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Republican Governors Buck Party Tenents To Seek Expanded Medicaid

2015 July 31
by chief

From National Memo.GaryHerbert_Utah-668x501

ATLANTA — Republican governors are pressing forward to expand Medicaid even after being stymied by lawmakers in their own party.

As the Obama administration vows to help develop plans that will pass muster with conservatives, the governors of Utah and Wyoming said they still want the health care program for the poor broadened. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who declined to act in 2013, may seek a federal waiver to make insurance available to more residents. Louisiana’s Republican legislature also opened a legal door.

Their views challenge party orthodoxy, even if some governors are crafting their own proposals and denying that what they’re doing is expanding Medicaid. Twenty states have refused the expansion under President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care overhaul because of cost and ideological opposition. The resistance is easing as states see a chance to recoup tax dollars and help hospitals get paid for charity care.

“This is about your citizens’ financial and health security, and it’s also about the economic health of your states,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, U.S. secretary of health and human services, said Saturday at a National Governors Association meeting in West Virginia. “We want to help you design a system.”

This month, Alaska became the 30th state to expand, including 10 with Republican governors, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-research group in Menlo Park, California. Gov. Bill Walker, a first-term independent, used his authority under state law to accept the expansion unless the legislature returns by September 1 and votes it down.

“I did it unilaterally because it was the right thing to do,” Walker said in an interview.

Governors in Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming lack the ability to act alone, and their Republican-led legislatures declined to adopt expansion this year.

Even so, Utah’s Gary Herbert plans to meet with legislative leaders this week and said he hopes to call a special session in September to pass what he’s calling an alternative to Medicaid expansion.

Herbert’s program also would require a waiver from Medicaid officials for elements designed to appeal to Republicans, such as having applicants get job training.

“I’m optimistic,” Herbert said in an interview. “I think our approach is better than traditional government-assistance Medicaid.”

In Georgia, lawmakers last year blocked the governor from expanding Medicaid without their approval. A provision tucked into this year’s budget, though, allows the state to pursue a waiver.

Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead called his expansion effort “a colossal failure.” Still, he hopes to bring it back in February’s budget session or in 2017.

“It’s going to take probably some time and continued work by all of us to eventually get to that point,” Mead said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, said he doesn’t know whether he’ll try next year after failing in February.

While Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate, has been an adamant opponent, his state still could move, said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University.

Jindal leaves office at year’s end, and Republicans running to replace him have all expressed support for expansion in some form, she said. The legislature has passed a provision requiring hospitals to pay the state’s share of expansion.

“I don’t think we are going to see a super-large number of states moving forward,” Alker said. “But it is a steady drumbeat.”

Photo: Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R-Utah) talks about his state’s struggles with the Medicaid program, February 28, 2011. Medill DC via Flickr


Posted by Gypsy Chief

Poem: The Deacon’s Masterpiece, or, The Wonderful One-hoss Shay

2015 July 29
by chief

Posted here on behalf of a friend who has done numerous favors

By Oliver Wendall Holmes (1809-1894)

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it — ah, but stay,
I’ll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits, —
Have you ever heard of that, I say?

Seventeen hundred and fifty-five.
Georgius Secundus was then alive, —
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down,
And Braddock’s army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.

Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always somewhere a weakest spot, —
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace, — lurking still,
Find it somewhere you must and will, —
Above or below, or within or without, —
And that’s the reason, beyond a doubt,
A chaise breaks down, but doesn’t wear out.

But the Deacon swore (as Deacons do,
With an “I dew vum,” or an “I tell yeou”)
He would build one shay to beat the taown
’N’ the keounty ’n’ all the kentry raoun’;
It should be so built that it couldn’ break daown:
“Fur,” said the Deacon, “’tis mighty plain
Thut the weakes’ place mus’ stan’ the strain;
’N’ the way t’ fix it, uz I maintain,
    Is only jest
T’ make that place uz strong uz the rest.”

So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That couldn’t be split nor bent nor broke, —
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thills;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees,
The panels of white-wood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;
The hubs of logs from the “Settler’s ellum,” —
Last of its timber, — they couldn’t sell ’em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he “put her through.”
“There!” said the Deacon, “naow she’ll dew!”

Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren — where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED; — it came and found
The Deacon’s masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten; —
“Hahnsum kerridge” they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came; —
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then come fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.

Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundreth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there’s nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it. — You’re welcome. — No extra charge.)

FIRST OF NOVEMBER, — the Earthquake-day, —
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local, as one may say.
There couldn’t be, — for the Deacon’s art
Had made it so like in every part
That there wasn’t a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thills,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whipple-tree neither less nor more,
And the back crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!

First of November, ’Fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
“Huddup!” said the parson. — Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday’s text, —
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the — Moses — was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet’n’-house on the hill.
First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill, —
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet’n-house clock, —
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you’re not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once, —
All at once, and nothing first, —
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That’s all I say.

Joe Biden For President?

2015 July 29
by chief

From National Memo.


President Obama claimed earlier this week that if he were able to run for a third term, he’s pretty sure he would win. But since that can’t happen, who is best fit to continue his run of accomplishments as president?

Enter Joe Biden.

Vice presidents may have the experience and standing that gives them ideal placement to assume the Oval Office – but in the last two decades VPs have not enjoyed much popularity or had much success as candidates.

Joe Biden could change that.

Not only does he have undeniable political experience, but Biden has made a dent in the popular consciousness like few pols have: He’s worshiped by Amy Poehler’s Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope, his is the face that launched a thousand memes, and he’s even been an in-demand prom date for certain adoring high-school fans. Now he’s also the focus of a passionate grassroots movement interested in getting him to run.

Unlike Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has groundswell support but emphatically told her admirers “hell no,” Biden has neither confirmed nor denied he’s running for president, though he did say he’d make up his mind by August 1. That’s this Saturday.

Biden has run for president twice before, and lost badly both times. That’s likely to have made him skittish about running again. Yet, as the Wall Street Journal reported, shortly before he passed away in May, Biden’s son Beau had urged his father to run.

Will Pierce, a 27-year-old Army reservist, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, and former Obama for America volunteer, started Draft Biden 2016 earlier this year. He, along with a few other ex-Obama campaigners, realized that Biden could be a great candidate, and that other Democrats in the race—Hillary Clinton especially—inspired such little enthusiasm in them.

Despite being in the odd situation of supporting a candidate who’s not yet in the race and having little fundraising money, the upstart PAC – which operates out of an office in Chicago – has chapters in 20 states and paid directors in Iowa and New Hampshire.

it recently released a video under the slogan “Ridin’ with Biden” to garner signatures.

“Why not Biden?” opens the ad, as a diverse cast expounds on their reasons for loving the VP.

Charm is certainly a part of it, but it’s also his record of successfully leveraging that charm, as Draft Biden 2016 explains on its petition page:

As one of the calming forces and charming presences in the White House, Vice President Joe Biden has been front and center in playing a significant role in many of the important successful political events of the past few years.

Take for example his ability to work out a last minute deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2013, in which he served as a mediator between the White House and Congress. He took a situation that seemed completely hopeless at times and helped to solve it.

Or, consider his tireless efforts to try and address the ever-important gun violence issue in the United States. Unlike many politicians who are championing decisions that are clearly designed to appeal to the emotions of their constituents, Joe Biden has sought to tackle the issue from seemingly every angle, such as opening up amicable dialogue with the National Rifle Association. Did we mention that he’s in charge of the task force designed to find a gun solution?

At a time in which many feel that Washington is a place riddled with inaction and a political system that is broken, Vice President Biden has exhibited a never-wavering optimism and enthusiasm for progression that makes him strive to deliver tangible change.

“Here’s a man who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee,” Pierce said to NPR. “I look at someone who is a statesman. He’s always someone who puts his country ahead of himself, and that’s what we need right now.”

A couple of politicians in Iowa have already endorsed the vice president, because, they claim, he’s got both charm and credibility. “I think he does a great job with that style. When he talks to you, he just makes you feel like he’s talking to you,” Democratic Iowa state Representative Jim Lykam told National Journal.

Biden’s charisma cuts both ways. Clinton and Biden have dramatically different temperaments: He’s seen as genuine and spontaneous, while she can come across as calculating, methodical, and carefully scripted. But while his off-the-cuff remarks might be endearing, sometimes they can be a liability.

Polls show that Biden is undoubtedly popular, and he would likely take votes from Clinton in the primaries. Yet when pollsters pit him against Republicans, as David Weigel explains in the Washington Post, he fares consistently worse than Clinton, indicating that he may not be a viable Democratic candidate to win the White House in 2016.

As of this writing, Draft Biden has almost 153,000 signatures. Pierce told Up With Steve Kornacki over the weekend that if Biden chooses to run, he expects a windfall of money from supporters. Already one prominent Democratic donor, Dr. Howie Mandel, who advised Biden on health care issues and served on the Obama campaign’s Health Policy Advisory Committee, has joined the Draft Biden team.

And if Biden decides not to run? Draft Biden spokesperson Sarah Ford told The National Memo that they’re so focused on building the necessary infrastructure to support him that “we really don’t know” what they’ll do if he says he’s not up for it. “We haven’t thought past [this Saturday].”

Photo: How can you not be Ridin’ with Biden when Joe is just this cool? Still via the shop at Draft Biden 2016.


Posted by Gypsy Chief

Klingenschmitt: Remove Your Sons From The Boy Scouts Before They Are Abused By Gay Child Molesters

2015 July 29

From Right Wing Watch.

Today, [July 27] the Boy Scouts National Executive Board is expected to lift the organization's ban on gay scout leaders and Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is not happy about it, warning parents on his "Pray In Jesus Name" program today to remove their sons from the organization before they are molested.

"If your boy is in one of those organizations, you need to get the out of there," Klingenschmitt said, "because what they're going to do is promote homosexual men to mentoring and camping with your boys in the woods and it will lead to child abuse."

He went on to cite Matthew 18:6 to declared that it would be better for these gay child molesters to be tossed into the sea and drowned than to be allowed to "cause a child to sin," praying that God will "rescue the Boy Scouts organization from this political correctness that has openly forced men who are guilty of all kinds, who are openly admitting that they are engaged in all kinds of sodomy."

The Boy Scouts are "thumbing their nose at God," Klingenschmitt warned, as he begged God's forgiveness because the organization is opening the door to "the abusers and the molesters who will take advantage of this and will cause harm to innocent children."


Posted by Gypsy Chief

Conspiracy theories about Skeptical Science

2015 July 28
by chief

From Skeptical Science.


Conspiratorial thinking on denialist blogs surged in response to the stolen climategate emails in 2009 and has actually increased in subsequent years (despite the fact that mainstream attention in the stolen emails has waned). Over the years, a number of conspiracy theories have also sprung up about Skeptical Science. One excitable conspiracy theory endorsed by a Watts Up With That moderator argues that:

“…a well known billionaire is funding the pseudo science blog sceptical science. That billionaire is a multiple convicted felon who worked willingly for the Nazis in WWII. How is that not headline news?”

I often quote this comment in public talks as evidence of the powerful potential of volunteers and social media:

“I worked out recently it’s impossible for one man to turn out a constantly updating and slick as grease website ‘in his spare time’. I even went as far as to surmise he may just be a front for the IPCC or Globe International as it would need a team of professionals to create such a site and probably a few PR experts at the head.”

When Lewandowsky published his Moon Landing paper, the conspiracy theorizing exploded, which is comprehensively (and entertainingly) documented in the recently published paper Recurrent Fury. The scope of the conspiracies grew to the point where they began to include Skeptical Science. For example, lumping together Skeptical Science and UWA, Anthony Watts claimed:

“That’s quite a little activist organization they have running out of the University of [W]estern Australia. I wonder if UWA officials realize the extent that UWA has become a base for this global climate activism operation and if they condone it?”

This conspiracy theory was endorsed by Judith Curry:

“SkepticalScience seems to becoming the ringleader for conspiratorial activities by the green climate bloggers.”

Conspiracies about the 97% consensus

Since our study finding a 97% consensus among climate papers was published, there have been many conspiratorial accusations levelled at our research. Our favourite conspiracy theory by far is Christopher Monckton’s suggestion that we created the journal Environmental Research Letters (this happens at the 2:40 mark). Incidentally, the journal began in 2006, one year before I started Skeptical Science. Apparently, I think long-term.

Latest conspiratorial accusations from Lubos Motl

The latest conspiratorial accusation levelled against Skeptical Science comes from Lubos Motl, who accuses me of identity theft. I recently posted my response on Facebook:

A number of peer-reviewed studies have observed a link between climate science denial and conspiratorial thinking. The most prominent examples are the conspiracy theories extrapolated from quote-mined excerpts of stolen private correspondance of climate scientists, in the episode known as climategate. A similar conspiratorial episode spun from quote-mined stolen private correspondence was published by Lubos Motl this week, and has been uncritically propagated by other online commenters.

The stolen private correspondence from 2011 involved Skeptical Science team members developing comment threads (both supporting and rejecting climate science) for use in a psychology experiment. In the private forum (only), I posted a few comments under the pseudonym Lubos_Motl (to signify that the comments were taking a contrarian stance). The username was changed to an anonymous name for the experiment. In other words, it was not used in the experiment and was never used outside of the private Skeptical Science forum. 

Consequently, Motl’s accusations of identity theft are demonstrably false. Further, I find it extraordinary that Motl publicly posts comments about me being hanged, and allows public comments on his blog that approve of torturing and murdering me. I find it equally extraordinary that such misleading and venomous posts are uncritically endorsed by third parties such as Richard Tol, Anthony Watts and Roger Pielke Jr.

Motl takes private correspondence and spins it into an elaborate scheme of identity theft, with accusations of nefarious intent and criminal activity. To demonstrate the ease with which conspiracy theories propagate throughout denialist blogs, Motl’s conspiratorial accusations were uncritically endorsed by Anthony Watts, Richard Tol and Roger Pielke Jr.

Practical consequences of conspiratorial thinking

The conspiratorial nature of climate science deniers has practical, societal consequences that we explore in week 6 of our online course, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. A number of studies have found that presenting scientific evidence to people whose worldview is threatened by that evidence can actually backfire. This is known as the Worldview Backfire Effect (as I explain in the lecture coincidentally titled Worldview Backfire Effect). Active distrust in science, or conspiratorial thinking, is one of the drivers of this backfire effect.

The practical consequence of this research is that it is more effective to concentrate climate communication efforts on the large, undecided majority who are open to scientific evidence. It is ineffective, or even counter-effective, trying to present evidence to those who deny climate science. I explore this further in the week 6 video Inoculation Theory, which explores scientific research in how to reduce the influence of misinformation by exposing people to weak forms of misinformation: 

To make sense of the conspiracy theories promoted by climate science deniers, it’s important to understand the scientific research investigating the link between science denial and conspiratorial thinking. This research should inform how we approach engagement with those who deny the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.


Posted by Gypsy Chief

Creative Commons License The Skeptical Science website by Skeptical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Toon of the Week

2015 July 27
by chief

Courtesy of I Heart Climate Scientists.



Posted by Gypsy Chief

Drillers Fracking at Much Shallower Depths Than Widely Believed

2015 July 26
by chief

From InsideClimate News.

One in six wells were fracked less than one mile below the surface, at the same depth of known water sources, according to a new study.

Written by Zahra Hirji. Published July 24, 2015.

Anti-fracking rally in Colorado/Image via desrowvisuals

Anti-fracking rally in Colorado/Image via desrowvisuals

The nation’s first survey of fracking well depths shows shallow fracking is more widespread than previously thought, occurring at 16 percent of publicly recorded sites in 27 states, posing a potential threat to underground sources of drinking water.

Stanford University scientist Robert Jackson and his colleagues reviewed about 44,000 wells and found that nearly 7,000 of the sites were fracked less than a mile below the surface, according to research published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“You’ll hear from industry all the time that fracking only occurs a mile or two underground…it’s something that they push really hard,” said Mark Williams, a University of Colorado geography professor who was not involved with the study.

That’s because as concern has grown about fracking’s potential threat to well water in recent years, industry has sought to reassure the public by saying that fracking occurs at depths far below the water table. Consequently, migration of fracking fluid or methane from a frack zone more than a mile underground (deeper than 5,000 feet) to a shallow aquifer (around 1,000 feet) would be nearly impossible, industry contends.

While most fracking is occurring at those depths, said Williams, this paper reveals a “surprising” number of shallow wells “and that’s a concern.”

“Rob Jackson’s study is really the first study to shed light on shallow wells” and their associated risk to groundwater, said Zacariah Hildenbrand, a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Arlington. He’s also the founder of the environmental consulting firm Inform Environmental, LLC.

Using well data from the website FracFocus spanning 2008-13, the researchers found well depths ranged nationwide from deeper than 3 miles to as shallow as 100 feet. Of the 27 states reviewed, 12 had recorded at least 50 shallow wells, defined as those drilled less than a mile deep. The three top states for shallow wells include Texas with 2,872 wells, Arkansas with 1,224 and California with 804.

Jackson told InsideClimate News the analysis “definitely” underestimates the practice because of limited reporting to FracFocus, an industry-backed database where companies post drilling information. For most states, company reporting to the online registry is voluntary.

Not all shallow wells pose the same threat to groundwater. The “riskiest” fracked wells are both shallow and use high levels of water—1 million gallons or more, said Jackson. Studies have shown that when these high-pressure wells fracture the bedrock, the cracks can extend as much as 2,000 feet upward. This provides an opportunity for the chemical-laced water used in fracking to migrate to the shallower depths of the water table. And the smaller the gap between drilling and surface water, the greater the chance of interaction, said Jackson.

The researchers identified about 2,000 of these shallow, high-volume fracking wells nationwide. “The state that sticks out is Arkansas,” said Jackson. Arkansas has 1,215 of these wells, representing about 99 percent of the state’s publicly reported shallow wells. Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas also have this type of shallow well—but to a lesser extent.

Earlier this year a highly anticipated study on the issue conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency briefly mentioned pockets of shallow fracking operations such as those in the New Albany Shale formation that stretches across Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky––as well as in Michigan’s Antrim Shale formation. These four states weren’t accurately represented in Jackson’s study because few companies operating there have reported drilling information to FracFocus.

The EPA investigation’s main––and most controversial––finding was the discovery of select cases of fracking-related water contamination and the agency’s conclusion that this isn’t a widespread problem.

Jackson and his team did not look at whether shallow fracking is contaminating groundwater. However, they identified previous studies highlighting examples of where fracking had occurred within the same zone as known aquifers. A 2014 report by the California Council on Science and Technology documented hundreds of shallow wells that were fracked into underground sources of drinking water. Meanwhile, research in Pavillion, Wyo., revealed wells with shallow depths between 699 and 1,060 feet in an area where the water wells extended down to at least 750 feet.

The fact that fracking is happening at the same depths of known drinking water sources “is very, very scary,” said Hildenbrand.

Additionally, Jackson’s study reviewed state regulations current through 2014 across the U.S. and found that in most cases, including Arkansas, California and Wyoming, regulators required no extra safeguards for shallow fracking operations.

California has updated its groundwater monitoring rules since then. While these new regulations still don’t target shallow wells specifically, they are more comprehensive, said Jackson.

Larry Bengal, director of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, wrote InsideClimate News in an email: “Arkansas has sufficient regulations protective of groundwater during hydraulic fracturing operations.”

Even the two states identified with extra rules—Colorado and Texas—could be more protective, said Jackson. In Texas, operators have to use a different type of casing on wells, and that casing must undergo extra testing. In Colorado, operators are required to conduct extra environmental and engineering assessments, and possibly limit well stimulation.

This study addresses that issue head-on with “common-sense” recommendations, said Hildenbrand. For example, the authors suggest that states require companies to do pre- and post-water monitoring at water wells surrounding shallow drilling; they also call for those same operators to disclose all the chemicals they use during fracking operations.


Posted by Gypsy Chief

Jeb Bush Keeps Clarifying: He Wants To Replace Medicare

2015 July 26
by chief

From National Memo.


At an event sponsored by Americans for Prosperity on Wednesday night, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said the U.S. government should find a way to “phase out” Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans aged 65+ and some disabled people, and “move to a new system.”

In a back-and-forth with an audience member at a New Hampshire town hall event on Thursday, Bush attempted to clarify his remarks, saying the government needs to “reform our entitlement system,” Politico reports.

“It’s an actuarially unsound health care system,” Bush told the audience member.

“The people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that; but your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefit of this that they believe they’re going to get, or that you think they’re going to get, because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money the system costs is wrong.”

Repeating himself, Bush reiterated a talking point about social spending that some question. “Despite recent evidence that the program’s finances are secure, the former Florida governor suggested that Medicare isn’t solvent,” ThinkProgress reports.

At the event on Wednesday, speaking about Medicare, Bush said, “I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something — because they’re not going to have anything.”

As usual, Jeb Bush means what he originally said. But this point actually does bear repeating, as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones reported this week: Medicare “spending is projected to slow down around 2040, and reaches only 6 percent of GDP by 2090.” Sounds like the entitlement program may be more stable than Bush cares to admit.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush answers a question from the audience during a town hall campaign stop at the VFW Post in Hudson, New Hampshire, July 8, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder


Posted by Gypsy Chief

Elderly woman rips Jeb in townhall: “I paid into that for years – now you want to take it away?”

2015 July 25
by chief

An angry elderly woman at a townhall campaign event in New Hampshire let Jeb Bush know just what she and most Americans think of his plan to phase out Medicare.

Jeb Bush defends Medicare ‘phase out’ comment


“We’re not going to have adequate coverage for our children or our grandchildren without Medicare. I paid into that for years and years just like all these other seniors here and now you want to take it away?” said the woman, who did not identify herself and left before the town hall concluded. “Why are you always attacking the seniors?”

“Well, I’m not,” Bush responded. “Here’s what I said: I said we’re going to have to reform our entitlement system. We have to.”

“It’s not an entitlement,” the woman shot back. “I earned that.”

“It’s an actuarially unsound healthcare system,” said Bush, who said something must be done before the system burdens future generations with $50 billion of debt. “Social Security is an underfunded retirement system; people have put money into it, for sure.

“The people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that; but your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefit of this that they believe they’re going to get or that you think they’re going to get, because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money the system costs is wrong.”

Of course the Republicans would rather scrap Medicare than make some minor adjustments to how its financed. That goes back to Republicans’ pathological fear of raising more revenue for any purpose. Otherwise their Koch donors might be disappointed in their substantial investment in the Republican Party.  

Jeb Bush pushes to ‘phase out’ Medicare

By Steve Benen

It says something important about Republican politics in 2015 when the most mainstream candidate is also the candidate who wants to scrap Medicare altogether.

Regardless, there’s quite a bit wrong with his take on the issue, both as a matter of politics and policy. Let’s start with the former.

The Florida Republican is convinced that “people understand” the need to get rid of Medicare. He’s mistaken. Given the polling from the last several years, what people understand is that Medicare is a popular and successful program, and a pillar of modern American life.

As for the policy, there’s no point in denying that the Medicare system faces long-term fiscal challenges, but to argue, as Jeb Bush does, that Democrats have ignored the conversation is plainly incorrect. On the contrary, while Republicans fight to eliminate the Medicare program, Democrats have had great success in strengthening Medicare finances and extending its fiscal health for many years to come.

The secret, apparently, was passing the Affordable Care Act.

Before “Obamacare” was passed, Medicare was projected to face a serious fiscal shortfall in 2017. As of yesterday, Medicare trustees now believe the system is fiscally secure through 2030.

This shows the extent that Republicans no longer care about typical Americans, its all about pleasing their big donors. That could be one of the factors adding to the GOP base’s embrace of Donald Trump. For all his many glaring shortcomings Trump doesn’t spend his days begging other members of the elite for money.

Jeb Bush raised 88% of his campaign cash from donors who gave the primary maximum of $2,700

Related: We Need To Phase Out Medicare, Says Jeb Bush


Posted by Gypsy Chief

The Big Political Issue Shaking Under Our Feet in the Presidential Election

2015 July 24

The consequences of America’s trade deals are dominating the 2016 race.

From Alternet. By Thomas Hartmann.


The corporate media in America seems astonished that Donald Trump is polling so well among Republican voters and even independents. They shouldn’t be.

Remember Ross Perot? Funny little billionaire with big ears and a squeaky voice? A well-regarded but geriatric running mate? Nobody took him seriously, as he was basically a one-issue candidate, and kept saying “crazy” things like that George H.W. Bush’s people were planning to disrupt his daughter’s wedding and that, as a billionaire, he knew “how to get things done.”

Perot took almost 20 percent of the vote in the 1992 general election. Had he been a more polished candidate with a reasonable running mate, he may well have won the thing with more than a third of the vote.

Perot’s one issue was the same one Donald Trump keeps bringing up, and that the corporate media keeps ignoring: trade.

From the George Washington administration to the Reagan administration, our nation pretty much always had a trade surplus. When Reagan came into office, we were the world’s largest importer of raw materials, and the world’s largest exporter of finished, manufactured goods. We imported iron ore and wool, and exported TVs, cars, socks, shirts and Levi jeans. We were the world’s largest creditor — we even loaned other countries money to buy our manufactured goods, through a slick little device called the Export-Import Bank.

But today, after 35 years of Reaganism and so-called “free trade,” America is now the world’s largest importer of finished, manufactured goods, and the world’s leading exporter of raw materials. We ship iron ore, coal and wood to China, and get it back in the form of computers in nice cardboard boxes.

We are also now the world’s largest debtor nation, net-in-debt to the rest of the world to the tune of $11 trillion — our trade debt — with an annual trade deficit that floats around $500 billion. Unlike our national debt, which is mostly owed to ourselves, our trade debt cannot be paid off by raising taxes on the rich, or inflated away by printing more dollars. It’s real, hard money, that we owe the rest of the world. And it’s killing us, as Public Citizen and other great groups clearly point out.

Ross Perot, it turns out, was right. Every trade deal we’ve entered into in the past 30 years has lost us jobs, industries and good wages. When Reagan came into office the nation’s largest employer was General Motors, and they paid high-school graduates a solid $40-$50/hour (in today’s dollars) with benefits and job security. Today, our nation’s largest employer is Walmart, with an average pay of around $9/hour — and even GM is hiring new workers at $14/hour. As Bernie Sanders points out, our trade policies have been largely responsible for the loss of over 60,000 factories just in the past 15 years alone.

Donald Trump understands this, as does any businessperson who regularly travels between the US and Mexico, China, or any of the other countries to which we’ve outsourced our jobs. And he’s speaking bluntly about it to anybody who will listen.

Sure, his bashing of Mexican immigrants without documentation is stirring up part of the racist Republican base (and, apparently, drawing I-Heart-Donalds from Ted Cruz). And it’s catnip for the media. But listen carefully to the applause lines when Trump speaks; his immigrant-bashing gets nothing compared to his pointing out that our trade policies are “stupid” and “insane” and that he’s going to bring those factories and jobs back home from Mexico and China.

The only other serious candidate running for president right now who points out the failure of our free-trade policies is Bernie Sanders. And while it pains me to put him in the same article as Trump (Sanders is a serious statesman; Trump is a carnival barker), Bernie, like Trump, is drawing huge crowds.

Americans know we’ve been screwed by the free-traders like Reagan, both Bushs and Clinton. Average working people get it instantly. Anybody old enough to remember America before Reagan needs no prompting to go off on a tirade about how dropping our tariffs while other countries like China, Germany and South Korea keep trade barriers in place has killed much of the American industrial base and, with it, the American middle class.

But our corporate media – owned, in large part, by multinational corporations that also benefit handsomely from international trade (particularly with copyright monopolies) – will not discuss it.

Meanwhile, because that $11 trillion trade deficit represents overseas dollars that can only be finally spent here in the US, fully a seventh of all US assets are now foreign-owned. A Chinese state-owned company reportedly just made an offer to buy Micron, the last memory-chip maker of any size left in the United States. We’re selling off our businesses and properties to buy cheap clothes and electronics made in Mexico and Asia.

We need a serious discussion in this country about trade, like we had in 1992 (only now we know how it all turned out).

If the media won’t touch it, and other candidates don’t start seriously engaging in the issue, the Donald may just ride popular disgust (among voters of both parties) to the Republican nomination. Or, as a third-party candidate, pull a Ross Perot and suck up 20 – or 30 percent or more – of the vote in the general election.

Our media and politicians need to stop the denial of the errors of both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 40 years, and seriously discuss and re-evaluate everything from Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, to our membership in the WTO, and our so-called “free trade” deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, and the upcoming SHAFTA (Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement, also known as the TPP).

And anybody who seriously wants to become president of the United States need only repudiate so-called free trade to get a serious hearing from the American working-class electorate.


Posted by Gypsy Chief