Citing a Washington Post article on health care industry cash flowing to lawmakers, Washington Journal guest host Libby Casey asked Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to respond to a Twitter question inquiring how much money he has “taken from the insurance industry.” Barton played coy on the question, saying that he was “sure” he had “received some political action committee donations from the health insurance sector” over 25 years in Congress. Watch it:
Barton’s answer significantly downplays the role that health industry money has played in his political career. According to OpenSecrets, the health care sector has been Barton’s second largest contributor over the years, donating $2,096,021. In the current election cycle, only the energy and natural resources industries have given him more money.
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Huckabee will air the talkshow during a solidarity visit to the site of the project, which is in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Hikind, who is active in right-wing Jewish causes, told Haaretz that dozens of U.S. activists will participate in the mission, in order to express their support for the project and the man behind it, Irving Moskowitz.
Huckabee has been an outspoken supporter of Israeli settlements — and opponent of a two-state solution. Last July, Huckabee told World Net Daily that “The two-state solution is no solution, but will cause only problems”:
The Palestinians can create their homeland in many other places in the Middle East, outside Israel.
Irving Moskowitz is a Florida-based gambling magnate who funds right-wing pro-Israel organizations in the United States and radical Israeli settler groups and settlement projects in the occupied territories, like the one in Sheikh Jarrah. Moskowitz is also a longtime funder of conservative think tanks like the Hudson Institute, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Center for Security Policy (CSP).
A source now tells me that Fox News has denied the Haaretz story, and that there are no plans to do ‘Huckabee’ from East Jerusalem.
Earlier today, The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent noted that RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who is doing everything he can to stop health care reform, went three years without health insurance and once told his kids not to “break anything” because they didn’t have coverage. “Steele, presumably, now has insurance, so his family doesn’t have to be quite so careful,” wrote Sargent. While Steele does have coverage today, Media Matters Action’s Matt Finkelstein points out that he was unable to say for sure what kind of insurance he has during an interview with CNN today:
CNN: What type of health insurance do you have? Do you get that through the RNC?
STEELE: Yup, through my employer.
CNN: What company is it?
STEELE: Uhh. BlueCross BlueShield, I believe. Or maybe not.
Today’s mission emphasized our call for FASTER emissions reduction targets. In order to have a good chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, all developed countries must reduce carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Setting this target would also the make the US bargaining position STRONGER at UN negotiations in Copenhagen this December. At best, the American Clean Energy and Security Act only reduces U.S. emissions 17-23% below 1990 levels by 2020.
In the afternoon, we’ll proceed to Senate offices to dance “around the world” and again suggest that if the US had the ambition to put a man on moon in 10 years’ time, than the nation also can cut CO2 emissions by 40 percent in the same time frame. Finally, our Apollo mission will head to the Union Station Metro stop at 5:30 pm to do our moonwalk — this time to a hot Daft Punk beat — for staffers and others passing through during rush hour:
Responses in the room ranged from excited smiles and laughs to uncomfortable grimaces. Senators Boxer and Sanders didn’t reach for the gavel to call for order. A confused capitol police officer kindly asked us to sit, but didn’t kick us out. After 15 minutes, another officer asked us into the hallway but let us back in after a warning. Walking in and out of the hearing twice only added to our visibility because of the bright and shiny NASA suits we all had on.
Once we were let in a second time, we stood up on the benches in the back and raised the banners even higher. While that resulted us being escorted out of the building (it was time for a nap anyway!) it also resulted in more comments by the senators and staff.
Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) thanked us and repeated the message almost word-for-word. Bob Kiss, mayor of Burlington, thanked us for our antics, before laying out Burlington’s success at reducing emissions and creating jobs. And to me it seemed we put smiles on many other young people wearing suits and working more ’serious’ jobs who wished they could have joined us.
James Suroweicki has an excellent item in the current New York about how pro-cyclical state government budgets are exacerbating the recession and impeding Washington’s efforts at recovery. If I have a complaint with the piece it’s that, like a lot of writing about America’s screwy political institutions, it’s framed in a way that makes it sound as if maybe what we do used to make sense and only recently has become pernicious:
If you came up with a list of obstacles to economic recovery in this country, it would include all the usual suspects—our still weak banking system, falling house prices, overindebted consumers, cautious companies. But here are fifty culprits you might not have thought of: the states. Federalism, often described as one of the great strengths of the American system, has become a serious impediment to reversing the downturn.
I think the reality is that America’s strong version of federalism—some kind of administrative decentralization is necessary in such a large country—has always been problematic. The whole point of writing the Constitution in the first place was to weaken the super-strong federalism of the Articles of Confederation. And even with a stronger central government in place, the main role of federalism was to make it more difficult to wipe out large-scale chattel slavery. The fiscal aspects of federalism prevented fiscal policy from being effective during the Great Depression. With slavery vanquished, federalism once again reared its head as a staunch defender of Jim Crow. Federalism is the genesis of the incredibly pernicious United States Senate, about which I’ve already said plenty.
Strong federalism is even the enemy of sensible decentralization. Since the states are “sovereign” and represented as such in the Congress, there’s no way to reorganize America’s administrative subdivisions no matter how anachronistic they’ve become. Thus some states, like California and Texas, have grown to immense proportions while other states (Wyoming, e.g.) are tiny and shrinking. And we can’t set up sensible administrative units that might reflect how people’s lives are actually lived. Hoboken and Manhattan are in totally different jurisdictions even while New York City can have its local transportation ideas foiled by state legislators from Rochester. Some parts of the DC suburbs are involved in the governance of Norfolk and other parts of the DC suburbs are involved in the governance of Annapolis, but there’s no level of government at which DC and its suburbs can collaborate on common issues.
Now in practice it’s not clear what we can do about any of this. But it’s always been a problem.
Wendell Potter, a former top CIGNA health insurance official, left his job recently and is trying to atone for his role in propagating what he called “Wall Street-run health care that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it.” Appearing on PBS two weeks ago, Potter also divulged that the private health care industry “was really concerned” with Michael Moore’s documentary SiCKO because Moore “hit the nail on the head with his movie.” Host Bill Moyers posted copies of internal strategymemos from AHIP, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry, detailing how to discredit Moore and conduct a PR campaign to maintain the status quo.
Now, as Congress moves into high-gear for reforming health care, AHIP appears be positioning itself to defeat a public option by using the same playbook they used against Moore in 2007. The AHIP anti-Moore memo similarly states:
Define the Health Indusrance Industry as Part of the Solution … Spread the word about ‘proactive solutions’ for health care … Highlight the value of managed care … A Debate We Can Win: Improving U.S. System Versus Enacting Government-Run Care
This week, AHIP released a new feel-good ad that posits private insurance as the cure to America’s health care crisis, along with a statement reaffirming that Congress must enact reform “without creating a government run plan” to compete with insurers. Similar to its message against Moore, the narrator for the new AHIP ad declares that “we’re America’s Health Insurance Companies, supporting bipartisan reforms.” Watch it:
A central strategy of the anti-Moore memo is described as: “Focus on Our Reform Proposals While Patients and Allies Make the Case Against Government-Run Care.” The allies were instructed to “showcase victims and horrors of government-run systems” and “bring victims of single-payer systems to the US for a media tour.” Indeed, while AHIP has made significant efforts this year to portray itself as “for reform” without a public option, it has left allied groups to do the dirty work.
The allies AHIP is leaning on this year include vicious attack groups such as Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR), a group run by the same firm that managed the “Swift Boats” campaign against John Kerry, and Patients United, an astroturf group run by a former associate of Jack Abramoff. CPR is spending $20 million dollars running fear-mongering ads featuring people upset with the health care system in Canada and the UK. In addition, as AHIP had planned for Moore in 2007, CPR manages a website with various videos showing the supposed horrors of government-run systems. Patients United has organized advertising campaigns and media tours for experts and similar “victims” of government health care.
The ultimate goal of the anti-Moore strategy, to “disqualify government-run health care as a politically viable solution,” appears to mirror what we see AHIP doing today.
Taking questions after his national security speech at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, Newt Gingrich was confronted by Frank Gaffney, who we last saw on the op-ed page of the Washington Times suggesting that President Obama “might still be a Muslim.” Gaffney praised Gingrich’s speech as “a tour-de-force,” but wanted to know why Gingrich “didn’t specifically address sharia.”
For a little background, Gaffney is maniacal on the issue of sharia, or Islamic religious law, which he maintains is a “mortal threat” to the United States. He has developed a baroque set of ideas about sharia and “authoritative Islam”, a term he uses to suggest a single, monolithic understanding of Islam and the application of religious law, which of course does not exist. In as much as Gaffney’s arguments cannot be disproved — if you disagree with his claims about sharia, either you don’t know the truth about Islam (something he’s said to actual Muslims who’ve tried to explain to him that his ideas are ridiculous) or you’re involved in “stealth jihad” — they essentially amount to a conspiracy theory.
Gingrich seemed a bit unsure at first how to deal with Gaffney’s question, but then noted that he drew “a sharp distinction between Muslims who are part of the modern world and Muslims who are committed to a worldview so fundamentally different that it is literally irreconcilable with modernity.” Gingrich continued:
And I think, that this is part of why I said a while ago if you look, whether you want to start in ’79 or ’83 or ’93 or 9/11, we have now been engaged in — if you go back to ’83 — the longest war in American history. And we still haven’t, we still don’t have the intellectual tools to discuss it honestly. [...]
But I think all you have to do is describe in a positive sense the world we hope to create and the folks who believe passionately in sharia are almost automatically in a mortal struggle with you because it is literally antithetical to their worldview. And I think this is at the heart of why we have had a hard time dealing with this because we keep underestimating how fundamental the problem is and so we keep bouncing off of it.
We’ve obviously spent a lot of time in the U.S. since 9/11 talking about the threat of Islamic extremism. And while I think there’s still a lot that’s wrong with what continues to be said and believed, I think we’ve come a long way from post-9/11 hysteria and the dark days when nonsense about “Islamofascism” generated by Gaffney and associated neocons was taken more seriously than it is now.
Which is why it’s a bit embarrassing to see Newt still peddling these sorts of ideas in 2009. Gingrich’s claim that “we still don’t have the intellectual tools” to discuss the threat of extremism is really just a smart-sounding way of complaining that conservative ideas about the nature of that threat have been discredited. We have, I think, in the years since 9/11, developed many tools to better and more accurately understand our enemies — their intentions, capabilities, and their political appeal to certain target populations — and thus better protect the U.S. against the threat as it actually exists. President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world is evidence that he gets this, and we already have evidence that Islamic extremists perceive Obama’s approach as far more dangerous than George W. Bush’s clumsy crusaderism.
None of this seems to have penetrated Newt’s consciousness. When Newt wonders aloud whether “the longest war in American history” started either in “’79 or ’83 or ’93 or 9/11,” — referring to, respectively, the Iranian revolution and taking of American hostages in Tehran, the Hezbollah bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut, Al Qaeda’s first attack on the World Trade Center, and 9/11, combining Iran and Al Qaeda into a single enemy — he’s admitting that he hasn’t paid much attention to the debate that’s actually occurred. One of the key conclusions of this debate is that it’s highly preferable to disaggregate ones enemies whenever possible. While Iran and Al Qaeda may both represent a threat, it’s both wrong and counterproductive to behave as if they represent the same threat. In doing so, Newt pretty clearly shows that he’s allowed the debate to pass him by.
When you hear something that sounds like nobody could possibly be so crazy as to do it, one thing worth considering is that possibility that nobody is actually doing it. Thus when you find yourself, as Politico did, with the headline “Bailouts could cost U.S. $23 trillion” it’s worth asking: Really? $23 trillion? The total value of all goods and services produced in the United States is $13.8 trillion. So pretty clearly the government could not, in fact, spend $23 trillion on bailouts. As Pat Garofalo explains, the number $23 trillion is the result of an extremely crude tallying method, “To arrive at $23 trillion, Barofsky simply added together every financial rescue program that has been proposed, including those that were discontinued or never even started.”
In particular, it involves totaling up the nominal value of every single loan guarantee. Think back to before the financial crisis. You could have totaled up the value of every single FDIC insured bank account in the United States and come up with a fantastical sum that deposit insurance “could” cost the American taxpayer. In the real world, however, a big part of the point of these guarantees is precisely to prevent runs and make failure relatively unlikely. Universal failure is not going to happen. Floyd Norris breaks it down:
It also assumes that every home mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac goes into default, and all the homes turn out to be worthless. It assumes that every bank in America fails, with not a single asset worth even a penny. And it assumes that all of the assets held by money market mutual funds, including Treasury bills, turn out to be worthless. It would also require the Treasury itself to default on securities purchased by the Federal Reserve system.
On the one hand, there’s no way for this to happen. On the other hand, were it to happen there would be no way to pay. And on the third hand, the money would be worthless anyway so who cares? As Pat observes, none of this stopped cable news from running with an alarmist story:
I got into writing about politics because I like the idea of trying to improve people’s understanding of the issues. I wonder sometimes what gets people who cover politics on TV motivated.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) reemerged on the national stage yesterday, penning an op-ed in the Politico to slam efforts to reform health care and declaring the Economic Recovery Act a failure. Jindal declared the Recovery Act “a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus that has not stimulated.” However, less than 24 hours before Jindal published his op-ed, Jindal traveled to Anacoco, Louisiana to present a jumbo-sized check to residents of Vernon Parish. The funds included hundreds of thousands of dollars directly from the Recovery Act — at least $157,848 in Community Block Grant money authorized by the Recovery Act and $138,611 for Byrne/JAG job training programs created by the Recovery Act. Rather than credit the federal government or the Recovery Act he opposed, Jindal printed his own name on the corner of the massive check. View it below:
Around the office last week we all had a good chuckle over the arrival of a book called The Israel Test whose promotional sheet advertises the book with the headline “WASP Prophet of Reaganomics calls Israel the crucial battlefield for Capitalism and Freedom in our time.” But it was just today that I started reading further. The argument turns out to be somewhat unusual in that it hinges in part on what chapter three dubs “The Tale of the Bell Curve,” in other words the innate genetic superiority of the Chosen People relative to the goyim. He offers some intriguing examples to illustrate this point beyond the familiar fact that Jews win lots of Nobel Prizes and are good at chess. For example:
Yes, there is a religious component in anti-Semitism, but there is also a political and economic element, reflected in the objective anti-Semitism of Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky, Friedrich Engels, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, and other Jewish leftist leaders who above all abhor capitalism. Jews, amazingly, excel so readily in all intellectual fields that they outperform all rivals even in the arena of anti-Semitism.
Alternative interpretations would include the possibility that Naomi Klein probably isn’t an anti-Semite, or even that when you combine belief Jewish genetic superiority with the fact of Jewish proclivity for left-wing politics that you seem to get the conclusion that left-wing politics is correct. Back to the publicity material, we learn that what’s so awesome about Israel is that it “concentrates the genius of the Jews in one place.” Which at least to my eye makes it sound a bit as if Gilder likes Israel in part because he wishes American Jews would leave him alone and go live there instead.