Ann McLane KusterNew Hampshire's two House seats are a crucial part of the road back to Speaker Pelosi?and a new poll from Public Policy Polling and Democracy for America shows Democrats leading. In other words: we're winning. We're winning in the first district, where former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is leading Republican Rep. Frank Guinta by four points, and we're winning in the second district, where Annie Kuster is also leading Republican Rep. Charlie Bass by four points. And the same poll finds President Obama leading Mitt Romney by six points.
Carol Shea-Porter (D) 48 (47)
Frank Guinta (R-Inc) 44 (43)
Annie Kuster 47 (42)
Charlie Bass (R-Inc) 43 (42)
A four-point lead doesn't mean game over, of course, especially in the post-Citizens United era. Shea-Porter and Kuster can both expect to be targeted by Republican outside money groups like Crossroads GPS or Americans for Prosperity, especially because these seats, which Democrats won in 2006 and Republicans regained in 2010, are such an important part of gaining or losing control of the House. That's one more reason why Kuster and Shea-Porter need us to have their backs. And if we're not only going to put the speaker's gavel back in Nancy Pelosi's hand but pass good legislation, we need strong progressives like them.
The Washington Post continued its war on Social Security and Medicare today with a column by Charles Lane that told readers that seniors are wealthy because they have enough money (almost) to pay off their mortgage. No, I'm not kidding.[...]
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A lot of the chattering class view the choice of Paul Ryan as an easy win not only for President Obama, but a sure thing for holding the Senate and recapturing the House (or at least coming close enough to count). However, I've seen Paul Ryan up close and personal and he is incredibly good at speaking in a manner that convinces people his lies are truths. We must be ready! So, this is the first in a series, telling you what you need to know when people you know believe the dark side.
Romney/Ryan likes to say that President Obama cut $700 million (sometimes $500 million) from Medicare and that "they" are working to save it. To understand why this is an out and out falsehood, you need to understand the difference between defined benefit and defined contribution.
In terms of retirement (and we'll get to how it applies to Medicare), defined benefit was a pension program. That is, the retiree received a set amount of money every month for the rest of his/her life. Defined contribution is a 401(k) program, where the potential retiree places a set amount of money in an account and hopes for the best in terms of payout.
Currently, Medicare is a defined benefit program. The "benefits" are things like doctor visits, medications, surgeries, durable medical equipment and hospital stays, to name a few. These are NOT specific dollar amounts, they are paid in terms of goods and services, whatever that costs the government. Yes, Medicare recipients are required to chip in, but the majority of the costs are covered by the program.
Romney/Ryan wants to replace this with a voucher program. That is a defined contribution program: Medicare recipients would receive a set amount of dollars a month with which they can purchase health insurance. Thus, Romney/Ryan would contribute to Medicare recipients care, but whether or not that would be enough to cover the cost of premiums, much less co-payments and deductibles is completely unlikely. If you doubt this, pretend that you're in your 60's and have a pre-existing condition, and then go price private health insurance.
This changes the spread of costs between the government and individuals. Below is a chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (reprinted with permission) that shows things very clearly.
You may wonder why there is such a disparity in total costs. If you remember back to 2009 when DCW was all over the various health care proposals, the insurance companies take 15 - 30% in administrative costs out of every premium dollar paid, while it costs Medicare 2 - 4%. Plus, many more items would be excluded from the list of covered services. Remember, the Romney/Ryan plan would repeal the ACA, so there would be no holding down of premium costs because there would be no public option, not even for Medicare. There may well be, in their dreams, a Medicare "insurance" option, but it would be limited in terms of payouts.
Let's get back to that huge $700 million cut. What the ACA did was to decrease the amount paid to doctors, hospitals, and durable goods providers. They did not cut the defined benefit to the recipients. The cut is also not current, it's a going-forward amount over 10 years. Further, the Ryan budget (as published) specifically includes the ACA cuts while repealing all other portions of the law.
So there you have it: the Medicare lies. Next in the series, the lies Ryan and Romney tell about themselves. By way of coming attractions: did you know, for example, that Ryan is a trust fund baby, went to college with government funds, and comes from a family that made its megamillions on government contracts? Yes, really.
The Energy Report: In your last interview, “The Uranium Industry Is Alive and Well,” Germany and Japan looked determined to shift away from nuclear power. Now, it looks like Germany is having second thoughts . . . → Read More: Who Will Fill the 24 Million Pound Uranium Supply Gap?: David Talbot
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Meh and meh
Yesterday we talk about how the disdain with which Floridians hold the Ryan plan to kill Medicare and privatize Social Security is likely to help Democrats reelect Bill Nelson to the Senate and defeat a few House Republicans in that state, particularly John Mica, Allen West, David Rivera (unless the widespread rumors are true that the Fanjul brothers have tasked their puppet, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, with saving his seat), Bill Young and Vern Buchanan-- as well as a few hapless boobs, like Adam Hasner and Todd Long, who have gratuitously embraced killing off Medicare. OK, well Florida's a good state that needs some shaking up-- but it turns out Republicans all across the country are worried that Ryan's selection is screwing up GOP incumbents' chances for reelection... from sea to shining sea.
Republicans strategists are worried that Rep. Paul Ryan?s (R-Wis.) addition to the presidential ticket will cost their party House and Senate seats this fall.
Their concern: Democrats will successfully demonize Ryan?s budget plan, which contains controversial spending cuts and changes to Medicare.
?There are a lot races that are close to the line we're not going to win now because they're going to battle out who's going to kill grandma first, ObamaCare or Paul Ryan's budget,? said one Republican strategist who works on congressional races. ?It could put the Senate out of reach. In the House it puts a bunch of races in play that would have otherwise been safe. ... It remains to be seen how much damage this causes, but my first blush is this is not good.?
Many Republicans in tough races this year, especially in the House, voted for Ryan?s proposal, which makes it hard for them to distance themselves from it... Former Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), who chaired the NRCC from 2003-2006, warned that he foresaw in this election shades of President George W. Bush?s fight to create a voucher program for Social Security early in his second term, which many say cost the GOP seats in 2006.
?You saw what happened to Bush with Social Security in the 2006 election,? he said. ?This is deja vu.? ... He also commended Republican House candidates like Maggie Brooks and Chris Collins-- both Republicans running in New York-- for ?accepting no responsibility? for Ryan?s plan.
...[O]ne Republican strategist who?d seen the NRCC?s memo worried that the plan offered little new advice, and having Ryan at the top of the ticket lent additional credibility to Democrats on the issue.
?It becomes more difficult. The Republican argument and Democrat argument on Medicare now aren't on equal footing anymore-- Ryan being on the top of the ticket gives Democrats more credibility,? the strategist said. ?There's going to be more resonance when the Democrats attack our guys. It's going to be a part of the national discussion, there's going to be more credibility on this now, and we're not going to be able to wave them off as nonsense."
The reality is that Ryan is now every Republicans? running mate whether they like it or not, forcing GOP candidates who would just as soon run from the debate over senior citizen entitlements to embrace the third rail of American politics like never before.
One GOP insider lamented that party leaders ?have spent the last year? trying to take Medicare off the political front burner, but the Ryan pick ?puts it all back out there now.? ... Republican unease with the Ryan plan was on full display earlier this summer, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee put money behind an ad that touted Rehberg?s opposition to the polarizing budget plan.
?And Rehberg refused to support a Republican budget plan that could harm the Medicare programs so many of Montana?s seniors rely on,? the 30-second commercial promoting Rehberg?s Senate candidacy blared.
"Now that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is in the limelight as the Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. McKinley is seeking to distance himself from the extreme policies Ryan has proposed. Don't be fooled. The Ryan budget ends Medicare and raises health care costs for seniors, while giving tax breaks to millionaires, Big Oil, and companies shipping jobs overseas. McKinley voted to pass the Ryan budget and send the middle class into poverty (after he voted against it.)"
Mitt Romney?s choice of Paul Ryan is bad for North Carolina and bad for America.
On March 29, 2012, Paul Ryan, aided and abetted by my opponent, Patrick McHenry, passed a budget in the U.S. House of Representatives that betrayed every man, woman and child in North Carolina.
The Ryan/McHenry budget would have destroyed Medicare, cut agriculture by $60 billion, cut taxes for the super rich and increased the budget deficit by 3 trillion dollars.
That would have hurt every man, woman, child and business in North Carolina.
By choosing Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has embraced the most extreme posture of the most extreme parts of the Tea Party Republicans.
Bizarrely, Patrick McHenry even found a way to be more extreme than Ryan and his fellow Tea Party Republicans. On the same day he voted for the Ryan budget, McHenry voted for a budget that would have, among other things, raised the Social Security retirement age to 70. More than 100 of his fellow Republicans, including Paul Ryan, did not vote for this budget? but Patrick McHenry did.
The conventional wisdom about my campaign is that this district is so Republican that I will struggle to be competitive. That changed when Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Paul Ryan is too extreme to be elected in North Carolina? and Patrick McHenry is more extreme than Paul Ryan. Democrats, Independents and mainstream Republicans in North Carolina?s 10th District all share one thing in common? they are not extremists.
Beginning today, my campaign will focus on the hijacking of the Republican Party by extremists including Paul Ryan and Patrick McHenry. Mitt Romney may be willing to embrace an extremist to win an election but I don?t think Democrats, Independents and mainstream Republicans of North Carolina will.
I am going to present policy alternatives to the extremism of Ryan and McHenry. I am going to make the argument that these are serious times, and we need serious people to address serious problems. Neither Paul Ryan nor Patrick McHenry can be taken seriously because of the extreme positions they have adopted.
I love these mountains and the piedmonts that sweep down from them into rich valleys and farmland. I love the people who inhabit the cities, towns, villages and neighborhoods across the 10th District. It has been my pleasure to be of service to them as a teacher, a member of the Buncombe County Commission and a member of the state legislature. I owe the people a debt. A debt of gratitude. A debt of honesty. A debt of fearlessness.
I stand now against the extremism that has hijacked a once great political party in the form of extremists like Paul Ryan and Patrick McHenry. I stand for the seniors, the working people, the teachers, the small business owners, the farmers and their children and grandchildren. I stand for the Democrats, the Independents, and, yes, I stand for the Republicans who look at these extreme policies and say, ?These are not my values.?
Patrick McHenry can run but he can?t hide. I will expose his extremism. I will expose his betrayal of our values. I will not rest until the truth is known.
In my heart of hearts I hope that those who hear and read these words will decide to stand with me. I hope that reporters and editors who read my words, on this and in coming days, will make a decision to hold Patrick McHenry accountable. To make a decision to stand silently in this dire moment for our republic is to give in to the darkness and despair that has given rise to these extreme policies.
I see a better day for America. I see a bright sunrise that ends this season of darkness. I believe the policies of the Democratic Party, as championed by Barack Obama and Joe Biden, will hasten us toward this sunrise and that the policies of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Patrick McHenry will deepen the gloom at the expense of the people whom I have served as a teacher and elected official and whom I seek to serve in Congress.
Perhaps I will win this election. Perhaps I will not. The record will show, however, that Patsy Keever stood square shouldered against the madness in 2012 and said, ?Enough is enough.?
So let us begin.
Patsy Keever versus Patrick McHenry Policy Difference #1: Patsy Keever believes the Social Security retirement age should stand at 65 and Patrick McHenry voted to increase it to 70. If you want the retirement age raised to 70, then vote for Patrick McHenry. If you want it at 65, then vote for Patsy Keever.
With friends like these. From Fox News:While claims that Ryan is slashing the budget are questionable, there are studies to back up claims that the Republicans' tax plans benefit the wealthy more than others. A June study from the Joint Economic Committee -- which is chaired by a Democrat -- claims middle-class married couples could pay at least an extra $1,300 under Ryan's plan,...
New Romney BFF Sheldon AdelsonOops.
LAKEWOOD, Colorado ? Presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's first major fundraiser will be closed to the press, in apparent violation of the Romney-Ryan campaign's oft-strained agreement with the reporters who cover the campaign. [...]According to the Romney campaign, the reason for barring the press is not because they are trying to hide Paul Ryan from being reported on, or because Sheldon Adelson is quite possibly a crazy person and God knows what he's going to say this time round.
As of Tuesday morning, reporters would not be permitted to cover Ryan's fundraiser with billionaire mega-donor Sheldon Adelson at The Venetian in Las Vegas tonight.
No, the reason reporters are barred from the event is because:
UPDATE: A Romney aide told reporters that the event in Las Vegas is not a fundraiser but a "finance event," and therefore closed to reporters. The aide would not say what the distinction is between the two, declining to say whether the campaign is collecting checks at the event.Pfft, why didn't they say so in the first place? Oh, and I can help Buzzfeed out with the terminology here. A fundraising event is when you meet with a bunch of people and collect money from them. A finance event is when you meet with a bunch of people and collect money from them, but it's done in a "quiet room," as all proper conversations about finance are. So a "finance event" is like a "fundraising event," but the people attending it are so crazy rich and important that they just don't have to put up with your stupid public-right-to-know bullcrap.
So far, it seems that the inclusion of Paul Ryan is apparently not going to make the Romney campaign any better at not pissing off the press corps. Oh well.
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From all accounts the right wing has left their collective body today after the Romney campaign smacked at Joe Biden for saying this during a speech in Danville, VA:
Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days, he's gonna let the big banks again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street!
They're going to put you all back in chains.
After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama campaign has reached a new low. The comments made by the Vice President of the United States are not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama campaign will say and do anything to win this election," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "President Obama should tell the American people whether he agrees with Joe Biden?s comments."
Now here's what I would say if I were President Obama. I would say I don't agree with Joe Biden because, well, we're still chained by Wall Street. We are still beholden to Wall Street's beck and call, their manipulated markets, their threats if we (and our government) does not bow to their whims and demands. So it's less about us being unchained because we're not, and more about how much worse it would be if they didn't have the teeny tiny small constraints imposed by the Dodd-Frank legislation.
Chaining Wall Street and unchaining the rest of us would mean reinstating Glass-Steagall. We're not even close to that.
The Obama campaign did shoot back a reply:
For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, and other Republicans have called for the ?unshackling? of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals and other reckless behavior that crashed our economy. Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to ?unshackle? the middle class. Today?s comments were a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families. We find the Romney campaign?s outrage over the Vice President?s comments today hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate?s stump speech questioning the President?s patriotism. Now, let?s return to that ?substantive? debate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised 72 hours ago, but quickly abandoned.
I can see where it would be politically advantageous for Romney to turn this into some kind of racial reference on Biden's part, but it fails, largely because Wall Street's shackles know no racial boundaries. It's purely about who has the money and power and who doesn't. For Wall Street, most of us aren't even on the radar, unless we're catering their parties or something.
by Corey Barnes, via Rocky Mountain Institute
America spends approximately $1.6 billion on public housing energy payments every year. To put that into perspective, that?s equal to:
Yet multi-family public housing projects, on average,use 38 percent more energy than the typical U.S. home. To put it simply, our public housing buildings are leaking our money.
If we made affordable housing 30 percent more efficient, we could use the dividends to double the current federal budget for building energy-efficiency research and generate greater future energy savings. But we can go even further.
There are case studies showing that some of our oldest buildings can be 50 percent more efficient. This energy efficiency comes none too soon, because energy conservation codes are demanding more energy efficiency more quickly than ever beforein American history.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the 3,300 public housing authorities (PHAs) that develop and operate public housing are on the hook for (at least a part of) the utility bills of all 1.2 million public housing units. In traditional apartment rentals, energy efficiency is hampered by the curse of split incentives ? the landlord builds and owns the apartments, but the tenant pays the energy bills.
However, in the case of public housing, the landlord (the PHA, with support from HUD) is responsible for putting up the building and for paying the utility bills, removing the split-incentives barrier. So, why is there still inefficiency within our portfolio of public affordable housing units? This is one of the questions RMI seeks to answer with the Residential Energy Efficiency Leaders (REEL) working group.
This group is composed of 10 PHAs dedicated to bringing superefficiency to public housing. Members have signed a commitment to identify impediments and solutions to increased energy-efficiency, meet regularly to discuss relevant topics, and share resources and ideas freely. REEL Working Group members include: Albany Housing Authority, British Columbia Housing, Boston Housing Authority, Denver Housing Authority, Home Forward (Portland Housing Authority), Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, San Antonio Housing Authority, Seattle Housing Authority, and Tacoma Housing Authority.
Through the leadership of these PHAs, RMI is identifying roadblocks to efficiency and investigating innovative solutions from our working group members and other PHAs. Together, the group will identify an aggressive, yet achievable energy-efficiency goal that can show the public housing sector that efficient design is not only possible, but also profitable.
In fact, several REEL members are already leading the way toward increased energy efficiency with case studies that show solutions are already available. These projects exhibit exceptional creativity and prescience in their development of public housing that is affordable, not just for the tenant, but also for the landlord:
These are just a two examples of what can happen when the correct incentives are in place for energy efficiency to prosper. By correcting systemic problems that penalize the implementation of energy efficiency in our existing building stock and making sure that the adequate capital is available to fund measures that pay back over their lifetime, we can drive efficiency into our affordable housing units. These gains will not come through any act of charity or fiat, but from a sound long-term strategy for our public housing that accounts for all costs, not just the upfront ones.
Once we capture the cash that is slowly leaking from the walls and windows of our public housing, we can reinvest that money in the innovative ideas and people that will drive us toward a more sustainable and equitable society.
Corey Barnes is an intern with the Rocky Mountain Institute. This piece was originally published at the Rocky Mountain Institute’s RMI Outlet blog and was reprinted with permission.
The Romney campaign tries to sell its Medicare privatization scheme to seniors by arguing that the controversial premium support structure would only affect future retirees and preserve existing benefits for Americans over the age of 55. But while today’s elderly population would remain in traditional fee-for-service Medicare under the Ryan proposal, they too could be affected by Ryan’s ambitious restructuring scheme. Here is why:
As soon as private insurers start offering coverage to future retirees in 2023, they’ll do exactly what private plans are already doing in the Medicare Advantage program: cherry pick the healthiest applicants and leave sicker, more expensive beneficiaries in traditional Medicare. Mechanisms that prevent companies from skimming from the top — what wonks call “risk adjustment” — are imperfect, and so it’s likely that traditional Medicare would have to raise premiums to make up the difference.
This is where things can spiral out of control. Higher premiums encourage healthier beneficiaries who are still in traditional Medicare to opt into the private coverage, increasing costs even higher. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ (CBPP) Paul Van de Water observes, “over time, traditional Medicare would become less financially viable and could unravel ? not because it was less efficient than the private plans, but because it was competing on an unlevel playing field in which private plans captured the healthier beneficiaries and incurred lower costs as a result.”
As the size of the Medicare population shrinks, “administrative costs would rise relative to benefit payments, traditional Medicare?s power to demand lower payment rates from providers would erode, and providers would have less incentive to participate in the program. As a result, people now age 55 and older might well face higher premiums and cost sharing for traditional Medicare, a more limited choice of providers, or both.”