WHAT THEY ARE SAYING NATIONALLY …
POLITICO: In a major blow to Rep. Shelley Berkley’s Senate campaign, the House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it will formally investigate the Nevada Democrat over allegations she used her office to aid her husband’s medical practice. … Behind the scenes, Democrats were less optimistic. Monday’s announcement will allow the GOP to pummel Berkley as “under investigation” and “ethically challenged” in every TV ad until Election Day, since it will be virtually impossible for the Ethics Committee to complete its work by then, at least based on recent history. “This is going to make it real, real tough,” admitted one top Senate Democratic strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I am not sure she can overcome it.” (John Bresnahan, Shelley Berkley ethics case shakes up Nevada race, Politico, 7/9/12)
NEW YORK TIMES: Representative Shelley Berkley’s bid for a Senate seat in Nevada will most likely remain under an ethics cloud through Election Day after the House ethics committee disclosed Monday that it had appointed a formal investigative panel to look into allegations that she used her office to help her husband’s medical practice. (Eric Lipton, Panel Seated in Ethics Inquiry Into Nevada Lawmaker, New York Times, 7/9/12)
WASHINGTON POST: The House Ethics Committee has voted unanimously to launch a formal investigation into allegations that Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) used her position to benefit the financial interests of her husband — a blow to her candidacy in one of the nation’s most competitive Senate contests. (Ed O’Keefe, Shelley Berkley faces formal ethics investigation, Washington Post, 7/9/12)
USA TODAY: The House Ethics Committee disclosed Monday a unanimous decision to open an investigation into whether Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., used her office to benefit her physician husband’s financial interests. … Jennifer Duffy, an elections analyst for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, expects ethics to remain an issue. “The Berkley campaign seems to believe this is not a big deal, but the Ethics Committee clearly thinks it is,” Duffy said. “It’s very much on the table for this race.” (Susan Davis, Rep. Shelley Berkley will face House ethics panel probe, USA Today, 7/9/11)
HOTLINE: While initial reports will delve once again into Berkley’s interest in the Las Vegas kidney center, Republicans familiar with the case pointed to a letter Berkley wrote to Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., then head of the Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees Medicare, urging him to use caution when revisiting compensation for dialysis providers. The letter, first reported by The New York Times, came the same day that Berkley received a number of campaign contributions from medical companies that deal with kidney dialysis. (Reid Wilson, Ethics Investigation Delivers a Blow to Berkley, National Journal Hotline, 7/9/12)
ROLL CALL: The Berkley campaign awoke this morning to front-page stories in both the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Gazette-Journal — which cover the two vital population centers in the state — detailing the investigation. (Kyle Trygstad, Nevada: Ethics Probe Clouds Tossup Senate Race, Roll Call, 7/10/12)
NEVADA’S FRONT PAGES …
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING IN NEVADA …
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report, said the ethics probe is a blow to Berkley, giving Republicans stronger ammunition against her and probably keeping the matter open all the way to Election Day. “The issue stays alive through the campaign, and Republicans got a little bit more juice behind it with the unanimous vote” from five Democrats and five Republicans on the panel, Duffy said. “And they get to keep talking about it. And I think she’s more on the defensive now. In a race where everything counts, this is not something that Berkley needs hanging over her head. In a close race, everything matters.” (Steve Tetreault, House panel to investigate allegations against Berkley, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/10/11)
LAS VEGAS SUN: Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley was always going to have to face some tough music on the Senate campaign trail over allegations she used her seat in Congress to push for policies and programs that benefited her family’s bottom line. But the inquiry that stood at least a chance of being dismissed as a political witch hunt now ranks among the most serious investigations of alleged ethical offenses taking place this Congress. (Karoun Demirjian, Formal ethics investigation likely to dog Berkley for duration of Senate campaign, Las Vegas Sun, 7/10/12)
RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL: The bipartisan House Ethics Committee has voted unanimously to proceed with a full-scale investigation into whether Rep. Shelley Berkley used her position in Congress to benefit her husband’s medical practice. (Erin Kelly, House Ethics Committee appoints panel in Shelley Berkley Case, Reno Gazette-Journal, 7/9/12)
ASSOCIATED PRESS: The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it had appointed a panel to investigate whether Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley used her position to protect her family’s financial interests, giving Republicans additional fodder to question her conduct leading up to November’s election for a Senate seat in a critical swing state. (Kevin Freking, Ethics Committee appoints panel in Berkley Case, Associated Press, 7/9/12)
STEVE SEBELIUS AT THE REVIEW-JOURNAL: [T]he fact that – rather than dismiss the matter as unfounded – the bipartisan committee decided to investigate a Republican-filed complaint that Berkley took actions to benefit her husband’s medical practice shows some members may believe there’s fire under all that smoke. … The first line of the Berkley campaign’s prepared statement in response to the action was almost comically untrue: “We are pleased with the committee’s decision to conduct a full and fair investigation, which will ensure all the facts are reviewed,” said campaign manager Jessica Mackler. (Steve Sebelius, The second-best news for Shelley Berkley?, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/10/12)
WHAT THEY ARE WATCHING IN NEVADA …
FOX LAS VEGAS: U.S. Rep. for Nevada Shelley Berkley is being investigated for possible ethics violations. A House ethics committee unanimously voted to investigate whether she used her office to personally help her and her husband. … FOX5 political analyst Mitch Fox said this certainly doesn’t help Berkley’s campaign for re-election, but there’s still a lot of time before voters hit the polls in November. (Elizabeth Watts, Berkley’s ethics investigation puts cloud on her campaign, KVVU-TV, 07/09/12)
ABC LAS VEGAS: The House Ethics Committee says it has appointed a panel to investigate whether Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley used her position to protect her family’s financial interests, giving Republicans additional fodder to question her conduct leading up to November’s election. (Molly Waldron, Ethics Committee appoints panel in Shelley Berkley case, KSNV-TV, 7/9/12)
CBS RENO: The House Ethics Committee says it has appointed a panel to investigate whether Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley used her position to protect her family’s financial interests, giving Republicans additional fodder to question her conduct leading up to November’s election. (Ethics Committee Appoints Panel in Berkley Case, KTVN-TV, 7/9/12)
Originally posted at Center for Security Policy and the Washington Times By Frank Gaffney, Jr.
In Lone Survivor, a chilling, firsthand account of the loss of eleven members of the Navy’s elite Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team and eight Army aviators, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell describes the fateful decision that led to disaster for him and death for his comrades. It came down to a judgment call about whether to risk prosecution and jail-time for doing whatever it took to complete their mission, or to allow three Afghan goatherds to rat out his unit to the Taliban.
When Luttrell cast the deciding vote to turn loose the farmers who had stumbled upon him and three other SEALs shortly after they had been dropped behind enemy lines to take down a particularly dangerous Taliban leader, he described the thought-process:
“If we kill these guys, we have to be straight about it. Report what we did. We can’t sneak around this….Their bodies will be found, the Taliban will use it to the max. They’ll get it in the papers, and the U.S. liberal media will attack us without mercy. We’ll almost certainly be charged with murder….”
Such concerns prompted Luttrell to make the call to release the goatherds, setting in train calamity for his buddies and sixteen others dispatched to rescue them from the massive Taliban assault that ensued. It turns out those concerns were well-founded, as was most recently demonstrated in a case before the U.S. Military Court of Appeals. By a 3-2 vote, the judges outrageously determined that an Army Ranger, First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, was deemed to have no right to self-defense when he killed the Iraqi prisoner he was interrogating after the latter threw a concrete block at him and tried to seize his firearm. Unless he is pardoned, Lt. Behenna will remain incarcerated for the next twelve years.
Unfortunately, under President Obama, service personnel’s rising fears of being prosecuted for acting to protect themselves and their missions are but one of many ways in which themilitary is being, to use his now-infamous turn of phrase, “fundamentally transformed.” Consider a few examples:
- Losing wars: Few things can have a more corrosive effect on morale and esprit de corps of the armed forces than being ordered to participate in and sacrifice – not least by risking life and limb – in protracted conflicts, only to have political authorities throw in the towel. Add in the repeated combat tours pulled by many servicemen and women, with all that entails for both them and their families, and you have a formula for disaster for the U.S. military.
- Budget cuts: Matters are made much worse by the sense that the military is being asked to pay more than its fair share of the burden associated with deficit-reduction. Even though defense spending accounts for approximately 20% of the budget, the Pentagon has been required to absorb roughly 50% of the cuts, while entitlements have been entirely spared.
The roughly $800 billion in defense spending already excised or in the works is denying our men and women in uniform the modern, properly maintained and qualitatively superior equipment they need to wage war safely and successfully on our behalf. The next $500 billion in reductions – which, all other things being equal, are to go into effect in January – will have, in the words Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Demsey, a “catastrophic” effect.
- A defective Counter-Insurgency (COIN) strategy: [As documented in Part 9 of the Center for Security Policy’s online curriculum, “The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within” (http://MuslimBrotherhoodinAmerica.com),] the effort to win hearts and minds in places like Iraq and Afghanistan has exposed our troops unnecessarily to danger: They are being obliged not to wear protective eyewear and body armor, at risk literally to life and limb. They are ordered to honor their hosts in visits with local elders by consuming foods offered, despite the fact that doing so can subject them to lifelong affliction by parasites and diseases. They must observe rules of engagement that restrict use of their firearms and deny them air cover and artillery support in circumstances where it can mean the difference between living and dying.
Worse yet, our troops are seen by the enemy in these and other ways to be submitting to the latter’s doctrine of shariah. According to that supremacist code, its adherents are compelled when confronted with evidence they are winning, to redouble their efforts to make us “feel subdued.” This generally translates into more violence against our troops and us, not less.
- Assault on the culture of the Military: Last, but not least, President Obama’s use of the military as a vehicle for advancing the radical homosexual agenda in the larger society has demonstrated for many in uniform civilian indifference to the unique attributes of the armed forces. That message can only have been reinforced by the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing fraudulent claims to military decorations as protected free speech.
Unfortunately, these sorts of assaults on the U.S. military are likely to “fundamentally transform” it, all right. Perhaps that tranformation will manifest itself, among other ways, by precipitating the collapse of the All-Volunteer Force, as many of those who are currently serving decline to do so, and fewer and fewer new, high-quality recruits enlist. We can ill-afford such an Obama legacy in an increasingly dangerous world.
Don’t worry when the press uses omission, editing tricks, and comically uneconomical choice of voice and syntax to ensure the president always makes a soft landing. Accurate reporting is always “just a blogger” away.
I Own the World
The Anti Liberal Zone
The Right Scoop
Friday July 6 was an exciting day for twitter users. After a twitter engineer took it to the blogosphere on Thursday to tease the incoming updates to Twitter’s built-in search feature, the popular social media company officially broke the news on Friday. Twitter aspired to simplify its concept and make its search function look better and more organized on the latest and most advanced computers, laptops, smartphones etc. Admittedly, the new updates did not feature the groundbreaking and revolutionary changes lauded by the anonymous twitter engineer. This is not to say that the updates were not fundamental for Twitter’s standards.
Twitter’s built-in search feature was widely considered to be lacking. Small mistakes in spelling meant no results and a lot of frustration for its users. The latest changes are meant to improve the Twitter experience by providing new functionality and organization to the Twitter’s search feature. The new updates include an autocomplete feature that is programmed to guess and complete what users are typing into the Twitter search bar. Other new features complement this function with recommendations for related twitter accounts, tweets, images, videos and other content posted by users. The highlight of the new updates is the ability to restrict searches to only those accounts that a user follows. Many users will be fortunate enough to feel the new features right out of the gate. Twitter is planning to make the features available across the board within a month. Reinforcing its search engine with simple yet well-organized features, Twitter hopes to enhance its search engine services and come closer to what its competition offers.
Does Twitter actually have a chance to compete with Facebook and Twitter on an equal footing? Needless to say, Facebook and Google sport formidable search engines that have been honed non-stop through the years. According to Alexa Rankings, Google currently tops rankings as the most-trafficked site in the world and Facebook takes the number two spot. Twitter needs to up its search engine game if it wants to climb up the ladder from its number 9 spot. The latest attempt is definitely a step in the right direction. There is a good argument to be made that if Twitter supplements its new features with a few more treats, it might be able to deliver the latest news and developments to its users before Google’s search engine.
The blogosphere commentariat is also speculating on how Twitter will utilize its new features to display third party mobile advertisements. Having an autocomplete function might limit advertising opportunities and many are curious to see how Twitter will handle this issue. There is very limited information on what Twitter’s advertisement strategy will look like and observers will have to wait and see. Finally there is the issue of the third-party Twitter applications. Will Twitter grant third-party developers access to the new features? Following Twitter’s recent decision to diminish its relations with third-party app developers, many are very skeptical of such a possibility.
The last few years have seen a significant rise in the availability and popularity of refurbished laptops. Stigmas about buying a ‘used’ gadget is still out there but economic anxieties seem to have shaken credibility of many of them. In this article, I shall be presenting a brief review of what refurbished laptops are and complement the introduction with a few tips for those interested in purchasing a refurbished notebook.
Although ‘refurbished’ tag usually stand for an electronic machine that has been assembled together using used and/or new computer parts, refurbished laptops available in the market comprise mostly of PCs that have been returned to sellers and manufacturers by unsatisfied customers. Do not let this artful definition deter you. Many customers change their minds because of minute details pretty quickly. An iffy space bar or a misplaced sticker is adequate reason for some to ask for a replacement. Reason for return might be even less ominous than that. Sometimes customers think that the machine’s specs did not perform according to their expectations. In some cases specs are more advanced than required and, in some cases, it is the other way around. Furthermore, upon inquiries by interested customers, some manufacturers and retailers might be willing to disclose why the unit was returned. It is also quite common that demo machines are sold again as refurbished by manufacturers. Another common source of refurbished machines is brand new or used business laptop stocks of bankrupt companies. It should be noted that customers of refurbished laptops almost never receive laptops without a comprehensive test by retailer, manufacturer or seller.
Just like a used car, sellers and manufacturers makes sure that a steady hand checks the refurbished laptops. Product manufacturer examines all the systems making sure each unit meets factory standards. This examination includes careful testing of laptops’ system condition and power systems. Faulty parts are replaced instantaneously and unit’s hardware is harmonized. Some refurbished machines may include old accessories (e.g set of speakers) and they are similarly inspected for any defects, scratches and dents to make sure they are all in good condition. Simply put, a society that is so keen on purchasing second hand cars has no rational reason for resisting buying refurbished laptops. There are, on the other hand, a few things that an interested customer looking for a refurbished laptop deal should be on the look out for.
First and foremost, potential buyers should limit their search to reputable manufacturers and authorized distributors. It makes much more sense to buy a refurbished unit straight from the manufacturer’s web site. Big-box stores allow customers to have a hands-on inspection and would be another good venue. Finally and most importantly, the refurbished unit should be backed up by a decent warranty and a reliable returns policy.
Abound Solar, a Colorado-based thin solar panel manufacturer, filed to liquidate this week. This bankruptcy made headlines all over the nation since Abound Solar was one of the new ‘clean energy’ companies that received a loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy. Although the company was awarded a $400 million loan guarantee in 2010, both the administration and the company were quick to announce that only a $70 million portion of the loan was claimed before bankruptcy.
The idea behind Abound Solar investment was that American companies would gain the upper hand over their international counterparts by employing superior technology. By investing in advanced computers and research, they reasoned, a new ‘green’ and efficient solar panel could be developed and traded profitably.
The spectacular failure of the company was blamed on aggressive and unfair Chinese competition that has been flooding the global market with very cheap standard solar panels. Chinese companies, observers claim, receive generous subsidies from the Chinese government and thus possess unique pricing advantages. It is important to notice that the Commerce Department imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels in order to prevent this outcome, but was not successful. The Energy Department calculates its Abound Solar losses in $40-60 million range and stresses that it safeguarded 80% of the original loan guarantee. Thus, the loss to American taxpayers is at around 15%.
Although this compares favorably to the notorious Solyndra case where $535 million worth of taxpayer funds was lost for good, it is another worrisome sign for the administration’s new energy policy. President Barack Obama lauded Abound Solar’s loan in his weekly video address on July 3, 2010.
Critics of the administration’s energy policy were quick to respond to the news. Main argument coming from the conservative and Republican circles was that the Energy Department’s loan guarantees abound to nothing other than ‘crony capitalism’. Rep Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Chairman of the House Energy Committee’s subcommittee on investigations and oversight, described the administration clean energy policy as a “risky green jobs scheme” and advised the White House not to “pick winners and losers” in a capitalist economy. Critics are concerned that president’s scheme will crumble, potentially wasting billions of dollars of American taxpayer funds.
We will have to wait and see how this ‘clean energy’ adventure concludes. In the meantime, we will be anxiously staring at our laptop screens hoping that more taxpayer funds do not end up bankrupt.
I can almost hear skeptical and unbelieving thought bubbles popping up and bursting in my readers’ minds. Some are wondering what virtualization technology stands for, whereas more tech savvy readers are probably scoffing at what they perceive to be total lack of connection between virtualization, technology and politics. Well, bear with me and I will do my best to explain. Let’s start with a short introduction on what virtualization is.
Simply put, virtualization is the creation of a fully-functional virtual version (as opposed to building a physical copy) of a computing component. Virtual copies of operating systems, storage devices, network resources and even entire PCs can easily be crafted and run on other computing devices. Yes, that is right. You can actually have a virtual computer operating within your real computer. Needless to say, virtualization technology saves a lot of resources by freeing up hardware and space. For example, instead of storing data in physical containers such as servers, companies and individuals opt to create virtual containers and host them within other computers. This is where politics and virtualization technology intersect.
As succinctly put by an industry insider, virtualization “abstracted function away from hardware into software” and thus enabled the formation of today’s mega social networking sites. Without the advent of advanced virtualization techniques and products, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and other who are who of internet would not be able to provide the services they are boasting about today. Could Youtube maintain its gigantic database successfully? Could Twitter keep its scarily humongous user database live? In other words, billions can communicate through these sophisticated internet services due to the brilliance of the virtualization technology.
Where does politics fit in this scheme? Well, have you heard anything about the ‘Tea Party’ or ‘Occupy Wall Street’ in the last three years? Do I need to mention how ‘the Arab Spring’ was organized? It is through virtualization technology that billions of people are practicing political agency and are free to have a say in the global political landscape. Politicians no longer have the luxury of turning a blind eye on what their constituents demand. Furthermore, political campaigns are also noticing that certain kinds of virtualization technology might be useful for reaching voters.
News reports about President Obama’s 2012 campaign always highlight the size of its ‘research and development’ teams. Obama 2012 is actively looking for efficient ways of collecting and analyzing information about voters online. Although there is no information leak to rely on, it is likely that the Obama 2012 team is utilizing virtual web trackers that visualize and map how a certain set of news and information travels through the web. This software is adequately intelligent to read the nature (positive or negative for the campaign) of the information flow. Virtualization has therefore not only changed the way we communicate with one another, but is also a tool for tracking public opinion—a tool that is being capitalized on by politicians as we speak.
Harry Reid’s front group Patriot Majority has released another ad, repeating the same false attacks that Shelley Berkley’s campaign has been spinning for months in an attempt to scare seniors.
The same attacks were deemed Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” in 2011.
The Ad Tells Lies:
Shelley Berkley and her Democratic allies have continued to allege that Dean Heller has voted to “end Medicare” even though this was deemed Politifact’s Lie of the Year. (Politifact.org “Lie of the Year: Democrats Claim Republicans Voted to End Medicare,” December 20, 2011)
Shelley Berkley supported the President’s health care law that cut $500 billion out of the Medicare program. It also created a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats that have the power to deny health care for seniors. (House Vote 165 – HR 3590, HR3590, March 21, 2010)
In fact, the government takeover of healthcare’s cuts to Medicare could put Medicare Advantage benefits at risk, including for 110,000 Nevadans: “Seniors in a number of states risk losing their Medicare Advantage benefits because of cuts in President Obama’s healthcare reform law, according to a new report from Avalere. The law contains about $200 billion in direct and indirect cuts to private Medicare plans through 2017.” (Julian Pecquet, “Report: Healthcare law cuts put Medicare Advantage benefits at risk in some states,” The Hill’s Healthwatch Blog, 3/12/12)
Shelley Berkley voted for a 2% cut from the Medicare program which would restrict seniors’ access to care.
- Sequestration as a result of the Budget Control Act would require Medicare cuts of up to $11 billion a year (about $140 billion over ten years) if deficit reduction targets are not reached (RC #123, 112th Congress, 1st Session).
In fact, Dean Heller has repeatedly voted to preserve the Medicare programs, voting against $1.6 trillion in proposed Medicare cuts.
Lie of the Year 2011: ‘Republicans voted to end Medicare’
By Bill Adair, Angie Drobnic Holan
December 20th, 2011 at 12:05 a.m.
Republicans muscled a budget through the House of Representatives in April that they said would take an important step toward reducing the federal deficit. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the plan kept Medicare intact for people 55 or older, but dramatically changed the program for everyone else by privatizing it and providing government subsidies.
Democrats pounced. Just four days after the party-line vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a Web ad that said seniors will have to pay $12,500 more for health care “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
Rep. Steve Israel of New York, head of the DCCC, appeared on cable news shows and declared that Republicans voted to “terminate Medicare.” A Web video from the Agenda Project, a liberal group, said the plan would leave the country “without Medicare” and showed a Ryan look-alike pushing an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff. And just last month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a fundraising appeal that said: “House Republicans’ vote to end Medicare is a shameful act of betrayal.”
After two years of being pounded by Republicans with often false charges about the 2010 health care law, the Democrats were turning the tables.
PolitiFact debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members.
Now, PolitiFact has chosen the Democrats’ claim as the 2011 Lie of the Year.
It’s the third year in a row that a health care claim has won the dubious honor. In 2009, the winner was the Republicans’ charge that the Democrats’ health care plan included “death panels.” In 2010, it was that the plan was a “government takeover of health care.”
A complicated and wonky subject with life-or-death consequences, health care is fertile ground for falsehoods. The Democratic attack about “ending Medicare” was a pervasive line in 2011 that preyed on seniors’ worries about whether they could afford health care.
Even when explained accurately, the Republicans’ Medicare plan was not particularly popular with the public, nor with some independent health policy analysts. But the plan was distorted and attacked again and again.
“In terms of creating a national conversation about fiscal reform, the last thing we need is demagoguing attacks against people who have put forward serious policy proposals,” said Jason Peuquet, a policy analyst with the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It’s very worrying.”
A persistent falsehood
With a few small tweaks to their attack lines, Democrats could have been factually correct, said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “I actually think there is no need to cut out the qualifiers and exaggerate,” he said.
At times, Democrats and liberal groups were careful to characterize the Republican plan more accurately. Another claim in the ad from the Agenda Project said the plan would “privatize” Medicare, which received a Mostly True rating from PolitiFact. President Barack Obama was also more precise with his words, saying the Medicare proposal “would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more.”
But more often, Democrats and liberals overreached:
[list type="arrow"] [li]
• They ignored the fact that the Ryan plan would not affect people currently in Medicare — or even the people 55 to 65 who would join the program in the next 10 years.
• They used harsh terms such as “end” and “kill” when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.
• They used pictures and video of elderly people who clearly were too old to be affected by the Ryan plan. The DCCC video that aired four days after the vote featured an elderly man who had to take a job as a stripper to pay his medical bills.
“Both parties use entitlements as political weapons,” Ryan said in an interview with PolitiFact. “Republicans do it to Democrats; Democrats do it to Republicans. So I knew that this would be a political weapon that the other side would use against us.”
Liberal bloggers and columnists contend it’s accurate to say Republicans voted to end Medicare. Left-leaning websites such as Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, and The New Republic said PolitiFact’s analysis was wrong, as did New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
“According to (PolitiFact’s) logic, if the FBI were replaced with a voucher program wherein citizens would receive subsidies for hiring private investigators to look into criminal activity, but the agency running the voucher program were still called the FBI, it would be unfair to say that the FBI had been ended,” wrote Jed Lewison for Daily Kos. “I guess it’s their right to make that argument, but it’s transparently absurd.”
In a blog post, the DCCC stood by its claim, saying the ad accurately stated Ryan’s plan would “abolish” Medicare.
But PolitiFact was not alone. Other independent fact-checkers also said the claim was false.
“Medicare would remain an entitlement program, but it would also be more costly to future beneficiaries. It would not end,” noted FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker concluded that while there’s “a worthwhile debate” about whether Ryan’s proposal should be adopted, “it is not true to claim Republicans are trying to ‘kill’ Medicare.”
The Democratic attacks struck a chord. Polls showed voters were skeptical of the Ryan plan and want Medicare to remain largely the way it is now. That may be why the plan has virtually no prospects of passing the Senate, which voted to shelve the plan. President Obama has indicated he would veto any changes to Medicare that would privatize the program and substantially shift costs to beneficiaries.
How the Ryan plan would work
Under the current Medicare system, the government pays the health care bills for Americans over age 65. Under the Ryan plan, future beneficiaries would be given a credit and invited to shop for an approved plan on a Medicare health insurance exchange. It received overwhelming support from Republicans in a House vote on a budget blueprint.
Starting in 2022, beneficiaries would receive “premium support payments” from the government to help pay for the private insurance. People who need more health care would get a little more money, and high earners would get a little less.
The plan has some guarantees for coverage, although seniors would have to pay more to get the benefits they receive today, according to an analysis completed earlier this year by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The guarantees: Ryan’s plan requires private insurers to accept all applicants and to charge the same rate for people who are the same age. The plans would comply with standards set by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which administers the health plans of federal employees. The Medicare eligibility age would rise from 65 to 67, an idea that has received some bipartisan support in the past.
The CBO found that it would save the government money. But it does so by asking future Medicare beneficiaries to pay more for the same benefits.
Ryan says the plan would offer more choice for Medicare participants and increase competition among private insurers to drive down cost.
“I’m a big believer in patient-centered choice, where the beneficiary is the prime decision-maker, which drives competition and innovation, and that’s missing from the status quo, to a large degree,” he said.
It’s not the first time it’s been suggested that Medicare be changed from its current fee-for-service, where the government pays all the bills, to one that uses private insurers. In the past, some Democrats have even favored such proposals, especially if — unlike the Ryan plan — the support was linked to medical inflation, or there were an option for traditional Medicare, or there were more explicit protections for consumers.
Just last week, Ryan agreed to a new framework with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Their proposal uses Ryan’s idea for private insurers and exchanges, but it leaves traditional Medicare as an option.
Private insurers already offer Medicare plans under the program Medicare Advantage, though those plans have proven more expensive than traditional Medicare, not less.
The partisan split on health care reveals the contradictions of congressional debate. Republicans were staunchly against the insurance exchanges in the federal health care law. But they endorsed them in the Ryan proposal, even as Democrats switched to oppose the plan.
“Ryan basically proposed the Affordable Care Act for future seniors,” said Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who advised both President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney on health care. “I don’t understand how you can like it for future seniors but not like it for today’s needy uninsured. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an expert on campaign advertising who directs the Annenberg center at the University of Pennsylvania, says Democrats have been using falsehoods and exaggerations about Medicare and Social Security since at least 1952. She calls it the longest-running “Democratic deception.”
It fits with a core theme from Democrats that they will use government to protect seniors and needy people, while Republicans supposedly want to cut those programs, she says. It is a scare tactic that works.
“If you’re reliant on Medicare, a suggestion your benefits are going to be cut in any way is a direct, visceral threat,” said Jamieson.
Republicans actually used a version of the attack in 2010, claiming Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare to pay for Obama’s health care law; the law actually sought to reduce the growth of future spending with a series of efficiency measures. But historically, attacks about Medicare have come from Democrats.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Democrats used images of Social Security cards being torn in half to suggest that Republicans wanted to cut the program. In 1995, Democrats said House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s plan to restructure Medicare would force seniors to pay more and would “wreck” Medicare.
President Bill Clinton vetoed the Republicans’ Medicare bill, and used the issue to pummel GOP nominee Bob Dole in the 1996 campaign.
Gingrich complained at the time that “Medicare is the one issue the left believes they can lie about and demagogue.” He described the Democrats as “totally morally bankrupt” and said, “They are reduced to scaring 85-year-olds.”
The scare tactics are effective because seniors worry about being able to pay their medical bills and Medicare is a vital program for them. Also, seniors represent a large, up-for-grabs voting bloc.
Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said, “If you can scare seniors that something is going to happen to those programs, there is potentially a huge payoff in votes.”
From Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy:
To date, 32 Floor votes have been taken to repeal, defund, or dismantle ObamaCare. Tomorrow’s vote to repeal ObamaCare will be the 33rd.
What has already been done regarding ObamaCare? House Republicans have tackled ObamaCare on all fronts and share the same end goal: full repeal. Below is a compilation of floor actions to fight ObamaCare.
· To date, three programs have been completely halted. The 1099 tax reporting requirement and free choice vouchers were repealed by Congress and signed into law, and the Administration ceased implementation of the unworkable CLASS Act Program.
· Seven ObamaCare provisions have been repealed / have had funding rescinded and signed into law:
o Repealed onerous 1099 tax reporting requirement imposed on small businesses
o Reduced improper Exchange subsidy overpayments
o Repealed Free-Choice Vouchers
o Reduced funding for the CO-OP
o Reduced funding for the IPAB rationing board,
o Reduced funding for the Prevention and Public Health “slush” Fund
o Reduced a Medicaid formula drafting error included in the “Louisiana Purchase”
· 32 Floor votes have been taken to repeal, defund, or dismantle the law.
· Republicans won’t stop there; we will continue to pursue strategic opportunities to get other de-funding and repeal bills to President Obama’s desk.
January 19, 2011 – House repealed ObamaCare in its entirety. (H.R. 2)
February 19, 2011 –House passed the FY2011 continuing appropriations bill including several substantial bipartisan amendments that would severely limit the implementation of ObamaCare.(H.R. 1)
· The Rehberg Amendment #575: Prohibited funding for any employee, officer, contractor or grantee of any department or agency funded under Labor & HHS to implement the health care provisions of ObamaCare.
· The King Amendment #267: Provided that no funds in this Act may be may be used to implement ObamaCare.
· The King Amendment #268: Prohibited funding for the pay of officials who implement ObamaCare.
· The Emerson Amendment #83: Prohibited funding by the IRS to implement or enforce provisions on ObamaCare related to the reporting of health insurance coverage.
· The Price Amendment #409: Prohibited funding for implementing or enforcing the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision.
· The Burgess Amendment #200: Prohibited funding at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO).
· The Pitts Amendment #430: Prohibited funding for actions to specify or define, through regulations, guidelines, or otherwise, essential benefits as required in ObamaCare.
· The Gardner Amendment #79: Prohibited funding for implementing Exchanges.
· The Hayworth Amendment #567: Prohibited funding for implementing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
March 3, 2011 – House repealed (signed into law) 1099 reporting requirements that placed a financial burden on small businesses and independent contractors. (H.R. 4)
April 13, 2011 – House repealed the Prevention and Public Health “slush” Fund that was riddled with wasteful, unaccountable spending. (H.R. 1217)
April 14, 2011 – House repealed (signed into law) “Free Choice Voucher” program, reduced funding for the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) by $2.2 billion, provided new tools to fight implementation and ensured no increase in IRS funding to hire additional agents to enforce the individual mandate as part of the FY2011 continuing appropriations bill. (H.R. 1473)
April 14, 2011 – House directed the Senate to take a vote defunding all mandatory and discretionary spending in ObamaCare. (H.Con.Res.35)
April 15, 2011 – House passed FY2012 budget which repeals and defunds ObamaCare. (H.Con.Res.34)
May 3, 2011 – House eliminated ability for Secretary of Health and Human Services to have an unlimited tap on the U.S. Treasury related to government mandated health insurance exchanges. (H.R. 1213)
May 4, 2011 – House repeals provision that required $200 million of mandatory “slush fund” spending solely for construction for School-Based Health Centers. (H.R. 1214)
May 24, 2011 – House converted $230 million in mandatory spending for graduate medical education programs to discretionary spending, allowing teaching health centers to receive funding through the regular appropriations process with Congressional oversight. (H.R. 1216)
August 1, 2011 – House passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 that allowed another mechanism to cut ObamaCare mandatory and discretionary spending. (S. 365)
October 13, 2011 – House passed the Protect Life Act that prevents funds in ObamaCare (including tax credits) from being used to pay for abortion or abortion coverage and codifies conscience protections. (H.R. 358)
November, 16 2011 – House required (signed into law) certain benefits to be included in the calculation of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) for purposes of determining eligibility for certain health care programs under ObamaCare. (H.R. 674)
December 13, 2011 – House passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that extended “doc fix” through ObamaCare subsidy recapture and reductions to the Prevention and Public Health “slush” Fund, among other provisions. (H.R. 3630)
December 16, 2011 – House rescinded (signed into law) $400 million from ObamaCare CO-OPs and $10 million in funds for IPAB (rationing board) in the FY2012 appropriations bill. The bill also reduced IRS funding by $305 million from FY2011 levels. (H.R. 2055)
February 1, 2012 – House repealed the CLASS Act, a microcosm for the problems in ObamaCare (budget gimmick, insolvent, done behind closed doors and rushed into law, massive new unsustainable entitlement), which was used to disguise the short-term costs of the broader bill. (H.R. 1173)
February 17, 2012 – House passed (signed into law) the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that returned a total of $11.6 billion from ObamaCare including $5 billion in cuts to the Prevention & Public Health “slush” Fund and recouping $2.5 billion. (H.R. 3630)
March 22, 2012 – House repealed (IPAB), a panel of 15 unelected and unaccountable government bureaucrats tasked with reducing Medicare costs through arbitrary cuts to providers, limiting access to care for seniors. (H.R. 5)
March 29, 2012 – House passed FY2013 budget which repeals and defunds ObamaCare, ensuring that not a penny is spent on the government takeover of health care. (H.Con.Res.112)
April 27, 2012 – House prevented interest rate increases for certain student loans, offset by repealing the ObamaCare Prevention and Public Health “slush” Fund. (H.R. 4628)
May 10, 2012 – Replaced harmful cuts to our military and defense capabilities by defunding and repealing several ObamaCare provisions including Medicaid Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirements, among other provisions. (H.R. 5652)
June 7, 2012 – House repealed the medical device tax, limitations on reimbursement of the over-the-counter medications from various tax-advantaged accounts for health care and the Exchange subsidy overpayments. (H.R. 436)
June 29, 2012 – House further reduced a Medicaid formula drafting error included in ObamaCare’s “Louisiana Purchase” provision, clawing back $670 million in savings as part of the Highway Conference bill. (H.R. 4348)
In case you missed it, The Wall Street Journal reports today in a blockbuster story that labor unions have spent $4.4 billion (with a “b”) on political activity since 2005, the year they began expanded public filings with the Department of Labor. This is 300% more than previous estimates based on Federal Elections Commission (FEC) data.
Yes – Big Labor spends literally billions of dollars on politics.
Key excerpt from the Journal:
“(L)abor could be a stronger counterweight than commonly realized to ‘super PACs’ that today raise money from wealthy donors. … The usual measure of unions’ clout encompasses chiefly what they spend through their political action committees. … These kinds of spending totaled $1.1 billion from 2005 through 2011 … The unions’ reports to the Labor Department capture an additional $3.3 billion that unions spent over the same period on political activity. … The top political spender … was the Service Employees International Union. … It reported spending $150 million on politics and lobbying in 2009 and 2010, up from $62 million in 2005 and 2006. … [AFSCME spent] $133 million in the 2009 and 2010 election season, nearly twice the $75 million it spent in the 2005 and 2006 cycle.”
Note here that in 2010, SEIU alone spent more than twice as much on politics ($150m) as American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS collectively raised ($71m).
Labor unions have traditionally spent far more on political activity than any other sector, and Super PACs like American Crossroads will at best balance them out. And the folks who most vocally complain about money’s influence in politics rarely, if ever, critique or even mention the billions spent by Big Labor to promote its big government agenda.
Link to the full story below.
Political Spending by Unions Far Exceeds Direct Donations
Tom McGinty and Brody Mullins
July 10, 2012