Bush Yoyos While the U.S. Burns: An Interview With Economist Jared Bernstein

The diary below was originally posted earlier today in the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

The conservative shift in American politics undermined the economic security of working people. Increasingly, individuals are absorbing more risks, working longer hours and earning less. Meanwhile, corporations and government benefit from less accountability to tax payers, consumers and employees. Renowned economist Jared Bernstein proposes in his new book, All Together Now: Common Sense For A Fair Economy, (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.) that we're ensnared in a "YOYO economy". The acronym YOYO means, "You're On Your Own." Bernstein's book illustrates how the "YOYOists" have schemed to transfer the burden of economic risk onto individuals and their families.

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Money Driven Medicine: Rewriting the Storyline on the Prescription Drug Benefit

Maggie Mahar is the author of the books Money Driven Medicine and Bull. She's going to join us for a bit to talk about corruption in the medical industry.

In the June 6 edition of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol underlines a new spin on the prescription drug plan: "the May 15 deadline for signing up for the Medicare prescription drug benefit passed with some 90 percent of eligible seniors enrolled, and most of them telling pollsters they're pretty happy. Given early rumblings that the program might be a nightmare of red tape, this is good news for the administration."

Which polls?  He didn't say, of course.  And as of mid-March, only 6 million of the 27 million who had signed up chose to do so. Of the rest, many were automatically enrolled, and in the weeks that followed, many  enrolled to avoid a May 15 deadline which promised lifetime penalties.  Kristol was lying, in other words, but it's the kind of lie that's so tempting for journalists looking for a new angle.  And it's working.  Journalists have already begun re-writing the  prescription drug story line. Rather than calling it an "unmitigated disaster" or pointing out how the bill was passed through open bribery and corrupt lobbying by pharmaceutical companies, they're beginning to portray it as a work in progress" -- a perspective that that has been picked up by newspapers across the nation.

The storyline goes like this, roughly.  Sure, the plan may need some "fine-tuning," but "the cost of the drug benefit has declined from a projected $737 billion over 10 years to $675 billion." In other words, it's only costing taxpayers $275 billion more than the administration pretended when it pushed the bill through Congress.

It's pretty nice of those pharmaceutical companies to save us so much money.  We can spend it on another fresh coat of paint for the schools in Iraq.

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Seniors Coming Back to the Democratic Fold

The gender gap is not the only promising piece of data contained in the Cook Political Report poll (.pdf) mentioned in the previous post. On the generic congressional ballot question, which showed the Democrats with a respectable 46 percent to 36 percent lead among registered voters, older voters -- those age 65 and above -- favored the Dems by a 12-point margin, an impressive turnaround from the 2004 presidential election when George Bush carried the senior vote by 8 points (note that this group was 60 and above, not 65 and above like in the Cook poll).

The Medicare prescription drug bill was supposed to be the implement with which the Republicans would wrest older voters from the Democratic coalition. Indeed, after the bill was rammed through the Republican Congress but before the plan was implemented, it appeared as though the Republicans would be able to win more votes from older voters. As noted above, President Bush carried the 60 and older vote by a substantial margin in 2004, helping him gain reelection.

But now it looks like older voters are ready to come back home to the Democratic Party -- a very positive development for the Dems given the fact that seniors are more likely than any other age group to turn out in elections, particularly non-presidential year elections. If older voters do vote Democratic this fall at anywhere near the rate where the Cook poll currently finds them, it is not at all inconceivable that we'll be dealing with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid come January.

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Resolution & Rage: Call Your Legislators

Bush sent his new budget proposal (blueprint) to Congress on Feb. 6th, demanding new cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Blueprint in hand, our Senate agreed in March to reduce these programs while funding more tax breaks mostly beneficial to millionaires.

Congress also intends to cut essential programs, like job training, childcare, home health, food assistance, housing, and health care. For example, it will cut health benefits for veterans by nearly $7 billion. Fees veterans pay out of pocket for healthcare will triple.  

Outlay for war will be much greater. Bush calls for $50 billion more for the occupation of Iraq. We know Bush will come back for many more billions for Iraq before year-end, like he has each year...

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The insanity of the US budget in a nutshell

The Times provides the Cliff Notes.

Because only 20% of the budget is discretionary spending, and so much of that is corporate welfare, but soaring deficits require genuflection to the goddess Prudence, the ax falls on on programs that are penny-ante in relation to the overall $2.7tn budget, but screw the bejazus out of thousands of low-income folks.

(The Medicaid cuts in S 1932 being a recent case in point.)

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