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Archive for April 20th, 2011

truthout

Monday 18 April 2011
by: Chris Hedges, Truthdig

These are remarks Chris Hedges made in Union Square in New York City last Friday during a protest outside a branch office of the Bank of America.

We stand today before the gates of one of our temples of finance. It is a temple where greed and profit are the highest good, where self-worth is determined by the ability to amass wealth and power at the expense of others, where laws are manipulated, rewritten and broken, where the endless treadmill of consumption defines human progress, where fraud and crimes are the tools of business.

The two most destructive forces of human nature—greed and envy—drive the financiers, the bankers, the corporate mandarins and the leaders of our two major political parties, all of whom profit from this system. They place themselves at the center of creation. They disdain or ignore the cries of those below them. They take from us our rights, our dignity and thwart our capacity for resistance. They seek to make us prisoners in our own land. They view human beings and the natural world as mere commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. Human suffering, wars, climate change, poverty, it is all the price of business. Nothing is sacred. The Lord of Profit is the Lord of Death.

~read more~

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Democrats Target John Boehner With Mocking Medicare Ad (VIDEO)

HuffPost- Michael McAuliff

First Posted: 04/20/11 09:37 AM ET Updated: 04/20/11 11:13 AM ET

This story has been updated to include additional reporting.

WASHINGTON — After getting mocked by GOP operatives for launching an “offensive” on 25 vulnerable Republicans with minuscule ad buys Tuesday, Democrats are turning the tables with a new stunt aimed at putting some muscle behind their Medicare media campaign.

And they’re doing it in the district of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

In an email sent to supporters around 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel challenged donors to pony up $25,000 by midnight — in order to run a pointed spot in Boehner’s backyard.

It would mark the DCCC’s first TV buy of the 2012 cycle.

“Let’s go big,” Israel writes, offering to splash the spot featuring an older man mowing lawns with his walker and doing a strip tease to afford his Medicare under the budget plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) earlier this month.

“After House Republicans rammed through a disgraceful budget that would end Medicare — while giving millionaires and billionaires another tax cut — we knew we had to have an eye-popping response,” Israel said.

“We just cut a creative new ad to break through the clutter and take the fight directly to Republican Speaker John Boehner,” he said. “I won’t ruin the ending for you, but trust me, this ad is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”

The gambit comes a day after the DCCC launched a radio campaign that the National Republican Congressional Committee derided as both a scare tactic and a joke.

“[Democrats] are continuing to use partisan scare tactics and insist on the ability for Washington to continue spending money we don’t have,” the NRCC’s Paul Lindsay emailed reporters.

“Well, if you have heard their radio ad you’re one of the lucky few,” Lindsay added. “Based on early reports on the size of this buy, they are spending a whopping $60.00 in many of the 25 districts.”

$25,000 will likely impress the GOP a little more, especially in a district like Boehner’s where relatively small sums can go a long way.

The publicity also will likely aid the DCCC’s effort to spread the ad further.

WATCH:

UPDATE: 11:01 AM

Lindsay said he wasn’t tickled by the spot, and suggested the ad left out what was actually obscene — what he described as the Democrats’ unserious approach to the deficit.

“Steve Israel was smart to leave out the X-rated part of this ad,” Lindsay said. “That’s the version where Democrats tease Americans into believing their party is serious about tackling the deficit, dance around the issue until Medicare is obsolete, strip seniors of the benefits they have been promised, and force small businesses to foot the bill when the time is up.”

Democrats point to Congressional Budget Office estimates that say the GOP plan to shift seniors into the private insurance market with a voucher-like program will raise their out-of-pocket costs.

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Now Republicans are attacking Obama for not cutting Medicare Advantage

by Jed Lewison for Daily Kos

Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 08:10 AM PDT

AP:

Obama administration eases pain of Medicare cuts

Millions of seniors in popular private insurance plans offered through Medicare will be getting a reprieve from some of the most controversial cuts in President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In a policy shift critics see as political, the Health and Human Services department has decided to award quality bonuses to hundreds of Medicare Advantage plans rated merely average.

As you may recall, the health reform law cut subsidies for ineffective Medicare Advantage plans by about $150 billion over ten years because those plans cost more than traditional Medicare without delivering better care. Ending the subsidies was an obvious move to reduce spending on Medicare without compromising the quality of care, but Republicans like Karl Rove have attacked the policy shift as an attempt to pull the plug on grandma.

So now that the administration is granting a reprieve to many—though not all—of the Medicare Advantage plans that Republicans were so proudly defending, you’d think they would celebrate having saved grandma’s life. Except now that the administration is doing what they had said they wanted it to do in the first place, they’re still on attack:

In a recent letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, two prominent GOP lawmakers questioned what they termed the administration’s “newfound support” for Medicare Advantage.The shift “may represent a thinly veiled use of taxpayer dollars for political purposes,” wrote Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan. Camp chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Medicare. Hatch is his counterpart as ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

Republicans won an election in part by attacking the Obama administration over cuts to Medicare Advantage subsidies, but now that they have gotten their way, they are once again on the attack. For Hatch and Camp, this isn’t a matter of principle. It’s about opposing Obama because he’s their political enemy. They aren’t fighting for their ideas, or for what they think is right. They are fighting to save their own political ass. And it’s pathetic.

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Financial System Riskier, Next Bailout Will Be Costlier, S&P Says

Huff Post- Shahien Nasiripour

First Posted: 04/19/11 05:26 PM ET Updated: 04/19/11 06:00 PM ET

The financial system poses an even greater risk to taxpayers than before the crisis, according to analysts at Standard & Poor’s. The next rescue could be about a trillion dollars costlier, the credit rating agency warned.

S&P put policymakers on notice, saying there’s “at least a one-in-three” chance that the U.S. government may lose its coveted AAA credit rating. Various risks could lead the agency to downgrade the Treasury’s credit worthiness, including policymakers’ penchant for rescuing bankers and traders from their failures.

“The potential for further extraordinary official assistance to large players in the U.S. financial sector poses a negative risk to the government’s credit rating,” S&P said in its Monday report.

But, the agency’s analysts warned, “we believe the risks from the U.S. financial sector are higher than we considered them to be before 2008.”

Because of the increased risk, S&P forecasts the potential initial cost to taxpayers of the next crisis cleanup to approach 34 percent of the nation’s annual economic output, or gross domestic product. In 2007, the agency’s analysts estimated it could cost 26 percent of GDP.

Last year, U.S. output neared $14.7 trillion, according to the Commerce Department. By S&P’s estimate, that means taxpayers could be hit with $5 trillion in costs in the event of another financial collapse.

Experts said that while the cost estimate seems unusually high, there’s little dispute that when the next crisis hits, it will not be anticipated — and it will likely hurt the economy more than the last financial crisis.

MORE HERE

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