Bill Scher

Bush’s Medicare Drug Program. It Ain’t Working.

Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, it’s working — Current TV ad from Big Pharma [Rep. Henry] Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, laid out his health oversight priorities for the year at a Feb. 9 hearing, drawing a bull’s-eye on Medicare’s Part D drug benefit and the drugmakers and distributors in the program. … Citing a lack of transparency by drugmakers, pharmacies and insurers, Waxman said the current system “calls out for more fraud, and a harder job for those who are trying to protect the taxpayers.” … Witnesses at the Feb. 9 hearing said the government has failed to carefully monitor the cost of its drug programs, Part D in particular. “Many government programs do not know the prices they pay for drugs,” said Gerard Anderson, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University.

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Bill Scher

Blog Reaction to Edwards Health Care Plan

Lots of blogger takes on presidential hopeful John Edwards new health care plan, which in part draws on Health Care For America. Tapped’s Ezra Klein writes: “it has widened the field of the debate, and unless the other candidates want to explain why they lack the boldness of Edwards’ plan, they’ll have to offer similarly comprehensive proposals. What they will have to match is full community rating, a public insurance option, total universality, scaleability towards more public involvement, and a willingness to propose something comprehensive enough to require revenue increases to fund. In other words: The goalposts have been moved.

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Bill Scher

Global Warming Deniers Are Funny

In the wake of the world’s leading authority on climate change definitively concluding that global warming is happening and caused by humans, professional global warming deniers are flailing, and it’s hilarious to watch. Over at TomPaine.com, Clean Air Watch’s Frank O’Donnell finds that Sen. James Inhofe, the “Senate’s resident crackpot on global warming finally seems to have—well, cracked up,” after witnessing a bizarre exchange he had on CNN last week. Today’s amusement comes from LA Times columnist Jonah Goldberg. Not being as unbalanced as Sen. Inhofe, he won’t quite say global warming isn’t a problem. All he’ll say is fighting it will cost money. So he tries to argue the best strategy for now is to wait: Frankly, I don’t think the trade-off is worth it — yet.

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Bill Scher

House Inches Toward Senate on Biz Tax Breaks

Trying to break a House-Senate stalemate over competing minimum wage bills, Rep. Charlie Rangel is planning on moving a bill with $1 billion in business tax breaks, separate from the minimum wage bill, according to CQ Today. That’s much smaller than the $8.3 billion handout in the Senate minimum wage bill. And, keeping the bills separate would at least symbolically keep the minimum wage bill clean — re-establishing a precedent that wage raises for the working class do not need to be directly tied to favors for the business class. This doesn’t immediately resolve the dispute, but it does appear we’re moving in the direction of a compromise.

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Bill Scher

The Universal Health Care Debate Is Over

If the head of Wal-Mart and the head of Wal-Mart Watch agree we need universal health care, then we need universal health care. QED. McClatchy Newspapers has the story: A group of businesses and labor unions – led by Wal-Mart and one of the retailer’s staunchest critics – Wednesday called for universal health care for all Americans by 2012. The group, known as Better Health Care Together, is the latest coalition of with varying agendas and constituencies to call for fundamental changes in America’s health care system since Democrats took control of Congress. … Coalition members also include the unlikely pair of Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union that represents nearly one million janitors nationwide.

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Bill Scher

Bloggingheads.tv

Earlier today, Bloggingheads.tv posted a diavlog between Eric Alterman and myself. Among other topics, we discussed how the Senate should deal with the conservative minority seeking to thwart priorities shared by Campaign for America’s Future. You can jump to that portion of the conversation here.

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Bill Scher

Edwards Gives Nod Toward “Health Care For America”

Yesterday, presidential hopeful John Edwards announced a health care plan titled, Universal Health Care Through Shared Responsibility. The New Republic reports today that a core feature of the plan is “the essential idea behind another health care reform plan that has been quietly generating a great deal of enthusiasm among reformers–a plan composed by Yale University political scientist … Jacob Hacker.” That plan is Health Care for America, which Campaign for America’s Future has been promoting debate around. Today, Jacob Hacker and Roger Hickey released statements praising the basic outline of the proposal. Hickey noted this will significantly move the debate, while Hacker laid out areas for Edwards and other candidates to strengthen. Here’s Roger Hickey: The health care plan put forward by Sen.

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Bill Scher

Bush Flinches on Big Oil Subsidies

CQ Today notes that on subsidies to Big Oil, the Bush budget proposal actually inches towards the recently passed House bill, which takes back $14 billion in giveaways and invests it in renewable energy. CQ reports: In a nod to Democrats seeking to end subsidies for the oil industry, the administration also proposed repealing provisions in the 2005 energy law (PL 109-58) that expanded royalty relief for deep-water oil and gas operations. The House passed a bill (HR 6) last month that would go further. That’s a sign of weakness on the part of the White House, a sign that they don’t relish the propsect of vetoing a tough bill, and would prefer a watered down version they can stomach. This is notable because Senate leaders have yet to say what they will do with the House bill: push it as is, or draft a less ambitious version.

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Bill Scher

Bush Budget: Last Gasp of Conservative Failure

When President released his budget today, it once again showed the limits of the conservative message. Like many conservative leaders, Bush knows he can’t rally the public by pledging to deny funds for goals deemed important by the voters, like health care, energy independence and education. That’s why in every State of the Union, Bush talks a liberal game when it comes to domestic priorities. But then comes the obligation to propose a budget, and he has no choice but to supplant the phony compassionate rhetoric with cruel conservative numbers. In our State of the Union — By The Numbers, we noted past empty pledges to make health care, clean energy and education more affordable and accessible. And once again, we have a Bush budget that fails to adequately fund any of Bush’s own stated priorities.

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Bill Scher

Krugman, on Crippling Our Civil Service

Today, NY Times columnist Paul Krugman picks up on my earlier post, about how President Bush is following a 2001 Heritage Foundation white paper dictating how to undermine our civil service, ensuring our government doesn’t work for us. The piece is behind the Times Select firewall, but here’s an excerpt: The blueprint for Bush-era governance was laid out in a January 2001 manifesto from the Heritage Foundation, titled ”Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.” The manifesto’s message, in brief, was that the professional civil service should be regarded as the enemy of the new administration’s conservative agenda. And there’s no question that Heritage’s thinking reflected that of many people on the Bush team. … The ostensible reason for politicizing and privatizing was to promote the conservative ideal of smaller, more efficient government.

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Bill Scher

Bush Swings Medicare Ax

President Bush’s budget comes out next week, and today’s NY Times headline says he wants “Big Medicare and Medicaid Saving”. That means big cuts. Cuts where? Less money for middle-class kids in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. (Here, the NYT uses White House-speak: “sharpen its focus on low-income families.”) Less money for middle-class seniors. (“The president’s budget would require more people to pay … higher premiums.”) Less money for doctors and hospitals, while private HMOs make out just fine. The NYT reports that “many Democrats in Congress want to [curb payments to private HMOs], because, they maintain, Medicare overpays the plans, which they see as a step toward privatizing the program.” Though economist Dean Baker blogs: “that is not just a claim of the Democrats.

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Bill Scher

PA Moves Toward Cleaner Energy

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell sought to fill the leadership vacuum on energy independence, left by the Bush White House. Rendell announced a plan for a $850M Energy Independence Fund, which would create financial incentives for citizens to install solar power and trade-in inefficient appliances. Further, he proposed new utility rates that would encourage people to use less electricity. Pittsburgh’s Citizen Power, advocates for clean energy, held off from embracing the plan just yet, accurately noting the devil’s in the details, which have not been released. But clearly, the grassroots pressure for energy independence, steadfastly ignored by Bush, is being felt by some states. Our Apollo Alliance is giving states the tools to take the lead. Check out our State Leadership For a New Energy Future’s Four-Point Initiative.

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Bill Scher

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em … Bribe ‘Em And Brainwash Their Kids

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the “world’s leading authority” on the issue with scientists from 113 nations, was released this morning. And as the NY Times reports, it’s “the first time the group asserted with near certainty — more than 90 percent confidence — that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities were the main drivers of [global] warming since 1950.” How is the conservative global warming denial community responding? We learn from The Guardian (via Think Progress) that the ExxonMobil-backed American Enterprise Institute is offering $10,000 to scientists and economists who submit articles attacking the report — a report wholly based on peer reviewed science.

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Bill Scher

State of Delusion

Check out our new video, truth-squadding Bush’s State of the Union address: Also, if you missed it earlier, here’s Robert Borosage’s takedown of Bush’s speech, and here’s where you can write your local newspapers and get the facts out about the real state of our union.

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Bill Scher

Min Wage (With Business Tax Breaks) Clears Senate

Late today, the Senate passed its version of a minimum wage increase 94-3. Unlike the House bill, the Senate version includes tax giveaways to business, and it’s unclear what happens next. (Who are the three winners of the Deepest Hatred of Workers Award? Bob Geiger reports: Sens. Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint.) Both Congressional Quarterly and CongressDaily AM reported today that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not send the bill to the House right away, because it would get blocked procedurely by members insisting on a clean bill. Instead, Reid will informally discuss the next steps with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and try to work out an agreement.

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Bill Scher

Laws, Shmaws

To insist on integrity in American business we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account. Some might call this a good record. I call it a good start. — President George W. Bush, State of the Union 2003 President Bush cautioned against overregulation of corporate behavior, likely fueling efforts by business to scale back post-Enron rules. — Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, 1/31/07 Surprise, surprise, when the public attention has shifted elsewhere, Dubya goes back on his word. But how can he change the laws to favor irresponsible corporations, now that conservatives no longer control Congress? Laws, shmaws! Bush said today: “We don’t need to change the law.

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Bill Scher

Big Pharma Lobbies Up

When it comes to health care, will the new Congress, unlike the previous conservative Congress, side with the public interest over the special interest? The pharmaceutical giants are worried the answer is yes. So they’re hooking up with Democratic lobbyists in hopes of keeping Congress in their corner. Bloomberg has the story: Pharmaceutical companies … are among the companies scrambling to hire lobbyists with Democratic ties as they prepare for congressional investigative hearings next week. Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, has hired the Glover Park Group, whose partners include Joe Lockhart, a former spokesman for President Bill Clinton, and Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

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Bill Scher

Blogger Call with Sen. Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held a conference call with bloggers earlier this afternoon. I asked him where the minimum wage bill will go after this week’s expected approval of a version including business tax breaks. Yesterday’s NY Times said that the Senate bill either will go to a House-Senate conference, where it can be reconciled with the House bill, clean of tax favors. Or, the House can arbitrarily strip out the tax favors and send a clean bill back to the Senate. Reid reiterated what his spokesperson said to the NY Times: that he believes he can’t get a clean bill past a conservative filibuster, and would prefer a House-Senate conference. He also conceded that the House has the power to “blue slip” and block the Senate bill, on the grounds that tax measures can’t originate in the Senate.

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Bill Scher

Crippling Our Civil Service

Bill Scher blogs for Campaign for America’s Future. Today’s NY Times reports that Bush issued a new executive order intended to undermine our civil service: …each [government] agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities. This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

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Bill Scher

Crippling Our Civil Service

Today’s NY Times reports that Bush issued a new executive order intended to undermine our civil service: …each [government] agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities. This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

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