Bill Scher

Politics Over Performance

Much of the focus of the Senate’s questioning of Kyle Sampson, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former chief of staff, is on how Sampson’s story squares with other Justice Department and White House officials, especially because Sampson and others risk being busted for misleading Congress, and folks are looking to save themselves and shift blame. But beyond the possibility of crimes regarding a cover-up, there’s a bigger issue in this scandal—the fundamental nature of conservative government. As I’ve blogged before, the Bush Administration has been governing under the guidance of the Heritage Foundation paper, “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel,” issued just as Bush was assuming the presidency.

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Bill Scher

Conflicting Stories, Empty Excuses, Unanswered Questions

After the first round of Kyle Sampson’s testimony, what’s the news so far? ThinkProgress finds Kyle Sampson making Attorney General Gonzales appear to be a liar. Gonzales had claimed Sampson didn’t share key information about the Prosecutor Purge to him and his deputies. But Samspon says he did. TPMmuckraker sees news in Sampson’s exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein regarding the purge of Carol Lam, who successfully convicted Rep. Duke Cunningham and was continuing her investigation: Two big things came out of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) questioning of Kyle Sampson. The first was a glowing letter about Lam that Feinstein presented from the Director of Field Operations for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Worsening Income Inequality

There is more evidence today that the Bush administration’s economic policies are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. University of California at Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Picketty of the Paris School of Economics released two studies this week, one looking at income and another looking at tax policy. The bottom line: Under Bush, the rich aren’t just getting richer. They’re making a killing. How much so? As The New York Times reported Thursday, the nation’s richest 300,000 Americans make as much money as the bottom 150 million. Calculations based on 2005 tax data, the latest available, average incomes for people among the bottom 90 percent of Americans that year declined 0.6 percent, while the incomes of those in the top 10 percent increased about 14 percent. And that is not just a one-year blip.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Income Inequality Worsens

There is more evidence today that the Bush administration’s economic policies are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. University of California at Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Picketty of the Paris School of Economics released two studies this week, one looking at income and another looking at tax policy. The bottom line: Under Bush, the rich aren’t just getting richer. They’re making a killing. How much so? As The New York Times reported Thursday, the nation’s richest 300,000 Americans make as much money as the bottom 150 million. Calculations based on 2005 tax data, the latest available, average incomes for people among the bottom 90 percent of Americans that year declined 0.6 percent, while the incomes of those in the top 10 percent increased about 14 percent. And that is not just a one-year blip.

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Bill Scher

Sampson: Politics, Performance, What’s The Difference!

The Senate’s questioning of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former chief of staff Kyle Sampson is underway. (Watch it on C-Span 3, or online. TPMmuckracker and Firedoglake are liveblogging.) In his opening statement, he said the reasons for purging eight U.S. Attorneys: the distinction between political and performance-related reasons … is in my view largely artificial Much of the focus today is going to be on how Sampson’s story squares with other Justice Department and White House officials, especially because Sampson and others risk being busted for misleading Congress, and folks are looking to save themselves and shift blame. But beyond the possibility of crimes regarding a cover-up, there’s a bigger issue in this scandal, the fundamental nature of conservative government.

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Bill Scher

Let The Kids Dance

If memory serves, back in 1995, right after the Republicans took over Congress, a pre-Fox News Dennis Miller looked at footage of a sea of grumpy white men sitting on their hands during a Bill Clinton State of the Union address, and remarked: It’s the elders from Footloose! Let. The. Kids. Dance! This week James Inhofe, who was swept into the Senate with that GOP takeover, has proven Miller prescient. The Hill reports that Inhofe is single-handedly blocking a Senate resolution to allow the planned Live Earth concert event from performing on the U.S. Capitol grounds.

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Bill Scher

Let The Kids Dance

If memory serves, back in 1995, right after the Republicans took over Congress, a pre-Fox News Dennis Miller looked at footage of a sea of grumpy white men sitting on their hands during a Bill Clinton State of the Union address, and remarked: It’s the elders from Footloose! Let. The. Kids. Dance! This week James Inhofe, who was swept into the Senate with that GOP takeover, has proven Miller prescient. The Hill reports that Inhofe is single-handedly blocking a Senate resolution to allow the planned Live Earth concert event from performing on the U.S. Capitol grounds.

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Bill Scher

Let The Kids Dance!

If memory serves, back in 1995 right after the Republicans took over Congress, a pre-Fox News Dennis Miller looked at footage of a sea of grumpy white men, sitting on their hands during a Bill Clinton State of the Union address, and remarked: It’s the elders from Footloose! Let. The. Kids. Dance! This week James Inhofe, who was swept into the Senate with that GOP takeover, has proven Miller prescient. The Hill reports that Inhofe is single-handedly blocking a Senate resolution to allow the planned Live Earth concert event from performing on the U.S. Capitol grounds.

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Bill Scher

Funding Failure Is Not An Option

President Bush, desperately trying to tamp down the rising tide of public pressure against the war, is seeking to misframe the Iraq bill he will soon veto. Realizing he can no longer win the argument about the war itself, he is maligning the bill’s backers as playing politics and risking the safety of our troops. In a speech just delivered, Bush said: Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements [and] start providing vital funds for our troops … If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible. This makes the eventual bill sound like it will cut off funds for troops already in the field, which it simply does not.

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Bill Scher

Funding Failure Is Not An Option

President Bush, desperately trying to tamp down the rising tide of public pressure against the war, is seeking to misframe the Iraq bill he will soon veto. Realizing he can no longer win the argument about the war itself, he is maligning the bill’s backers as playing politics and risking the safety of our troops. In a speech just delivered, Bush said: Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements [and] start providing vital funds for our troops … If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible. This makes the eventual bill sound like it will cut off funds for troops already in the field, which it simply does not.

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Bill Scher

Funding Failure Is Not An Option

President Bush, desperately trying to tamp down the rising tide of public pressure against the war, is seeking to misframe the Iraq bill he will soon veto. Realizing he can no longer win the argument about the war itself, he is maligning the bill’s backers as playing politics and risking the safety of our troops. In a speech just delivered, Bush said: Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements [and] start providing vital funds for our troops … If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible. This makes the eventual bill sound like it will cut off funds for troops already in the field, which it simply does not.

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Bill Scher

Blogger Analysis of Prez Health Care Forum

Some reactions to Saturday’s presidential candidate forum on health care from around the blogosphere. Taylor Marsh and Eteraz.org say Sen. Hillary Clinton had the strongest presentation, while Nevada Today’s Hugh Jackson (link via Nevada Caucus 2008) talks up former Senator John Edwards and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Critical Condition ranks all the candidates with Sen. Chris Dodd heading the list. Liberal Values offers an overarching take from the perspective of a doctor running a private practice.

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Bill Scher

A Healthy Health Care Debate

The following analysis of Saturday’s presidential candidate forum on health care is excerpted from the full essay written by Prof. Jacob S. Hacker of Yale University. Hacker is the author of “The Great Risk Shift,” as well as the “Health Care for America” proposal recently released as part of the Economic Policy Institute’s Agenda for Shared Prosperity. In a piece written before the debate, Campaign for America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey laid out five key questions that all candidates should be required to answer: 1. Will the candidate’s plan really cover everyone —with a decent guaranteed level of coverage—at an affordable cost? 2. Does the candidate offer a public plan, like Medicare, that has a predictable, guaranteed level of benefits that “cannot be taken away?” 3.

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Bill Scher

The Health Care Questions I Still Have

After watching Saturday’s presidential candidate forum on health care, and judging the candidates using Roger Hickey’s five health care questions, I’m left with key questions for each Oval Office aspirant. To former Sen. John Edwards: your plan sets up competition between private insurers and a new “Medicare-style” government plans for everyone under 65. You argue that with competition, we will see if Americans want public or private plans. But what will you do to ensure the plans compete on a level playing field? To Sen. Hillary Clinton: You accurately identified the problem with private insurers, how they make a profit by either trying to “avoid insuring you” or “try[ing] to avoid paying for the health care you receive.” But the 1993 health care plan you supported solely relied on private insurers to deliver health care coverage.

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Roger Hickey

Universal Care: Getting The Right Mix

At Saturday’s health care forum for presidential candidates, John Edwards was bold, detailed and specific—but didn’t diagnose the problem. Barack Obama was vague—but stressed that no president can do it without the people. Dennis Kucinich diagnosed the problem, and pushed immediate transformation. Hillary Clinton, surprisingly, forcefully adopted Kucinich’s diagnosis (before he spoke). Put them all together—in the right way—and you have a winning health care plan. I was at the forum in Las Vegas where the Center for American Progress and SEIU made a real contribution to the political debate by getting seven Democratic candidates together to discuss health care.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Gravel Proposes A Health Voucher Plan

Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel proposed a single-payer system of sorts, but under his system each American would get a health care voucher that they would use to purchase their choice of five or six private insurance plans. “Everyone gets the same product. If you want more than the product you’ve got, you pay for it,” he said.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Kucinich: Health Care “A Human Right”

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich used the forum to continue his vigorous pitch for a single-payer health care system, arguing that the plans of the other major candidates were too dependent on insurance companies and others with a profit motive that was antithetical to the notion of universal, nondiscriminatory care. To critics who raise the fear that a totally government-run system would end up rationing care to control costs, Kucinich said that insurance companies already ration care. He also scoffed at the argument that private-sector competition would reduce costs, saying that the opposite has been the case in health care. The bottom line, Kucinich said during the close of his presentation, is that “health care is a right, not a privilege. It is a right.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Dodd: “Everyone Participates, Everyone Benefits”

Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd said his plan was based on four principles: universality (“everyone participates, everyone benefits,” prevention, extend Medicaid to more families, and improving the use of technology. He referenced his leadership in getting the Family Medical Leave Act written into the law as proof of his commitment to working families and to the health care issue. (He also mentioned his two young children and his status as perhaps the only lawmaker in Congress who “gets mail from the AARP and from diaper services.”) As did some of the other candidates, Dodd said that all Americans should be able to get the same type of health care plan as members of Congress.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Clinton: Battle-Scarred But In The Health-Care Fight

A passionate New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton recalled the “battle scars” from the days when she tried to launch a detailed health plan when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, into what proved to be an unforgiving political environment. In her opening statement, unlike Edwards, she chose to stick to general principles rather than details, but in response to questions she said she would support a plan that would require employers who do not purchase private health insurance for their employees to pay into a pool for a Medicare-for-all-type plan. She was particularly critical of insurance companies, promising to introduce a bill in this session of Congress that would eliminate barriers that prevent insured people from getting the care to which they are entitled.

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Bill Scher

Dems Debate Health Care

The health care goals and plans of seven presidential candidates, all Democrats, are being laid side by side for the first time Saturday as the Center for American Progress and Service Employees International Union host the “New Leadership On Health Care” presidential forum in Las Vegas. (You can comment on the debate here.) Former senator John Edwards kicked off the presidential forum by laying out his previously announced health care plan. He stressed that his plan “covers all Americans” through “shared responsibilities.” He noted that “employers are required to either cover their employees or to pay into a fund” that will provide coverage. And regarding our government’s role, Edwards said: Government plays an important role, [setting] up health care markets all across America.

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