Bill Scher

Good For Vets, Good For Medicare

We’re starting to see more slanted media coverage as the battle over prescription drugs heats up. Part of the First 100 Hours Agenda is to give our government the power to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare recipients, using the collective bargaining power to drive costs down. Proponents have noted that our Veterans Administration (VA) already has that negotiating power on behalf of vets, and it works. Why not do the same for Medicare? Big Pharma — the fat cat pharmaceutical industry — can’t easily oppose cheaper prices, so it’s using flimsy arguments claiming that empowering Medicare can’t work. Ominously, in recent days we’ve seen pieces in the NY Times, LA Times and Washington Post echoing Big Pharma’s arguments. In particular, they charge that the Democratic proposal for Medicare won’t work like the VA system.

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Bill Scher

A Clean Bill of Wage?

This Wednesday, the House is expected pass a key piece of the First 100 Hours agenda — a painfully overdue raise in the minimum hourly wage from $5.15 to $7.25. President Bush and the CEO lobby realize its political suicide to oppose the hike — it’s backed by 80% of Americans. Instead, they’re claiming to support it, while insisting that tax giveaways for business must be part of the deal. Bush said last month that a pay raise should be paired with “targeted tax and regulatory relief to help these small businesses stay competitive and to help keep our economy growing,” subtly making the usual disingenuous right-wing complaint that higher wages lead to fewer jobs. Econ blogger Angry Bear shredded that argument yesterday: under Bill Clinton and LBJ, both wages and jobs were up.

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Bill Scher

Making Ethics Reforms Matter

The first order of business in the House last week was to pass new House ethics rules, including new reporting requirements for congressional trips and earmarks. But these new reporting requirements will only be good tools to shine a spotlight on corruption if we know how to use them well. So what are they? Here’s a few quick wonky details. Regarding travel, when Members of Congress are about to take trips paid for by another party, they must get a certification from the sponsor that no lobbyist is involved. The Ethics Committee must review the certification and approve the trip in advance. Within 15 days after the trip, the certification and other materials related to the trip must be given to the Clerk, who then releases it to the public.

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Roger Hickey

Will Social Security Privatization Return? It Depends on the Outcome of the 2006 Elections.

In 2005, President Bush promoted the privatization of Social Security as his top domestic priority. However, once the American people understood what he was proposing, they overwhelmingly rejected the idea. While open to modest reforms that would strengthen its finances, most Americans opposed his proposal to divert Social Security taxes to create private retirement accounts invested in the stock market – effectively slowly phasing out a program that has been hugely successful in helping Americans retire with dignity for over 70 years. They realized that such a scheme would reduce benefits for retirees, increase our national debt, and put Americans’ retirement at risk by placing it at the mercy of a market that goes down as well as up. The Democrats united in opposition and many Republicans also ended up opposing the President’s privatization plan.

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