Why Are Republicans Charging to Ask Questions?

August 18, 2011

Why Are Republicans Charging to Ask Questions? “Are some House Republicans avoiding the public during the August recess? … Norman Ornstein, an expert on Congress at the American Enterprise Institute, says he can't remember a time like now when it appeared as though lawmakers were avoiding meeting with the public…[These Republicans] know how potent they can be. They know Americans aren't happy with Congress and, especially, not happy with them,” he said.
- USA Today: If it's August, House members hold events to meet the public


See below for a small sample of why Americans are out in full force this August, pushing their Republican members on why they continue to stand by tax cuts for billionaires and big oil at the expense of middle class families.


Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) Beacon News: Constituents at Sandwich town hall session press Rep. Hultgren to tax the rich: A number of his constituents sent a clear message to U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren on Wednesday night — go ahead and raise taxes. “Stop coddling the mega-rich,” said David Edelman, an Oswego resident, quoting America’s wealthiest taxpayer, Warren Buffett. “Everyone understands we have a problem, and the solution is shared sacrifice.”… But despite a discussion dominated by those in favor of a more progressive tax structure, Hultgren reaffirmed his campaign promises of lowered taxes and regulations — to spur economic growth — and a more simplified tax code… A shouting match erupted briefly between both sides of the tax debate when the lone speaker in favor of continued tax cuts addressed Hultgren, who shushed the crowd repeatedly throughout the hour so people could be heard… Though constituents quizzed Hultgren for about 40 minutes on his anti-taxation stance, in particular his decision to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge of lobbyist Grover Norquist that promises to vote against any bill that would raise taxes, those who spoke said they didn’t think their voices were heard.  “It just established for me that Randy Hultgren is fighting for the top 1 percent,” said Edelman. “The vast majority of Americans want a shared sacrifice, but right now we’re not being asked to contribute much of anything.”


Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) Kane County Chronicle: Hultgren hears from constituents seeking answers on jobs: “[Randy] Hultgren – R-Winfield, who represents the state’s 14th Congressional District – and his staff were greeted with homemade signs reading “Tax Wall Street millionaires” and “Jobs: So simple even a caveman knows it.” In response to a question about raising taxes, Hultgren said his “commitment is to my constituents. I’ve said all along I would not raise taxes.” Later, an audience member asked how he could make that commitment without knowing what the future holds. … Dean Edelman of Oswego quoted a recent opinion piece by Warren Buffett that appeared in The New York Times in which the billionaire urged Congress to “stop coddling” the country’s superwealthy citizens.  “We have to be there for our veterans and our seniors. My question to you is, who are you fighting for, the working people?” Edelman asked. “Words don’t mean as much as actions.”  In answering Edelman’s question, Hultgren said the tax code needs to be cleaned up. At least two people asked about Medicare issues. “Why is it OK to take money from Medicare?” one man asked, suggesting a line-by-line review of the budget. “I’m all for looking into that. Let’s be transparent and accountable,” Hultgren said.


Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) Martha’s Vineyard Times: Senator Scott Brown answers Martha's Vineyard friends and foes: “Pat Gregory, who owns the Vineyard Haven office supply business Educomp, asked a pointed question about tax policy, an issue he said his staff talks about. "Across the United States, there's growing income disparity between the haves and the have-nots," Mr. Gregory, West Tisbury town moderator, said. "Do you think tax policy can affect that, and whether your pledge to not ever raise taxes would impede that?" "Raising taxes in the middle of a 2.5 year recession is a job killer," Sen. Brown responded. "I understand cutting taxes is supposed to create jobs," Mr. Hale said. "I haven't seen any jobs being created in the last ten years, never mind the last eighteen months. How do you reconcile the fact that decreases in taxes have not increased jobs?" "I respectfully disagree that we haven't had job creation," Sen. Brown responded.


Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) Seacoast Online: Guinta faces tough crowd in Greenland: “U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta met with a rancorous crowd Wednesday at a District Discussions meeting organized by the freshman Republican congressman…Fifteen activists with the N.H. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, N.H. Alliance for Retired Americans and picketed outside with signs bearing slogans like "Hands off Medicare and Social Security."… Civility was lost in a display of the public's frustration over the state of the country as people argued and interrupted each another and Guinta. Jobs were on the minds of many, including John Cochrane, of Barrington, who has been out of work for 3½ years. "I need desperate help," he said. "I want to be a good American again. I don't want to be a second-class American."… Many voiced concerns about tax breaks for corporations and America's most wealthy. … Joan Jacobs, 67, a retired Portsmouth resident, clashed frequently with Guinta's remarks, interrupting him several times to argue about his stance on Obama's health care reform and other topics. "You went and voted for a terrible agenda," she said. "I want to know about your votes and your policies, and I'm not happy at all."


VIDEO Think Progress: GOP Rep. Frank Guinta Refuses To Say Whether He Would Accept A 10:1 Spending Cuts To Revenue Deal: “Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) was asked about such a deal yesterday at a town hall in Greenland, NH. He dodged the question — admitting to the crowd “I don’t know if that answers your question” — and instead told attendees that he was not opposed to new revenue as long as it didn’t come from actually raising tax rates. Multiple attendees then challenged him, asking him why he wouldn’t support raising rates on corporations or the wealthiest Americans.”


Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) USA Today: Town-hall-style meetings offer chance to connect: “Bill Meyers, 77, challenged Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., about his support of an “unreal” balanced budget amendment, and his support of a pledge, authored by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, not to raise taxes. "Which takes precedence? Your constituents or Grover Norquist?" "If you look at my record of raising taxes, you'll see a big goose egg," Terry said proudly. "What about the wealthy?" shouted a man from the back of the room… "Even Warren Buffett says so!" shouted Scott Downing, 71, a retired math teacher. "Yes, I've had that thrown in my face a thousand times," Terry responded, saying he disagrees with Buffett on taxes.”


Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) USA Today: Warren Buffett's congressman: 'We disagree on taxes': “Terry said he's not sure the majority of people in Nebraska support Warren Buffett's position on taxes. One who does is Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who represents the neighboring district that includes Lincoln and much of rural eastern Nebraska. At a town hall meeting in West Point, Neb., later the same day, a woman asked, "Did you hear what Warren Buffett said?" "Yes, and I don't necessarily disagree with him, either," said Fortenberry, a Republican. Fortenberry later told USA TODAY that he doesn't want to see taxes raised on small businesses and entrepreneurs. But he said Buffett is right that loopholes in the tax code "skew in favor of the ultra-wealthy, ultra-wealthy corporations and the overseas aristocracy."


Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter: Town hall talk turns heated:  “Peter Fricke's voice rose to a shout Wednesday as he stood to make comments that were not well received by many attending U.S. Rep. Tom Petri's Town Hall gathering at City Hall. "Barack Obama has created more private jobs in the past two years than George Bush did … FDR was one of our best leaders … you have to raise revenue from the rich," Fricke said. The Two Rivers resident said he has four daughters. "I'm making $30,000 a year and just trying to get by … I'm not going to tolerate any more lies … watch what you say," he said…[Petri] believes tax rates should be raised on hedge fund managers whose incentive bonuses are treated as capital gains and not as income.”


Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) Cincinnati Enquirer: Senior citizen lunch turns into Chabot town hall: “In front of a room full of senior citizens, U.S. Rep Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) defended his support of a federal budget that means dramatic changes to Medicare…Some questions from the crowd:  Show me the jobs that are being created from the tax breaks for corporations. Chabot’s response: “There are folks who are scamming the system. It’s outrageous. But it happens because the tax code is so convoluted. I’m hoping there’ll be a tax reform.”


Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) Pensacola News Journal: Miller takes heat for debt deal:U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller came home Tuesday to a constituency ready to vent its frustration. …A crowd of constituents, Democrats, Republicans and independents, showed up at the church — many bashing federal spending and prolonged war, a few encouraging higher taxes. Miller, R-Chumuckla, had a consistent response: "We don't have a tax problem in Washington. We have a spending problem.”


Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) Wausau Daily Herald Editorial: Our View: Duffy must clarify his plan for jobs: “As has been the case since the Ashland Republican first began to campaign for the job, he argued the U.S. debt and deficit are the most serious long-term challenges the nation faces. This might well be the case. But in the immediate term, clearly the most serious issue is jobs, and the number of Americans who don't have them. Duffy tends to conflate the two issues -- debt and jobs -- but they are not the same thing and really need to be treated separately. Like other Republicans, Duffy is adamant that "raising taxes won't get Americans back to work." Fair enough. But that's a description of a policy he opposes. If he believes that what the U.S. economy needs is fresh tax cuts, then he should introduce legislation to cut taxes in the way he thinks is most beneficial. Otherwise we are stuck in the status quo.”


08.18.11 | permalink

Darrell Issa never misses a chance to defend Goldman Sachs

August 18, 2011

MUST READ BELOW – Darrell Issa never misses a chance to defend Goldman Sachs, going to great lengths to prop up the big banks to benefit his pockets but this recent revelation – concealing the identity of a key staffer who was a top exec at Goldman Sachs – is beyond the pale. This behavior, if not blatantly unethical, is certainly appalling and disgraceful from any member of Congress, but especially the chair of the committee that’s in charge of conducting investigations on behalf of the public interest.   

Exclusive: Goldman Sachs VP Changed His Name, Now Advances Goldman Lobbying Interests As A Top Staffer To Darrell Issa

By Lee Fang on Aug 18, 2011 at 3:21 am

Peter Haller, also known as Peter Simonyi, a former Goldman Sachs VP now working for Chairman Issa to block regulations on Goldman Sachs

Has Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) turned the House Oversight Committee into a bank lobbying firm with the power to subpoena and pressure government regulators? ThinkProgress has found that a Goldman Sachs vice president changed his name, then quietly went to work for Issa to coordinate his effort to thwart regulations that affect Goldman Sachs’ bottom line.

In July, Issa sent a letter to top government regulators demanding that they back off and provide more justification for new margin requirements for financial firms dealing in derivatives. A standard practice on Capitol Hill is to end a letter to a government agency with contact information for the congressional staffer responsible for working on the issue for the committee. In most cases, the contact staffer is the one who actually writes such letters. With this in mind, it is important to note that the Issa letter ended with contact information for Peter Haller, a staffer hired this year to work for Issa on the Oversight Committee.

Issa’s demand to regulators is exactly what banks have been wishing for. Indeed, Goldman Sachs has spent millions this year trying to slow down the implementation of the new rules. In the letter, Issa explicitly mentions that the new derivative regulations might hurt brokers “such as Goldman Sachs.”

Haller, as he is now known, went by the name Peter Simonyi until three years ago. Simonyi adopted his mother’s maiden name Haller in 2008 just as he was leaving Goldman Sachs as a vice president of the bank’s commodity compliance group. In a few short years, Haller went from being in charge of dealing with regulators for Goldman Sachs to working for Congress in a position where he made official demands from regulators overseeing his old firm.

It’s not the first time Haller has worked the revolving door to help out Goldman Sachs. According to a report by the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, Haller — then known as Peter Simonyi — left the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2005 to work for Goldman Sachs, then quickly began lobbying his colleagues at the SEC on behalf of his new firm. At one point, Haller was compelled to issue a letter to the SEC claiming he did not violate ethics rules. A brief timeline of Haller’s work history underscores the ethical issues raised with Issa’s latest letter to bank regulators:

– After completing his law degree in 2000, Haller was employed by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as an economist, and later with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Office of Enforcement.

– In April of 2005, Haller resigned from the SEC to take a job with Goldman Sachs. He soon began lobbying the SEC on behalf of Goldman Sachs.

– On September 2, 2009, Haller left Goldman Sachs to take a job with the law/lobbying firm Brickfield Burchette Ritts & Stone.

– In January of 2011, Haller was hired to work for Issa on the Oversight Committee. Under the supervision of Haller, Issa sent a letter dated July 22, 2011 to bank regulators (including the heads of the Federal Reserve, FDIC, FCA, CFTC, FHFA, and Office of Comptroller) demanding documents to justify new Dodd-Frank mandated rules on margin requirements for banks dealing in the multi-trillion dollar OTC derivatives market, like Goldman Sachs.

When he took over the chairmanship of the Oversight Committee this year, Issa dramatically shifted the committee’s focus away from its traditional role of investigating major corporate scandals. Instead, Issa has used the committee to merge the responsibilities of Congress with the interests of K Street and Issa’s own fortune.

In June of this year, ThinkProgress broke the story about Issa’s own complicated relationship with Goldman Sachs. We revealed that Issa purchased a large amount of Goldman Sachs high yield bonds at the same time as he used the Oversight Committee to attack an investigation into allegations that Goldman Sachs had systematically defrauded investors leading up to the financial crisis. This conflict of interests, along with our exclusive story about Issa’s earmarks benefitting his own real estate empire, received coverage in a recent piece by the New York Times.

We also broke a story last month revealing other revolving door conflicts within Issa’s staff. Peter Warren, Issa’s new policy director, maintains some type of financial contract with a student loan lobbying group he led last year, and received a bonus from the lobbying group before leaving to work for Issa. Since joining Issa’s staff, Warren and his colleagues have fought to weaken the recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency charged with overseeing student loans.

The new revelations about Peter Haller, however, raise even more significant ethical concerns than Peter Warren and other ex-lobbyists working for Issa. Why did Issa hire a high-level Goldman Sachs executive to work on stopping regulations on banks like Goldman Sachs? Haller’s direct involvement in the July letter brings Issa’s ability to lead the Oversight Committee — charged with conducting investigations on behalf of the public interest — into serious doubt.

08.18.11 | permalink

Even in the dog days of August, Republicans are still being grilled by the public

August 16, 2011

Even in the dog days of August, Republicans are still being grilled about their efforts to stand by tax cuts for billionaires and big oil. Americans are out in full force telling their members to that the middle class won’t pay another dime – time for the wealthy to pay their fair share.


Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND): INFORUM: Rick Berg town hall meeting in Fargo tense:


Some 200 area residents gathered to hear Berg answer for his political positions in Congress and to voice their own opinions on how to fix the nation’s fiscal situation… However, several residents criticized Berg’s position, saying the amendment won’t solve immediate problems – like getting unemployed Americans back to work. “The balanced budget amendment is like trying to drain a lake to save a drowning person,” West Fargo resident Darrel Lund said. “People are in trouble now.” Lund said Congress ought to have just raised the debt ceiling as they were tasked to do, instead of adding to the problem through political deadlock. “That’s what’s caused uncertainty – that Congress can’t even do one thing,” Lund said to applause. “They had to make a political statement.”


“Whether to raise taxes sparked the most volatile debate of the evening. Early on, Berg asked if the audience believed raising taxes would help the struggling economy… Berg is firmly against tax increases of any kind – but many attending Thursday’s meeting openly disagreed with his stance… Several residents grilled Berg for signing the pledge and for his refusal to consider tax increases, specifically for the wealthiest Americans, like him. “You work for North Dakota residents, not some guy from another state,” West Fargo resident Don Frost said.”


Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) Kalamazoo Gazette: Congressman Fred Upton faces disruptive crowd during senior issues forum: “At a public forum Monday, Congressman Fred Upton said he was open to closing tax loopholes to help bring the federal budget into balance. “We need to look at everything,” Upton said in his first public comments since being appointed by House Speaker John Boehner six days ago to the “super committee”The St. Joseph Republican spoke to a crowd of close to 200 people at a meeting of the Kalamazoo County Advocates for Senior Issues at the Coover Senior Center. About another 150 people were not allowed in due to space reasons, while some demonstrated outside against Upton and policies he supports (see below)…But while he did not comment specifically on how to raise revenue, he said, “I’m not afraid of looking at tax loopholes. Tax reform is long overdue.”… About 20 people who appeared to be in an organized group sometimes broke into chants. They declined to identify who they were with, with one woman telling a photographer her name is “I am jobs.” At one point, as Upton was talking about reducing the cost of Medicare and ensuring its solvency, a man shouted, “Where are the jobs on your chart?” A woman stood up and started yelling at Upton, and the group begain chanting “bring back jobs.”


Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) Nortbrook Patch: Dold: Tax Hikes Not Off the Table: “Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) indicated he would not automatically reject any deficit reduction program that includes a tax increase after giving a legislative update to more than 45 people Monday at Highland Park Rotary Club meeting at the Highland Park Country Club.  “I don’t want to put it off the table,” Dold said, adding he preferred not to raise tax rates. “It’s not the right thing to do in the face of this down economy."… “How is that possible with the Grover Norquist pledge?” asked Penny Fields. “I have a problem with pledges. They limit you.”  The pledge by Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, attempts to get members of Congress and candidates for the office to oppose tax increases.  “I signed it early on as a candidate in the campaign,” Dold said. “I did sign the pledge, but my first pledge is to the people of the 10th District and the nation.".. Attendee Larry Block was skeptical about reducing the deficit without finding more revenue. Dold responded that he wants tax reform that lowers the corporate tax rate and closes ambiguities in the current Internal Revenue Code.”


Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) MUST SEE VIDEO From Ayotte Newport Town Hall (WMUR): "I hope that our representatives will be willing to look at the income side and not just say, 'We're going to continue to cut off the wealth of the middle class and working people.' (This is) how we're going to balance our problems," Langdon resident Peter Simoneaux said. Democrats said they believe cuts in social spending must be paired with tax increases for the wealthy. "People need Social Security. We don't need a raise in our retirement age, and we don't need a cut in our benefits," Newport resident Nancy Jachim said.


Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) Northwest Herald: Walsh seeks opinions at last town hall:Opinions were flying Saturday afternoon as 8th District U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh hosted the last of his 10 town hall meetings of his 10-day tour… Popular topics to arise included health care, jobs and the economy. The first to act was Deeya Roberts, of Lake Zurich, whose question of why the government is not taxing the wealthy was met with applause. Walsh stated that the tax code needed to be simplified and that he has no intention of supporting a tax raise.


Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) VIDEO: Constituents confront Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY): “In the town hall meeting, constituents repeatedly asked what she was going to do about bringing jobs back to this country when companies like Verizon continue to send jobs overseas. Hayworth kept dodging with the answer that we should lower tax rates for corporations, but couldn’t answer why companies like Verizon ship jobs overseas when they pay few taxes on billions in profit.”


Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Muskogee Phoenix: Coburn speaks during Town Hall Meeting: “During Monday’s meeting, Coburn outlined a number of things that need to be done, including the wealthy paying more for the country to have confidence in the economy.”


Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) Huntsville Times: Mo Brooks speaks to constituents at town hall meeting:  “The theme of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks' town hall meeting Saturday morning was consistent with his campaign message: runaway spending is ruining the country, and Congress is not taking the steps to set things straight… Other comments touched on the need for a "home-grown energy policy" to help wean the country off foreign oil. Another audience member said that he wanted the focus in Congress to be on creating jobs and buying American-made goods.”

08.16.11 | permalink

“How can you stand there in front of all of us and take a pledge not to raise taxes?”

The drum beat continues as Republicans are being greeted by chants, boos and walk outs as they dig in to protect big oil and multi-millionaires from having to make one dime of additional sacrifice. Whether it’s the northern border of Minnesota or the heat of Arizona’s summer, people are standing up for the middle class and refusing to be the only ones to bear the burden. Their message is clear: big corporations and Wall Street need to share the sacrifice to get our economy back on track.


*POLITICO: The return of town hall anger*


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ) Arizona Daily Star: Tucsonans give McCain earful: “If U.S. Sen. John McCain's town hall on Tuesday had a theme, it's that Greater Tucson has been dipped in a big vat of angry. And the heat isn't just the domain of the tea party any more, with progressives showing up in force, just as torqued as their conservative counterparts…As McCain entered, waving, he was greeted by the standard applause, and by sustained chanting of "Where are the jobs?"When he said he wanted to cut the corporate tax rate by as much as a third, it triggered such a round of angry outbursts and smatterings of applause that McCain asked again for "common courtesy." When he said he wanted to close loopholes in the tax code, including subsidies for ethanol and sugar, someone yelled, "oil!"


MUST SEE VIDEO- KVOA-TV McCain faces rowdy crowd in Tucson: “The question of taxes caused the loudest outbursts. McCain recommended, "Let's cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent." Some in the audience cheered. Others booed. One man screamed at McCain, "You're an idiot." Another speaker begged McCain to raise taxes on wealthy Americans like him. He said, "I'd rather pay higher taxes so that man can live, rather than take another trip to Italy." Many in the audience applauded. But McCain said "no.”  "How can you stand there in front of all of us and take a pledge not to raise taxes?"

Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1) CNN: Town hall voters fear for country: “A restive crowd vented to Rep. Frank Guinta over pocketbook issues and political wrangling in Washington at a town hall Wednesday. … Citing corporate tax loopholes, the national debt and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one man asked: "How can you stand there in front of all of us and take a pledge not to raise taxes?" During his campaign Guinta promised to oppose any tax increases while in Congress. "I don't believe that our problem in this country is that we don't receive enough money from taxpayers," Guinta said in response Wednesday, but was drowned out by exclamations of both support and frustration … "We're in dire straits here," argued Michelle O'Rourke, a Democrat, who said later she was fearful for the country's future, especially for the middle class. O'Rourke wants to end the Bush-era tax breaks for Americans making more than $250,000 a year.”


REP. STEVE PEARCE (NM-1) Silver City Sun-News: Pearce talk draws fire in Silver: “A woman stormed out of Congressman Steve Pearce's town hall meeting Tuesday night at the Silver City Senior Center, after calling Pearce a liar and saying "You're just (BSing) everyone and we don't buy it." "He got off on the wrong foot with me because he started to lie because he said the reason we got downgraded by S&P was because of our deficit," said Anne Nitopi of Silver City. "That's not the reason. … The government's inability to compromise is the reason they downgraded us…They allowed the Tea Party extremists to threaten our country with default." Pearce wasn't fazed by the disruption and continued with his presentation… A person before her had said that he heard the 400 wealthiest families in the U.S. had more money than 90 percent of the population and that 80 percent of Americans support a balanced approach to balancing the budget - meaning cutting spending and raising taxes - but Pearce said he vowed that he would never raise taxes.  "The polls show that a majority of the people want a balanced approach, yet you have taken a vow that you will never raise taxes," she said. "It's inappropriate for elected officials to go beyond accepting the vote as a method of judging their ability to govern, and constrain themselves by taking an additional vow that says they will never do something even if their country needs them to do it. Part of governing is to compromise."… Pearce said any increase in taxes - including letting the Bush tax credits expire - would be a job killer eventually. "Why would we agree with something that would be destructive to our job market?" he asked. ... Villanova said he is also in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts expire, something Pearce has said he is against, calling it akin to raising taxes, which he vowed he will not do.”


Rep. Chip Cravaack (MN-8) Duluth News Tribune: Cravaack challenged on budget, economy in Deer River:   “Cravaack said he wanted to bring down the tax rate to 25 percent for small businesses because higher taxes are passed on to consumers or result in layoffs. Audience member Dave Garshelis of Cohasset said President George W. Bush tried that plan and it didn’t work. “Is this an experiment or a concept or do you have information from somewhere that shows this works?” he asked. “I’m wondering when the jobs are going to happen.”… Kevin Kooiker of Pequot Lakes wasn’t so sure of Cravaack’s answer and said the tax rate today is lower than it’s been in years. He said major corporations are known to be sitting on sizeable amounts of money instead of creating new jobs. “People need to get more money in their pockets,” he said. “The stimulus bill was way too small.” … Another man asked why Congress could not come to some kind of agreement to fix the budget problem… Cindy Martin of Grand Rapids asked why Cravaack was supporting lower taxes for the rich. Cravaack countered by asking, “Who are the rich? Give me a number.”


REP. RANDY HULTGREN (IL-14) Montgomery Patch (IL): Seniors Hear From Hultgren, State Lawmakers in Montgomery: “About 40 people, most over the age of 55, were on hand Tuesday morning to meet five of their federal and state legislators at Montgomery Village HallJoanne Perkins of Aurora questioned that, saying, “We cannot put the country back to work with mom and pop operations. What is the responsibility of the corporations and the government to provide good jobs?” Hultgren said he would like to see both small businesses and large corporations start hiring again.”


REP. SCOTT TIPTON (CO-3) Cortez Journal: Congressman holds town hall: “The congressman was asked why the government should not seek increased revenues by repealing tax cuts on the wealthy and closing loopholes for the taxation of corporations. Tipton said he opposes raising taxes on "job creators." Instead, Tipton advocated for deregulation of business to allow for economic growth and job creation.”

08.11.11 | permalink

House Majority Leader Cantor is Aboard the Tea Party’s Renewed Drive for Dismantling Medicare

August 4, 2011

It’s Official – House Majority Leader Cantor is Aboard the Tea Party’s Renewed Drive for Dismantling Medicare Under the Ryan Plan


See below, on the heels of the alarming article yesterday from Reuters: ‘US Tea Party groups see Medicare overhaul chance’ -- now the unofficial tea party leader in Congress says Americans need to “come to grips” that the promises of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid “frankly, are not going to be kept for many” and wants to be the conductor on the Tea Party Express’ renewed drive to pass the Ryan plan for dismantling Medicare, decimating Medicaid.    This is the same guy that has made a lot of promises to protect wasteful subsidies for his big oil industry donors at the same time they’re enjoying record profits.


Cantor: Entitlement Promises ‘Frankly, Are Not Going To Be Kept For Many’

By Pat Garofalo on Aug 4, 2011 at 9:35 am


During an interview with the Wall Street Journal, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said he is ready and willing to slash entitlements like Medicare, because, in his opinion, Americans have to “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many“:


What we need to be able to do is to demonstrate that that is the better way for the people of this country. Get the fiscal house in order, come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that, frankly, are not going to be kept for many. [...] The math doesn’t lie.


Watch it:


Republicans have been saying for months that they want to preserve programs like Medicare and Social Security for all people over the age of 55, but that those under 55 will have to shift into a different program. But Cantor’s pronouncement is maybe the most explicit explanation that, under the GOP’s vision, the government would be actively reneging on promises made to those who haven’t yet hit the arbitrary age of 55.

Of course, the math would look much better, particularly on Social Security, if the GOP were to back off its insistence that the government not collect a single dime in new revenue. Meanwhile, Jacob Hacker, political science professor at Yale University, has called the GOP’s scheme to raise the Medicare retirement age “the single worst idea for Medicare reform” since it “saves Medicare money only by shifting the cost burden onto older Americans caught between the old eligibility age and the new, as well as onto the employers and states that help fund their benefits.”

08.04.11 | permalink

Tea Party Launches Campaign to End Medicare

August 3, 2011

A MUST READ BELOW FROM REUTERS – With just a few fingers on the steering wheel in Washington, Tea Party Republicans came within inches of purposely driving the economy off the cliff this week, taking the GOP’s no-jobs agenda to a new extreme. And now corporate-backed Tea Party leaders want the American people to know: if you hand them the keys they will drive Medicare straight into a wall and seniors’ health care costs through the roof.  Tea Party leaders don’t care that the Ryan plan to end Medicare is hugely unpopular with America’s seniors – they don’t even care that the vast majority of self-described tea party members have rejected it.


US Tea Party groups see Medicare overhaul chance

Wed Aug 3, 2011 11:59am EDT

* FreedomWorks lobbies for Ryan plan for Tea Party push

* Support from powerful elderly voting bloc at stake

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - With Medicare at the top of U.S. lawmakers' fall agenda, Tea Party movement leaders hope to ignite support for Republican plans to transform the popular federal healthcare program for the elderly.

Thousands of Tea Party movement activists are expected to descend this month on town hall meetings across key battleground states as part of an intensifying campaign ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Their priority is a plan to slash Medicare costs proposed by House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which could gain momentum now that a debt-limit deal between President Barack Obama and Congress has made potential Medicare cuts a centerpiece of the deficit debate. [ID:nN1E7711QM]

A new congressional committee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in spending cuts by November 23 is expected to focus on Medicare, and the program would see automatic cuts if the committee failed to reach agreement, or if Congress did not approve its recommendations by December 23. Market values of companies that depend on Medicare spending fell more than 10 percent in a sell-off on Wall Street after the agreement.[ID:nN1E7700Z3]

"The August town halls are going to be, potentially, a referendum on Democrats who don't care and Republicans who've dared to offer real policy solutions, particularly on things like entitlements," said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the small-government advocacy group organizing the initiative.

"The Ryan plan is the only one out there so far, and what we need is an adult conversation with all politicians talking about the real issues."

Decried by retirees, labor unions and Democrats as a voucher system that would end Medicare, the Ryan plan appeared near death after opposition to it helped Democrats capture a congressional seat in a Republican stronghold in upstate New York in May.

But FreedomWorks, which helped found and shape the Tea Party movement, sees its campaign as the opening salvo in a long battle to secure a place for the Ryan plan in the 2012 debate and the legislative session that will begin in January 2013.


The gambit poses risks for Republicans in swing states including Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which FreedomWorks is targeting.

At stake is the support of senior citizens, a powerful bloc of swing voters who broadly oppose the Ryan plan and could punish its supporters in Congress if Republicans fail to turn the debate in their favor, according to analysts.

The Ryan plan -- which the House approved in April but which went nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate -- would preserve Medicare for current beneficiaries but transform it for future retirees from a system that provides guaranteed benefits to one that gives the elderly financial assistance to buy private insurance.

Polls point to broad public support for preserving Medicare in the deficit debate, with majorities favoring higher taxes for the wealthy over program cuts.

Still, a June CBS poll showed that nearly 60 percent of Americans know little about the changes proposed by the Ryan plan, suggesting that many voters have yet to form an opinion.

FreedomWorks faces a daunting challenge from Democrats and progressive groups including the coalition Health Care for America Now, which pushed for healthcare reform in 2010 and intends to defend that new law and Medicare against Republican attacks through the 2012 election.

"Each side is going to try to scare the hell out of seniors. And they're going to do that because it works. It motivates seniors to get to the polls," said Michael Cannon, a health policy expert at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Kibbe, whose group is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and claims 800,000 volunteers nationwide, says Republicans lost in New York because they abandoned the Medicare debate to Democrats.

Republican lawmakers now need to come out swinging before the same thing happens elsewhere, he says.

"If they don't do that, we won't win this debate," Kibbe told Reuters. "You can't move a legislative initiative unless you've vetted it through the political season."


Ryan himself appears to agree and has been promoting his views on television and in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece.

"We need a public education campaign and that means people from all around the country, different groups, need to engage with their people," Ryan told CNBC a day after the House approved the debt limit deal.

"You've got to have wherewithal to get out to the public to educate them as to the pending bankruptcy of Medicare."

A perennial campaign issue, Medicare could be key in 2012 House and Senate elections in swing states and could help determine the outcome in the White House race as Democrat Obama takes on a Republican challenger.

Senior citizens demonstrated their electoral clout in last November's midterm elections, when they rebelled against Obama's healthcare reforms in large enough numbers to help Tea Party activists install a Republican majority in the House.

People age 60 and older accounted for 34 percent of the vote, even though they make up only about one-quarter of the population, according to a July 29 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Robert Blendon, who teaches health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, says elderly voters fear the Ryan plan could undermine support for Medicare among younger taxpayers by denying current benefits to future retirees.

But the current Democratic edge might disappear quickly if elderly voters associated Obama with program cuts that could come under the deficit-cutting deal.

"If their take-away is that neither party stood up for us, Medicare won't play a big role," said Blendon, who co-authored the New England Journal of Medicine article. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Vicki Allen)


08.03.11 | permalink

Boehner Prepares to Launch Sneak Attack on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid

July 13, 2011

Boehner Prepares to Launch Sneak Attack on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid Shrouded in So-Called “Balanced Budget Amendment”

Tipping The Scales Against America’s Seniors: Republican Balanced Budget Amendment Would Force Deep Cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, While Protecting Tax Breaks for Millionaires, Big Oil and Job-Outsourcing Corporations

Ø  From ABC News, July 13: House Speaker John Boehner released a new video blog today on his website, expressing his support for the balanced budget amendment that the House of Representatives will consider next week, but Democrats are indicating their opposition to the bill they describe as "extreme and draconian."

House Republicans made very clear when the passed their budget on April 15 that they intend to dismantle Medicare and decimate Medicaid one way or another to pay for more tax breaks for big oil and jet-owning CEO’s.  Poll after poll after poll shows the American people have resoundingly rejected their plan, and many outraged seniors have shown up at town halls across the country to express their disapproval to their Representatives personally.   And so it’s no surprise that these Republicans -- who remain as determined as ever to shred the social safety nets that keep millions of seniors, children, survivors and people with disabilities out of poverty -- would look for a back door way to achieving their goals.   Enter the “Balanced Budget Amendment.” 

GOP’s “Balanced Budget Amendment” = “sweeping cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security”

Ø  National Women’s Law Center: Current Proposals for a Balanced Budget Amendment Are More Extreme and Dangerous Than Earlier Versions: Capping future spending below Reagan-era levels would force sweeping cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, child care, education, and many other critical programs. 

Ø  CBPP: Balanced Budget Amendment Would Require More Extreme Cuts Than Ryan Plan: “It contains deeper Medicare cuts than the Ryan budget. The RSC budget includes the Ryan proposals to convert Medicare to vouchers and raise its eligibility age from 65 to 67, but it raises the eligibility age sooner than the Ryan budget would.  It raises the Social Security retirement age to 70. It also contains cuts of almost unimaginable depth in the core programs for the poorest and most disadvantaged Americans: in 2021, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and Supplemental Security Income would all be cut in half…It cuts at least $86 billion over ten years from Pell Grants, which help low-income students afford college.”  


Ø  CBPP: A Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment Threatens Great Economic Damage: “…the amendment would force policymakers to cut spending, raise taxes, or both just when the economy is weak or already in recession — the exact opposite of what good economic policy would advise… Social Security could not draw down its reserves from previous years to pay benefits in a later year but, instead, could be forced to cut benefits even if it had ample balances in its trust funds as it does today. The same would be true for military retirement and civil service retirement programs. Nor could the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation respond quickly to bank or pension fund failures by using their assets to pay deposit or pension insurance, unless they could do so without causing the budget to slip out of balance.”


Ø  Democratic House Budget staff: The balanced budget constitutional amendment (H. J. Res. 1) recently approved by the Judiciary Committee is a masquerade designed to foster the policy choices of the Republican budget: to end the Medicare guarantee for seniors and slash vital services while providing tax breaks for the wealthy. This balanced budget amendment would have dire consequences on the economy, on Medicare and other government guarantees to our citizens, and on Congress’s ability to respond to changing needs.


Ø  Economic Policy Institute: “Beyond shrinking government to implausibly low levels, the House BBA would also irrationally constrain fiscal policy during recessions…As we argued before, parliamentary restrictions on tax increases and budget deficits would amplify political gridlock, handicap fiscal policy, and intensify economic downturns by ruling out effective responses to both cyclical events and unforeseen emergencies.”

07.14.11 | permalink

The Heat is On

The Heat is On: Vote to End Medicare, Block Grant Medicaid Still Facing Fire From NM to WI to NY, "mass protests" "spirited exchanges"

Jim Commentucci / The Post-Standard

Demonstrators, including Tina Fitzgerald of Mattydale, vice-president of Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse, who is in a wheelchair, gather outside the James M. Hanley Federal Building in Syracuse on June 16, 2011 to protest Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle's support for a proposed overhaul of the Medicare system.

Las Cruces Sun-News: Pearce talks debt in Las Cruces: Unlike a town hall meeting in April that drew only supporters, Saturday's event featured much sharper questions and spirited exchanges. A woman who identified herself as Cynthia from Las Cruces and later declined to give her last name challenged Pearce on his vote for the House budget crafted by Paul Ryan that would, among other things, change Medicare to a voucher system. "You're cutting off my Medicare while at the same time giving tax breaks to the richest 2 percent of the country," she accused, adding that the gap between wealthy and poor in this country is as wide as its been since the 1920s. … "I'm not a big fan of the Ryan plan, but it's the only plan in Washington," Pearce said.”

Brookfield Patch (WI): Medicare Concerns Dominate Town Hall Meeting: “Concerns about Medicare and health care dominated a Town Hall meeting Sunday held by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who along with state legislators also fielded questions on issues ranging from deficits and collective bargaining to voter ID and ethanol. At age 54, Menomonee Falls resident Paul Race said he just misses the cutoff in U.S. Paul Ryan's proposal to reform Medicare for those younger than 55.  "If it's good enough for the people 54 and younger... then I think it's good enough for people 55 and older," said Race, a former Marine who has been a teacher for 25 years… Sensenbrenner said, "I'm not here to say he's (Ryan) right or he's wrong, but at least he's got a plan."… Darcy Gustavvson of Brookfield said Congress should prioritize funding for essential social nets such as "decent, affordable health care" for seniors who need it most. “Your job is to fund what the American people want," she said, not turn Medicare into a “voucher system.’”

Syracuse Post-Standard: Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle under pressure over her support for Medicare overhaul: “Six months after taking office, U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle is facing the first mass protests of her congressional career over her vote for a Republican plan to cut spending by dramatically overhauling the federal Medicare program. Over the past three weeks, Buerkle said, she and her staff answered hundreds of phone calls from Central New Yorkers — including some from sobbing seniors — worried about the future of Medicare, the public health care system for the elderly and people with disabilities. The freshman congresswoman also faced angry protesters at a town hall meeting in the Wayne County town of Palmyra this month, and later a raucous crowd rallied in front of her Syracuse office to protest the proposed reforms… For seniors currently receiving benefits, the Ryan plan would reopen the prescription “doughnut hole” that had been fixed by President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms passed by Congress last year. That means 11,300 residents of the 25th Congressional District would pay more for their prescription drugs, costing local seniors an extra $111 million over 10 years, according to a study by House Democrats.”


06.27.11 | permalink

Charlie Bass: What, me, vote to end Medicare?



Concord Monitor, 6/20 : "The allegation that I voted to end Medicare is just absolutely factually false," [U.S. Representative Charlie] Bass said.


Wall Street Journal: Bass-Ryan Plan “would essentially end Medicare

Statement from Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United for Change: “Numerous independent analysts have concluded that the budget plan that Charlie Bass voted for on April 15 would effectively end Medicare and replace it with an ever-shrinking private voucher system that would not keep up with health care costs and would leave seniors paying at least $6,000 more out of pocket.   Rep. Bass seems to think he and his Republican colleagues can scrap Medicare for a private voucher system and still call it ‘Medicare’ – they can’t.  Just ask the folks at Coca-Cola how that worked out when they tried changing their formula and still called it Coke – no one bought it, just like no one is buying the Republican plan to privatize Medicare.  The radical plan Rep. Bass voted for doesn’t stop at dismantling Medicare – it would also kick millions of seniors in nursing homes today off of Medicaid, all to pay of trillions of dollars in new tax breaks for millionaires, big oil and companies that ship jobs overseas.”


Bass-Ryan Plan “would essentially end Medicare

Ø  Wall Street Journal, 4.4: The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.

Ø  The Economist, 4.5: But there is one thing about it that's fairly clear, regardless of what's in the details Mr Ryan will announce today: Mr Ryan's plan ends the guarantee that all American seniors will have health insurance.

Ø  McClatchy-Tribune News Service, 4.5: Ryan's is the opening move in a political chess match that's likely to unfold over several years. His plan effectively would end Medicare for seniors, revamp Medicaid for the poor, scrap the 2010 health care law, roll back nonmilitary federal spending overall and lower individual and corporate tax rates.

Ø  New York Times columnist and Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, 5/16:  I know that serious people are supposed to be shocked, shocked at the Democrats calling the Ryan plan a plan to dismantle Medicare — but that’s just what it is. If you replace a system that actually pays seniors’ medical bills with an entirely different system, one that gives seniors vouchers that won’t be enough to buy adequate insurance, you’ve ended Medicare. Calling the new program “Medicare” doesn’t change that fact.

·         More Krugman, ‘Vouchercare Is Not Medicare’: But Comcast, the station’s owner, rejected the demand — and rightly so. For Republicans are indeed seeking to dismantle Medicare as we know it, replacing it with a much worse program…. But there’s nothing demagogic about telling the truth.  Start with the claim that the G.O.P. plan simply reforms Medicare rather than ending it. I’ll just quote the blogger Duncan Black, who summarizes this as saying that “when we replace the Marines with a pizza, we’ll call the pizza the Marines.” The point is that you can name the new program Medicare, but it’s an entirely different program — call it Vouchercare — that would offer nothing like the coverage that the elderly now receive. (Republicans get huffy when you call their plan a voucher scheme, but that’s exactly what it is.)


Ø  Talking Points Memo, 6.14: Here's Tom Scully -- former Bush administration director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- on the Republican plan, in an interview with me. "It gets rid of -- and I would do that -- gets rid of the current Medicare program where the government is the insurance company and the government sets the prices."


Ø  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4.7: The first year the voucher would apply, CBO estimates that total health care expenditures for a typical 65-year-old would be almost 40 percent higher with private coverage under the Ryan plan than they would be with a continuation of traditional Medicare. CBO also finds that this beneficiary's annual out-of-pocket costs would more than double — from $6,150 to $12,500.  In later years, as the value of the voucher eroded, the increase in out-of-pocket costs would be even greater.

06.21.11 | permalink

Mark Amodei tries to ignite a ‘Red Scare’ in Nevada, but what’s really scary is if he had his way

June, 20, 2011

Mark Amodei tries to ignite a 'Red Scare' in Nevada, but what's really scary is if he had his way

In Case You Missed It: Mark Amodei’s Ad Depicts Chinese Army Marching On Capitol, Thanks To 'Obama's Debt Ceiling' (VIDEO)


Statement from Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United for Change: “While an ad this absurd is a clearly a desperate cry for attention, what Mark Amodei has really drawn attention to is his reckless position that the U.S. should default on its debt obligations, which the business community warns would crush our economy and, ironically, would mean hundreds of billions of dollars in new debt.  While Mark Amodei is trying to ignite a ‘Red Scare’ in Nevada, what’s really scary is if the GOP congressional hopeful had his way: defaulting on our nation’s debt could very well lead to another economic collapse and kill Nevada jobs.  Amodei’s extreme positions don’t stop there: he proudly backs the Paul Ryan plan to end Medicare and kick millions of seniors in nursing homes off of Medicaid, all to pay of trillions of dollars in new tax breaks for millionaires, big oil and companies that ship jobs overseas.”


DEFAULTING ON NATION’S DEBT = “Dangerous Gamble,” “higher federal debt,” “Could Blow Up the Economy,” “possible collapse in equity prices, bank failures and a severe depression”

Ø  Wall Street Journal, 5/17: Business Groups to Congress: ‘Raising Debt Ceiling Is Critical’ : Sixty-two business groups, including the American Gas Association, the Telecommunications Industry Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers, urged congressional leaders on Wednesday to raise the federal debt ceiling amid fears that political brinkmanship could lead to another financial crisis.

Ø  Talking Points Memo, 6/9: “Experts: Even Brief Default Could Blow Up The Economy” : Because interest rates on bonds determine how much it costs the US government to secure more debt, even seemingly slight changes can affect the long term deficit on a large scale. A 1% rise in interest rates, or 100 basis points, would grow the deficit by over $400 billion over the next five years and $1.2 trillion from 2012-2021, according to the CBO. 

Ø  Talking Points Memo, 6/14: ‘CBO Director Elmendorf: Debt Default ‘A Dangerous Gamble’. Ironically, Elmendorf noted that one of the potential consequences of even a brief period of default would be higher federal debt, triggered by a spike in interest rates and, thus, higher interest payments on federally issued debt.


Ø  Talking Points Memo, 5/19: ‘Moody’s, S&P Warn U.S. Risks Triple-A Credit Rating If It Defaults On Debt — Even Briefly’. But two of the biggest ratings agencies say they could downgrade the United States' triple-A credit if the government misses even a single debt-service payment.

Ø  Wall Street Journal, May 13: US Chamber Urges Lawmakers to Raise Debt Limit ‘Expeditiously’.  The business community’s chief lobby in Washington made the case in a letter to lawmakers signed by Bruce Josten, the group’s head of government affairs, arguing that failure to pass legislation authorizing an increase in borrowing by Aug. 4 “would create uncertainty and fear, and threaten the credit rating of the United States.”

Ø  Politico, 4/27: ‘Bank execs warn GOP on debt limit’ : Executives from the deep-pocketed industry that traditionally pumps millions into political campaigns are warning members that failure to raise the limit would risk a spike in interest rates, a possible collapse in equity prices, bank failures and a severe depression.

Ø  New York Times’ Economix, 4/26: ‘What Happens if the Debt Ceiling Isn’t Raised’


06.20.11 | permalink

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