Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Health care costs to rise again in 2010" ...Not Much of a Shocker

From Full Story Link

Thurs., June 18, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - Employers who offer health insurance coverage could see a 9 percent cost increase next year, and their workers may face an even bigger hit, according to a report from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Costs will rise in part because workers worried about losing their jobs are using their health care more while they still have it, the firm said in the report released to The Associated Press. The report also said rising unemployment is driving up medical costs.

I don't know about you, but when our insurance company comes back to our union with the news that rates are going to increase 9%, we all do a happy dance. And here's the rub...we've grown accustomed to enormous rises in our rates that we're THANKFUL when it goes up 10%. Congressional Democrats need to kick the Republicans out of the car and force through reform WITH A PUBLIC OPTION!

Senate Democrats Lack the Balls for Leadership...


From Full Story Link

"WASHINGTON - Key Senate Democrats are paring back subsidies designed to make insurance more affordable as they reach for bipartisan support on health care legislation.

An outline circulated Thursday by Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also leaves open the possibility that there would be no direct government competition against private insurors. "

I am absolutely unable to understand this "bipartisanship" bull shit. Were the Republicans concerned about bringing Democrats along for the ride when they decided to invade Iraq???Did they care about what Democrats wanted?

And honestly, how can you not include a public option for health care??? No one said that leadership was easy. No one said you would make friends. Lead or get the hell out of the way. The Republicans could mess this up on their own...they don't need Democrats to do their dirty work...It is not reform without a public option to keep companies honest. No public option is only polishing a turd!

One Step Closer...

Yesterday the Wisconsin State Legislature moved one step closer to equality for homosexual couples by approving domestic partnership benefits for Wisconsin same-sex couples as part of the state budget. This clearly doesn't change the egregious 2006 constitutional referendum that blatantly violates the federal Constitution's 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause, but it is a step in the right direction...

Too Little....

Relocation expenses? Until President Obama personally pushes health insurance benefits for gay federal employees, it is simply going to be seen as trying to be incrementalist with civil rights. That is unacceptable with racial, ethnic, or gender equality...Why not with homosexuals? The answer: he is playing politics...scared to be labeled as "pro-gay" by the knuckle draggers in Congress. Better get on the right side of history now, Mr. President...Full story link

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama Administration Drops the Ball...

The Obama Justice Department, has chosen to oppose the first case brought in federal court over whether the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) represents a violation of same-sex couples' constitutional rights. This is the wrong decision. The Full Faith and Credit clause clearly covers marital rights from state to state. My marriage was issed in Wisconsin, but is valid in Minnesota or Mississippi as well. Why not marriages of gay couples???

To add insult to injury, Justice Department lawyers used case law dealing with marriage of underage children and incestual relationships between uncle and niece as core arguments against recognizing same-sex marriages. Shameful. This is something you would have expected from the previous president...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Business leaders in favor of EFCA...

'I strongly support the Employee Free Choice Act. In the past, some employers have intimidated union members and used subtle 'divide-and-conquer' techniques to spread confusion among their workforce. This leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of workers and undercuts the mutual goal that employers and employees share of promoting the ongoing success of their enterprises.'

-Bruce Ventimiglia, Founder and President, Saratoga Capital Management

Don't step in the horse crap. There are thousands of business owners and leaders who back the Employee Free Choice Act--making the unionizing process more fair for workers. Republicans and some DLC Democrats (DINOs) don't want these voices of fairness heard. Take some time and visit the Business Leaders for a Fair Economy at their website:

You're a foul one, Mr.'re a nasty wasty...

skunk. Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Gingrich. I wouldn't touch you with a 39 1/2 foot pole.......

Newt, and other intellectual lightweights, gathered last night for a G.O.P. fundraising event (full story link). He decried President Obama a "failure". Funny thing, that is. The annual fundraiser brought in 33% less than it did just last year. That sounds like failure in the year leading up to congressional elections in which the Republicans stand to lose even more ground in the Senate. The other oddity of this event is that it featured the "intellectual power" of Newt, his social cache, his cult of personality...and yet....less money. Sigh. Rudderless ship. Failure.

Socialist! Burn Him!!!

First of all, after listening to countless Republicans, talking heads, and regular citizens throw the word socialist around for the last ten years in general, and President Obama's term in specific, I am more certain than ever that none of them understand the concept. It is only used as a fighting word because people put the brown pants on as soon as they hear it. To gin up fear, which, by the way, is what they feed on. Recently, Republican party leaders have been vociferously criticizing the government's bailout out G.M. as the beginning of America's descent into a socialist anarchy...Be afraid! Now, and this is priceless, Connor Clarke of The Atlantic (read full story) has produced a piece (in the Jun 3 2009 online edition) that shows just how "socialist" we have become as a nation. And the results are HORRIFYING! Even after the G.M. takeover, 99.79% of all corporate assets in the United States are privately held. Repeat...99.79%. Enough Said. I've heard enough from these people...

More bad economic news for west-central Wisconsin

Hopefully these folks can find work that approaches the pay level they have right now... The good news from this morning is that the company now plans to hold out until 2011 before closing their Baldwin operation.

From the Eau Claire Leader Telegram:
June 6, 2009

Closure displacing 200 area workers

BALDWIN - The closing of an area Clopay Building Products plant, 320 10th Ave., will result in the loss of about 200 jobs, according to company officials.
The company, which manufactures residential and commercial garage doors, is consolidating operations from Baldwin and a plant in Russia, Ohio, to a facility in Troy, Ohio. Baldwin employees are not being offered jobs in Troy at this time.

"Employees will receive some form of severance that will vary based upon their position and time with the company," said Mischel Schonberg, Clopay public relations manager. "We will also be providing many additional services to help our employees with this difficult transition."
The move will begin this summer and be completed by January 2011. Clopay has been manufacturing in Baldwin since 1992.

"I don't want to get too dramatic"...Some Logic on the QEO

Assembly Democrats are planning to approve the state budget this week, effectively moving the spending bill to the upper chamber, and then, hopefully to Governor Jim Doyle for his signature. One of the provisions in the budget bill would repeal the QEO (Qualified Economic Offer), a part of state government inserted during the 1993 budget deliberations. This "provision" effectively eliminates state teachers' unions from truly exercising collective bargaining rights granted to every other state employee, as well as union members in the private sector. School district officials around the state are already decrying this as the beginning of the end of times.

Eau Claire Area School District superintendent Ron Heilman is reported by the Leader Telegram as having said, "I don't want to get too dramatic, but we spiral into the abyss." Wahahahahahahaha! Link for full story...

Without getting into the inherent unfairness of this rule (Thank Tommy Thompson), district representatives, state Republicans, and other selected "taxpayer watchdog" groups are going to blast, belittle, and impune state Democrats for simply providing teachers with the basic standard of a true collective bargaining right.

Will the repeal of the QEO without the subsequent repeal of revenue caps put pressure on school districts? The only honest answer is the short term. If something is done about health care costs, and when the economy inevitably turns around, who is to say what improved economic conditions districts will find themselves in five years down the road. All that we will have achieved, then, is a true sense of negotiating fairness between local districts and their teachers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

State Spending Down Under Democrats...

I don't want to hear any Republican throwing out the same tired old crap in the next election cycle...Spending is down as per the Legislature's non-partisan budget office. Of course, facts never play very well in elections...

From the Wisconsin State Journal...

MON., JUN 8, 2009 - 11:48 AM
Politics blog: Spending of state tax dollars down; overall spending up
The state budget recently passed out of the budget committee cuts spending of state tax dollars over the next two years by 3.2 percent, or $905 million. But overall, including all state and federal funds, the budget spends 6.3 percent more, or $3.7 billion, over those years in large part because of use of federal stimulus dollars. That "all funds" budget spends $62.2 billion over two years. The findings were released today by the Legislature's non-partisan budget office. See the findings

About what I'd expected...

Yes, it is from an editorial and yes, I'd like to see some more detailed data on the various plans' financial impact on Wisconsin, but this certainly seems to indicate that President Obama is headed in the right direction on health care reform. Now politicians need to get on board...

From the Madison Capital Times: full story link

More bang for health care bucks

"A study released last week by Citizen Action of Wisconsin confirmed what we've been saying for decades -- Wisconsin businesses and individuals could save bundles of money if the nation's health care system is properly reformed.Citizen Action's study said that President Barack Obama's plan, which includes a public health insurance option, would save state employers $1.8 billion a year and could lower health insurance premiums by up to 33 percent."

All in the name of a buck...

It never ceases to amaze, the disregard companies have for consumers...particularly small children. Stories like this always remind me of the American economy before the Progressives started making waves. Unfettered capitalism always preys on the weak and helpless. I am happy the government fined them, but I wonder if the fine is large enough to really serve as a deterrent to future violations of the public trust...

From MSNBC: link

Fri., June 5, 2009

WASHINGTON - Toy maker Mattel Inc. and its Fisher-Price subsidiary have agreed to pay a $2.3 million civil penalty for importing and selling toys with excessive levels of lead.
The penalty is part of a settlement the companies reached with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which announced Friday, that the toymaker had knowingly violated a 30-year-old federal ban on lead paint in toys.
The companies deny having willfully violated the ban.

The penalty stems from a series of recalls by Mattel and Fisher-Price in 2007, when the companies recalled nearly 2 million popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and other toys because of excessive levels of lead found in the paint on the toys.
Barbie doll accessories and “Sarge” toy cars were also part of the recalls.

The commission says the fine is the biggest for a lead paint violation involving children’s toys.
Mattel and Fisher-Price were among dozens of manufacturers that yanked millions of Chinese-made toys from store shelves in the months leading up to the 2007 holiday shopping season. The recalls made parents uneasy as they shopped for gifts for small children.

The Mattel and Fisher-Price fine is the commission’s first penalty resulting from those recalls.
“These highly publicized toy recalls helped spur congressional action last year to strengthen CPSC and make even stricter the ban on lead paint on toys,” said the commission’s acting chairman Thomas Moore. “This penalty should serve notice to toy makers that CPSC is committed to the safety of children.”

“Today’s settlement announcement by the U.S. CPSC resolves Mattel’s outstanding issues with the agency related to certain matters that arose in 2007,” Mattel said. “Mattel promptly took a series of steps after discovering compliance issues with some of our toys at that time.

“We were able to effectively minimize any potential concerns by launching a fast-track recall of the affected product in conjunction with the CPSC and other global regulatory agencies, and by taking several steps to enhance our product compliance protocols and procedures to confirm that every Mattel toy is safe for children to enjoy,” Mattel said. Fisher-Price referred calls to Mattel.
Mattel, based in El Segundo, Calif., has not had any lead paint recalls since the 2007 cases, which spurred congressional action and a new law last summer — called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act — that restricts the amount of lead allowed in children’s products.

Lead poisoning in children can cause neurological damage, delayed mental and physical development, learning deficiencies, and other problems.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Unemployment Rate Rises, Again...

And this is what many economists are passing off as "good" economic news. The U.S. unemployment rate rose in May to 9.4% (which is the highest it has been in over 25 years). This rise of a fraction of a percentage point represents 345,000 additional job cuts during the previous month, including 156,000 good paying factory jobs and 59,000 construction positions. I understand their point, from an abstract economic perspective, but these cuts impact real families and communities. Yes, the growth of job cuts was much smaller than in previous months, but pink slips lead to car notes not being able to be paid, defaults on home mortgages, unpaid medical bills, and extreme stress on families.

This is actually worse than the numbers indicate. If people who have grown so discouraged and given up looking for work (part of the government's definition of being unemployed is that you must be actively seeking employment) are counted, along with people currently working in a part-time capacity, the number is closer to 16.4% according to the Department of Labor. The Badger state has not been spared the knife. Unemployment rates in Wisconsin have risen each of the past seven months (from 4.7% in September of 2008 to 8.6% in April of 2009).

New Hampshire Embraces Equality!

Leave free or die! New Hampshire has chosen to live up to the state's motto with Governor John Lynch signing a bill that allows for same-sex couples to achieve civil marriages.

New Hampshire joins the ranks of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont in being on the right side of history. Congratulations! Hopefully other states follow the lead...

Meet James Inhofe, Idiot Extraordinaire

The Oklahoman reports that Republican Senator, James Inhofe has provided the following genius regarding President Obama's recent Middle East diplomatic mission: link

Sen. Jim Inhofe said today that President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo was "un-American" because he referred to the war in Iraq as "a war of choice" and didn't criticize Iran for developing a nuclear program.

"I just don't know whose side he's on,'' Inhofe said of the president.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

General Motors, R.I.P. 1 June 2009

By now everyone has read about G.M.'s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing yesterday. Communites like Pontiac and Orion in Michigan and Spring Hill in Tennessee are going to be decimated by plant closings. G.M.'s plan to cut the workforce by 21,000 jobs in the near future (representing 34% of all employees). 2600 dealerships are going to be shut down. The UAW agreed to draconian cuts in work place rules and wage freezes. And the end result is that average people and families in average American towns are going to suffer the brunt of this. To those union members who will soon be out of work, I hope that you are able to find something to support yourselves and families. To those ancillary businesses that supplied G.M. or the tertiary businesses that supplied them, I hope the company emerges from Chapter 11 soon and continues supporting you. Family businesses in these towns will be run out of business. Local charities that relied heavily on the generous spirit of G.M. workers to make annual budgets will be less able to provide for the large influx of needy. President Obama says that this was a necessary evil, and it may well be, but the federal government has an obligation to help soften the landing for these folks who did nothing but what society has asked of them: work hard, raise your families, pay your taxes...There will be no excuse for members of Congress or the administration standing in the way of unemployment benefits, mortgage assistance, educational and retraining funds, and community at-large assistance.