Corporate socialism: suckling billions in profits from the government teat

More proof that multi-billion dollar corporations like McDonald’s are quite successfully bilking the American taxpayer to increase their own take-home profits:

Video: McDonald’s tells workers to get food stamps – Salon.com — An audio recording released by labor activists Wednesday afternoon captures a staffer for McDonald’s’ “McResources Line” instructing a McDonald’s worker how to apply for public assistance.

The audio – excerpted in the campaign video below – records a conversation between Chicago worker Nancy Salgado, a ten-year employee currently making the Illinois state minimum wage of $8.25, and a counselor staffing the company’s “McResources” 1-800 number for McDonald’s workers. The McResources staffer offers her a number to “ask about things like food pantries” and tells her she “would most likely be eligible for SNAP benefits” which she explains are “food stamps.” After Salgado asks about “the doctor,” the staffer asks, “Did you try to get on Medicaid?” She notes it’s “health coverage for low income or no income adults and children.”

“It was really, really upsetting,” Salgado told Salon Wednesday, “knowing that McDonald’s knows that they don’t pay us enough, and we have to rely on this.” Noting that McDonald’s was “a billionaire company,” she asked, “how can they not afford to pay us?”

Of course McDonald’s (and other fast-food / big box retail corporations) could afford to pay their employees better wages and stop draining so much out of the taxpayer-funded safety net, but that would mean the corporate big wigs would have to share or reinvest some of their profits.

The new video follows two reports released last week… which estimated that fast food workers utilize nearly $7 billion annually in public assistance, while fast food corporations last year netted $7.4 billion profits.

And, by the way, many of these companies (and their executives) don’t contribute as much to the safety net as, proportionally speaking, the average middle-class taxpayer. As Scott Klinger recently noted:

In the 1950s, corporations paid nearly a third of the federal government’s bills. Last year… corporate income taxes accounted for less than a tenth of Uncle Sam’s total revenue.

Over the past year, one in nine of the companies listed on the S&P 500 paid an effective tax rate of zero percent–that’s zero as in nothing–and that’s on top of taxpayers picking up the tab on public assistance for those profitable corporations who won’t pay their workers a living wage.

There are 57 separate companies listed on the index that paid a zero percent rate from the past year. Those companies include both household names like Verizon and News Corp. and lesser-known corporate giants like the data storage manufacturer Seagate (market value $15.9 billion) and Public Storage (market value $29.5 billion). Many of the companies USA Today identified in its analysis as paying negative rates make the list because they lost money, but several were profitable. Previous analyses have shown that the typical corporation pays a lower effective tax rate than most middle-class families, and a far lower one than the statutory corporate tax rate against which business interests disingenuously rail.

Even though Mitt Romney tried to convince us that “corporations are people, my friend,” the majority of corporations today are not our “neighbors,” they don’t contribute towards the greater good of whichever country they’ve parked a headquarters—in fact, today’s corporations (and their executives) actually seem to do whatever is necessary to get out of contributing their proportional share towards the society which benefits them so greatly. Today’s corporations are run by people who are low on talent and basic morality, but are paid enormous sums of money. And they are nothing like those who came before them. Vanity Fair remembers,

In 1914, [Henry] Ford decided to pay his employees a rich wage and otherwise improve the working conditions…

In January 1914, (Henry Ford) startled the world by announcing that Ford Motor Company would pay $5 a day to its workers. The pay increase would also be accompanied by a shorter workday (from nine to eight hours). While this rate didn’t automatically apply to every worker, it more than doubled the average autoworker’s wage. While Henry’s primary objective was to reduce worker attrition—labor turnover from monotonous assembly line work was high—newspapers from all over the world reported the story as an extraordinary gesture of goodwill.

After Ford’s announcement, thousands of prospective workers showed up at the Ford Motor Company employment office. People surged toward Detroit from the American South and the nations of Europe. As expected, employee turnover diminished. And, by creating an eight-hour day, Ford could run three shifts instead of two, increasing productivity.

Henry Ford had reasoned that since it was now possible to build inexpensive cars in volume, more of them could be sold if employees could afford to buy them. The $5 day helped better the lot of all American workers and contributed to the emergence of the American middle class. In the process, Henry Ford had changed manufacturing forever.

Or, as Henry put it, raising wages “has the same effect as throwing a stone in a still pond,” creating an “ever-widening circle of buying” that increases the prosperity of a nation.

It’s simply a fact that Henry Ford didn’t base his decisions on what Ford Motor Company’s net profits would be the next quarter–he had much greater things to accomplish. Because of Henry’s decisions, an entire nation benefited for years, and you know what? So did his company. Unfortunately those times are over (Reaganomics was the beginning of The End), Henry Ford would be run out of most corporate boardrooms today, and the word Patriotism now holds some twisted meaning that includes offshore bank accounts for the wealthy and easy access to guns for the rest of us. There is no longer a balance or any kind of mutual respect between industrialists and workers—negotiated, contrived, or otherwise. And each one of us ought to ask ourselves, “how did we allow this to happen?” and more importantly, “how can we change it?

Here’s Bill Maher from last week:

“Now when it comes to raising the minimum wage, conservatives always say it’s a non-starter because it cuts into profits. Well… yeah. Of course. Paying workers is one of those unfortunate expenses of running a business. You know, like taxes or making a product. If you want to get rich with a tax-free enterprise that sells nothing, start a church.” 

“…And, look, even if you’re not moved by the Don’t-Be-Such-a-Heartless-Prick argument, consider the fact that most fast food workers (whose average age, by the way, now is 29–I’m not talking about kids) are on some form of public assistance. Which is not surprising… when even working people can’t make enough to live, they take money from the government in the form of food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance, daycare. This is the welfare that conservatives hate but they never stop to think: if we raise the minimum wage and force McDonald’s and Walmart to pay their employees enough to eat, we the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack. This is the question the Right has to answer: do you want smaller government with less handouts or do you want a low minimum wage–because you cannot have both. If Col. Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to. And I for one am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.” 

America’s billionaire welfare kings: the high cost of the wealthy on the rest of us

*Updated title to read welfare kings instead of queens. Seems more appropriate.

For anyone who wonders why the deficit is so large and why, at the same time, income inequality between the super-wealthy and the rest of us is at a record high, consider the various ways which the Republican Party, starting with Ronald Reagan, has gamed the system to funnel our incomes directly into the bank accounts of the one-percent.

FIRST, THANK RONALD REAGAN AND HIS “TRICKLE-DOWN” REAGANOMICS. 

GOP tax bonus for the rich ignores failure of Reaganomics

REAGAN / JULY 1981: “This represents $750 million in tax cuts over the next five years. And this is only the beginning.”

RACHEL MADDOW: “And thus was born a new economic philosophy Reaganomics, cutting government spending, cutting regulation and cutting taxes–cutting taxes especially for the richest Americans. President Reagan’s tax plan cut the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 70 percent to 50 percent. Why cut taxes so dramatically for the richest of the rich in the middle of a recession? [...]

“Trickle-down economics. The idea of trickle-down economics is basically this: you cut tax rates for the richest Americans, therefore the richest Americans have more. They have more money in their pockets, therefore they have more money to spend and invest. And as they spend and invest, the effect of rich people’s good fortune and rich people spending trickles down to everybody else in the economy. A rising tide lifts all boats, right? That was the idea. That was the plan. That did not happen.

Reaganomics was a spectacular success in some ways. It was a spectacular success for the richest Americans in the country who benefited the most from President Reagan’s historic debt- exploding, budget-busting tax cuts. In 1980, the top one percent of Americans earned wages about $110,000 a year. By 1990, after about 10 years of Reaganomics, the top one percent had seen their wages rise by 80 percent. Trickle-down economics, though, right? What’s good for the rich is good for all of us, right? Not quite. Here’s the average wages in the rest of the country in 1980 and here is what happened for the rest of the country after about 10 years of Reaganomics flat. A whopping three percent rise in wages in 10 years. The richest people see their fortunes go up like the Matterhorn. Everybody else, nothing. This is what family income growth looked like during the 1980s:

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THEN THANK RONALD REAGAN FOR HIS “GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM NOT THE SOLUTION” message, which the tea party carries on today:

The Abject Failure of Reaganomics

Reagan sold Americans on his core vision: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Through his personal magnetism, Reagan then turned taxes into a third rail of American politics… 

“[Reagan] convinced many voters that the government’s only important roles were funding the military and cutting taxes.”

Yet, instead of guiding the country into a bright new day of economic vitality, Reagan’s approach accelerated a de-industrialization of the United States and a slump in the growth of American jobs, down to 20 percent during the 1980s. The percentage job increase for the 1990s stayed at 20 percent, although job growth did pick up later in the decade under President Clinton, who raised taxes and moderated some of Reagan’s approaches while still pushing “free trade” agreements and deregulation.

Yet, hard-line Reaganomics returned with a vengeance under George W. Bush – more tax cuts, more faith in “free trade,” more deregulation – and the Great American Job Engine finally started grinding to a halt. Zero percent increase. The Great American Middle Class was on life-support.

[...] Through its ideological media and think tanks, the Right continues to hammer home the Reagan-esque theory that “government is the problem.”

Meanwhile, the Left still lacks comparable media resources to remind U.S. voters that it was the federal government that essentially created the Great American Middle Class – from the New Deal policies of the 1930s through other reforms of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, from Social Security to Wall Street regulation to labor rights to the GI Bill to the Interstate Highway System to the space program’s technological advances to Medicare and Medicaid to the minimum wage to civil rights.

Many Americans don’t like to admit it — they prefer to think of their families as reaching the middle class without government help — but the reality is that the Great American Middle Class was a phenomenon made possible by the intervention of the federal government beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing into the 1970s. [For one telling example of this reality -- the Cheney family, which was lifted out of poverty by FDR's policies -- see Consortiumnews.com's "Dick Cheney: Son of the New Deal."]

Further, in the face of corporate globalization and business technology, two other forces making the middle-class work force increasingly obsolete, the only hope for a revival of the Great American Middle Class is for the government to increase taxes on the rich, the ones who have gained the most from cheap foreign labor and advances in computer technology, in order to fund projects to build and strengthen the nation, from infrastructure to education to research and development to care for the sick and elderly to environmental protections.

Meanwhile…

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30 YEARS LATER, THE REST OF US ARE SUPPLEMENTING MINIMUM WAGE JOBS WITH GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS, helping corporate officers and shareholders who pay the shitty wages walk away with massive profits. 

“Taxpayers are spending nearly $7 billion a year to supplement the wages of fast-food workers, even as the leading fast-food companies earn billions of dollars in annual profits, according to a pair of reports released Tuesday.”

Washington Post — More than half of the nation’s 1.8 million “core” fast-food workers rely on the federal safety net to make ends meet, the reports said. Together, they collect nearly $1.9 billion through the earned income tax credit, $1 billion in food stamps and $3.9 billion through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to a report by economists at the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center and the University of Illinois.

Overall, the “core” fast-food workers are twice as likely to rely on public assistance than workers in other fields, said one of the reports, which examined non-managerial fast-food employees who work at least 11 hours a week and 27 weeks a year.

Even among the 28 percent of fast-food workers who were on the job 40 hours a week, the report said, more than half relied on the federal safety net to get by. [...] Those workers are left to rely on the public safety net even though the nation’s seven largest publicly traded fast-food companies netted a combined $7.4 billion in profits last year, while paying out $53 million in salaries to their top executives and distributing $7.7 billion to shareholders, according to the second report, by the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group.

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“The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and federal spending.”

Salon — The first study finds that 52 percent of families of workers employed at least 27 weeks a year and 10 hours a week in rank-and-file fast food jobs are enrolled in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (the program that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children under “welfare reform”). That includes a majority of those workers who are employed at least 40 hours week. The study, “Fast Food, Poverty Wages,” was sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Urban & Regional Planning, and funded by the labor group Fast Food Forward. The estimates were based on government data.

second study, by the pro-union National Employment Law Project, extended the analysis to individual companies, estimating that McDonald’s workers received $1.2 billion in public assistance while the corporation netted $5.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 profits, and devoted $5.5 billion to dividends and stock buybacks.

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“Companies … are basically pushing off part of their costs on the taxpayers.”

The Guardian — The estimated total cost of $7bn annually is likely to be low, researchers said, because they only looked at four types of public assistance: food stamps; healthcare; the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the program typically best known as “welfare.” They did not include subsidised housing, school lunches, home heating assistance or state programs in their analysis.

“The high participation rate of families of core fast-food workers in public programs can be attributed to three major factors: the industry’s low wages, low work hours and low benefits,” the Berkeley report said. [...] Earlier this year, a report by House Democrats estimated that the cost of Walmart workers’ reliance on public assistance – including food stamps, healthcare and other programmes – is $900,000 per year at just one of the company’s 4,000 stores.

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For the vast majority of these workers, there’s little hope they’ll ever move up the socioeconomic ladder and escape this cycle of poverty and dependency.

Time This combination of low pay and limited work hours yields an average annual salary of only $11,056.14. And while it’s certainly true that some people flipping burgers and taking drive-thru orders are teenagers, that report finds that only 18% are under the age of 18 and living with their parents. Even when you includes minors who don’t live with their parents and college kids living at home, the total adds up to just under a third of all fast food workers.

Of course, fast food companies aren’t the only ones that rely on minimum- and low-wage workers; big-box retailers like Wal-Mart have also come under fire for what they pay employees. But researchers found that 44 percent of restaurant and food service workers were enrolled in one or more assistance programs, the highest of any industry.

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Naked Capitalism how low the pay really is:

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How is supplementing minimum wage jobs with taxpayer-funded government programs NOT income redistribution? Especially when you consider the results.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS TAKEN GOVERNMENT AWAY FROM THE REST OF US to benefit the one percent exclusively. 

Transplanting Taxes from Corporations to the Rest of Us

In the 1950s, corporations paid nearly a third of the federal government’s bills. Last year, thanks to the antics of Pfizer and other examples of overly creative accounting, corporate income taxes accounted for less than a tenth of Uncle Sam’s total revenue. This dramatic shortfall shows up in two ways — federal budget deficit growth and the growing trend of individual taxpayers paying an increased share of the costs of government.

Naturally, that’s resulted in some income inequality:

“The top 1% of US earners collected 19.3% of household income, breaking a record previously set in 1927.”

The income gap between the richest 1% of Americans and the other 99% widened to a record margin in 2012, according to an analysis of tax filings…

Income inequality in the US has been growing for almost three decades. Overall, the pre-tax incomes of the top 1% of households rose 19.6% compared to a 1% increase for the rest of Americans.

And the top 10% of richest households represented just under half of all income in the year, according to the analysis.

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So 30 years after Ronald Reagan… here we are. With George W. Bush’s unpaid wars and tax cuts and bank bailouts, we’re left with a record deficit, no new revenue (the GOP insists on spending cuts only to “entitlement programs”!), no manufacturing (most of it off-shored by companies like Bain Capital years ago), a crumbling infrastructure, millions of people working minimum wage service-sector jobs, and with income inequality at a record high. The rich are richer than ever! 

And yet for the past few years, the Republican Party has spent all of its time and energy trying to defund or postpone a law which will make health insurance more affordable for most Americans—this month even going as far as shutting down the government, risking default, and costing the rest of us ANOTHER $24 BILLION and a loss of services and programs for 16 days.

What Republicans really mean when they say ‘government is the problem‘ is: (1) it’s a problem if the wealthy have to contribute / don’t profit and (2) it’s a problem if the not-wealthy benefit from government services / don’t help the wealthy to profit.

The GOP has redefined the purpose of government and who it should benefit. Where everyone used to contribute for the good of most, now most people contribute for the benefit of only a few—and those few happen to be worth millions, if not billions. The one percent reap all the rewards of living here without having to invest or contribute a proportional amount of their fortunes. And the rest of us, the American taxpayers, subsidize their lifestyles with money that could be benefiting us personally and building a better future for our children.

What’s really the bigger problem today: government or living with the Republican Party’s economic plan for the past 30 years?

Chart: what Republicans got out of the government shutdown

Here’s what Republicans got out of the shutdown, in one chart

Washington Post – Back in September, Republicans released a list of their demands for raising the debt ceiling. Today, the Rachel Maddow show went back to see how they did. And this chart doesn’t even show everything the Republicans lost in the deal… via @EzraKlein

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Yesterday, President Obama put the GOP’s hostage-taking and demands in perspective:

CS Monitor —  “To all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change,” said the president. Obama said that politicians should stop focusing on lobbyists, bloggers, talking heads, and “professional activists who profit from conflict” to focus on creating jobs and getting the nation’s fiscal house in order. Specifically, he said Washington should now focus on a “balanced approach to a responsible budget,” passage of immigration reform, and finishing a farm bill.

[...] Obama went on to praise the work of furloughed government workers, saying they care for seniors and veterans, ensure workplaces, food, and toys are safe, and other numerous vital services. He said he recognizes that some people disagree vehemently with his policies. But disagreement needs to be resolved in the normal democratic process, he said. “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it,” he said.

Obama’s tough tone was hard to miss. He wasn’t singing “Kumbaya” and asking everyone to join hands. His message, in essence, was this: I won fair and square within the normal democratic process. If you don’t like it, take back the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016, if you can.

Stupidity, thy name is Tea Party: the reality of ObamaCare and the Shutdown

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The GOP/TB realized they could never really expect their base voters to sympathize with the health insurance industry and its historical profiteering—an industry that would like nothing more than to continue pocketing billions of dollars with ever-increasing rate hikes and other greedy practices that have been accepted for decades. This industry donates heavily to federal campaigns, with 55% of their donations going to the Republican Party.  

So, with money in hand and a bunch of uninsured, low-information, red state voters—who would personally benefit from the ACA’s regulations on the worst practices of the insurance industry—GOP/TB politicians and their spokespeople decided that even if facts weren’t on their side, they could still keep the base loyal and distracted with a favorite strategy: “If you can’t beat ‘em, SCARE ‘EM!”

And here we are today.

Michele Bachmann: “When the federal government controls your health care, they literally control life and death. This egregious system, that will ultimately be known as ‘Deathcare’ must be defeated.”

Michele Bachmann: “… let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let’s not do that! Let’s love people, let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can.”

Ben Carson: “Obamacare is the worst thing that’s happened in this nation since slavery.”

Ted Cruz “…Do you think that is going to expand our health care if we do not see bright young students going to medical school? That is what ObamaCare is doing. Because you do not want an IRS agent deciding if your mom lives or dies. “

Ted Cruz: “Americans all over this country are suffering because of Obamacare. It is the single biggest job killer in America.”

Sarah Palin: “Of course there are death panels in there. But the important thing to remember is that’s just one aspect of this atrocious, unaffordable, cumbersome, burdensome evil policy of Obama’s and that is Obamacare.”

Steve Doocy: “…We see from your tax records that you support the Tea Party or conservative groups. You want a doctor’s visit? Three weeks. You want hip replacement? Four years.”

Now, imagine that noise when a needle scratches a record:

John McCain to a Fox anchor (on Friday): “On the debt limit, now there are things that we could negotiate with the president about, some entitlement reforms, some tax reforms, things that are achievable. Defunding Obamacare is not one of them.”

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ABC’s “Nightline” touted a PolitiFact story… that rated the number one lie in 2010 politics: Republicans calling the health care bill a “government takeover of health care.”

When asked why the claim received the status of biggest lie of the year, PolitiFact.com editor Bill Adair answered: “It was so pervasive. It was said by the Republican leadership, by Republicans running for Congress, said by Republicans running for governor. And it’s just not true. This is a plan that uses the private health insurance system to expand health care coverage.” 

Clips played of notable GOP congressmen Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) calling the bill a “government takeover,” as well as party chairman Michael Steele and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) saying the same. “Congratulations to the lie of the year for its speed and effectiveness,” concluded Jake Tapper. “Way to deceive the public.”

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BECAUSE THIS NEEDS TO BE SAID:

via

Obamacare (i.e. the Affordable Care Act (ACA)) facts:

• ObamaCare’s goal is give more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance and to reduce the growth in health care spending in the U.S.

• The fact is ObamaCare does not replace private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. If you have health coverage you like, you can keep it.

• ObamaCare regulates some of the worst practices of the for-profit health care industry.

• ObamaCare offers a number of new benefits, rights and protections including provisions that let young adults stay on their plan until 26, stop insurance companies from dropping you when you are sick or if you make an honest mistake on your application, prevent against gender discrimination, stop insurance companies from making unjustified rate hikes, do away with life-time and annual limits, give you the right to a rapid appeal of insurance company decisions, expand coverage to tens of millions, subsidize health insurance costs, and require all insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

• Over 100 million Americans have already benefited from the new health care law.

• Read more

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Eugene Robinson: The reality of the Affordable Care Act

Someday, if the GOP captures the presidency and both houses of Congress, President Barack Obama’s health care law could be altered or even repealed. But it would be replaced by some new program that does the same thing, because there is no politically viable way to snatch away the medical insurance that customers are buying through the exchanges.

Quite the opposite: As soon as the glitches are cleared up and everyone becomes a bit less hysterical, the question will be how to obtain coverage for as many as 30 million people who will still be uninsured — including about 8 million ineligible for the ACA because of a sabotage campaign by Republican governors.

Look at Texas, which the state medical association calls “the uninsured capital of the United States.” An estimated 22.5 percent of the population lacks health insurance, a higher percentage than in any other state. Many will remain uninsured because Gov. Rick Perry — a once and perhaps future GOP candidate for president — refused to set up a state insurance exchange and turned down billions in federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage.

Rejection of the ACA may be popular in Texas now. But demographic trends are making the Lone Star State’s electorate more diverse, as the Latino population grows, and less reliably Republican. Small businesses that cannot afford to offer health insurance may soon worry about losing employees to states offering better coverage for the working poor through local exchanges and expanded Medicaid. Time is on the side of those who want to expand coverage, not those who want to restrict it.

I trust that conservative leaders will continue riling up the base with the untrue charge that the ACA is “government health care.” It is nothing of the sort. Obama decided at the outset not to push for a government-run health system, such as those in Britain and Canada, or a single-payer system of any kind.

Instead, all of Obamacare’s insurance plans are offered by private firms — the same companies that also provide employer-sponsored insurance. Disappointing his liberal supporters, Obama declined to include even a single public, government-run health plan. All the apocalyptic right-wing rhetoric about socialism and the end of freedom is nothing but hot air. Soon, no one will take it seriously.

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On Thursday, Jon Stewart slammed the 26 states that chose to forgo the federal money that would completely cover the cost of expanding Medicaid over the next three years.

All the 26 states unsurprisingly have either GOP governors or GOP-controlled legislatures, and are guilty of “total dickishness” as Stewart put it. “[These 26 states] must be a pretty eclectic group with many different reasons to explain why they would turn down money to bring healthcare to the working poor.  Or maybe there was just one — spite: the emotion that makes you turn down millions of dollars that would go toward healthcare for the working poor — because you hate the president.”

[Note: if you leave the Hulu player open, the segments automatically load / play from the rest of this episode.]

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Which states turned down federal money to bring healthcare to the poor? The Moocher States:

The Moocher States are most of the red states which already take in more federal money than they pay to the federal government. The residents of these states will be happy to know that uninsured people will continue to utilize the free “dine and dash” system of healthcare that’s endorsed by their party, and they’ll continue to have the opportunity to absorb those costs personally with their insurance rates and their doctor / hospital bills. It’s a win-win for everyone, I guess. Except for the working poor. 


image: view data detail

Your one stop Obamacare shop

In a mere 24 hours, the tea party town-criers have been reduced from dire apocalyptic warnings about the end of liberty and freedom, to whining ACA sites are loading slowly. The horror! That’s an interesting twist into arguably the biggest immediate threat posed by the ACA to the GOP naysayers. It isn’t just that people will come to like the low rates and guaranteed acceptance offered under the ACA over time. A more immediate problem for the usual suspects is millions of people have already found out that the dreaded Obamacare, the socialized government invasion that would bring Lady Liberty down on her knees, is really just a boring website full of insurance policies and coverage info.

    • If you only want to get a handle on what states are where with respect to Medicaid expansion, click the 50 state image above to go to a detailed bitmap showing that data.
    • If you want to actually shop for real rates, you’ll need to click the appropriate state exchange or the Healthcare.gov link, create a screen name and password, and then follow the prompts, where you will fill in lots more information. …Be prepared to verify your identity several times by answering a wide array of questions to help HHS or your state HIX keep your info secure. And in part because of record traffic, and in part because the HIX websites have to interlock with many other sites to help you apply, most sites are going slow and/or will be down intermittently.

American Horror Story: Government Shutdown

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The U.S. Congress, as a whole, is making $2.95 every second. That’s $177 a minute and more than $250,000 a day. And yes, it’s still making that during the government shutdown it caused.
– Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) says he needs his paycheck during the shutdown to pay for his “nice house.”
— Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) says “I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line.”

– See: http://congressstillgetspaid.com

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This evening, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture announced that “an estimated 278 illnesses … reported in 18 states” have been caused by chicken contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg and possibly produced by the firm Foster Farms. “FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period,” the agency said in an emailed alert. “The outbreak is continuing.” // FSIS furloughed 1,218 of 9,633 federal employees.

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Food expert Marion Nestle asks whether government-shutdown-mandated furloughs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hampered its response to the salmonella outbreak at Foster Farms… The Heidelberg strain of salmonella appears to be especially virulent. As my colleague David Pierson reported, 42% of victims have been hospitalized, double the normal rate. One big problem: Some of the salmonella strains appear to be resistant to antibiotics. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the initial Public Health Alert, monitoring food-borne illnesses is the job of the CDC. Thanks to the Republican shutdown, the agency was operating with a skeleton crew when the outbreak appeared. // If you’re curious why the CDC’s absence from this outbreak is so critical, this description of how the CDC works in multi-state outbreaks — by organizing the investigation and deploying lab resources that no other agency possesses — is helpful.

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Most federal employees will receive a paycheck on Friday that’s only 60 percent of the usual amount, thanks to the government shutdown. This could be the last check they receive until agencies reopen. [...] The government shutdown affects the pay of both excepted employees — those still on the job — and furloughed workers. The pay of most excepted employees will be delayed but eventually they will be reimbursed for their hours [when the shutdown ends.] // USFS furloughed 18,755 of 32,015 federal employees. Fire crews and law enforcement remain on patrol to protect life and property.

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Benefit checks (including pensions) for veterans and their families would end Nov. 1, if the shutdown lasts through October, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told a congressional panel Wednesday morning… and most of the remaining 13,000 VBA workers will be furloughed.

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Most federal employees will receive a paycheck on Friday that’s only 60 percent of the usual amount, thanks to the government shutdown. This could be the last check they receive until agencies reopen.[...] The government shutdown affects the pay of both excepted employees — those still on the job — and furloughed workers. …Furloughed workers will only receive back pay if Congress approves it; those who worked for a few hours on Oct. 1 to close up shop will be paid for that time.

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The Utah Department of Workforce Services has seen a 500 percent increase of people requesting unemployment since the government shutdown turned federal employees away from work Tuesday. The state-run office usually process 2,000 unemployment claims a week, but since Tuesday has taken on 10,000.

Capturephoto source …aw, bb.

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A report released by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) set out the following numbers: 715,000 visitors lost daily based on October 2012 national park attendance numbers, $76 million in lost visitor spending per day and $450,000 in lost revenue each day that would go directly to the National Park Service ($300,000 in entrance fees and $150,000 in other in-park expenditures, such as campground fees, boat rentals, etc.). [...] Losses like these led the American Hotel Lodging Association to send a letter on Thursday to President Obama and members of the House and Senate urging them to reach an immediate agreement. The letter states, “Analysts say that for each day the federal government is shut down, collective American income is reduced approximately $200 million, and our nation’s hotels are losing more than $8 million in economic activity – putting jobs at risk and causing repercussions across many other related sectors. Communities near national parks are expected to lose $76 million a day in visitor spending.”

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New distilleries, breweries and wineries cannot open. Certain businesses that manufacture or distribute alcohol — and firearms, ammunition and tobacco products — require permits [to operate] from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which won’t accept new applications during the shutdown. // An obscure but powerful arm of the Treasury Department has stopped approving new brews... Jim Koch, founder and brewer of Boston-based Samuel Adams…said that while it’s important to keep the focus on how ordinary people are being hurt by the shutdown, “we will quickly see the downstream effects on businesses and industries. … In short, new breweries cannot start up and new beers cannot be sold.” // 448 of 483 TTB employees were furloughed on Oct. 1.

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At the close of business today, more than 90 percent of the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will go home on furlough as a result of the government shutdown. The Commission had been operating on carryover funds since last Monday, when the shutdown began, but those funds run out today, reducing the staff to a skeleton crew of 300 “essential” personnel who will be responsible for monitoring the nation’s 63 nuclear sites until the government reopens. 

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Processing of oil and gas permits by the Bureau of Land Management [has come] to a halt. BLM will continue to monitor ongoing oil, gas, coal and other mineral operations. BLM will keep inspectors and enforcement personnel on the job for some activities, including overseeing some drilling operations and patrolling oil and gas fields “to make sure that theft of oil or condensate is not occurring.” Alaska pipeline operations will also keep going because funding comes from non-federal sources and for health and safety reasons. // The Dept. of Interior furloughed 58,765 of 72,562 federal employees.

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Patients hoping to enroll for treatment in cutting-edge research studies at the National Institutes of Health’s renowned hospital will have to seek care elsewhere during the government shutdown. Each week that a shutdown lasts would force the agency’s research-only hospital to turn away an estimated 200 patients, 30 of them children… [...] For the fiscal year that ended Monday, NIH was able to fund only about 16 percent of the grant applications it received, Collins said, down from about 1 in 3 applications funded a decade ago. That’s because earlier this year, NIH lost $1.5 billion of its $31 billion budget to automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, after years of budgets that didn’t keep up with inflation.

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[Arizona] stopped payments averaging $207 a week to 5,200 families eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families after Tuesday’s government shutdown… The Arizona Republic reports the decision came despite assurances from federal officials that states would be reimbursed for any payments they made for the federal program. It also comes as the state sits on a $450 million rainy day fund.

NOTE: Gov. Jan Brewer paid the federal government a $651,000 donation allowing Park Service employees to reopen [Grand Canyon National Park] and manage it through Oct. 18, the park service said Friday in a statement..

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The distribution of Social Security benefits will continue, but services like issuing new Social Security cards have ceased. “I just came in here to see if mailing a disability questionnaire late will affect my son’s benefits,” an 81-year-old Howard Beach woman said as she left the Rego Park Social Security office. “ All the supervisor told me was that he doesn’t know, that he couldn’t help me.” For some, that frustration has turned into anger. “It was a bad experience in there,” the woman added. “One man was so mad, he nearly punched the worker through the glass window.” // SSA furloughed 18,006 of 62,343 federal employees.

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The Food and Drug Administration has been forced to suspend all routine food safety inspections for the duration of the government shutdown, FDA spokesman Steven Immergut confirmed to The Huffington Post on Friday afternoon. Until funding is restored, the FDA will be inspecting only those facilities that it has cause to believe “present an immediate threat to public health.” // FDA furloughed 976 of 1602 investigators.

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In a post on his personal Facebook page that was later deleted, Pearce urged government workers to call their banks and take out a short-term loan if money is tight. “If you are a furloughed government employee, we encourage you to reach out to your financial institution as soon as you worry you may miss a paycheck,” read the post. “Don’t wait until you are behind on a bill; call now and explore your options. [Pearce is one of the 50 richest members of Congress, with a net worth of $8 million. ]

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The House gym reserved exclusively for lawmakers remains open during the shutdown. It features a swimming pool, basketball courts, a sauna and steam room. “This job is very stressful and if you don’t have a place to vent, you are going to go crazy and that’s why I’ve used it all these years,” said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who has been a user since 1973. While there’s no towel service available during these tough times, taxpayers are still paying for maintenance and cleaning. The House gym for staff members, however, is closed. // And for [lawmakers and their staff] who feel like relaxing, there’s a special little subway car …to get them there in a ride that takes about 30 seconds. The trains remain staffed and functioning during the shutdown.

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More episodes of American Horror Story: Government Shutdown, as time goes on:

“The longer this goes on, the worse it will be.”President Obama

  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulates trading on Wall Street. The CFTC has sent home 680 of its 708 employees. “They’re monitoring a $300-trillion market,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “How many people are being ripped off, right now? The cops are off the beat.”
  • Engineering firm URS Corp and British defense contractor BAE Systems added a further 4,200 to the number of workers who have been temporarily laid off due to the U.S. government shutdown.
  • Boeing Co. (BA) said it may furlough workers at its defense, space and security unit should the U.S. government’s partial shutdown continue. … He declined to say how many employees may be idled.
  • Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin said Monday that it would trim its planned furloughs to about 2,400 employees—most of whom are based in the D.C. area—in light of the Pentagon’s decision to recall most of its civilians workers.
  • 10/8/13: One industry group estimated that after another week of shutdown, up to 300,000 government contractors could be out of work.
  • Many state governments, including North Carolina, Rhode Island, Arkansas, are also furloughing employees whose pay depends on federal funding. Wyoming furloughed 231 state employees whose salaries are paid in full or in part by the federal government.
  • A recent study released by WalletHub claims that Idaho is one of the hardest-hit states in the union, when it comes to the shutdown. Idaho checks in at ninth, due to our high reliance on federal contracting work (much of which has been put on stand-by) and our high reliance on loans from the U.S. Small Business Association (which can’t be processed). Idaho will feel even more impact from the shutdown next week, when logging in national forests is halted.
  • The housing market is expected to slow down because lenders won’t be able to verify borrowers’ incomes with the IRS and Social Security Administration. Borrowers will also face delays getting mortgage insurance from the Federal Housing Authority, which guarantees about 15% of new loans.
  • Many small business employers rely on E-Verify (an online program of the Department of Naturalization and Immigration Services) to determine a potential employee’s eligibility. But that resource is currently unavailable. 
  • Furloughs for federal inspectors also kept the National Transportation Safety Board from dispatching a team to investigate a fatal explosion on a Washington Metro line over the weekend. // Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB and a West Virginia native, said there have been 14 accidents since the shutdown began — including a school bus accident in Tennessee and a worker who died on the D.C. Metro subway system — that the agency has been unable to investigate because of the shutdown. “Safety delayed is safety denied,” Hersman said.
  • National weather and emergency preparedness resources are not available.
  • The government’s Small Business Administration, Federal Housing Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency are essentially out of reach for many people applying for funds…government funding for these agencies has essentially been halted
  • Agriculture producers cannot get market reports.
  • Government approvals for fishing and quotas are unavailable, a situation that is costing seafood companies tens of thousands of dollars. 
  • Illinois officials are scaling back on certain hospital and nursing home inspections because of the partial federal government shutdown. …a state agency gets about $1.3 million a month to pay for inspections of medical facilities. But the shutdown means the money isn’t heading to Illinois. So the Illinois Department of Public Health has put certain inspections on hiatus.
  • Head StartAfter reports during the first week of shutdown that some Head Start programs had been shuttered in Florida, Connecticut and a few other states, more programs will likely shut as local programs run out of money. [Some conservatives see the curtailing of a pre-school program for low income families not as a crisis, but as an opportunity.]
  • WIC [Women, Infants, and Children] If the federal government is still shut down at the end of October, 38,000 women and young children (in Washington state) will lose access to an important federal nutrition subsidy called WIC, and 82 King County staff will be laid off.
  • Meals on Wheelsthe shutdown comes on top of the this year’s sequester, which resulted in a roughly 8% overall cut in federal funding for Meals on Wheels, a percentage that might be higher or lower for individual programs. [How many veterans receive Meals on Wheels? It's too bad GOP politicians care more about photo-ops at national monuments than whether those elderly veterans in wheelchairs will receive something to eat in the weeks ahead.]
  • Salvation Army: The impacts of the government shut down can be seen on the shelves of the Salvation Army’s food pantry. “Usually shelves would be full like this,” explained Volpone. Since the shut down began, the Salvation Army says it is feeding 40 more mouths a day than normal.
  • Many exports and imports – including steel, lumber and computer equipment – cannot move over the border without specific permits from the federal government, permits that aren’t being given because of the shutdown.
  • Environmental Protection AgencyAll pesticide imports to the U.S. have been halted, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which must approve them but has had more than 90% of its staff furloughed.
  • U.S. Department of CommerceSome U.S. technology companies can’t fill overseas orders because they cannot obtain U.S. Department of Commerce authorization to export. Steel imports are stranded at customs-clearance warehouses awaiting paperwork.
  • MSHA [Mine Safety and Health Administration]: gave lay off notices to nearly 1,400 employees who enforce mine safety laws from West Virginia to Montana. Those cutbacks mean safety regulators can’t do routine inspections of those high-hazard workplaces. Since the shutdown began, three mine workers died in separate accidents that occurred over a three day span. However, there isn’t any indication that those deaths occurred because of fewer inspections… But its been enough to send a red flag to officials with the united mine workers of America, and local miners as they continue their work.
  • With ninety per cent of OSHA employees furloughed, workplace-safety inspections aren’t taking place.
  • Ninety per cent of EPA workers are also staying home, which means inspections of toxic-waste sites have stopped.
  • The CDC has stopped monitoring the spread of the flu.
  • As scientists had feared, today (Oct. 8) the National Science Foundation announced it was canceling the U.S. Antarctic research program for this year because of the ongoing government shutdown… The shutdown means the cancellation of millions of dollars of planned research. Graduate students may have to stay in school longer because they won’t get the data they need to complete their research. Contractors are losing their jobs. Other countries, including New Zealand, France and Italy, rely on the United States’ sea-ice runway at McMurdo Station and may not be able to conduct their own research after the pullout.
  • As a result of the federal government shutdown, many resources that researchers, academics, and library patrons depend on—like the Library of Congress (LC) archives—have been rendered unavailable in the last week. [From comments: A great deal of research is done at National Laboratories, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory, including library/digital library research, which are slated to shutdown at midnight 18th of October.]
  • Oct. 16: Federal courts could shut down. Administrators say the courts will stay open for roughly the first 10 business days of the shutdown, but they say they would have to reassess matters on Oct. 15.
  • After Oct. 17, the Treasury would have about $30 billion on hand, enough to cover only a few days. Predictions for the fallout in the financial markets are catastrophic.
  • Some economists have estimated that the shutdown costs the U.S. economy $300 million a day.
  • If the shutdown stretches through the end of October, experts at Moody’s Analytics predict a total economic impact of $50 billion.

The main mullah of the GOP’s anti-government insurgency never had a game plan or strategy

Steve Benen — Indeed, on the government shutdown’s fourth day, a few truths have come into sharp focus. Republican members of Congress (1) don’t know why they shut down the government; (2) don’t know what they hope to get out of the shutdown; and (3) don’t know how to end the shutdown.

By the way, it’s no longer about Obamacare. Oh, you want proof? Benen explains:

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) isn’t the most prominent member of the House Republican caucus, but in recent weeks, he’s played a pretty important role in shutting down the government. It was Meadows who initiated a formal letter, endorsed by around 80 of his House GOP colleagues, vowing to oppose any spending measure that failed to gut the Affordable Care Act.

…With this in mind, as Brian Beutler reported yesterday, “it was a big surprise” when Meadows told reporters this week that the government shutdown has nothing to do with Obamacare. “This fight now has become about veterans and about national guard folks that perhaps — reservists that are not getting paid,” the North Carolina Republican said. “That’s where the fight is today.”

In theory, this is excellent news. Republicans have spent the last several weeks making one demand: take away health care benefits from millions of Americans or the government’s lights go out. If one of the far-right congressional ringleaders of this fiasco is arguing, on the record and out loud, that the fight is no longer about health care then the shutdown can end immediately.

This point was not lost on NPR’s Tamara Keith, who asked Meadows why the House doesn’t just vote on “a full CR if you don’t care about Obamacare anymore.” If you listen to the audio, there’s an awkward silence that lasts about five seconds. Eventually, the congressman says, “Why not vote on, on a full CR?”

Keith replies, “Yeah, sure. Because if you’re, if Obamacare isn’t the issue to you anymore…” At this point, Meadows tried this explanation:

“Because it, twofold. One is, is, that when you when you start to look, they say ‘clean CR?’ That it, it translates into into to truly a blank check, and, and so Obamacare is an issue for me and my constituents, but what happens is today is, we gotta figure a way to open it back up and, and with that, in opening it back up, when we start to look at these issues, it, it is critical that we make it, the decisions we, we make to be as least harmful as they possibly can be.”

So to review, the reason the House can’t vote on the Senate spending bill is an incoherent word salad, filled with lots of words that seem unrelated to one another.

Palin-style! This should come as no surprise but… turns out that fucking around with our government, just to make the voters in your little gerrymandered districts wave their torches and slobber on themselves, isn’t really leadership or a very effective way to manage a world superpower. But blame the Democrats.

The government shutdown: Christian dominionism and God’s bankers

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Senator Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International–he’s also been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. The theological ethos of Rafael Cruz’s vision is in Christian dominionism; he talks about preaching a “message of dominion” that all Christians have received an “anointing as kings.”

Morgan Guyton, Associate Pastor, Burke United Methodist Church, watched a sermon Rafael Cruz preached on August 26, 2012 at the DFW New Beginnings megachurch in Irving, Texas, and shared his thoughts on how a government shutdown fits perfectly with the ultimate plans of Christian dominionism

…Christian Zionist charismatic pastor Larry Huch… had a very interesting prophecy to share when he introduced Cruz to preach:

We’ve been doing this series here that God laid on my heart: Getting to the top and staying there. A message for us as individuals, the kingdom of God, but also for America. It’s not enough to get there. We need to stay there. It’s not a coincidence that in a few weeks, we go into what’s called in the Bible Rosh Hashanad [sic]… It will be the beginning of the spiritual year 2012. The number 12 means divine government. That God will begin to rule and reign. Not Wall Street, not Washington, God’s people and His kingdom will begin to rule and reign. I know that’s why God got Rafael’s son elected, Ted Cruz the next senator.

But here’s the exciting thing… The rabbinical teaching is… that in a few weeks begins that year 2012 and that this will begin what we call the end-time transfer of wealth. And that when these Gentiles begin to receive this blessing, they will never go back financially through the valley again. They will grow and grow and grow. It’s said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers. And the ones that say here I am Lord, you can trust me, we will become so blessed that we will usher in the coming of the messiah.

So it sounds like we’re entering into the age where the Christians (who give faithfully) are going to get all the money through the “end-time transfer of wealth.” Isn’t the title of that sermon series just awesome? Getting to the Top and Staying There! It was a packed house. I wonder how many other apocalyptic prosperity gospel megachurches are packing their houses by preaching sermon series about getting to the top and staying there. 

[...] The seamless move that Cruz makes without any justification is to say that because kings and priests were anointed in the Old Testament, that means there are two kinds of Christians today: kings and priests. Forget about the body of Christ and all the spiritual gifts identified in 1 Corinthians 12. Forget Jesus’ exhortation in Mark 10 not to be like the Gentile princes but to be servants instead of kings. Cruz decries the way that churches have neglected their members’ kingly anointing:

Our churches unfortunately are very focused on only one of these anointings and that is on the priestly anointing… Those of you who think you don’t have the anointing to teach the word of God, to be teaching Sunday school, you’re second class citizens. And so you begin to lead frustrated lives… The majority of you… your anointing… is an anointing as king. God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what’s the battlefield? The marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion.

So to pull all this logic together, God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian “kings” who will accomplish the “end time transfer of wealth.” Then “God’s bankers” will usher in the “coming of the messiah.” The government is being shut down so that God’s bankers can bring Jesus back.

And here’s the thing. When you get a lot of people together in a megachurch, you can do some pretty impressive things with your mission projects. You can feed thousands of people and host ESL classes and job training programs and medical clinics. And I imagine that seeing your accomplishments could give you the hubris of thinking we don’t need a government at all to make our society run; our church can be the new government.

Everything makes sense now. No wonder extremist fundagelicals within the GOP base conduct themselves the way they do: not only do they imagine they’re earning a shiny throne right next to Jesus in the Afterlife, but their spiritual leaders are promising that, in the very near future right here on Earth, they’ll be rewarded with truckloads of money in an end-time transfer of wealth and then… Raptured!

Their God-given mission is Greed, which also becomes the reward in itself. Praise Jesus!

Read it all: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/morgan-guyton/the-theology-of-governmen_b_4020537.html

Video: Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) bullies a National Park Service Ranger

TPM — Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), one of a number of Republicans who have tried to use the closed World War II Memorial to bash the Obama administration and Democrats on the shutdown, confronted [a National Park Service Ranger] while surrounded by a crowd of onlookers.

Photo op!

Neugebauer asked the Ranger how she could turn World War II veterans away.

“How do you look at them and…deny them access?” the congressman asked.

“It’s difficult,” she responded.

“Well, it should be difficult,” Neugebauer snapped.

“It is difficult,” the Ranger said. “I’m sorry sir.”

“The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves,” Neugebauer said.

“I’m not ashamed,” the Ranger said.

Members of the crowd then chimed in. One person shouted “This woman is doing her job, just like me.”

“I’m a 30-year federal veteran — I’m out of work,” the man continued.

“Well, the reason you are is because [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid decided to shutdown the government,” Neugebauer said.

“No, it’s because the government won’t do its job and pass a budget,” the man responded.

Neugebauer then tells his entourage, “Come on, let’s take this somewhere else please,” and scurries away.

Keep in mind that, as a congressman, Neugebauer’s federal paychecks continue to be deposited every two weeks during this shutdown, while the NPS ranger is currently required to work without pay.

Related: 

Fox host: “I want to punish these people. Sorry to say that, but that’s what I want to do.”

“…I’m sick and tired of a massive, bloated federal bureaucracy living on our backs, and taking money out of us, a lot more money than most of us earn in the private sector, then getting a furlough, and then getting their money back at the end of it. Sorry, I’m not for that. I want to punish these people. Sorry to say that, but that’s what I want to do.”
— Stuart Varney, Fox Business host on furloughed federal workers.

When Varney says “us,” he doesn’t actually, literally mean usVarney’s net worth is $10 million. So this is exactly like when Willard Romney complained that government workers earn more than he does.

In reality, the super wealthy want the conservative base to believe and agree with the notion that a middle-class wage is an unfathomable luxury that shouldn’t be paid in the public sector AND shouldn’t be something that ordinary people even aspire to in the private sector. Stuart Varney must resent that he’s not getting a new tax cut this year for his income bracket.

Unfortunately for everyone, the Fox viewing audience gobbles up this delicious bullshit and always holds out their plates for seconds. Be happy with your Walmart wages, baggers. Keep your standards low and keep voting for the one percent. Praise Jesus! 

Negotiating with an anti-government insurgency: the GOP’s Suicide Caucus

“We’re not going to be disrespected, We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” – Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), verbalizing the entire Republican Party’s strategy on the government shutdown.

“Why in the world would you do that? That’s basically, at this point, a surrender to the Democratic position.” — Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), suggesting that to the GOP, compromise and negotiation are “surrender” and that the extremists in the House are prepared to withhold support for a government funding bill and the debt ceiling increase.

“I am exasperated with the idea that unless I say [to] 20 million people, ‘you can’t have health insurance, they will not reopen the government.‘ That is irresponsible.”President Obama, explaining his exasperation with John Boehner and the House Republicans.

18 Republicans have said they would vote for a clean CR, which combined with Democrats means there are enough votes to pass legislation reopening the government.

E.J. Dionne — Why this shutdown is different — And it’s different because the Republicans have no coherent strategy. Their leaders, as one Republican put it to me, have been laying track just ahead of the train as it roars forward.

They are making insulting offers — for example, proposing to fund a few parts of the government that they cherry-pick while allowing the rest to languish. House Speaker John Boehner’s approach has been driven by fear: fear of the most right-wing House members, fear of rabid talk-show hosts, fear of the Frankenstein monster of fanatical organizations the party has relied upon to gin up the faithful.

…The government is shut for only one reason: Boehner wants to keep his job. This is not a sufficient cause for throwing hundreds of thousands of other people out of theirs. “This is the conservative right versus the reckless right,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Budget Committee Democrat. “The country should not become the victim of the Republican civil war.”

Which is why the only way out is for the growing number of Republicans on the responsible side of the skirmish to insist that the whole charade be called off. There should be negotiations all right, but on real budget issues, and for the long term — after the government is opened and the debt ceiling raised. The House and Senate can then engage in the kind of normal compromise-seeking discussions that the GOP has so far resisted.

Matt Yglesias wants to see Obama and the Democrats stand firm — [F]rom the standpoint of the country as a whole, a debt ceiling breach in 2013 is no more disastrous than a breach in 2017 or 2022. And the problem with “cutting a deal” with Republicans is that it essentially makes an eventual breach inevitable. If the hostage-taking gambit works, then it will be used over and over again until it goes wrong.

Ed Kilgore wants to see some attitudes adjusted sooner rather than later – Now I don’t know anything about the president’s relationship with Boehner. But it’s becoming a matter of national security for him to find some way to take him aside, maybe give the Speaker a cigarette from his secret stash, and say: “I will see you in Hell before I negotiate over the debt limit. And if you let a default happen, I will devote the rest of my presidency to making sure you, personally, bear the blame, and go down in history with our most despised traitors and criminals. For generations, little school children in Ohio will cross themselves and make hex signs when your name is mentioned. So do not, do not, go back and tell your crazy people they can win if they just stick together.”

Here’s what it must be like to negotiate with the Suicide Caucus right now:

Steve Benen — As for the nature of “negotiations,” Democrats have urged Republicans to begin budget talks for the last six months, with Republicans refusing literally every request…

For the last 36 hours or so, the GOP line is that they’re now eager to talk to Democrats about the budget, and can’t imagine why Dems won’t join them at the negotiating table. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reached out to Boehner today — with a letter and in a phone call — saying the moment Republicans end their shutdown, budget talks can begin. Boehner again refused because, well, it’s not clear why. Apparently the Speaker wants the government to be shut down.

As for the Republicans’ broader posture, it’s genuinely remarkable. After forgetting what “compromise” means, GOP lawmakers now seem confused by what “negotiate” means.

Mapping the anti-government insurgency‘s network of cells: 

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Why should furloughed feds have their lost wages restored when they return to work?

Lawmakers from this region already have introduced legislation to restore federal employees’ pay at the end of the government shutdown. The bills cover all federal workers, whether they work or not during the shutdown. The White House estimates 800,000 federal workers are being furloughed. The Senate bill lacks GOP co-sponsors. The House bill has bipartisan support with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) signing on. — FederalNewsRadio 

Look at that again: Out of 277 Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate, only three agree that furloughed federal civilian workers–through no fault of their own–should have lost wages restored. Even though this is happening because the GOP leadership decided it would be politically beneficial to hold the government hostage while they tried to stop the ACA for important reasons like: (1) to appease an extremist 18% minority, and (2) to appease wealthy donors who are against the ACA for various reasons.

The bagger-argument is / will be that these 800,000 feds who are currently locked out of their workplace don’t “deserve” another “paid vacation” (like back in ’95-’96). And maybe that would be a legitimate argument IF the people who are furloughed had asked for or wanted to be sent home without pay for an unspecified amount of time, with one last paycheck to pay bills and feed their families, knowing that the next paycheck will be a half-paycheck and it will be the last paycheck. Par-Tay!  

My brother has an excellent counter-argument for baggers (and which is actually at the heart of why back pay is probably restored to furloughed feds): there are no free lunches, not even for extremist rightwing members of the House.

If the federal government won’t pay its workforce, then the states will. The reality is that there are 800,000 furloughed federal civilian workers currently without an income, through no fault of their own, BUT they are “job-attached.” That means that while they wait at home, if they want to keep their jobs and eventually go back to work, they can’t look for work or work a side job or get another job to make up for this loss of income. These feds are eligible for state unemployment benefits.

The states will wind up paying unemployment benefits to many of the 2.9 million civilian federal workers currently being punished by the GOP. This includes the 800,000 furloughed feds and, depending on the state, may include some of those who are currently on the job but who will not see a paycheck until this is over (unlike Congress). The caveat? If the unpaid federal workforce finally receives back pay, they will in turn pay back the benefits they received to their states.

So each day that the Republican-led House chooses not to put up a clean CR for a vote, and as each new Republican “idea”  that’s designed to get some PR time on AM radio and Fox News is defeated in the House and Senate (such as re-opening only some parts of the government, like national parks), and as the GOP messes around with their talking points and wish-list of things they’re going to try and change about the federal government and current law (now that they have hostages), it will be state governments picking up the tab on the federal workforce.

So why should furloughed workers get back pay? Aside from the obvious answer “because it’s the right thing to do,” the other answer is because states shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of “one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government [which] shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election.”  Entire states shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of extremists elected to Congress by an extremist minority.

 

Essential Fed or Non-essential Fed: that is the question.

“I can’t believe there’s one of us, Mr. Speaker, that would serve on a Board of Directors and treat a large portion of our employees with such disrespect, with such lack of consideration, with such contempt at times, as we treat our civilian employees.” –  Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

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Forbes answers part of the questions: “Who is “non-essential” and who isn’t? And what would stay open and what would close?”  Note that like the Republicans in Congress and their bagger-base, this Forbes’ author likes using the “non-essential” label for certain federal employees instead of the less pejorative “excepted” and “non-excepted.” (Also, I added NON-ESSENTIAL and highlighting to some of the bullet points from the Forbes article below. I’ve linked more information from other articles as well.):

  • Non-essential employees, about 1/3 of the federal workforce, would be furloughed. The distinction between non-essential employees and those who are needed is discretionary but is guided by instructions from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A memorandum issued by OMB in 1980 defines “essential” government services and “essential” employees as those providing for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life and property; providing for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year or other funds remaining available for those purposes; and conducting essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property. With that (and subsequent guidance), federal agencies are required to determine which of their employees are “essential.”

Those federal employees determined to be excepted (“ESSENTIAL”), will work without pay. Right now, this includes the military.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Federal contractors could work, in theory, since those funds have already been approved – but there may not be adequate staffers to issue paperwork for jobs. And you know how D.C. loves paperwork.

Forbes astutely points out that the federal government should be more like private industry and have no paperwork whatsoever. I guess. And along those same lines, will congressional staffers be considered “essential” and, if so, is that not the height of bullshit? All paperwork is equal, but some paperwork is more equal than others.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: HeadStart programs – those grants for preschool children to attend school – would not be funded, meaning that school would be out for thousands of children.
  • Federal courts would remain open – for about 10 days. If the shutdown goes beyond 10 days, only “essential” work would continue. Most of the judiciary, including staffers, would not be paid until the shutdown was resolved. But Supreme Court justices and federal judges would collect paychecks.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Social Security benefits would still be paid out but if the shutdown continues beyond a few days, other services provided by the Social Security Administration – including Medicare applications and the issuance of Social Security cards – would likely be put on hold.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Foster care and adoption assistance services funded with federal funds or reliant on processing of federal paperwork would cease.
  • Agencies that focus on public safety would remain open…

So, for example: Air traffic control stays open. So do all emergency medical care, food-safety inspections, border patrol, federal prisons, law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system, operating the power grid, and guarding federal property.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Remarkably, however, the Center for Disease Control would likely be shut down as it was in the 1990s: that means no disease surveillance in the heart of flu season.

Also NON-ESSENTIAL: regulatory agencies like the FDA, EPA, SEC will be shut down completely. The National Institutes of Health stopped accepting new patients for clinical research and stopped answering hotline calls about medial questions.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Small business loans and mortgage insurance applications tied to government funding or agencies would not be processed.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Workplace safety inspections would stop.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Visas and passports would not be processed. In 1995, 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day of the furlough and 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed. The loss to the tourism industry was said to be acute.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Internal Revenue could see some furloughs (something they’re familiar with) but personnel to collect taxes would stay at work. As a rule of thumb, most of the folks who handle money would be safe from the shutdown. But the folks following the money? Agents and investigators would likely be told to stay home.

Because finding revenue for the federal government is NON-ESSENTIAL. Got it.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would delay processing alcohol, tobacco and firearms applications.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: National parks would close their doors; in 1995, that meant the loss of 7 million visitors, including those hoping to see the Grand Canyon, which was closed for the first time in its history. National museums would also remain shuttered; in 1995, that was an estimated loss of 2 million visitors. The loss to surrounding communities reliant on tourist dollars was estimated to be $14.2 million.

Again, revenue streams for the federal government is NON-ESSENTIAL.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Closures would extend to national cemeteries, where, among other things, headstones would not be laid. Additionally, medical and financial services for veterans would likely be put on hold.

Neither is the Federal Reserve, which will remain open.

NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: The federal government would have to take a break from working on drilling permits and processing applications for liquefied natural gas exports.

For full details of every agency’s plans, here’s the Agency Contingency page, which presents the contingency plans for agencies across the Federal Government in case of a shutdown on Tuesday, and which is now being updated continuously: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/contingency-plans

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I think it’s safe to say that many Tea Party supporters might be upset about a delay on their Scooter Chairs and firearm applications. And if any of the other closures or slowdowns affect them personally because of employee furloughs, then they’ll randomly be upset about those things too. All because they can’t accept that a healthcare reform law goes into effect on Tuesday (shutdown or no) and that they hate taxes but love services.

It’s amusing to hear the Republican voting base / Fox “News” audience sneer about furloughed feds on radio, TV, and in every comment section on any article about a government shutdown. They’re the ones jumping straight to the conclusion that if a federal employee is considered “non-essential,” why do they even have a job to begin with? We don’t need ‘em! They’re just the paper-shufflers and pencil-pushes… WHEEEEE!! When the shutdown is over, let ‘em stay home for good!

First of all in non-emergency situations (or as we like to call it: Normal Life), as you can see from the partial list above, the non-excepted, “non-essential” employees are actually pretty essential to the smooth running of our government and its ability to collect revenue, ensure compliance with laws and regulations, protect consumers and public health, and provide so many diverse and essential services to a diversity of citizens and their needs.

Secondly, for any of the people who think that the jobs of federal workers who would be furloughed must be so unimportant (non-essential) that we could do without them forever, I’d sure like to hear what kinds of important and essential jobs they think they’re doing right now (or did before retirement) that our country couldn’t do without if the government’s narrow parameters for “essential” work were applied to their own jobs: protecting national security, the safety of life and property, and providing benefit payments.

I’m willing to bet there would be a lot of “non-essential” workers and business owners, if it came down to it, who would be furloughed and sent home too. Does that mean their jobs aren’t necessary in the long-run to their companies or customers, or that their businesses aren’t important in the long-run to our society and the economy as a whole? Based on OMB’s definition of what is considered “excepted” or “essential” work in the event of a shutdown, should we consider the work that millions of people do (or did) every day across America meaningless and not worth a paycheck?

It’s that ‘glass houses and stones’ thing.

House Republican Conference “went bonkers” with approval for a Government Shutdown

The Republican government shutdown is a day and a half closer to happening, thanks to John Boehner (who is now exclusively controlled by Sen. Ted Cruz and his 2016 political aspirations) and the dimmest bulbs in the U.S. House:

GovExec.com: House Republicans on Saturday rallied around a short-term measure that would fund the government through Dec. 15 while delaying the implementation of Obamacare for one year, a politically risky proposal that unites the Republican conference but could bring the government within reach of a shutdown. The plan, which also includes an amendment to repeal the medical device tax and a separate provision to pay military members in the event of a shutdown, also puts the ball quickly back into the Senate’s court. …Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, though, dismissed the House’s plan outright…. “Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless… Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown.” To avoid a partial government shutdown, both chambers of Congress must reach an agreement by Tuesday, the start of the new fiscal year…

I don’t happen to agree with only paying the military in the event of a shutdown — that’s Republican hypocrisy at its finest.  What about all the federal workers who won’t be paid (those furloughed and those working through it)?  The GOP always, always pulls out their Military Card when they think they need to look patriotic (support the troops! except when they’re no longer active and need benefits, etc). In late 2013, this pathetically tired move should only work with baggers. If there’s going to be a shutdown of the American government, let’s all feel it together.

PLEASE NOTICE the Republican House did not amend anything to stop their own paychecks in the event of a shutdown. In fact, the Senate last month unanimously passed a bill that would eliminate pay for lawmakers but the bill has stalled in the House. There’s a revealing little factoid to share with any Republican-supporting acquaintances you might know.

So how excited were the entirety of the House Republican Conference about shutting down the government OVER HEALTHCARE REFORM? This excited:

  • Cheers erupted in a closed-door meeting after Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made it clear the House would not give-up in the stand-off with the Senate and the White House.
  • “Let’s roll,” an exuberant Rep. John Culberson, R-Tex., shouted as colleagues cheered Boehner. An unfortunate analogy, perhaps, because Culberson later explained he was evoking the battle cry of passengers who tried to wrest control of United Airlines Flight 93 from terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. That was the fourth plane to go down in that day’s terrorist attacks, crashing in a Pennsylvania field and killing all on board.

Seriously.

  • Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas went on the House floor shortly after the meeting and called Boehner “our great speaker.”
  • …as lawmakers described it, Boehner walked up to the microphone and proceeded to matter-of-factly detail what his new strategy would entail. “People went bonkers,” with approval, said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. “They were very excited.”

That observation, all by itself, sums up everything that will happen in the next 48 hours.

  • And as the meeting adjourned, the accolades for Boehner kept on coming. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, a vocal critic of leadership who just two days ago trashed Boehner’s proposed debt-ceiling maneuver, exited the meeting and flashed a big “thumbs up” sign.
  • Even Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who often clashes with leadership and is known to regularly shun the media, ran toward a horde of reporters and declared: “It’s a fabulous bill!”

Is it “fabulous,” Michele? Crazy-eyes approved.

  • House Republicans – including some who met privately this week with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who has led the charge against Obamacare – said Saturday they were not worried that extending the battle with the Senate might send the nation spiraling into a shutdown.

They’re not worried because this is what they’ve been wanting since 2011.

  • “Republicans will probably be blamed for whatever happens,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. “So, what remains for us is to do the right thing.”

Shorter Trent Franks: “Whatever, so… What.Ev.Er.”

A interesting, but not surprising, observation from a congressional reporter at Politico last night:

Related: 

VA: All veterans’ benefit payments will be disrupted if a shutdown goes beyond two weeks — The Department of Veterans Affairs told congressional officials Friday that all benefit checks it issues, including disability claims and pension payments, will be disrupted if a government shutdown lasts for more than two or three weeks, according to congressional sources.

And Yes, the GOP Even Managed to Work Denial of Birth Control Into Their Clownish Budget Bill — this shows the influence of the extreme Calvinist religious right on today’s Tea Party Republicans. They know this crazy bill is never going to pass the Senate and is only intended as theater, so they’re lettin’ it all hang out.

The GOPeaParty never talks about how much their political theater (for the benefit of their gerrymandered, minority-opinion voting base) will actually cost the American taxpayer – According to the Office of Management and Budget, the two shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 cost taxpayers $1.4 billion combined. Adjust for inflation and you’ve got $2 billion in today’s dollars. …In the immediate aftermath of the first government shutdown in 1981, the most conservative estimate – conducted by the General Accounting Office (now called the Government Accountability Office) — put the cost of shutting the government down for a single day at $8.2 million, or almost $21 million in today’s dollars. A House panel later concluded that the day-long furlough cost taxpayers 10 times more than that.

“This has been a rather confusing week, I know. I don’t think, ever, in the history of the Senate, have we had a 21-hour filibuster, and then the persons carrying out the filibuster voted for the issue they were filibustering. I don’t think that’s happened in the history of our country… is it more important to the Senator from Texas and the Senator from Utah that people around the country watch this vote, or is it more important to us that we have a good policy outcome from our standpoint and actually have a body that has a majority of Republicans to be able to react and send back something of good policy?”   — GOP Senator BOB CORKER (R – TN), ripping his fellow Tea Party Republican senators Ted Cruz (R – TX) and Mike Lee (R – UT)

Fauxlibuster for fun and profit

It’s not out of a deep, personal belief or philosophy that the far-right teabagging wackjobs in Congress are against Obamacare. It’s about money and power and about the rich and powerful not losing any of it. As usual. Which politicians get their financial investment / support?

Ted Cruz’s Fake Fight Against Obamacare Is Making Millions — When Sen. Ted Cruz went to the Senate floor Tuesday to block a bill that would fund the federal government for the next two months, he said to the C-SPAN cameras, “We don’t need fake fights.  We don’t need fake votes.  What we need is real change.”  But at that moment, Cruz was leading a fake fight over a fake vote that nearly all in Washington agree would never actually defund Obamacare the way Cruz said it would.

The politicians who are willing to sell their opinions and time in the House and Senate to the highest bidders (such as Dick Armey’s Freedomworks,  Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Koch brothers’ Tea Party) will be rewarded with vast riches. Ted Cruz received many pieces of silver to get to the Senate and he’ll need much, much more for 2016:

…If anyone is still confused after the Obamacare funding fight (faux filibuster and all), Ted Cruz is now a 2016 contender and the SCF’s biggest ally. Its enemies are many of the men and women he shares a cloakroom with—any Republican senator who did not join in. That’s the part that has Cruz’s fellow Republicans fuming. Although the Fund has run just one ad against a Democrat (Sen. Mark Pryor) this cycle, it has taken the unprecedented step of running ads attacking seven GOP senators, including Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham, for not opposing Obamacare enough, even though they all voted against the bill and said they would vote to defund it. Last week, the SCF announced it would also run ads against House Republicans if they fail to embrace the right defund strategy.

…According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the conservative pro-Cruz outside interest groups plowed millions into the [Texas Senate] primary, outspending the pro-Dewhurst super PACS and giving Cruz enough lift to win.  The top two super PACs supporting Cruz were Club for Growth Action, which spent more than $5.5 million to help elect Cruz, and the Senate Conservatives Fund and Senate Conservatives Action, which spent $1.3 million and gave Cruz more than any other candidate that cycle. Members of the Club for Growth and the SCF were also the top two sources for Cruz’s individual donors, with more than $1 million combined.

The bottomline is that these wealthy donors with their own personal Super PACs are worried about losing money when Obamacare goes into effect:


via

When the mega-rich can convince the starving masses in Red States to vote against their own self-interests (like affordable healthcare), you understand the importance of buying the right spokesmen early.

Green Eggs and a Government Shutdown

I’m so relieved Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the rest of his party take their responsibilities seriously, that they do the work that needs to be done with care and diligence, making every effort to prevent a government shutdown. Oh, hold on… 

Sen. Ted Cruz just read Green Eggs and Ham tonight on the Senate Floor, during his pretend “filibuster” against Obamacare:

The thing about Cruz’s “filibuster”? It’s not a filibuster at all, it’s fake. Cruz privately approached Sen. Harry Reid to ask permission to talk:

Sen. Ted Cruz has known since Monday exactly how long he’d be allowed to speak, and that no matter how long he talked, he wouldn’t be able to prevent a vote he had hoped to stop. That’s because, according to a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, Cruz approached Reid privately on the floor requesting the time to talk. And when no other Senator objected, Reid allowed it.

Pure vaudeville for the spittle-spewers. Meanwhile as Cruz fucks around on the Senate Floor with our future:

Republican Reindeer Games will cost taxpayers billions: In 1996, the Office of Management and Budget tallied the two major shutdowns of the decade at about $1.4 billion. Adjusting for inflation would bring that total to more than $2 billion in today’s dollars. But as an analysis by Roy Meyers, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, found, that estimate left out a lot. It didn’t account for the lost value of work that wasn’t done or the $300 million the federal parks would have taken in or the reduced pace of IRS audits.” …Even getting near a shutdown costs money. The government must prepare, and that means a lot of hours spent on nothing useful. …The irony, Collender added, is that “Republicans who are so big on uncertainty and government efficiency would never think it’s prudent to ask a business to operate the way they’re asking government to operate. Can you imagine a business telling employees, ‘We might shut down, and keep an eye out for an e-mail telling you whether to report next week’?”

Dr. Seuss is probably spinning in his grave.