, like in 2000, the stock market crashes in which case return is only 1%.

Tax breaks for 401k plans cost the government $110 billion in 2006. Savings for retirement, which they were designed to stimulate, have not increased as a result of that tax deduction.

Okay, so why are the Repubs barking about seizing your 401k. Because a professor of social economics testified before congress on a possible plan to change retirement plans to cover more people and eliminate the volatility of funds for most Americans. No bill is being discussed and none is anticipated. It’s part of Congressional research.

BUT, what is that plan like?

First the tax deduction for 401k contributions would go away. That $110+ billion would fund an annual $600 federal donation to a Guaranteed Retirement Account (GRA) administered by the Social Security Administration. The worker would then add 5% of their income to that account. The account would pay a guaranteed 3% interest return with the 3% being self-funding. All numbers are to be inflation adjusted. If a worker at 25 years of age began that program now, at age 65 his retirement (GRA plus Social Security) would be 70% of the worker’s highest earned income.

The only thing this would change is the tax deduction for 401k plans. People can still invest in whatever retirement or savings plan they want. However, because most retirement accounts are diversified with part going into low risk/low return investments that portion could be shifted into high risk/high return because the GRA would replace that “safe” portion of the portfolio.

It would be a no lose program. The wealthy with investment portfolios could shift more $ into high to moderate risk for a better return, those making less than $100,000 a year would have a comfortable guaranteed and safe retirement at 70% of earned income and it would be largely self funding against today’s budget. The only painful part of it as currently stated would be those at or near poverty level contributing another 5% from their paychecks.

The more I look at this the better I like it.

http://www.usnews.com/money/retirement/art... 10 biggest sources of retirement income

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-solin/re... Why 401K plans aren’t the best option.

http://edlabor.house.gov/testimony/2008-10... The actual plan being discussed.

http://www.sharedprosperity.org/bp204.html more about changing retirement plans.
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Feb 17th 2010, 02:53 PM
The definition of clean coal is coal burned in such a way that mercury, sulfur, lead and a host of other nasty things are removed. CO2 remains and is a green house gas.

Look, there’s no free lunch, okay? Every energy source has a downside. EVERY ONE OF THEM.

Hydro-electric power destroys rivers, both upstream and downstream of the generating dam and they pose the hazard of breaking.

Wind turbines impede migratory bird routes and are simply unsightly. Yeah, they’re visual pollutants and the older ones are noisy as hell. They also pose a great hazard to life and health of those who build and maintain them.

Solar panels can change the reflective properties of the Earth’s surface and who knows what that will mean long term and manufacturing them is not particularly clean.

Petroleum is finite in source, available from countries we are not friends with and dirty with green house emissions.

Coal, even clean coal which means the mercury, lead and other particulate contaminants are scrubbed, is dirty with green house emissions.

Nuclear is expensive to build, dirty and, at present, impossible to clean up for tens of thousands of years.

Even if we could sequester all the green house gases from all the fossil fuels, the half-life would be at least as bad as nuclear waste because carbon is a pretty stable element. Just as dangerous as nuclear waste but not as quick.

It’s like this; you’re standing in the mall in front of that map with all the stores on it and a little arrow that says, “You are here.” We know where we are and we think we know where we want to be. The question remains, “How do we get there?”

The shortest route is to jump over the banister, land three stories down right in front of the store you want. That’s what we’re doing now, the first three stories are great but the last foot is a bitch.

The next solution is to walk half a mile one way to the store you want. You’ll be too tired to shop once you get there, spent all your money at the food court and have given up half your day. That’s going 100% renewable immediately.

You could go back to your car and drive to an entrance closer to the store you want. Not the best solution either.

Finally you could consider not going to the store; be like Thoreau and simplify, simplify, simplify by living in a hovel in the woods. What, no DU? Agggggg!

We are here by dent of past generations not knowing the repercussions of what they did and an incessant want of “the good life” or at least a livable one. We are doing things now and will do more in the future with other unforeseen consequences to pass on to our progeny.

Sustainability of both our life style and the environment is a thorny issue and there are no simple answers. Some answers may be better than others but frankly nobody on this board will live long enough to know if we choose the right answer.

All we can do is to honestly look at where we are and examine the various options to get where we want to be which is, I assume, a livable life with at least moderate comforts and conveniences and leaving a world that our children and grandchildren can enjoy even if they have to keep tweaking it.

Let the unrecs begin . . .
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Feb 03rd 2010, 12:48 PM
Tort reform is tantamount to telling the less-than-wealthy that they can’t bring suit to rectify negligence.

Plaintiff's attorneys are paid in one of two ways: by the hour at rates ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars or on contingency, a percentage of what they win from the defendant in court. The percentage will vary depending on the complexity of the case, the chances of winning and the potential size of the award but it’s typically about 30%. Very few people have the wherewithal to hire a better than average lawyer, so being able to find one to take your case on contingency is the only way average people can find justice and be made whole.

Contrary to the ranting of the right about ambulance chasing trial lawyers the contingency fee system works very well and is self-regulating. When an attorney takes a case on contingency s/he absorbs all the cost of research, discovery and trial. If presented with a contingency case any competent attorney will first determine the strength of the case, the likelihood of winning, and the potential settlement which s/he will share a part of. If your case isn’t all but dead solid certain of prevailing and winning enough for the attorney’s share to cover all the costs and net a reasonable profit the attorney takes a risk of losing a lot of money. In short, they can’t afford to file frivolous lawsuits.

In Texas we have medical tort reform thanks to Bush 43 when he was Governor. The short version is that a plaintiff can be awarded actual damages; i.e. that amount of lost wages, cost of care, cost of rehabilitation and any other actual identifiable monetary losses caused by the negligence of the defendant. Punitive awards, those infamous pain and suffering awards, are limited to $250,000 unless it can be proven that the defendant intentionally committed negligence. In other words, your attorney would have to prove that a doctor woke up the morning of your surgery and planned to leave sponges inside you causing sepsis and ending your life. What this means is that no Texas attorney good enough to earn a decent living can afford to take your malpractice case because they are limited in what they may win and therefore get paid.

Tort reform is just another way of telling the working American that big money has rights and you don’t.

Note: My wife has been a legal professional for almost 40 years and most of that time worked for defense firms, the side that defends against accusations of negligence or infringements of the law. The firms she worked for occasionally lost a case but very few. Most were settled at the advice of the defense because they found in the discovery phase of case preparation that the defendant was indeed wrong. The ones they actually lost were because the defendant "stood on principal" in which case it cost them dearly as in the McDonald's Coffee case (the story of which is a travesty in itself).
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Jan 20th 2010, 01:13 PM
A week or so ago I suggested we follow the money. http://www.democraticunderground.com/discu... In that editorial I pointed out the income discrepancy between the middle incomes and the uber-rich. Has it always been this way and if not, what happened?

According to Congressional Budget Office this is what happened:



The effective tax rate* for those on the 50 yard line of the allegorical football field has remained more or less the same since 1960, +- 5%. At the same time top .1% saw their taxes fall by almost 30% and the top .001% had a tax reduction of more than 40%. Under the 1960 tax rates Bill Gates would have contributed $70 billion in tax revenues all by himself and he still would have $30 billion free and clear of all taxes.

Now, given that even back in the ‘60s the government was operating at a deficit what do you suppose that did to our budget and the social safety net? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that as revenues from taxes fell and defense spending continued to increase there had to be massive borrowing from future generations, drastic cuts in all domestic spending or both.

Further, what happened to actual incomes during that time?



Although not shown on these charts the income for that family on the 50 yard line actually decreased by 2% (in 2004 dollars). For what it is worth, the 2004 numbers are almost identical to the tax rates and income discrepancy in 1929 just before the Great Depression.

A healthy middle class makes a healthy economy and a healthy nation. If we continue to rob from the poor to give to the rich and reward paper-shifting commodity speculation as more valuable than the sweat of labor’s brow I see little hope for true economic recovery.

*Effective tax rate is the culmination of progressive taxation on different levels of income minus any deductions. Under JFK, before he cut it to 50%, the highest marginal tax rate was 92% on monies earned over $5 million and the same rate applied to un-earned income.

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=634 Income discrepancy since 1960
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Jan 14th 2010, 12:58 PM
Seems that a belief in God isn’t enough for us Americans. Nope, we have to elevate the Founding Fathers to godhood as well.

See, I made this post: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discu...
and pretty much got skewered. Nope, it simply couldn’t be possible that ole Tom Paine (or Jefferson, depending on your source) was absolutely WRONG.

Welllllllllll, lets just think about those Founding Fathers. To begin with, they were only men. No, no Men as in Mankind, men as in all male. I daresay that at least half of DU is better educated than most of them and yes, they did put their pants on one leg at a time.

The Constitution, usually cited by those who glorify the Founding Fathers beyond reason as the document our country was founded on (it isn’t), was not written to decrease the power of government but to increase it. It was an admission by the Founding Fathers that they had royally screwed up. In 1776 they followed that creed of “best government governs least” and drafted the Articles of Confederation. It only took ten years to figure out that “governing least” was not going to work. So, in 1787 they got together again to “form a more perfect union” by endowing the Federal Government with much more power than was popular with some of them. That’s where a lot of the “best/least” and “necessary evil” quotes came from.

Okay, so the Founding Fathers worked out a much stronger central government. How’d they do on the second try? They limited participation to white male property owners. Yeah, that’s a good idea! Oh, then there’s that 3/5 of a person thing. How’d that work for ya’? And that Electoral College where the guys we elect to cast votes for us don’t have to vote the way we want them to and a minority of popular votes can over-ride the will of the majority. How about all the vague language that keeps constitutional lawyers employed 220 years later telling us what they reallllly meant? I mean, gee whiz, we’ve been arguing the 2nd Amendment so long there’s nothing left to be said about it and still there’s no agreement.

I will give them one thing though; they learned from their first mistake and made provisions to change the Constitution. See, they knew they were just a bunch of guys trying to fix the first screw up they made and they knew it, unlike some of us contemporary people. Somehow we’ve lost sight of that; THEY WERE JUST ORDINARY MEN, not Gods. They made mistakes and we’re still fighting over them today.

Did they do a good job? Of course they did on the second try and given what they had to work with. Is it still working today? Yeah, with 27 formal corrections and hundreds of different interpretations.

So just give the Founding Fathers their due and recognize them for the sometimes flawed men they were, not some form of Deity.
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sat Jan 09th 2010, 12:50 PM
How much does the Government rely on “We the People” to finance it’s everyday functioning? In the chart below you’ll note that the two largest sources of income are Personal income tax (blue) and Social Security/Medicare (yellow). Income taxes garner about $1.25 Trillion and SS another $1 Trillion. That’s $2.25 Trillion of a total $2.6 Trillion, more or less. That means 87% of federal revenues are paid by you and me.



So, what happens if unemployment goes from 4% to 10%? That’s a decrease of 6% in the two largest sources of income, more than that because Excise taxes also go down as consumer spending goes down. So the overall income is about 7% short.

Next is a graphic of income distribution in the US. If the incomes were spread across a football field with the lowest at one goal line ($0) and the highest at the other, a middle class family making $40k a year would find themselves at the 40 yard line. That is the median income where ½ make less and ½ make more. That’s a stack of $100 bills 1.6 inches high. Way down at the 95 yard line family income reaches $100k/year, or a stack of $100 bills 4 inches tall. At the 99 yard line the income is $300k, a stack of bills one foot tall.



One foot from the goal line (.33% of income earners) the number is $1 Million, a stack of bills 40 inches high. At 6 inches from the goal line (.5% of incomes) the stack of $100 bills is as tall as a Giant Sequoia tree, $100 million.

And it goes up from there. In the last inch (.1% of incomes) the stack of bills is one kilometer (.6 miles) high, $1 billion. There are 400 billionaires in the U.S. And it still goes up from there. If Bill Gates’ income was represented by a stack of $100 bills that stack would be almost as tall as Mount Everest. Bill Gates can’t match the Walton Family, heirs to the Walmart fortune.

We can assume that everybody from the 30 yard line to the 95 yard line pays from 15% to 35% in income taxes. At the $ million mark virtually all of the income is from interest, investments and other stock/bond income. This income is considered capitol gains and the highest tax rate paid is 15%.

Taking into account the differential in tax rates for the uber-wealthy vs. the working class the effect on Federal income from unemployment becomes even more drastic.

Eventually the house of cards will fall and no amount of shoring up the wealthy and the corporations will make any difference.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woIkIph5xcU The L curve of incomes.

http://www.marktaw.com/culture_and_media/T... National debt and revenues (original sources included at the bottom of the page)
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Jan 06th 2010, 12:50 PM
After watching the demise of Health Care Reform I asked myself, ”Self (‘cause that’s what I call myself), why would otherwise reasonable people elected by we, the people, behave that way?” Then I went to OpenSecrets.org and found out.

Over the last ten years lobbies have spent $16.3 Billion on our congress. In 2008 alone they spent $2.1 Billion, more than double the $907 Million they spent in 1998.

So what are the largest industries represented by lobbies? Pharmaceuticals are the number one followed by Insurance at number two. Hmmm, that explains a lot. So who exactly are these lobbies and how many of them are there? Lets take Pharmaceuticals for an example.

In 2008 that industry spent $237 million funneled through 1,659 Lobbying Agencies with thousands of employees, many of them ex congress-people or their aides, to walk the halls of congress and petition “our” representatives with the point of view of their special interests. Let’s see, there are 435 representatives and 100 Senators so that works out to, uh, carry the one and round up, three entire agencies for every livin’ lovin’ one of those people we thought were representing us. $237 Million is $125,000 for every hour Congress was in session in 2008 or $443,000 per congresscritter.

So, what does $1.8 billion over ten years buy you? How about free access to $ Millions in research done by Universities with grants from the Federal Government. That’s right, drug companies do almost no research into new drugs. Virtually all of their R&D money goes into modifying existing drugs to extend the patent rights while your tax money pays for the research into new drugs.

Did you know that drug manufacturers routinely pay generic drug makers not to make less expensive alternatives to their top sellers? In any other industry that would be a violation of anti-trust law and the DOJ would be on them like a duck on a June bug.

Who does all the drug testing on these new drugs? Some independent agency? Nope, the makers and sellers of the drug being tested who have a vested interest in the outcome. Did you know that test data are not reported to the FDA? Only the portion of the results that the maker wants the FDA to see are reported. Little side effects like heart attacks never seem to make it into the reported data until, like VIOXX, the drug kills enough people to get the attention of the doctors prescribing it. Don’t think a drug maker would market a drug they know is killing people? How about Bextra, an arthritis drug made by Pfizer. Pfizer was charged the largest fine in history, $2.3 Billion, for promoting Bextra for treating symptoms for which it had not been tested, treatments that resulted in a 68% increase in deaths from heart attack. That’s okay though, Pfizer made $3.8 Billion in profits off the drug before being forced to recall it.

Drug makers do not have to test their drugs for improvements over existing treatments. They only have to show that their drug works better than nothing (sugar pill). In many cases new drugs are actually less effective than existing or even generic drugs.

So, for a $ Billion or so you get all that plus little perks like the Medicare Prescription drug benefit that increased costs to seniors, locked out re-importation and you get left out of the Health Care Reform discussion altogether.

And that’s just ONE of the industries lobbying “your” lawmaker.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-kirch... Drug lobbying

http://www.opensecrets.org / source of way too much information about who owns government
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Sep 09th 2009, 05:12 PM
A guy carries an AR-15 “assault rifle” to a Phoenix town hall meeting and nobody assumes that Arizonians are all crazy RW nuts. Nobody bashes Arizona as a state.

Portsmouth, NH, a man wears a loaded 9mm pistol on his hip to a town hall meeting. Nobody assumes New Hampshireites are all RW nuts. Nobody bashes New Hampshire.

The leader of the GOP in Florida rails against Obama’s back to school speech, saying it’s indoctrination of innocent school children with socialist propaganda. Nobody bashes Florida as a whole.

Ohio throws a presidential election. Everybody piles on the GOP, and rightfully so, but leaves the state of Ohio alone because like all the other states it has good loyal liberal Democrats in it.

Texas does anything, however tiny the nutbar population is, and it’s automatic pile on Texas time. Let ‘em secede! Who need’s ‘em! They’re all dumbass republicans!

Well, ladies and gents, I’m fucking tired of it.

Texas gave you:

Lyndon B. Johnson who passed the most sweeping civil rights legislation in history and by sheer strength of will passed Medicare and Medicaid. Obama might learn a thing or two about leadership from him.

John Connally who single handedly put LBJ on the ticket with JFK over the objections of the national party because JFK COULD NOT WIN without Texas.

Ann Richards, one of the greatest ladies in politics who, as governor of Texas, actually did what others only promised.

Barbara Jordan, the first black woman to serve as a US Congressperson from a southern state, a statesman of the highest caliber and recipient of the Medal of Freedom for her contributions to the nation. If you’ve never heard one of her speeches, your education is lacking.

Sam Rayburn, speaker of the House for seventeen years, the longest tenure in history and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the House can bestow.

Jim Wright, US Representative for 34 years and Speaker for two who was brought down by Newt Gingritch over a book deal, the same deal that brought Gingritch to shame a few years later. That’s an irony that isn’t lost to Speaker Wright who only smiles when asked about it.

Tom Hightower, former Texas Agricultural Commissioner who pioneered using biology to fight weevils in grain, a feat that resulted in a Republican lawsuit and his defeat, and a liberal writer as well as talk radio host.

How about that Sandra Day O’Connor, supreme court justice for twenty five years and on the right side of every decision made in favor of the people of America.

Ya’ want journalists? How about Dan Rather who had the balls to take on Bush Jr. and then to take on CBS for the cover up that followed or Walter Cronkite, voted the most trusted man in America and the first to speak the truth about Vietnam. Maybe she wasn’t a journalist but Molly Ivins sure as hell spoke truth to power.

All work and no play? Not in Texas! We gave you Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, The Dixie Chicks and Gene Roddenberry. All you Boppers, Rockers and Trekkers out there owe the state some respect, okay?

There are more, literally hundreds more. Yeah, for the last decade or so the state’s been in the hands of some really classic right wing nuts but it was once, and soon will be again, a bastion of deep blue Democratic leadership.

Put your criticism where it belongs; on the people who act a fool, not on the whole damn place. Texas has Democrats too and I can assure you it’s a whole lot harder to be blue here than in so many of those places that spawn Texas bashers.

There, I feel better now . . .
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Aug 17th 2009, 02:39 PM
I work the graveyard shift in a bait-shop on a local lake and I ride my motorcycle to work every night. My bike’s an obscure brand, so I spend a lot of time answering the question, “What the hell is that?” About 5:00 AM a couple of guys come in and after having coffee wander over to the sales counter and asked, “Is that your bike in the parking lot?”

When two bikers are in close proximity they will discuss Iron and this occasion was no exception. About half way through the conversation one of them allows as how he rode a Honda Goldwing for a number of years and what a fine bike it was for extended cruising. I said that Honda was closing the U.S. manufacturing facility for the Goldwing and that from now on all Goldwings would be imported instead of being made here.

It’s funny how conversations take a turn.

Biker Brother (‘cause everybody on two wheels is family) says, “Wonder why they closed the factory?”

Me, “Well, the Goldwing is a very expensive bike and I suspect that the economic situation made it impossible to make money on bikes made here.”

BB, “Don’t see how it makes a difference. They made a profit for all those years they operated the U.S. factory . . .”

Me, “It’s probably because they don’t have to pay for health care in Japan but do here. Japan has single payer.”

BB, “That’s okay, Obama is gonna’ make it all free.”

Me, “Nobody ever said free. Just affordable. Honda spends about $8000 a year for an individual and more for a family of four.”

BB, “Yeah, and they work cheap over there . . .”

Me, “Not so much. Wages paid to Japanese automakers here are comparable to GM workers. Same with over there. If you don’t have to pick up insurance you can afford to pay a little more.”

BB, “Naw, it looks like socialism to me . . . The government can’t do anything right . . .”

Me, “Medicare is socialism, or as close to it as the U.S. will ever get. 92% of Medicare patients rate the care as good or excellent, only 8% say it’s fair or poor. Social Security is the most popular program in the U.S. Are you suggesting we should close them down?” Understand that BB was at least as old as I am and may be taking advantage of both.

Somehow when they’re having a conversation in the wee small hours with a clerk at a convenience store that smells like stale fish and the clerk starts quoting statistics, and actual costs it sorta’ hangs ‘em up.

Next thing ‘ya know we’re talking about bikes again. It’s funny how conversations take a turn.

You don’t have to be a jerk to get the message across but you do have to sound like you know what you’re talking about and be able to support your end of the conversation.

Knowledge is power. Arm yourself.
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Aug 12th 2009, 02:26 PM
Al Qaeda: noun, from Arabic, translation: The Base. Al Qaeda is not a single organization but rather a network of many militant groups with similar interests. Osama bin Laden, using what he learned from the CIA, founded The Base to organize, train and martial the many disparate militant groups into a single federation capable of world wide attacks against Western Interests. Without the organization provided by The Base each group was a small inefficient bunch of disgruntled uneducated angry fanatics.

According to the FBI, there were 24 acts of terrorism inside the United States between 2002 and 2005 all carried out by domestic homegrown fanatics, the most famous of which was the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City by Tim McVeigh.

In the first six months of 2009 there were eight violent acts by right wing nuts:

January 21 -- Keith Luke goes on a killing spree in Boston. Police intercept him on his way to a local synagogue, where he told them he intended to "kill as many Jews as possible during bingo night." He said that he was fighting the extinction of the white race.

February 10 -- In Belfast, Maine, radioactive "dirty bomb" materials are found in home of James Cummings, an admirer of Adolf Hitler with a large collection of Nazi memorabilia and a filled-out application for the National Socialist Movement. Cummings had been killed by his wife after years of physical abuse.

February 26 -- In Miramar Beach, FL, 60-year-old Dannie Baker walks into a townhouse where 14 Chilean students were gathered. He kills two and wounds five. Those who know Baker describe him as a man obsessed with the fear that immigrants are taking over the country.

April 5 -- Recently discharged veteran Richard Popalowski shoots and kills three police officers following a standoff in Pittsburgh. He believed they had been sent by the Obama Administration to take away his guns.

April 28 -- US Army Reservist Joshua Cartwright shoots and kills two sheriff's deputies in Fort Walton Beach, FL. In the incident report his wife said her husband believed the U.S. Government was conspiring against him and was disturbed that Barack Obama had been elected President.

May 6 -- Stephen P. Morgan of Middletown, CT kills former NYU classmate Johanna Justin-Jinich. A diary found in his belongings included an entry: "I think it's ok to kill Jews". Justin-Jinich was Jewish and the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.

May 31 -- Dr. George Tiller is shot to death in Wichita, KS. His killer, Scott Roeder, is found to have ties to several violent right-wing groups, including the Montana Freemen and the Sovereign Citizen movement.

June 10 -- Anti-Semitic blogger James Wenneker von Brunn walks into the national Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and opens fire, killing a security guard. Von Brunn had been prominent in Holocaust denier circles for several decades, and considered Holocaust museums to be a crime against white history.

More recently:

August 11 -- William Kostric wears a gun to President Obama’s town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire carrying a sign reading “It is time to water the tree of liberty” provided by RestoreTheRepublic.com, a libertarian website.

August 11 -- Richard Terry Young was arrested and charged with carrying a loaded gun without a license (in his car) at the same Obama Town hall meeting.

The Secret Service reports that there are 30 death threats against President Obama every day, four times the number made against President Bush.

There are literally hundreds of small, poorly organized militia hate groups in the United States. They hate for a wide range of fears; abortion, religious fanaticism, fear of government, racism and a host of conspiracy theories. In addition to those organized groups there are thousands of frustrated individuals moved to violence by the echo chamber of right wing talk radio and TV.

My greatest fear? That a charismatic leader with a little training and sufficient funding will organize them all under The Base.

http://www.cfr.org/publication/9236 / Militant Extremist in the US

http://www.fbi.gov/publications/terror/ter... FBI terrorism report

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discu... Redearth’s report on right wing attacks in 2009.
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Posted by flamin lib in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Jul 29th 2009, 04:37 PM
Part I: Why do they fear a public insurance plan?

We keep hearing that a pubic option will be far too expensive, can’t possibly work because it’s run by the Government and that it will kill the private sector health insurance industry. Leaving aside that if 1 & 2 are true then 3 is a non sequitur, how might a public, i.e. government run, insurance program be different than the private one we now have.

It’s accepted by Democrats and Republicans alike that Medicare spends 30% less on overhead expenses than private insurance companies and 92% of Medicare patients rate the care as good or excellent. What’s the difference between Medicare and private insurance?
Private insurance companies spend a lot of money on advertising, mostly to steal profitable customers from each other, as they don’t really want anyone who isn’t currently insured. Medicare doesn’t. Medicare doesn’t have to return a profit, private firms do. Take United Health Group, the largest insurance company in the U.S. Their net profits were up 155% last quarter to $889 million (extrapolated to a year that’s $3.5 billion). Not bad for the middle of a recession, huh? Then there’s executive compensation to contend with. Can’t find current numbers, but in 2005 the CEO of Health Care Group got $123 million. I can only assume it’ll be more this year after such an increase in profits. The head of Medicare in the same year made a little less than $150k. Risk management is also an expense. Private insurance companies maintain a small army of claims administrators whose job it is to comb through incoming medical bills looking for exceptions to coverage. Medicare is pretty cut and dried; if your doctor prescribes it and it’s not classified as experimental it’s covered. The last major expense that the private industry has that Medicare doesn’t is lobbying and that expense has gone up a LOT since Obama and the Democrats began talking about health care reform. $1.4 million a day is the current rate of spending.
These are all legitimate expenses for any company doing any sort of business in the private sector. There is nothing wrong with any of them; they aren’t illegal, immoral or even fattening as far as I know. My only question is, is this the way you want to see the money you or your employer spend to protect you from massive expenses due to illness used?
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Pu... Medicare poll
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=206... United Health profits
http://healthcare-economist.com/2006/02/14... / UHC ceo pay
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte... Lobby expenditures
Part II, What does your representative have for health care?
The Federal Health Insurance program is a pool of many different plans offered by the private insurance sector. Because the federal government is the largest employer in the United States the pool, which determines the risk to the insurer and is the largest factor affecting the premium rate, is correspondingly large. Exactly what any individual plan is can’t be determined as it varies from state to state and coverage to coverage. In Texas there are 28 different plans with monthly premiums ranging from $300 to $1200. The amount the insured pays also varies from a low of 35% to a high of 90% with the government picking up the rest. Coverage ranges from no deductable, no co-pay, no limit to what most of us insured through our employers currently have. They can also take advantage of Health Savings accounts like we can and pay out of pocket expensed in pre-tax dollars.
This is very much like what Obama and the Democrats plan for everybody; one giant pool of everybody in the country and negotiate costs with any insurance company that wants to participate plus add a public insurance option. Other reform changes include: no pre-existing conditions, no single illness or lifetime caps, no rescission as long as premiums are paid and no premium or coverage discrimination based on sex, current health, risks or location. One premium for any “community” with age of the community the only factor which isn’t a big deal because Medicare covers the elderly.
http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/planinfo/... Federal health plan
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/0... reform changes

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