Last thing I want to say is this: To my fellow countryman, Mr. Glenn Beck. I see you, and I love you, brother. I love you, and you cannot do anything about it. I love you, and you cannot do anything about it. Let’s be one country! Let’s be one country! Let’s get the job done!
As the New York Times notes, ironically, local Fox affiliate stations carried Jones’ speech live last night. This past week, the Center for American Progress announced that Jones will be rejoining the think tank as a Senior Fellow and leader of the new Green Opportunity Initiative, which will focus on “creating economic opportunity in distressed communities.” He will also be teaching environmental and economic policy as part of a one-year fellowship at Princeton University.
There’s a ton to chew on in this Washington Post piece by Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson about increasingly desperate efforts to find a legislative approach to the climate problem that can survive in Congress. I just wanted to highlight this one graf:
The change in policy, which might even include giving money raised through carbon pollution allowances directly back to consumers, a scheme known as “cap-and-dividend,” could appeal to some wavering senators. Senior Obama administration officials have also been studying the cap-and-dividend approach. But it remains unclear whether that would be enough to produce the 60 votes proponents need, especially when the Senate has yet to finish work on health-care legislation and a jobs package.
As I’ve been trying to warn since Election Day, I think it’s just not realistic to imagine that our country’s big problems can be solved under conditions of supermajority rule. The brief period during which there were 60 Democratic Senators was fluky and unsustainable. A big part of the key to tackling the climate issue has to be moving beyond this 60 vote business. Ideally, that would mean changing the rules of the Senate. But more modestly, it can mean the budget reconciliation process.
And in principle one thing that could be appealing about a “cap-and-dividend” approach is that it would be ideally suited to the rules governing reconciliation as it’s more or less a pure budgetary measure. And from a tactical point of view if you ask me this needs to be the top priority, not asking what kind of climate bill can get 60 votes, but what kind of climate bill only needs 50 votes.
It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.
There are two different things that make paying taxes undesirable. One is that after you pay taxes, you have less money. The other is that the act of paying can be annoying and stressful. Normal people, such as myself and Felix Salmon, favor steps to make taxpaying less annoying on the grounds that that would be less annoying. But Ed Felten says he wants to become annoyed and frustrated when he pays a tax or a fee, because “those are just the emotions I want to cultivate toward the entire enterprise” of financing government.
Well fair enough. But as the tax season is upon us, I do want people to understand that paying taxes is as annoying as it is largely because right-wing ideologues deliberately make it as annoying as possible. It would be fairly simple for the IRS to mail people “pre-completed” forms, subject to the taxpayers’ review and correction. Rich people would still want to hand their documents over to an account for analysis, but for normal people you’d just read the thing over and sign. But a coalition of tax preparation firms and outfits like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform always stands in the way.
CORRECTION: That should be Eric Felten who wrote the op-ed.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has founded several businesses, including a for-profit health care firm called the “Center for Health Transformation” (CHT) and a communications firm called the “Gingrich Group.” CHT serves approximately 94 health industry corporations and lobby groups, including health insurance (BlueCross BlueShield Association, WellPoint, AHIP, UnitedHealth), health IT (L-3 Enterprise, Microsoft, IBM), and pharmaceutical companies — with each paying up to $200,000 annually. And although CHT has no registered lobbyists or lobbyists on retainer, Gingrich has used his CHT business to promote his clients’ interests in Congress:
– Gingrich Meets With Lawmakers To Help Craft Specific Policy, Legislation: In March 2009, Gingrich met with Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and other members of the GOP Doctors Caucus to help write conservative health reform alternative legislation. “Gingrich provided us with great insight as we work to craft health care solutions for the 21st Century,” proclaimed Gingrey after the meeting. As FireDogLake has reported, through his CHT firm, Gingrich wrote healthcare legislation introduced by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA). Gingrich’s CHT also “consulted” with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on health reform legislation that would deregulate the insurance industry. As the American Spectator reported, the Coburn-Ryan bill also contained the exact health IT proposals backed by Gingrich.
– Gingrich Helps Clients Obtain Specific Financial Opportunities From Legislation: As Business Week reported, Gingrich and his CHT firm worked with health IT firms like IBM and Microsoft “on how to grab some of the $19.6 billion in federal stimulus money.” The article notes that Gingrich helps “open doors” on Capitol Hill for his business clients.
– Gingrich Advises Lawmakers On Legislative Strategy: According to the New York Times, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) discusses strategy on a “regular basis” with Gingrich. Throughout 2009, Gingrich attended whip meetings with the GOP caucus to “educate” rank and file Republican lawmakers on the health reform debate. Gingrich provides “Newtgrams” — constant e-mails and messages with tactical advice — to a vast array of Republican legislators in both the House and Senate. By helping the GOP kill health reform, Gingrich is also assisting his health insurance clients, which all oppose reform.
– Gingrich Coordinates Meetings Between Corporate Clients, Public Officials: In December 2009, Gingrich met with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and industry partners to discuss potential Wall Street investments in health IT. A health IT trade magazine has noted that since 2007, Gingrich has worked to pair business leaders with influential lawmakers and government officials to promote health IT programs. In March 2009, Gingrich organized a conference to create an “innovative business matchmaking framework” between Israeli telehealth firms, American health insurance and health technology companies, and Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.
At a CHT press conference on Monday promoting tort reform (CHT clients include medical malpractice consulting firms for doctors), Gingrich attacked President Obama’s health proposals for lacking a supposed “rhythm of transparency.” In the spirit of this transparency, ThinkProgress asked Gingrich why he has not registered as a lobbyist to provide greater clarity on who exactly is paying him to lobby on legislative issues, especially given the influence of his ideas. Gingrich dodged and explained that he is not a lobbyist because when he lobbies Congress, he does so at the request of lawmakers every time. According to lobbying guidelines, lobbying members of Congress counts as lobbying regardless if it necessarily benefits each client. Nevertheless, Gingrich defended his actions by stating that his lobbying is not technically lobbying because it “benefits the country at large.” Watch it:
At the event, CHT Vice President David Merritt told ThinkProgress that Gingrich has “flipped the trade association model really on its head” by pushing an agenda, then inviting clients who support that agenda to “sign on.” Merritt said that it is “very true” that corporate clients pay Gingrich because his agenda benefits them. However, like Gingrich, Merritt explained that Gingrich’s lobbying never benefits individual clients, thus disqualifying Gingrich as a lobbyist.
However, trade associations like the Chamber of Commerce or AHIP also do not necessarily lobby for individual members. Instead, they lobby for policies that benefit groups of members or the industry as a whole. AHIP, the Chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers and other trade associations largely follow the law and register their own lobbyists, as well as lobbyists they contract out. Since Gingrich’s CHT is essentially a health industry trade association, the same rules should apply to Gingrich.
As ThinkProgress reported, Gingrich has been working closely with the oil industry through another project he leads. In his ubiquitous punditry, Gingrich touts himself as an author, a “futurist,” a conservative thinker — anything but a lobbyist. But as the evidence shows, he has positioned himself as a nexus between corporate clients and mostly Republican lawmakers. For the sake of transparency, Gingrich should register as a lobbyist pursuant to the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
Igor Volsky’s right, of course, that the non-productive nature of last week’s health care summit illustrates exactly why it was silly of Barack Obama to ever promise that C-SPAN cameras would be “in the room” when legislators negotiate bills and it’s silly of his Republican critics to try to hold him to it: When you put politicians in a room full of cameras they just posture for the cameras and it’s not possible to get anything done.
There are plenty of other areas related to the health reform process where transparency is great. People need to be able to see and understand the details of the legislative proposals that negotiators come up with. And the public needs to be able to get a clear sense of what’s going on with the actual operations of our health care policy. But you put cameras in a room to create a TV spectacle. Sometimes a TV spectacle is a good idea, but it’s never going to be a negotiation.
Interesting paper from Joshua D. Angrist, Susan M. Dynarski, Thomas J. Kane, Parag A. Pathak, and Christopher R. Walters titled “Who Benefits from KIPP” that’s able to look in a rigorous way at whether the high performance of KIPP students relative to demographically similar non-KIPP students is merely the result of some kind of selection effect. They confirm earlier studies that indicate that it is not, and KIPP provides genuine value-added beyond what’s typical of American schools:
We use applicant lotteries to evaluate the impact of KIPP Academy Lynn, a KIPP charter school that is mostly Hispanic and has a high concentration of limited English proficiency (LEP) and special-need students, groups that charter critics have argued are typically under-served. The results show overall gains of 0.35 standard deviations in math and 0.12 standard deviations in reading for each year spent at KIPP Lynn. LEP students, special education students, and those with low baseline scores benefit more from time spent at KIPP than do other students, with reading gains coming almost entirely from the LEP group.
KIPP’s approach to teaching is considerably more time-intensive (we do lots of extended learning time stuff at CAP) than what you typically see in American schools, and it continues to be not-so-clear to me how far KIPP will be able to scale-up in any given market. But it keeps expanding and thus far the results of that expansion seem quite positive.
Marco Rubio’s campaign has put out a new release, whacking Charlie Crist for not being tough on social issues like abortion.
The release includes this mention of the Terri Schiavo case, “Crist also received criticism on the Terri Schiavo debate about where he really stood on a Congressional bill that would have let Terri’s parents take their lawsuit to save her life to federal courts.”
Thomas interprets the release as evidence that Rubio “seems to favor government intervention in this case.” According to a Nexis search, Rubio hasn’t explicitly commented on the Schiavo incident, in which conservatives brought a personal tragedy to national attention in 2005 to energize their pro-life base. The GOP tried to write legislation forcing doctors to reinsert Schiavo’s feeding tube and taking the “extraordinary step” of subpoenaing the critically brain-damaged woman to testify to Congress. Rubio did vote for the law giving then-Gov. Jeb Bush the authority “to issue a one-time stay to prevent the withholding of nutrition and hydration from” Schiavo. Crist was the attorney general of Florida at the time, but he refused to get involved in the case.
Three key senators are engaged in a radical behind-the-scenes overhaul of climate legislation, preparing to jettison the broad “cap-and-trade” approach that has defined the legislative debate for close to a decade.
That’s the lead WashPost story today. My sources say the final proposal is not fully baked, so this scoop is closer to a “leaked” trial balloon [shaped like a flag, of course, to put all my metaphors in the mixing bowl]. Indeed it’s not even clear whether Graham, Kerry, Lieberman will float a final bill or something closer to a discussion draft.
Frankly, I’m not sure they have the winning proposal yet, but here’s what’s out there:
Our guest blogger is Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
At yesterday’s White House summit on health reform, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) once again repeated the misleading canard that the White House’s embrace of the Senate health reform bill’s language on abortion would allow public funding of that procedure. This opinion can be explained only with the most twisted logic and inconsistent positioning about indirect funding and “fungible” money:
For 30 years we’ve had a federal law that says we’re not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions. We’ve had this debate in the House – it was a very serious debate. But in the House, the House spoke. And the House upheld language we’ve had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions. This bill that we have before us – and there was no reference to that issue in your outline, Mr. President – begins for the first time in 30 years, allows for the taxpayer funding of abortions.
For those of you scratching your head at all of this, here’s a brief review.
When we last left the world of health reform and abortion funding, the House bill included the noxious “Stupak Amendment,” which prohibits insurances plans that accept government subsidies in the new health market exchange from providing abortion services, except under the most extreme circumstances, even if only private money were used to pay for those services. Most if not all women in the exchange would only be able to purchase coverage through an impractical, separate abortion “rider.”
The Senate bill included a deal with Senator Nelson that was only slightly less onerous. In that legislation, health plans may offer abortion coverage, but only if their customers write two checks each month – one for the share of their premium that’s allocated for abortion services and one for all other health care coverage – even though both checks would come from the customers’ private funds, not from government coffers. The Nelson deal also included language that encourages states to pass their own version of the Stupak Amendment.
The White House’s plan for health reform, released Monday, maintains Senator Nelson’s approach in its entirety. It is consistent with current prohibitions on federal funding of abortion in that it creates a firewall between publicly- and privately-funded premiums and only allows private money to cover abortion costs. However, it fails to fix the unnecessary and discriminatory provisions mentioned above. While the means for passing comprehensive health reform are limited at this point, it is nonetheless disappointing that the White House did not acknowledge the faults in the Nelson language and look for ways to remove its worst features.
Abortion opponents claim to hate the Nelson language, but they should celebrate if it gets through. Although it’s not as retrograde as the Stupak Amendment, it still represents unprecedented restrictions on private insurance coverage for abortion care, making it much more cumbersome for insurers to offer coverage and for consumers to obtain it.
The White House plan includes several provisions that will make health insurance better for women, but abortion remains the one area where it will be worse.