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Leo W Gerard — Coming Soon: American Made Battle Of The Heavyweights

Screenshot from CNN Video

Screenshot from CNN Video

Virtually every time President-elect Donald Trump performs in cities across America on his thank you tour, he mentions, to grand applause, his preference for Made in America.

He describes his plan to create jobs with a federal infrastructure spending project – that is improvements to the likes of crumbling roads, bridges, waterlines and airports – and then says, “We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort. Buy American and hire American.”

That American-job-creating, buy-American thing is supported by 71 percent of the American public. But it is a smack in the face to GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just made it clear in the Water Resources Development Act that he’s fine with creating slave-wage iron-and-steel-making jobs in China with U.S. tax dollars so long as a few fat-cat iron-and-steel importers make a profit on the deal.

So, clearly, there’s a battle brewing between the President-elect and the Speaker of the House. This is the President-elect who has repeatedly promised the working class men and women who elected him that he’d support Buy American provisions in federal law to create jobs for them. And it’s a GOP Speaker who wants to ship taxpayer-financed work overseas and let the working class wait a couple more decades to just possibly feel a tiny pinch of trickle down from the largess of filthy rich iron and steel importers. This, also, is a clash between a New York real estate titan who won the presidency and a Wisconsin lawmaker who lost the vice presidency.

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By advocating night after night for American Made, President-elect Trump essentially warned Ryan not to strip the Buy-American provisions out of the Water Resources Development Act. But Ryan did it anyway early in December when he got the act from the Senate.

The act contained strong, permanent Buy America language when the Senate sent it over. These provisions are significant because they use tax dollars to create 33 percent more U.S. factory jobs, something that is, again, important to voters, 68 percent of whom told The Mellman Group  & North Star Opinion Research in November in a national survey conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing that they were worried that the country had lost too many manufacturing jobs.

In addition, and President-elect Trump knows this from the response he gets at his rallies, Buy American policies are very popular. Seventy-four percent of voters say large infrastructure projects financed by taxpayer money should be constructed with American-made materials and American workers. And those who voted for President-elect Trump agree more strongly – 79 percent of them say American-made should be given preference over the lowest bidder.

This is a very big deal to iron and steel producers and workers in the United States. Far too many mills are closed or partially shuttered because of unfairly traded imports, and more than 16,000 steelworkers across this country have been laid off over the past year.

China is the main culprit, but there are others. China produces so much steel now that it has managed to inundate the world with more steel than anyone needs. It is dumping steel on the world market at such low prices that no one can compete. As a result, producers from places as far flung as Mexico, the U.S., Canada, India, the U.K. and Spain are shutting down and throwing workers out of their jobs.

China props up that excess steelmaking capacity with methods that are illegal under the terms of the agreements it entered into to gain access to the World Trade Organization and Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with the United States. If steel is sold domestically, a country can provide steel firms with subsidies like exemptions from utility payments and taxes, interest-free loans and free land.

But those free market-warping subsidies violate international trade agreements when the steel is exported. That’s what China is doing. And it’s killing American steel companies and American jobs.

When Ryan eliminated the permanent Buy American provision in the Water Bill, essentially saying it’s fine to import illegally subsidized Chinese iron and steel for taxpayer-financed water projects, he was also saying it is fine to bankrupt American steel companies and destroy American jobs.

If the United States is reduced to buying steel from China to build its military tanks and armor, that’s okay with Ryan, as long as he maintains a great relationship with the lobbyists for the foreign steelmakers. They pushed him hard to drop the Buy American provision through Squire Patton Boggs, a Washington, D.C. lobby and law firm employing Ryan’s predecessor Speaker John Boehner and numerous former top GOP aides.

He got hit with a Tweetstorm after he chose Chinese jobs over American jobs, though. Buy American supporters and members of the Congressional Steel Caucus began pointing out on Twitter just how good #BuyAmerica is for American jobs and the economy and cited @realDonaldTrump, the President-elect’s Twitter handle on every Tweet, which means his account was alerted.

This, for example, came from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown:

.@RealDonaldTrump: Tell @SpeakerRyan to put #BuyAmerica back in Water bill. American tax dollars for American jobs.”

And Steelworkers wrote protests on Ryan’s Facebook page and hundreds called Ryan and his anti-American-made Congressional crew.

Ryan responded. Sort of. He restored one-year Buy American language to the bill. Nothing like the permanent provisions achieved in other federal laws, but it does keep the jobs for 12 months and the issue alive until President-elect Trump can take on Ryan mano-a-mano on Buy American after the inauguration.

Ryan has made clear his anti-American preference, so this will be a royal rumble. But the Speaker should beware. The last time the President-elect stepped into the ring with a heavyweight, it was with the ring’s owner, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon. And the former professional wrestler McMahon left bald and defeated.

Retirees Launch Campaign to Protect Medicare from Privatization

Washington, DC – Alarmed by the House Congressional Leadership’s plans to dismantle Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans today kicked off a grass roots campaign to block any attempts to cut or convert guaranteed, earned health benefits into a voucher or privatized scheme. Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price, whom President-elect Trump will nominate to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, both said that they were moving to “reform” Medicare in the next Congress.  

“Alliance members will use all the tools at our disposal to stop any plan to replace our guaranteed earned Medicare benefits with a system of ‘Coupon-care’ vouchers,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance. 

Today the Alliance joined allies in delivering more than one million petitions against the Republican plan to cut and privatize Medicare to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Before delivering the petitions, Fiesta spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Ted Deutch. Representatives from several other advocacy groups also spoke against cuts to Medicare. 

Alliance members will be directly lobbying members of Congress and Senators in Washington and in their home districts and stating their opposition to efforts to gut Medicare and Medicaid. More than 100 meetings have been planned so far, and the organization expects to reach 200 offices over the next few weeks.

The Alliance will also campaign online and feature dozens of personal stories about why Medicare’s guaranteed benefits are so important on its website, www.retiredamericans.org, and social media.

 “Our members are irate. They paid into the Medicare system for decades, and heard President-elect Trump repeatedly promise to protect their earned health care benefits. We will fight tooth and nail to protect Medicare from all those who try to turn the earned benefits of Medicare into Coupon-care,” said Fiesta. “Medicare must be protected, preserved and expanded for future generations, not dismantled.”

Kelly Ayotte’s Misleading New Seniors Ad Features State Legislators Who Voted to Privatize Social Security, Cut Medicare Protections and Alzheimer’s Program Funding

Ayotte releases new ad to buffer her credentials on Social Security, Medicare, and Alzheimer’s research support, but instead features two NH State Representatives who supported privatizing Social Security, dismantling Medicare, and cutting funding for an Alzheimer’s caregiver respite program

photo of Sen. Kelly Ayotte by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Concord, NH – Sensitive to a recent TV ad critical of her votes to dismantle key programs for seniors, Kelly Ayotte has released a misleading response ad intended to buffer her credentials on Social Security, Medicare, and Alzheimer’s research support. The ad, however, features two New Hampshire State Representatives who are in lockstep with efforts to dismantle key programs.

NH State Representatives Mary Griffin (R) and Walter Kolodziej (R) – along with Kolodziej’s wife and one other individual – claim that Ayotte has protected seniors despite an ample vote record that shows Ayotte voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program and raise the eligibility age. The ad and copy also attempt to bolster Ayotte’s record in other areas, such as Alzheimer’s research funding. However, the voting records of Ayotte and those she trusts on senior issues would harm seniors on issues regarding Medicare, Social Security, and Alzheimer’s support:

  • Ayotte effectively voted for FY 2012 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a premium support plan. The plan would more than double out-of-pocket costs for the average Medicare enrollee. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/7/11; Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11)
  • Ayotte effectively voted for the FY2013 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a voucher program, increased the eligibility age, reopened the donut hole, and repealed the Affordable Care Act. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/28/12; AARP, Letter to Congress, 3/21/12)
  • Ayotte voted for FY 2014 Ryan Budget plan which would “replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher.” (Senate Vote 46, 3/21/13; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/15/13)
  • Ayotte voted for FY 2011 budget with deep cuts to agencies responsible for Alzheimer’s research. In congressional testimony on March 11, 2011, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the proposed cuts would mean that “about half of the hundred largest clinical studies including those on cancer and Alzheimer’s would probably be canceled.” (Vote 36, 3/9/11; Politifact, 4/15/11)
  • Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for urging Congress to privatize all aspects of Social Security. Privatizing social security puts at risk benefits for New Hampshire’s current and future retirees. (HCR39, Roll Call #190, 3/21/2012)
  • Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for an Interstate Health Care Compact that sought to allow New Hampshire to opt-out of Medicare and other programs, and eliminate all federal minimum benefit guarantees and protections for New Hampshire seniors and others. (HB1560, Roll Call #87, 2/15/2012)
  • Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for suspending funding for the Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) program. The program provides temporary respite services to family members, partners and other informal caregivers who are caring for an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementia. (HB2, Roll Call #143, 3/30/2011; DHHS, Accessed 21.16)

“Kelly Ayotte’s votes hurt Granite State seniors,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Kelly Ayotte’s decision to feature individuals who support privatizing all aspects of Social Security and undermining protections for New Hampshire seniors and their caregivers sends a strong message regarding where her priorities sit.”

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 Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

Full Fact Check Citations

Ayotte effectively voted for FY 2012 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a premium support plan. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “CBO also finds that this beneficiary’s [a typical 65-year-old] annual out-of-pocket costs would more than double — from $6,150 to $12,500. In later years, as the value of the voucher eroded, the increase in out-of-pocket costs would be even greater.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/7/11] The Wall Street Journal wrote that “The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]

Ayotte effectively voted for the FY2013 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a voucher program, increased the eligibility age, reopened the donut hole, and repealed the Affordable Care Act. “The budget resolution developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) would make significant changes to Medicare. It would replace Medicare’s current guarantee of coverage with a premium-support voucher, raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, and reopen the “doughnut hole” in Medicare’s coverage of prescription drugs. Together, these changes would shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries and (with the simultaneous repeal of health reform) leave many 65- and 66-year olds without any health coverage at all.” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/28/12) AARP CEO Barry Rand said: “ … the proposal is likely to simply increase costs for beneficiaries while removing Medicare’s promise of secure health coverage — a guarantee that future seniors have contributed to through a lifetime of hard work.” (AARP, Letter to Congress, 3/21/12)

Ayotte voted for FY 2014 Ryan Budget plan which would “replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The Medicare proposals in the 2014 budget resolution developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are essentially the same as those in last year’s Ryan budget.  Once again, Chairman Ryan proposes to replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher and raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67.” The vote was largely along party lines; Ayotte voted with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. (Senate Vote 46, 3/21/13; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/15/13)

Ayotte voted for FY 2011 budget with deep cuts to agencies responsible for Alzheimer’s research. In congressional testimony on March 11, 2011, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the proposed cuts would mean that “about half of the hundred largest clinical studies including those on cancer and Alzheimer’s would probably be canceled.” (Vote 36, 3/9/11; Politifact, 4/15/11)

Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for urging Congress to privatize all aspects of Social Security. Privatizing social security puts at risk benefits for New Hampshire’s current and future retirees. (HCR39, Roll Call #190, 3/21/2012)

Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for an Interstate Health Care Compact that – with permission from Congress – would give participating states the authority to opt out of all federal health care protections and programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. This would have taken away not just all federal oversight, but all federal minimum benefit guarantees and protections for New Hampshire’s most vulnerable populations: states could drop seniors from Medicare coverage, eliminate our Medicaid and CHIP protections for vulnerable children, end Medicaid-sponsored long-term care services for elders and people with disabilities, terminate protections for children with pre-existing conditions, and stop the enforcement of laws protecting medical privacy. A compact state would be free to replace any and all of these previous federal programs and protections with risky and/or inadequate state-based schemes or, if a state so chose, not replace them at all. (HB1560, Roll Call #87, 2/15/2012)

Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for suspending funding for the Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) program. The program provides temporary respite services to family members, partners and other informal caregivers who are caring for an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementia. (HB2, Roll Call #143, 3/30/2011; DHHS, Accessed 7.21.16)

The Alliance For Retired Americans Blasts Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” Plan

(HTTP://ABETTERWAY.SPEAKER.GOV)

(HTTP://ABETTERWAY.SPEAKER.GOV)

Ryan’s “Better Way” for Health Care Would be Dangerous for Seniors and Inferior to Current Medicare System

Seniors Would Have to Wait Until 67 for Coverage 

The following statement was issued today by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s release of “A Better Way” health care plan: 

“U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan calls his health care plan ‘A Better Way,’ but it is far inferior to the current system and dangerous for Americans.

“Seniors should not be misled. The Speaker wants to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and change the program away from guaranteed benefits to a system of ‘premium support.’

“Premium support is a paltry substitute for the earned health care benefits that Americans have paid into throughout their lives and which they have a right to once they turn 65. 

“Ryan also wants to double down on one of the weakest parts of the current Medicare system. He would have Medicare adopt the so-called ‘competitive structure proven successful by Medicare Part D.’ Of course Part D has done nothing to rein in skyrocketing prescription drug prices for taxpayers or retirees and includes unnecessary giveaways for private insurance companies.

“If the Ryan plan were to be adopted, seniors would pay through the nose – with both their physical health and their financial health.”

Leo W Gerard: GOP Vows Sickness and Ill-Health

Paul Ryan (DonkeyHotey)

Paul Ryan (DonkeyHotey FLICKR)

The grandest and most majestic first act of 2016 by the Republican majority in Congress was to take a meat clever and sever 17 million Americans from their Affordable Care Act health insurance.

No chemo for you, cancer patients, the GOP declared. No plaster or slings for you, bone fracture victims, they sneered.

Precious few of the 17 million Americans whose health the GOP imperiled with this hard-hearted deed heard any panicked news about it, however. This made Republicans very, very sad because last week’s measure was the first in their 50 attempts to gut the Affordable Care Act to actually pass both the U.S. House and Senate. All of their other failed attempts had died in Congress. But this one, this one special bill, died Friday at the tip of President Obama’s veto pen. Still, it’s just as dead as the others. The bad, old insurance days won’t return.

In those bad, old, pre-Affordable Care Act days, health insurance was not working. Remember insurance companies throwing people off their plans when they got sick? Recall insurance companies denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and acne? There was that Medicare prescription plan donut hole that cost senior citizens thousands of dollars every year. And more and more employers were ditching health coverage for workers.

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Americans wanted it all fixed. The Affordable Care Act took a giant leap toward accomplishing that. Okay, it’s not perfect. It doesn’t cover everyone. But 17.6 million more Americans got insurance because of it. Young adults to age 26 can stay on their parents’ plans. The cost of drugs for seniors stuck in the donut hole declined, and the coverage gap disappears altogether in 2020. Insurance companies can’t dump the sick or deny them coverage.

It’s a different world. It’s one where tens of millions of Americans feel safer and more secure. They’ve got health insurance now. Or they know that if they lose their job, and along with it their employment-based insurance, they’ll be able now to buy coverage.

This world, though, makes Republicans squirm. They hate it when the government of the people, by the people does more for the people. To them, it’s bad enough that the people have gotten together and decided government should provide public schools for all children. Republicans believe private schools exclusively for those who can afford them would be just fine. Republicans believe those private security forces hired to guard gated communities could supplant public police departments, and places that couldn’t afford private forces would get no protection. They’d be happy with toll roads owned and operated by private corporations instead of freeways built by tax dollars.

Similarly, they’ve repeatedly proposed privatizing Medicare, the highly efficient, extremely popular, government-operated health insurance for the elderly. They opposed the national health insurance plan FDR proposed in 1939. And in the decades since then, they’ve killed every attempt by Democratic administrations, including President Bill Clinton’s, to provide some sort of national health plan. Many influential Republican leaders condemned Medicare, the national health plan serving only the elderly, when it passed in 1965. Those opponents included Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush.

Republicans don’t care that Americans love Medicare and desperately want the reassurance of access to health insurance during the decades before they turn 65. Republicans don’t care that citizens of every other major first-world nation provide this benefit to each other. Germany started doing it in 1883.

Republicans don’t believe citizens should provide services to each other through their government. And the GOP’s sworn mission is to destroy as many as they can.

In addition to cancelling insurance for 17 million Americans, the doomed Republican measure would have eliminated all federal funding – $450 million – for Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, the places that millions of poor women rely on for basic reproductive needs including annual exams and family planning.  No federal funding pays for abortions.

The GOP contended that it made up for that loss by providing $235 million for community health centers. That’s just about half of the Planned Parenthood funding. So apparently the GOP thought it was just fine to deny care to half of the women Planned Parenthood serves.

Republicans made no plans to deal with the loss of the Affordable Care Act, however. They’re claiming that they’d replace the act someday over the rainbow when they re-elect GOP majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate as well as elect a GOP President, after which they would actually be able to repeal the law.

There’s not any sort of replacement proposal now, however. None. GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan admits it. He claims Republicans will start talking about that soon. “Just wait,” he instructed when asked about plans.

Republicans have been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for five years. But they’ve made absolutely no effort to patch the massive gaping hole that would leave behind. They don’t want to.

They don’t believe in communities coming together to care for their members, whether that’s by providing public transit or access to health insurance.

They believe that Americans who get cancer in the richest country in the world and don’t have health insurance are on their own.

NH CD1 Primary — Look Who’s Supporting Guinta

Rep. Frank Guinta

Rep. Frank Guinta

No surprise: in the wake of Rep. Frank Guinta’s agreement to pay a fine for federal election law violations, Dan Innis is expected to run for Congress again.

Party officials are supposed to stay neutral until after primary elections. At least that’s the way it used to be, back when politics was still about parties – and not about money.

But look at Frank Guinta’s first quarter FEC report. Looks like House GOP leadership has already staked out a position in this election.

  • Friends of [House Speaker] John Boehner: $2,000 contribution to Guinta for the 2016 primary election, another $2,000 for the 2016 general election – both contributions given on March 20, 2015.
  • The Freedom Project, John Boehner’s Leadership PAC: $5,000 contribution to Guinta for the 2016 primary, another $5,000 for the general election – both contributions given on March 20, 2015.
  • [House Majority Leader] Kevin McCarthy for Congress campaign committee: $2,000 contribution to Guinta for the 2016 primary election, another $2,000 for the 2016 general election – both contributions given on March 26, 2015.
  • Majority Committee PAC, Kevin McCarthy’s Leadership PAC: $5,000 contribution to Guinta for the 2016 primary, another $5,000 for the general election – both contributions given on March 26, 2015.
  • [House Majority Whip Steve] Scalise for Congress campaign committee: $2,000 contribution for the 2016 general election – given on March 27, 2015.
  • Eye of the Tiger PAC, Steve Scalise’s Leadership PAC: $5,000 contribution for the 2016 primary election – given on March 27, 2015.
  • CMR PAC, the Leadership PAC of House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers: $2,500 for the 2016 primary election – given on March 31, 2015.
  • [Republican Policy Committee Chairman] Luke Messer for Congress campaign: $1,000 contribution for the 2016 primary – given on March 31, 2015.
  • Prosperity Action PAC, the Leadership PAC of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan: $5,000 for the 2016 primary election – given on March 26, 2015.

It was unanimous. Not a single member of House GOP Leadership failed to make a contribution to Frank Guinta – directly, through their PAC, or both – during the weeks immediately before Guinta agreed to pay his fine to the FEC. Contributions not just for the 2016 general election, but also for the 2016 primary – when Guinta would, presumably, be running against another Republican.

Gotta wonder how former NHGOP Finance Chair Dan Innis feels, about the fact that the entire House GOP Leadership has already contributed to his opponent in the race.

Read an insider’s take on Guinta’s Q1 fundraising here.

Read more about Guinta’s agreement with the FEC here.

Granite State Rumblings: Even Paul Ryan Sees We Must Do Something About Poverty

Last week Representative Paul Ryan unveiled his plan to fight poverty in America. He calls it “Expanding Opportunity in America”. In this plan States would have the option of combining up to 11 safety net programs to pilot what he calls new approaches to case management and services delivery.

Well, not all states, as Chairman Ryan writes in his plan, “….this proposal would create a new pilot project in a select number of states. In participating states, the federal government would consolidate a number of means-tested programs into a new Opportunity Grant (OG) program. The largest contributions would come from SNAP, TANF, child-care (CCDBG), and housing-assistance programs and the funding would be deficit-neutral relative to current law”.  (page 14)

In other words this plan would consolidate the programs into a single block grant for states. Block grants tend to reduce the efficiency of the program over time, as we have witnessed with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF). This program was block granted in 1996 as part of welfare reform and has never seen an increase in funding. In fact, it has lost more than 30% of its value when adjusted for inflation.

Block grant programs cannot respond to economic downturns that result in increased needs. As noted by Melissa Boteach and Rebecca Vallas in a July 24th blog post, “this was apparent during the Great Recession. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, proved incredibly responsive to the economic downturn, with enrollment increasing from about 20 million individuals in 2007 to more than 44 million in 2011, the number of families that TANF helped barely budged and actually declined in some states despite the tremendous increase in poverty and hardship. Yet Rep. Ryan’s plan includes SNAP—one of our strongest countercyclical and anti-poverty programs—as a candidate for consolidation. While he claims that ultimately a countercyclical element could be built into the block grant, he acknowledges that in the pilot stage it would not be included, making the state pilots looks more like TANF. This type of reform does not build on what works”.

The plan also calls for those who receive assistance to work with state agencies or community organizations to develop a life plan – “…a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty”. That sounds great, a roadmap out of poverty. But, this roadmap comes with a timeline for meeting benchmarks written into the life plan, and sanctions if you miss that benchmark, as well as a time limit for remaining on assistance.

Haven’t we been down this road before in welfare reform too?

Like the current time limit for those in today’s TANF program, what happens to those who have not yet reached financial independence in the required amount of time because their earnings from employment do not raise them out of poverty?

Contrary to Representative Ryan’s assertion that “the biggest snag in the safety net is that it discourages work,” many individuals living in poverty are employed. There is no plan to raise the minimum wage in this proposal. This is unfortunate given that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour by mid-2016, it would immediately lift about 900,000 workers out of poverty.

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes, “While some other elements of the Ryan poverty plan deserve serious consideration, such as those relating to the Earned Income Tax Credit and criminal justice reform, his “Opportunity Grant” would likely increase poverty and hardship, and is therefore ill-advised”.

We agree. However, Representative Ryan has opened the door to having a national discussion about poverty. We must not allow that door to close.

GROWING UP GRANITE

From our friends at NH Kids Count:

New Hampshire Drops in National Child Well-Being Ranking from #1 to #4

Demographic, social and economic changes combined with major policy developments have affected the lives of children in both positive and negative ways since 1990, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 25th edition of its annual Kids Count Data Book.  New Hampshire, which has been ranked first in the nation in overall child well-being for more than ten years, fell in ranking this year, moving from first to fourth behind Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.

Mimicking national gains, New Hampshire saw measurable improvements in education, health and safety.  More children are attending preschool, the number of children without health insurance declined and the number of teens who abuse alcohol and drugs also decreased.

Despite these positive advancements, negative trends in economic well-being continue to significantly impact the vitality of New Hampshire’s children and families. New Hampshire’s child poverty rate continues to rise more than the national average, and surged from 9 percent to 16 percent between 2005 and 2012.  The number of New Hampshire children whose parents lack secure employment increased by  24 percent since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. And, between 2005 and 2012,New Hampshire saw an increase in the number of children in single parent families, from 24 percent to 30 percent (80,000 children); a 25 percent change.

In addition, the high cost of housing continues to affect 39 percent of NH children and their families.

While New Hampshire fell in ranking, it is still within the top five states nationally.

Translating from TeaPartyese: What “negotiate” really means

Stahlwille ratchet head (1/2 SQ)Don’t let them fool you.

When GOP Congressmen say they “just want to negotiate” – what they’re really saying is “we’re going to have it our way”.

And when they talk about “compromise” – they’re really talking about “ratcheting it down even further.”

You know how a ratchet works, right?  When you turn it, the screw can only go one way.  And the Tea Party’s position is: government can only get smaller.

They’re yelling about the federal deficit – and accumulated federal debt – but the only “solution” they’re willing to entertain is to cut spending.  Have you heard anybody suggest raising revenues, lately?

The fact is: as a share of the nation’s economy, federal tax revenues are at almost-record lows. Yes, they were lower, back when Harry Truman was President – but that was before Medicare was enacted in 1965.

Federal Tax Revenues as Percentage of GDP

And it looks like the GOP may have already won the federal budget game.

Remember 2011, when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan came out with his budget“$4 trillion of cuts over decade

Remember how radical that budget seemed, back then?  How far to the right?  How extreme the cuts appeared?

Now, take a closer look at the “continuing resolution” passed by the Democratically-controlled Senate last week, in a last-ditch effort to avoid the government shutdown.

Yeah, the same “continuing resolution” that the House GOP won’t send to an up-do-down vote, without further concessions.

Funding levels in that “continuing resolution” are about 10% less than what Chairman Ryan proposed, back in 2011.

And it came from the Democrats.

And it’s still not enough for the GOP.

Ratchet, ratchet, ratchet.

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Read more about how the Senate’s continuing resolution compares to the Ryan budget here.

See the tax revenue data that my chart is based on here.

 

 

 

GOP House Members still fighting? Gonna be costly.

No, it’s not de ja vu. It’s just that… so much of it is still exactly on-point.  Wish it wasn’t, but it is. So, with very few updates, here’s a repeat of my post from February 6, 2013:

————————

Last person leaving, please dock the doorsHoping for bipartisan cooperation, now that the election is over? Think again.

The weekend before the inauguration, Republicans gathered in Williamsburg to discuss strategies for “fighting” the President. Just a week later, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was telling a gathering of conservatives that “Republicans control both the House and most of the statehouses. So we have to oppose the president and the Senate on some fronts—and engage them on others…”

Does that sound like cooperation to you?

Looks like it’s going to be an interesting next few months. Two dates to mark on your calendar:

On March 1st, the sequestration cuts are scheduled to go went into effect. Cutting government services through these automatic, across-the-board cuts is expected to send the economy back into recession. One example: according to a study commissioned by the airline industry, the FAA’s share of the sequestration cuts is about $1 billion a year. That cut would reduce the nation’s air traffic between 5% and 10%, and the country would lose between 66,000 and 132,000 jobs related to air transportation. The irony? The economic losses would cause tax revenues to drop by as much as $1 billion a year. (Hmmn… $1 billion in tax revenues lost because of a $1 billion spending cut. Not a whole lot of deficit-reduction going on, is there?)  After members of Congress were inconvenienced by airport delays, the FAA was granted special treatment under the sequestration act.  Recent estimates of the economic costs of sequestration include:  1.6 million jobs and 1.2% of GDP.

On March 27th  September 30th, the “continuing resolution” that funded federal government expired. That means a possible “government shutdown”. According to Politico, a majority of GOP House members “are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner ‘may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,’ said a top GOP leadership adviser.”

What happens if the government shuts down? Federal employees who are deemed “essential” are still required to go to work – they just don’t get paid until after Congress approves a bill to pay them. The last time there was a significant government shutdown, almost a half-million federal employees were required to work without pay for three weeks.

The economic damage went far beyond the family finances of federal employees. The crisis also caused 11 states to suspend unemployment insurance, due to lack of federal funds. Veterans’ services were suddenly unavailable (including counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and pension and education payments). The crisis affected the oil industry, leaving more than 10,000 barrels a day untapped while companies waited for federal reviews. The tourism industry suffered millions of dollars in losses each day of the shutdown, because passports and visas were not processed. The housing industry suffered when $800 million worth of mortgage loans were delayed. The crisis halted cleanup of 609 toxic waste sites. It left hundreds of thousands of children in limbo, waiting for foster care or adoption.

And that was only a partial government shutdown. Most of the government still had funding, during that shutdown. (Just imagine what may happen on March 27th! now!)

There’s a moral here, folks. Government services are integral to our nation’s economy.

Is there any hope that Congress could learn that lesson, in the next month or so? Or is the GOP going to insist on doing economic damage, “just to get it out of their system”?

Meanwhile, down in DC, Simpson and Bowles Work To Wreck Social Security

It’s probably going to get lost in today’s news, now breaking out of Boston, but…

SocialSecurityposter1Down in DC today, Erskine Bowles and Alan K. Simpson are scheduled to announce yet another of their “debt reduction” plans. Yes, it includes chained-CPI; yes, it includes cuts to Medicare. What is doesn’t include is much in the way of new revenues. Here’s how the Washington Post describes today’s plan:

“seeks far less in new taxes than the original, and it seeks far more in savings from federal health programs for the elderly.”

Yeah, this public policy debate is going in the wrong direction.

Here’s a better suggestion: Let’s return to the good ol’ days when investment income was taxed at the same rate as wage income.

Why does US tax policy give preferential tax treatment to dividends, just because investors don’t have to get their hands dirty in order to receive the income? America is supposed to be the land of Horatio Alger (“pull yourself up by your bootstraps, work hard, and you’ll get ahead”). If our tax code is going to have different standards for earned versus unearned income, shouldn’t the “hard work” type of income be the one we prefer?

Instead, ever since the Bush tax cuts, dividends have been taxed at a much lower rate. And that economic distortion has led to all sorts of bad outcomes. (Read “What Mitt Romney Taught Us about America’s Economy” here.)

According to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, this backwards tax preference will cost $616 billion in revenue over the next five years. (It’s one of the largest “tax expenditures” in the tax code.)

So, let’s call that $1.2 trillion over the next decade… and we’re well on our way toward debt reduction – without any cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Toss in another $516 billion worth of estate taxes (I’m doubling the five-year cost of that tax preference, as calculated by the Joint Committee). Maybe throw in $315 billion from ending the special tax treatment for life insurance annuities. And we’re well over $2 trillion in deficit reduction—all without a single cut to a single government program.

Now let’s apply a little “dynamic scoring”. (Haven’t heard of it? It what the GOP used, back in 2001, to argue that the country could afford the Bush tax cuts. Just assume that the tax code changes will improve the economy, and that will generate even more tax revenues.) Ok, you’re right… “dynamic scoring” didn’t work so well with the Bush tax cuts. But remember the Clinton tax hikes? Remember how the economy improved and the budget went from deficit to surplus?

Add in a little “dynamic scoring” (of the tax-HIKE variety) and… Presto Change-o! Suddenly, we’re doing a whole lot better than Simpson-Bowles.

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Also in the message mix, today: a great, big “oops!” for the two Harvard economists whose research has bolstered the GOP’s austerity agenda. Turns out they made a mistake in their spreadsheet analysis. Yes, this is the very same analysis that Paul Ryan used, during last year’s presidential campaign, to argue that our slow economy was caused by national debt. [Hello? Most of us out here in the real world think the economy’s hurting because so many people are out of work.] Yes, these are the same two economists who testified before the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Here’s the kicker: their mistake was discovered by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Yes, public-funded higher education still works!

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Watching the news this morning, we’re seeing incredible acts of dedication and bravery. Special thanks to everyone whose jobs take them into danger, all those who protect the rest of us. Thoughts and prayers are with the family of the MIT Police officer who was killed; with the MBTA officer who was injured; and with everyone else whose lives have been forever altered by the events of the past few days.

Writing this from the security of my own home, I salute you all.

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