The Census Bureau released their report on poverty and income. It’s grim. Poverty as a nation is up to 15.1%, which when you break it down means that one in every six people is extremely poor. Poverty is even worse here in Michigan at 16.2% and REALLY bad for children in Michigan, where 23.5% of kids are under the poverty level statewide and in Detroit 53.6%.
And whenever you look at the poverty level it’s important to know that the figure was originally based off of food costs. Since it was created in the 1950s, most living expenses like housing and health care have increased much more than food, but we still measure it the same way. Here is a helpful image which demonstrates just how much the cost of health care has increased compared to food.
As you can see, we have an incredibly outdated method for seeing how many people are actually living in poverty. But the news doesn’t get any better for poor people, especially in Michigan. Next weekend, thousands of people will start losing their cash assistance, and food stamps has just been severely cut forcing about 15,000 people to lose some level of help in buying food.
You might ask, why has poverty increased so much when our economy is now so much bigger than it was in the 1950s? If there is so much more money, where is it? That is an excellent question that for some reason no one in the news media bothers to ask. The Census Bureau’s report has some helpful information on that as well.
As you can see, yearly income for the poor has risen only $2,600 over 45 years, and if you ask me, that’s a pretty lousy raise. Income for the middle class has risen even less, but for the top 10% it’s jumped over $50,000. That jump is even higher when you look at the top 5% and 1%.
When we cut services for the poor and continue tax cuts for the rich we are literally taking money out of the pockets of the neediest amount us and handing it to billionaires. It’s completely inhumane, yet to suggest that we don’t continue this reverse Robin Hood mentality is said to be committing class warfare. This proves to me that conservatives in this country don’t know what real class warfare is, and if they are going to accuse us of it just for stating facts we may as well actually wage it.
I’m incredibly thankful that some people in New York and Chicago are taking to the streets for the Occupy Wallstreet movement. More and more I believe that civil disobedience is going to be the only thing that creates some real change. And these peaceful protesters are already facing the kind of violent resistance you would expect from people trying to protect the wealthy. Here is a clip posted today of women who are standing still being caged in and maced by police.
I hope this leads more people to action. The only way our politicians will start putting people ahead of profits is if we demand it of them.
I’m thinking of making “Colbert Does it Better” a regular feature here.
The Department of Human Services announced that they will require health insurance plans to cover birth control, HIV testing and counseling, and breast feeding support. This move is really great and really smart on so many levels. It will save money for women and save unwanted pregnancies that, about 40% of the time end in abortion. You would think that conservatives would love something like that right? But some of the responses from folks on the right have been not only unreasonable, they have been down right sexist. Colbert did a great job at taking them to task this week.
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Women’s Health-Nazi Plan|
Anyone remember the last two years? You know when Republicans went on and on about how bad Democrats are for the deficit and once they take power they will never ever ever increase it? Well the first item on their agenda is to repeal the health care bill, which of course, would increase the deficit, a lot. Ezra Klein sums it up well.
House Republicans are in a pickle: One of their new rules says that new legislation must be paid for. But the health-care bill reduces the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years. Luckily, they’ve figured out an answer to their problem: They’ve decided to simply exempt the repeal bill from the rules. That means they’re beginning the 112th Congress by lifting their own rules in order to take a vote that will increase the deficit. Change we can believe in, and all that.
When the Democrats were trying to pass the Health Care Reform bill they went to incredible lengths to make sure that it was deficit reducing. And they lost a lot of items that they wanted in the process, including the public option, but they kept trying until they came up with something that the Congressional Budget Office reported would not add to the deficit.
Now the shoe is on the other foot and while the GOP has claimed it will cut $100 billion off the deficit, they have yet to say where they might do that. They kept taxes low for the rich, they have made exceptions to cutting defense, medicare, and social security. Really all that’s left is infrastructure and programs that help the poor. And while I don’t doubt they will try to cut help for the out of work and underprivileged ( it’s kind of their thing), cutting infrastructure doesn’t help with the deficit.
Think about it. Either we pay for a road to be fixed or a bridge to be built now, or we pay for it later when it’s even worse. If you wait, you’re still passing on cost to the future, and in the mean time you have crappy roads and services, and no one will want to come visit or live here, which means people will spend less money which will mean a worse economy, more job cuts, and so on and so on.
Many of us knew all along that the GOP is full of what can be called deficit chicken-hawks. I knew the day they went back on their platform would come, I just didn’t think it would come so quickly.
One of the things that Senate Republicans voted down because they refused to do anything until they cut rich people’s taxes first is the bill providing health care to 9/11 first responders, many of whom now have cancer due to the dust they inhaled in the aftermath and cleanup. I would comment on this, but I don’t think there’s anything I can say that Jon Stewart hasn’t already.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
At least now the GOP has made perfectly clear what many of us have know for a very long time. That they love to use 9/11 to their advantage, but don’t actually give a damn. I am amazed that the Democrats haven’t made a bigger stink about this. It seems so incredibly obvious.
Ezra Klein’s brief history of bipartisanship, or lack there of in the health care debate is enlightening.
The original idea, of course, was a national health service run by the government. Harry Truman proposed it and fell short. Lyndon Johnson got it for seniors and some groups of the very poor. But Republicans said that was too much government, and it was unacceptable for the whole country. They proposed, through President Richard Nixon, an employer-based, pay-or-play system in which the government would set rules and private insurers would compete for business.
That didn’t go anywhere, because Democrats, led by Sen. Ted Kennedy, weren’t ready to give up on a national health service. By the 1990s, they were. President Bill Clinton proposed an employer-based, pay-or-play system in which the government would set rules and private insurers would compete for business. Republicans killed it. Government shouldn’t be telling businesses what to do, they said, and it shouldn’t be restructuring the whole health-care market. Better to center policy around personal responsibility and use an individual mandate combined with subsidies and rules making sure insurers couldn’t turn people away. That way, the parts of the system that were working would remain intact, and the government would only really involve itself in the parts that weren’t working.
So over the last 80 years or so, Democrats have responded to Republican opposition by moving to the right, and Republicans have responded by moving even further to the right. In other words, Democrats have been willing to adopt Republican ideas if doing so meant covering everybody (or nearly everybody), while Republicans were willing to abandon Republican ideas if sticking by them meant compromising with the Democrats. But because Democrats were insistent on getting something that would help the uninsured, they’ve ended up looking like the partisans, as they keep pushing bills Republicans refuse to sign onto.
So the Democrats can either continue to give up ground to the Republicans, or they can learn from them instead.
The narrative in a lot of the media right now is that the Republicans are going to beat up the Democrats in a few weeks because the dems have failed to get anything done on the economy. While I agree that more could have been done (especially without the GOP filibustering nearly everything) I still think it’s worth taking a look at what has actually been accomplished.
The Toxic Assets Relief Program or better known as (cue negative film and sinister voice) “The Bailout” has largely been a huge success. Of course no one wants to talk about it, but this bipartisan bill supported by George Bush, Barack Obama, and John McCain, has now done even better than economists had hoped. Bloomberg Businessweek (not exactly a leftist magazine) put out a report that the bank bailout has actually earned the U.S. government over $25 billion. Not to mention the whole, you know, preventing another great depression thing.
The Auto Bailout
Even I had my doubts about this one. I hated seeing the companies that had made routine of screwing over my home state get a big taxpayer paycheck. But when a friend of mine, lost his job because his company lost work orders from GM and then went under, I saw that the ripple effects of the auto industry collapsing would be disastrous. But it turns out that the auto bailout wasn’t a socialist takeover, in fact it worked. Even The Economist (again, not exactly a pinko rag) issued an apology to Obama admitting that they were wrong and that the White House had made the right move. But this is one more thing that Obama has gotten no credit for.
CBO, Aug. 24: CBO estimates that ARRA’s policies had the following effects in the second quarter of calendar year 2010:
- They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent,
- Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points,(and)
- Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.
It’s impossible to know for sure the total effects of the Stimulus, but we do know that it has created in between one and a half to three million jobs, and lowered unemployment. Now, unemployment has been the major critism of the Stimulus. The argument goes “If it worked, why is unemployment still high?” This chart is helpful in understanding the context of just how much of a hole we have to dig ourselves out of.
Just because we got ourselves into this mess quickly doesn’t mean we can dig our way out quickly. But if the stimulus has been at least helpful, why is it something so many are trying to avoid? Because republicans have done a great job of condemning it as wasteful spending while taking credit for what it accomplished it in their districts. Calling it socialism on the hill and then handing out giant stimulus checks back home.
Health Care Reform
I’ve written about this plenty before. But I’m still baffled as to why Democrats are running away from this accomplishment that they ran their campaigns on, will cover 97% of Americans, lower costs, and reduce the deficit. Especially when considering just how moderate this plan is. It was very similar to both Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan, and to the plans put for by Republicans in 1993, and was supported by the majority of the public.
Of course now, that bill is being called all kinds of things, even unconstitutional.
If you ask a tea partier why they don’t like Obama, I’m sure “he raised taxes” will be in there some where. What’s ironic about this is that taxes are at their lowest rate since 1959 and the average tax rate has fallen 26% in the last three years. Obama has actually cut taxes for 95% of Americans. Individuals have received a $400 income tax cut, and couples an $800 one. But no one seems to notice. In fact, the stimulus is filled with tax cuts for small businesses.
But try telling that to these folks.
I’ve written here before about not being able to understand certain kinds of conservative anger at the Obama administration, but what I am finding even more baffling right now is the liberal anger. I myself have been disillusioned at times, and there have definitely been progressive issues that I think Obama has been not strong enough on. I would love to see him push the domestic issues of bigger stimulus, higher taxes on the wealthy, a single payer health care system, carbon capping, more funding for public transportation and social programs, gay rights, more education spending, ect.
But I also don’t want to see him get beaten in 2012 by Sarah Palin or Newt Gingirch.
Unfortunately, the political realities in America necessitate a democratic president to appeal to the center and center-right. Not just to get reelected, but to get anything passed. If my preference, a single payer health care system would have been pushed it would have been dead in the water. If Ben Nelson barely voted for that bill as it was, does anyone really think a more progressive bill would have made it through? Instead of what I wanted, we have a moderate health care reform bill. Yes, it was moderate, but it also passed.
And then after the bill passed, what happened to those moderate democrats who did vote for it? They went home, got yelled at by conservatives for being socialist, and got told by liberals that it wasn’t good enough. You have to wonder, at what point do those policy makers stop sticking their necks out for people who don’t seem to care?
Liberals, by all means encourage your congressmen, senators, and president to push progressive issues, but please, also say thanks when they try.
Today has been a little surreal. It’s been difficult to avoid hearing about all the anger about Health Care reform. Several congresspeople and senators have received violent threats. Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson had nooses hanging in front of their offices. My hometown congressman Mark Shauer got a voicemail saying “I hope you die a slow death at a young age.” And there’s a report out there that a shot was fired through the window for political consultant of Eric Cantor.
In addition, the past year has seen a large increase in recruitment for neo-nazi, and other hate groups. And in my hometown of Jackson Michigan, a white pride group held a march downtown. (Luckily the people protesting the group outnumbered them 10 to 1.) This in addition to the murder of Dr. Tiller, a pro-life activist, and all the racially charged rants at tea party protests.
A video on how our political climate is mimicking the time right before the Oklahoma City bombing goes into more detail.
I understand disagreeing with the bill. And I know that there is always backlash to change. But I am completely baffled at the violent anger directed at something that makes health care more affordable for people, expands coverage to people who can’t afford it, and reduces the deficit. Not only does this anger baffle me, it frightens me too. We have lost too many great leaders due to this sort of thing. I hope that we don’t lose another.
And then today, after seeing all this, I made my periodic visit to the homeless shelter. I met with two individuals, the first has respiratory problems that make it nearly impossible for her to work. The only way she can pay for her treatment is through our county’s excellent health plan for low income people. The second person has severe mental health problems but his insurance only covers one of the many medications he needs. I could tell you about situations like this all day from people I know.
On my way back to the office from the shelter this song came on.
At that point I lost all words.
update: Turns out the Eric Cantor bullet was randomly fired, and not aimed at his offices.
So we got a health care bill through the House. Part of me wants to believe that it’s as historic as Pelosi says it is, but I don’t quite buy it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a step in the right direction, but it might be too little too late. It’s especially hard to be optimistic after listening to this incredibly well done piece on our current system by the good folks at This American Life and NPR. This bill is, in part, too little because of the sacrifices that have been made in order to get enough votes for something to pass. This is one of the main things keeping me from considering a career in politics; compromising values.
The Stupak amendment on this bill is a perfect example. It was written in just before the vote, and was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because without it, there probably wouldn’t have been enough votes from conservative Democrats to get the bill passed. A curse because it was a step backwards on women’s rights. And there’s the rub. Seriously, how is someone who is both a fierce advocate of women’s rights and a fierce advocate of universal health care supposed to feel about this? At the end of the day, one of your values has to be compromised.
And the worst part? This bill might not even be conservative enough for a senate that has 60 seats held by Democrats. It’s probably going to be compromised even more, and then, if it finally get’s to Obama’s desk, after having its guts ripped out, it won’t take a affect for a few years. By then, costs will have increased even more, and true reform will be even harder to intact.
I wish I didn’t care about this. It would make my life so much easier. But I have tried and failed numerous times to kick the habit of caring. It never works.
Even though I’m a pretty political person I do my best to keep this blog about other things. I mean really, if you want to read about politics on the internet you surely don’t need to come here to do it. But I just can’t let this rest.
Health care in this Country is abominable. It is unfair, unjust, and dehumanizing. Capitalism at it’s worst. It takes a person when they are incredible vulnerable and tries to squeeze ats much money out of them as possible. It looks at sick person as says “Helping you is worth X amount of dollars to us.”
My insurance at work kicks in today, which is why I have this on my mind. And without going in to details I have had to make a decision between being covered and being able to pay bills and I have not felt so helpless in a long time. I’m not sure I made the right choice.
But my point is, I should not have to make that choice. No one should. And to those who say they oppose a public insurance plan because they “don’t want a Washington bureaucrat in between them and their doctor.” I have to say it can’t be worse than having an overpaid pharmaceutical and insurance CEO’s standing there. If you trust the government to run our military, why don’t you trust them to pay for doctors appointments?
I was talking to a friend of mine in Botswana, and after seeing how easily and cheaply people there can get medicine she has also become very passionate about this issue. To her, if Botswana can give their citizens affordable health care, why can’t the U.S.A? I can’t say I disagree.
I am hopeful for change. I just hope our leaders have the audacity to do.