Daily Archive: 06/07/2011

Jun 07 2011

Evening Edition

Tonight’s Evening Edition is being brought to by TheMomCat. ek hornbeck is occupied with other endeavors this evening.

Syrian town awaits attack as pressure piles on Assad

DAMASCUS (AFP) – A Syrian town braced for a military assault Tuesday as international pressure piled on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime amid reports his envoy to France had quit in solidarity with protesters.

Dissidents warned of a harsh backlash as troops headed for the northwest town of Jisr al-Shughur after the authorities said 120 policemen had been massacred there by “armed gangs.”

Yemen protesters demand interim council

SANAA (AFP) – Yemeni protesters pushed Tuesday for an interim presidential council to prevent the embattled president from returning to power, as dissident gunmen controlled parts of the city of Taez and loyal troops retreated to their bases.

“The people want an interim council” chanted tens of thousands of protesters as they marched on the residence of Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

Jun 07 2011

Free Amina!

Photobucket

MSNBC reports that Amina Araf, who under the nom de plume Amina Abdallah, wrote the blog, Gay Girl In Damascus, and was “an unlikely spokesperson for the largely anonymous anti-government protests sweeping Syria” has been seized (or is the word “kidnapped”) and is missing:

American-Syrian Amina Araf… was walking with a friend when three men in their twenties grabbed her, someone claiming to be her cousin wrote. Being openly gay is very unusual and risky in the region.

“One of the men then put his hand over Amina’s mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad,” a person identifying calling herself Rania O. Ismail wrote on the blog Monday night.

In other words, she is much like you, dear reader.  She was just a blogger.  She wrote about what she was experiencing in a Syria in flux. And she talked about her life.  But in that corner of the world, her views, her life were both enough to bring serious reprisals.  Like kidnapping.  Like summary arrest.  Like being disappeared.  

The blog reports:

I have been on the telephone with both her parents and all that we can say right now is that she is missing. Her father is desperately trying to find out where she is and who has taken her.

Unfortunately, there are at least 18 different police formations in Syria as well as multiple different party militias and gangs. We do not know who took her so we do not know who to ask to get her back. It is possible that they are forcibly deporting her.

From other family members who have been imprisoned there, we believe that she is likely to be released fairly soon. If they wanted to kill her, they would have done so.

That is what we are all praying for.

What an extremely scary story.  She is someone other bloggers should immediately stand up for.  We should be demanding her immediate release.

Please contact the Syrian Embassy in Washington and demand that Amina be freed.  Please broadcast this request widely.

———

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Jun 07 2011

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Ari Berman: Senate Republicans Block Yet Another Well-Qualified Obama Nominee

In April 2010, President Obama nominated Peter Diamond, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and MIT professor, to a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. On three different occasions the Senate Banking Committee approved his nomination. Yet Republicans in the Senate, led by Alabama’s Richard Shelby, blocked his confirmation because they disagreed with his economic policy views. “Dr. Diamond is an old-fashioned, big government Keynesian,” Shelby said. Diamond, who finally had enough of the endless delay and partisan attacks, withdrew his nomination today, explaining why in a New York Times op-ed. “Last October, I won the Nobel Prize in economics for my work on unemployment and the labor market,” he wrote. “But I am unqualified to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve-at least according to the Republican senators who have blocked my nomination.”

The absence of a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the Fed at a time of economic crisis is particularly galling. L’affaire Diamond is a perfect illustration of how Senate Republicans have abused and warped Senate rules, which I blogged about last week. Diamond suffered the same fate as other well-qualified Obama nominees, like Goodwin Liu and Dawn Johnson, who Republicans stubbornly refused to confirm.

As I noted last week, of the 1,132 executive and judicial branch nominations submitted to the Senate by President Obama, 223 nominees have yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor, according to White House data. That means that nearly 20 percent of Obama nominees have been blocked by Senate Republicans.

Robert Shatterly: The Loneliness and Courage of Thomas Drake: A Whistleblower’s Journey

“As a student of history and politics, I firmly believe that we have reached a breaking point in this country, when the government violates and erodes our very privacy and precious freedoms in the name of national security and then hides it behind the convenient label of secrecy.

This is not the America I took an oath to support and defend in my career. This is not the America I learned about while growing up in Texas and Vermont. This is not the America we are supposed to be.” —  Thomas Drake, from his acceptance speech of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling

Thomas Drake tried to do everything right. He thought that the road he was on of government service was the same road that was consistent with his values.

Immediately after his first day on the job at the National Security Agency — September 11, 2001 — he began to see those roads diverge. For years he tried to straddle them — one foot on the road of loyalty to the NSA and procedural complaint, one foot on the road consistent with his oath to uphold the Constitution. Finally he had to choose or be ethically dismembered. He chose to blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and patent illegality at the NSA. He chose consistency with his ethical sense of Constitutional duty. He knew that illegal wiretaps and the obsessive secrecy to hide them was inconsistent with democracy and the rule of law.

John Nichols: Wisconsin Protests Ramp Up With Approach of Budget Showdown, Recall Elections

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a political careerist who has never taken one elected office without beginning to position himself to run for the next, made a wild play for the national stage just weeks after being sworn in last winter as a Republican governor with Republican majorities in both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature.

Using a supposedly minor “budget repair bill” as his vehicle, Walker proposed to scrap most collective bargaining rights for state, county and municipal employees and teachers, to radically restructure state government to concentrate power in the governor’s office and to use that power to limit access to healthcare for working families and seniors while bartering off public assets in no-bid deals with favored corporations.

Mike Lux: Our Economy’s Best Chance

The terrible wrongness of the Ryan budget plan combined with the strangest, craziest Republican presidential candidate field ever makes it rather obvious how important it is to get President Obama re-elected. To have extreme right Republicans (that seems to be pretty much all of them these days) control every branch of government would do even more damage now, as weakened economically as we are, than the 2003-2006 run they had with Bush and Congressional Republicans running everything — and think how ugly that was for the country. The good news is that Republicans are doing a very good job right now showing how bad they are, with this weak field of presidential hopefuls in all-out pander mode to the far right of their party, and the lockstep support for the Ryan budget showing how extreme they are — not just on Medicare but on a wide range of other major issues. And I feel good about many of the Obama team’s moves so far this cycle, especially creating Democratic unity around opposition to Ryan’s budget.

However, as is obvious to pretty much everyone who follows politics at all (and probably a fair share of people who don’t), the continued problems with our economic trajectory is going to remain a serious problem dragging down the president’s re-election chances. Conventional economists and D.C. politicos, who generally focus on fiscal policy to the exclusion of just about everything else, feel stymied because they feel like the economy needs another fiscal stimulus package, and they know that is the exact opposite direction that House Republicans want to go. As a result, most people in Washington have pretty much given up on improving the economy between now and the 2012 election, and are devising strategies for Obama around running without the background of an improving economy.

Ray McGovern: Gen. Keane Keen on Attacking Iran

Celebrating a golden anniversary reunion with classmates from Fordham College (class of 1961) on a perfect June day in New York should be a time of pure Gaudeamus Igitur and little or no stress.

I should have known better that to attend a long lecture by Jack Keane, a retired four-star general of Fordham Business School’s class of 1966. Actually, I did know better; but I went anyway. I felt I could risk going to hear Keane’s slant on the world because, prior to my upcoming Mediterranean cruise to Gaza, my cardiologist had pronounced my blood pressure under control. I felt as good, and energized, as 50 years ago.

Keane, now a member of Fordham’s Board of Trustees, has been the go-to general for the neoconservatives in recent years. He indicated that he was about to catch a flight to Europe where he would lobby leaders of the 41 NATO countries who, except for three, have been “unwilling to ask their people to sacrifice” in places like Afghanistan. (It seems never to have crossed his mind that most Europeans have long since concluded that the war in Afghanistan – aka Vietnamistan – is a fool’s errand, and that they are less susceptible to misleading rhetoric about the so-called War on Terror.)

Thomas Gallagher: Part of the Way With the WSJ

“America can be a superpower or a welfare state, but not both.”  So says the Wall Street Journal in its editorial on “The Gates Farewell Warning.”  Although you probably won’t have to read the article to know which side the paper came down on, we shouldn’t miss the significance of the newspaper of record of the world of capital acknowledging that a choice has to be made.  After all, many people on the other side of the fence have been arguing that point for some time and largely been ignored.

As the lone Cabinet holdover from the Bush Administration, Defense Secretary Robert Gates already embodies the continuity that has caused some to speak of the “Bush-Obama War on Terror.”  His current pre-retirement tour, where he warns of the hazards of reduced military spending, represents one final effort to solidify this legacy.

WSJ’s general aversion to government spending is well known, that is, its aversion to government spending that doesn’t disproportionately benefit its clientele.   So far as spending on “new capabilities, from an air refueling tanker fleet to ballistic missile submarines” goes, however – well, if the government doesn’t buy this stuff, of course, no one will.  And that would wreak havoc on our “free market economy,” wouldn’t it?

Richard (RJ) Eskow: It’s Not Just the Sex: Why John Edwards Matters

There’s a natural temptation to look the other way as the John Edwards story plays out. Don’t. This story matters. To use a time-honored phrase, “it’s not just about the sex.” The preternaturally pretty and youthful Edwards is the Dorian Gray of American politics. His story has a lot to teach us about our culture and the way we choose our leaders.

And like so many tales of power, it eventually leads back to Wall Street.

I’m a Celebrity Politician… Get Me Out of Here!

Want to know what’s wrong with our politics? He-e-e-re’s Johnny! Edwards is a political Charlie Sheen, a media superstar fueled by his own addictions and ego. Why didn’t we see it before? His story indicts the Usual Suspects, celebrity-driven campaigning and the media’s herd mentality. But it also shines an unflattering light on progressives, the Democratic Party, and many of us who take pleasure in thinking that we’re “better than” our broken political system.

Jun 07 2011

Dupree’s Paradise

From A Perfect Stranger

Jun 07 2011

Our Aust(eri)an Goolsbee Nightmare Is Finally Over

Or is it?  Despite the headline (which I think is punny and the important thing about my pieces is that they amuse me), if I really believed that I’d be guilty of what lambert calls a category error.  Expecting a freshwater economist from the Chicago school to promote anything but the discredited theories his academic position is based on is as naive as blaming anybody but his boss, Barack Hussein Obama, for hiring him in the first place and listening to them.

Discredited?  Oh my yes.  All you have to do is look at the economic history of the last 30 years to see how wrong their predictions and policies are.  They don’t practice science, it’s faith-based voodoo (my apologies to practioners of Santeria).

Unless, of course, you wish to consider them straight out thieves and con men in which case it makes perfect sense.

So of Obama’s apocalyptic economic team only Geithner the Wall Street toady remains, apparently for the duration.  Given the results achieved their tenure in government would likely be more limited than in academe anyway.

Scarecrow’s Nightmare: Austan Goolsbee Defends President Romney’s Economic Plan

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Sunday June 5, 2011 7:00 am

Goolsbee correctly told us that a smart economist wouldn’t get overly excited about one month’s jobs and growth numbers but would instead look at the overall trend. Of course what he wouldn’t want to concede is that GDP grew at a meager annual rate of 1.8 percent over the first three months of 2011 and so far was predicted to grow at only 2.8 percent for the next three. And the overall trend for job growth was still not enough to make a serious dent in unemployment unless you believe taking 5-10 years to get back to full employment is okay.

So Goolsbee was in denial from the opening moment because he didn’t have a decent story to tell even in his own framework. When Amanpour asked him what the Administration could or should be doing to improve conditions, he ticked off items you’d expect to hear from a typical GOP Presidential adviser: we’ve got to get the debt under control; we have a White House effort to identify and get rid of governmental regulations that are preventing the private sector from growing the economy; we should pass “free trade” agreements backed by the Chamber of Commerce; and we should leverage limited public dollars to release billions in private funding for investments.

Goolsbee’s bottom line: “It’s now up to the private sector.” That’s exactly what you’d expect from President Romney’s economic adviser.



I’m sure I imagined all this. The country wouldn’t possibly be dumb enough to elect an unprincipled moral chameleon like Mitt Romney President. And we’d never put up with someone as defensive and unconvincing as Goolsbee was today, though we’d wonder how the voters got taken.

No, that couldn’t be real, so when I really wake up, I’ll let you know what the adviser for the actual Democratic President said today about the sagging economy and the undefensible unemployment numbers.

Scarecrow Awakens: Austan Goolsbee To Go *Poof!* But It Won’t Help Economy

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Monday June 6, 2011 5:53 pm

In recent weeks, after a near stagnant first quarter, we’ve seen one forecaster after another lower their forecasts of economic growth from about 4 percent this year to under 3 and perhaps as low as 2.5 percent. This quarter is expected to grow at an annual 2.8 percent rate or less. Last week, we got confirmation of the slowdown via disappointing jobs numbers, with the unemployment rising to 9.1 percent. While that followed more hopeful March and April numbers, the trend level is clearly unlikely to make a significant dent in the overall unemployment rates before 2013. In fact, at that rate, it would take about ten years to get back to normal.



With reputable economists starting to use the words “panic” and “depression” to describe the potential risks to the economy, it was left on Sunday to Austan Goolsbee to explain why the White House was stuck on stupid, unwilling to change course or even concede that the recovery was in serious danger. We were asked to ignore that the nation’s unemployment is back above 9 percent, extended unemployment insurance is running out, and states are continuing to slash their budgets and payrolls. The latter are offsetting what little stimulus might have come from last December’s tax cut deal. Even someone with straw for brains can see we’re going the wrong way.



Faced with this insanity, even a Chicago economist should have the good sense to get out before the worst is blamed on him, when he’s likely just the apologist for Larry Summers. And following his, uh, strange performance on Sunday’s shows, he got a clear signal from those who might be inclined to be more charitable about motives and predicaments. When a former Democratic Administration econonomist like Brad DeLong linked favorably to Mark Thoma questioning how the Administration could continue to have it’s head in the sand and not see the need to pivot towards job creation, Goolsbee may just have seen it as a sign it’s time to announce his departure.



Why become the front for a team that remains committed to failed policies that may very likely take the economy down with them? And when a Nobel laureate has to tell the White House via the New York Times that he’s withdrawing his nomination to the Federal Reserve because Washington, including the White House, has become dysfunctional, it’s pretty clear the communication between the President and the economic team is not what it should be.

More boring numbers-

Austan Goolsbee Is Almost Correct, Just Not in the Fashion He Thinks

By: dakine01, Firedog Lake

Monday June 6, 2011 11:03 am

Now a million new jobs over the last six months sounds good, right? Not so fast there Bucky. In an economy that needs to add roughly 125K jobs every month just to maintain status quo (that would be 750K jobs for a six month period), then a million jobs in six months doesn’t begin to put a dent in the 14 or so millions of unemployed, much less the un and underemployed numbers sitting somewhere between 25M and 30M.



Now I actually went back seven months rather than six months and using information gleaned from the monthly BLS press release for jobs created, I still only come up with 784K jobs. And I haven’t accounted for the little nugget in this past Friday’s report that the March and April numbers were revised down 39K, placing the seven month total at 745K jobs created. 745K jobs created instead of the 875K jobs needed just to maintain the status quo, still leaving the 14M unemployed and the 25M to 30M un and underemployed.

Electoral victory my ass.  NO president has been re-elected with unemployment above 6% except Reagan and then it was trending down.

Barack Hussein Obama is no Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Jun 07 2011

Boo Who?

Seems someone has got their po’ wittle fee-fees hurt.

Sunday I wrote about the Yves Smith kerfluffle.  You know, if someone calls you a sellout (or makes other, less flattering characterizations) you have two choices- ignore it or own it.

Now as I’ve always chosen to embrace every vice (unless you have something new and inventive to suggest), my typical response is “Yeah, so?”  The Roosevelt Institute has, on the other hand, decided that Yves’ shoe fits and attempts to defend their neoliberal policy prescriptions as progressive.

What are those prescriptions?  I’m glad you asked.  Jon Walker has a handy little roundup-

Peterson Foundation Proposals From the Roosevelt Institute, CAP and EPI Abandon Progressive Policy

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Monday June 6, 2011 9:43 am

While Medicare and Medicaid are technically what drives government spending, they are not the problem. They are both dramatically more cost effective than our broken private insurance system, which is what is actually driving all our health care cost radically higher than the rest of the industrialized world.  The projected deficit is due mainly to historically low tax rates, massively unnecessary military spending and most importantly a totally broken health care system.

The “progressive” solution to our current health care problems has historically been to copy the models of nations with cheaper and more efficient systems: it could be fixed by adopting the progressive solutions of socialized medicine (VA for all), or single payer (Medicare for all). If those are “too big a change,” most of the benefits of single payer can be replicated following the model of countries like Germany and Japan and adopting all-payer, where the government plays a role in setting uniformed reimbursement rates that all private insurance companies most pay.  Adopting any of these models would effectively eliminate our long term deficit.

Yet none of the three “liberals” deficit plans even come close to calling for any of these proven progressive solutions for health care. Only one of them, EPI, includes a moderately strong public option. “Tort reform” gets more play than single payer.



Note that the Roosevelt Institute plan doesn’t even call for what became the significant progressive compromise from single payer in the health care debate, an immediate public option. Instead, it calls only for a “trigger” that might make a public option available at the earliest by 2022 if cost(s) continue to increase. If a robust public option can significantly reduce the deficit, which the CBO has concluded, what possible justification exists for waiting a decade to use it? So the Roosevelt Institute plan to reduce the deficit is to needlessly waste a few hundred billion dollars.



In isolation many of these ideas are nice, but the totality of them is incredibly timid. Yes, we could save some money if Medicare negotiated directly for drug prices for seniors, but everyone could save significantly more money if Medicare negotiated lower drug prices for everyone through a single payer system or all-payer.

Given that as a country we probably spend $500 billion more a year than we need to on health care, is it truly depressing that these so-called progressive groups have totally abandoned even talking about a proven solution to our deficit and health care issues.

On an international level I would go so far as to say these three liberal health care plans are all significantly to the right of basically even center-right party in the rest of the industrialized world on health care.

If these constitute the “left flank” of the political discussion around the pressing issue of health care costs in America, we as a country are screwed.

Jun 07 2011

On This Day In History June 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

June 7 is the 158th day of the year (159th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 207 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1692, a massive earthquake devastates the infamous town of Port Royal in Jamaica, killing thousands. The strong tremors, soil liquefaction and a tsunami brought on by the earthquake combined to destroy the entire town.

Port Royal was built on a small island off the coast of Jamaica in the harbor across from present-day Kingston. Many of the buildings where the 6,500 residents lived and worked were constructed right over the water. In the 17th century, Port Royal was known throughout the New World as a headquarters for piracy, smuggling and debauchery. It was described as “most wicked and sinful city in the world” and “one of the lewdest in the Christian world.”

Earthquakes in the area were not uncommon, but were usually rather small. In 1688, a tremor had toppled three homes. But four years later, late in the morning on June 7, three powerful quakes struck Jamaica. A large tsunami hit soon after, putting half of Port Royal under 40 feet of water. The HMS Swan was carried from the harbor and deposited on top of a building on the island. It turned out to be a refuge for survivors.

Piracy in Port Royal

Port Royal provided a safe harbour initially for privateers and subsequently for pirates plying the shipping lanes to and from Spain and Panama. Buccaneers found Port Royal appealing for several reasons. Its proximity to trade routes allowed them easy access to prey, but the most important advantage was the port’s proximity to several of the only safe passages or straits giving access to the Spanish Main from the Atlantic. The harbour was large enough to accommodate their ships and provided a place to careen and repair these vessels. It was also ideally situated for launching raids on Spanish settlements. From Port Royal, Henry Morgan attacked Panama, Portobello, and Maracaibo. Roche Brasiliano, John Davis (buccaneer), and Edward Mansveldt (Mansfield) also came to Port Royal.

Since the English lacked sufficient troops to prevent either the Spanish or French from seizing it, the Jamaican governors eventually turned to the pirates to defend the city.

By the 1660s, the city had gained a reputation as the Sodom of the New World where most residents were pirates, cutthroats, or prostitutes. When Charles Leslie wrote his history of Jamaica, he included a description of the pirates of Port Royal:

   Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night; and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked. They used to buy a pipe of wine, place it in the street, and oblige everyone that passed to drink.

The taverns of Port Royal were known for their excessive consumption of alcohol such that records even exist of the wild animals of the area partaking in the debauchery. During a passing visit, famous Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck is said to have described the scenes:

   The parrots of Port Royal gather to drink from the large stocks of ale with just as much alacrity as the drunks that frequent the taverns that serve it.

There is even speculation in pirate folklore that the infamous Blackbeard met a howler monkey while at leisure in a Port Royal alehouse whom he named Jefferson and formed a strong bond with during the expedition to the island of New Providence. Port Royal benefited from this lively, glamorous infamy and grew to be one of the two largest towns and the most economically important port in the English colonies. At the height of its popularity, the city had one drinking house for every ten residents. In July 1661 alone, forty new licenses were granted to taverns. During a twenty-year period that ended in 1692, nearly 6,500 people lived in Port Royal. In addition to prostitutes and buccaneers, there were four goldsmiths, forty-four tavern keepers, and a variety of artisans and merchants who lived in 2000 buildings crammed into 51 acres of real estate. 213 ships visited the seaport in 1688. The city’s wealth was so great that coins were preferred for payment rather than the more common system of bartering goods for services.

Following Henry Morgan’s appointment as lieutenant governor, Port Royal began to change. Pirates were no longer needed to defend the city. The selling of slaves took on greater importance. Upstanding citizens disliked the reputation the city had acquired. In 1687, Jamaica passed anti-piracy laws. Instead of being a safe haven for pirates, Port Royal became noted as their place of execution. Gallows Point welcomed many to their death, including Charles Vane and Calico Jack, who were hanged in 1720. Two years later, forty-one pirates met their death in one month.

Although a work of historical fiction, James Michener’s The Caribbean details the history, atmosphere and geography of Port Royal accurately.

Jun 07 2011

Six In The Morning

US braces for withdrawal along Iraqi road

Commanders say departing troops could be easy targets for insurgents

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

Even as the American military winds down its eight-year war in Iraq, commanders are bracing for what they fear could be the most dangerous remaining mission: getting the last troops out safely.

The resurgent threat posed by militants was underscored Monday when rockets slammed into a military base in eastern Baghdad, killing six service members in the most deadly day for American forces here since 2009. In recent weeks, insurgent fighters have stepped up their efforts to kill American forces in what appears to be a strategy to press the United States to withdraw on schedule, undercut any resolve to leave troops in Iraq, and win a public relations victory at home by claiming credit for the American withdrawal.




Tuesday’s Headlines:

Revealed: the untold story of the deal that shocked the Middle East

EU ministers to meet over E.coli

Shark activists push for Bahamas sanctuary

Gaddafi regime fails to fool media over injured child

DPJ sees growing movement for grand coalition with LDP

Jun 07 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for June 6, 2011-

DocuDharma

Jun 07 2011

Can You Hear Us Now?

Finally, Democrats leaders are telling the White House to take Medicare off the table negotiating the debt ceiling. Hello? The majority of Americans support Medicare.

Actually there should be nothing on the table, raising the debt ceiling isn’t something that should or need to be negotiated, just DO IT. This is not a game. This is the economy of the United States and the world which relies on the US dollar as the basis for trade. Are the Democrats, at last, seeing the Republican folly of using Medicare as a pawn in their game for their corporate masters?

In Debt Ceiling Negotiations, Democrats Insist Paul Ryan’s Medicare Reform Plan to be ‘Off the Table’

In a letter to Vice President Biden today, five Democratic senators are calling for the Paul Ryan Medicare reform plan to “remain off the table,” as the budget and deficit negotiations over raising the debt ceiling go forward.

“We encourage you to remain unwavering in opposition to this scheme. For the good of the nation’s seniors, it must remain off the table,” the Democratic Senators write, ” we will never allow any effort to dismantle the program and force benefit cuts upon seniors under the guise of deficit reduction.”

The letter has been signed by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Even the Wall St. puppet, Sen Charles Schumer (D-NY) has said that Medicare cuts are a not a negotiating point:

The GOP has mostly stood behind the Medicare proposal, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). But it’s been Democrats who have highlighted the proposal at every opportunity, and they’ve repeatedly called on debt negotiators to say publicly that Medicare cuts are off the table entirely.

If Congress is going to look to the program for savings, Schumer said, the money should come from cuts to the pharmaceutical industry rather than benefit cuts. He cited two policies Democrats have consistently supported: price controls on prescription drugs and extended rebates for people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

A deal will be “impossible” if Ryan’s Medicare proposal is included, Schumer said.

The negotiations are aimed at finding a workable solution that both parties can support – which clearly would not describe the Ryan plan.