In prepared remarks given in advance to the Huffington Post, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warns Democrats against accepting any budget deal that includes cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, and even goes so far as to threaten to end the career of any politician who fails to heed his call.
“No politician … I don’t care the political party … will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it,” Trumka says, according to the Huffington Post. “This warning goes double for Democrats,” he continues. “We will never forget. We will never forgive. And we will never stop working to end your career.”
While Trumka has previously made a point of distancing the AFL-CIO from Democrats, his speech nevertheless is one of the more high profile signs of potential schisms in the Democratic Party’s coalition. The AFL-CIO opposes two significant provisions in President Obama’s 2014 budget: “chained CPI” — and adjustment in how Social Security measures inflation that would amount to a benefit cut — and means testing for some Medicare recipients.
It isn’t clear yet how entitlement cuts will figure in the post-shutdown budget talks, but it’s possible they’ll become part a new “grand bargain” discussion on Capitol Hill.
Saying he had a “sinking feeling that too many politicians are ready to put the hurt on regular working people,” Trumka argued that lawmakers should be increasingSocial Security payments rather than cutting them. He said we live in a time of “self-imposed scarcity” that’s driven by “fear” rather than logic.
“Millions of Americans are afraid Social Security might not be there for them,” Trumka said. “We cannot listen to that fear and believe Social Security is the problem. It isn’t. The fear is. Instead of cutting Social Security, which will make the fear come true, we should, as a nation, invest in Social Security. Increase benefits.”
Texas, beneath the radar of higher-profile national races, will hold elections this fall to address a number of proposed constitutional amendments. Though none of the nine proposed amendments are exactly headline-grabbing (one officially eliminates a state agency that shut down more than 25 years ago, for example) the election will be the first in which the state’s infamous new voter ID laws will be in effect.
The anticipated impact of these new laws on suppressing minority votes has been well documented, but the effect of new laws on women has received markedly less attention.
The new Texas law requires all voters to provide a photo ID that reflects their current name. If they cannot, voters must provide any of a series of other acceptable forms of identification all of which must match exactly and match the name on their birth certificate.
Supporters of these new laws insist that requiring voters to have an ID that matches their birth certificate is a reasonable requirement. As Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has repeatedly said, "Almost every single person either has a valid photo ID … or it is very easy to get one." What they don’t say, however, is that the people who don’t are largely married women who have taken their husband’s name.
In fact, only 66% of women have an ID that reflects their current name. If any voter is using name different than what appears on their birth certificate, the voter is required to show proof of name change by providing an original or certifiedcopy of their marriage license, divorce decree, or court ordered name change. Photocopies aren’t accepted.
Now ask a woman who’s been married for years where her original marriage certificate is. Ask a woman who’s been divorced — maybe more than once — where all the divorce decrees are. Ask elderly women where their original birth certificate is.
As Elisabeth Genn, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, has noted, "While some women do have access to the entire chain of documents that connects their current name with birth name — including birth certificates and marriage licenses — that’s not always the case."
Ordering a new copy of your birth certificate or marriage verification means travelling in person to the state capital, something largely impossible for senior citizens or people with day jobs, and paying the $22 to have a certified copy printed. You can also wait 6-8 weeks to have it mailed to you and pay $22 plus up to $19.95 in mailing costs.
That is assuming, of course, that you already have several forms of identification. If you don’t, a U.S. District Court has estimated that many Texans would have to travel up to 250 miles to receive a "free" election ID card and pay all the additional fees associated with providing documentation to explain their name change.
More importantly, women who have been voting the same way for years will likely go to the polls in the same way they always have, unaware the changes mean they can no longer vote and that they, in all likelihood, would have needed to begin the process to acquire copies of their legal documents months beforehand.
Meanwhile, men who are married or divorced don’t typically change their name and are therefore not required to submit any additional supporting documents. The extra forms of identification, extra fees, extra travel and, in many cases, exorbitant waiting times mean that the acquiring the documents necessary to legally vote amounts to a poll tax that applies only to women. While lawmakers may say that those are small barriers, necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process, they’re barriers that only apply to certain segments of the population.
It’s no coincidence that Republican-controlled state governments are making it harder for women to vote following a presidential election with the largest gender gap in recorded history. It’s certainly no coincidence that the same states legislators who are passing alarming new restrictions on abortion and birth control are the same ones making it harder for women to vote them out of office.
While some Republican lawmakers insist these new rules are designed only to combat voter fraud, (note: in Texas there have only 37 individual cases voter fraud since 2000), others are more honest and admit that these laws will make it easier for Republicans to win elections, since the groups predominantly affected by the new rules tend to vote Democrat.
Despite a ruling from a U.S. District Court that declared the law unconstitutional, recent Supreme Court rulings that invalidated sections of the Voting Rights Act meant Texas could move forward to enforce the law anyway. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Department of Justice will sue Texas over the law, saying that it "will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs" and that he will "keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement."
But as November 5th approaches, we’re reminded that elections are taking place whether or not the law is successfully blocked in court. In 2014, midterm Congressional and gubernatorial elections will be in full swing at the same time that similar voter ID restrictions go into effect in states across the country.
That means this time next year, it won’t just be Texas and it won’t just be nine obscure amendments to a state constitution. Millions of women, young and old, could go to the polls just like they always have and realize that, this time, the only thing they’ll be allowed to do is watch their husbands vote.
Though Oregon's health insurance exchange is not yet up and running, the number of uninsured is already dropping thanks to new fast-track enrollment for the Oregon Health Plan.
The low-income, Medicaid-funded program has already signed up 56,000 new people, cutting the state's number of uninsured by 10 percent, according to Oregon Health Authority officials.
Though the new exchange called Cover Oregon was originally intended to be used for Oregon Health Plan enrollment, the online marketplace doesn't work yet. Instead, new Oregon Health Plan members are being enrolled using a fast-track process that was approved by the federal government in August.
Since late September the Oregon Health Authority sent out notices to 260,000 people already enrolled in the state's food stamps program since late October.
The notices informed them that based on their income reported to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, they are pre-qualified for the Oregon Health Plan in 2014. Most of them are newly eligible thanks to the state's decision to expand the program's income caps under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
To enroll, all they have to do is make a phone call or send a form consenting to be enrolled. So far, 56,000 people have done that, coming on top of more than 600,000 already enrolled.
Under the new Oregon Health Plan income eligibility rules, in 2014 individuals must earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less to qualify, as compared to the 100 percent cutoff this year. The new cap means monthly income of $1,322 for an individual,$1,784 for a household of two, $2,247 for a household of three, and $2,704 for a family of four.
Another change likely to boost enrollment: under new rules mandated by the federal health law, savings or property is no longer a bar to membership; application is now based strictly on income for the month in which someone applies.
Many of the new enrollees are likely to have pent-up health needs. A survey of 38,000 people on the Oregon Health Plan waiting list in 2012 found 11 percent had diabetes, 8 percent heart problems, 30 percent high blood pressure, 22 percent high cholesterol and 5 percent cancer.
Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a statement on the news crediting the state's commitment to expanding health coverage: "This is tremendous news for the thousands of Oregonians anxious to get access to quality, affordable health care.
Given the problems faced by Cover Oregon, intended to be the main path to cutting the number of uninsured next year, the state's embrace of the new fast-track program to bypass the exchange seems prescient. In an Aug. 25 letter to the federal government, Judy Mohr Peterson, director of Medical Assistance Programs for the state, wrote that the new process allows "the state to minimize reliance on new systems during the crucial start-up period and to save on outreach efforts."
The budget agreement Congress reached Wednesday cheered investors and removed the threat of a catastrophic debt default that could have triggered another recession.
Yet the temporary nature of the deal means a cloud will remain over a sluggish U.S. economy that was further slowed by the government's partial shutdown.
Political fights over taxing and spending will persist over the next few months. The risk of another government shutdown and doubts about the government's borrowing authority remain. Businesses and consumers may still spend and invest at the same cautious pace they have since the Great Recession officially ended more than four years ago.
The agreement, expected to be approved by the House and Senate late Wednesday, will reopen the government but only until Jan. 15. The deal would enable the United States to keep borrowing to pay its bills, but not past Feb. 7.
The deal followed a two-week shutdown and came a day before a Treasury Department deadline to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit.
"The good news is that we avoid hitting the debt ceiling and all the risks that entails," said Joel Prakken, co-founder of Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm. "The bad news is ... this hasn't produced any clarity. We're going to be right back at this again after the turn of the year."
The stock market soared on the news. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 206 points. Bond investors celebrated, too. They sharply drove down the yield on the one-month Treasury bill, which would have come due around the time a default could have occurred. And the yield on the 10-year Treasury, a benchmark for rates on mortgages and other loans, fell.
Investors may now turn to what typically moves stock prices: corporate earnings and economic data. Wall Street is in the midst of earnings season.
"We can go back to focusing on the true reason why stocks are higher: the rebound in housing, rising corporate profits, the resurgence in manufacturing," said Doug Cote, chief investment strategist for ING U.S. Investment Management.
By itself, the partial government shutdown will have only a limited effect on economic growth, analysts said. Most forecast that the shutdown will dent growth by about 0.15 percentage point per week. But federal employees will receive back pay, suggesting that much of the lost spending could be made up.
Standard & Poor's estimated that the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6 percentage point from the economy's annual growth rate in the October-December quarter. It calculated that that means the shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy.
S&P now expects the economy to grow at a tepid annual rate of roughly 2 percent this quarter. In September, it had predicted a 3 percent growth rate.
"The U.S. economy dodged a bullet today," said Paul Edelstein, an economist at IHS Global Insight. "But the reprieve will be short. ... The stage is set for another showdown in January."
IHS lowered its forecast for growth in the October-December quarter to a 1.6 percent annual rate from a 2.2 percent rate.
The new deadlines to fund the government and raise the borrowing limit that are now a few months away could also weigh on growth in the first quarter of 2014.
A study by Prakken's firm found that uncertainty over future government policies tends to raise borrowing costs for businesses and consumers, depress stock markets and lower business and consumer confidence. Uncertainty surrounding government tax and budget policies has remained far above historical norms since 2009, Prakken said.
Higher borrowing costs typically make companies less likely to invest and hire. Lower stock markets reduce household wealth and can cut into consumer spending. Macroeconomic Advisers estimates that these factors have slowed growth by 0.3 percentage point each year since 2010.
A report from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday offered fresh evidence of the economic impact of the shutdown and debt limit fight. The Fed's report on economic conditions in its 12 banking districts found that employers in several districts were reluctant to hire because of uncertainty surrounding budget policies and the new health care law.
Manufacturing growth slowed in the New York region in October, builders were less confident in the housing recovery and growth slowed in four Fed districts. All the reports cited the federal shutdown and impasse over the debt limit as reasons for the declines.
Several companies have also cited the shutdown as a likely drag on sales and earnings. Stanley Black & Decker, the tool maker, on Wednesday lowered its profit forecast for this year. It blamed, in part, "uncertainty created by the U.S. government's (budget cuts) and shutdown and its impact on business, consumer confidence and spending levels."
Linear Technology, a semiconductor company, on Tuesday lowered its revenue outlook for the final three months of the year because of the shutdown.
Some analysts think the Fed is now unlikely to slow its monthly bond purchases until well into next year. The Fed has been buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds to try to keep long-term interest rates low.
The full economic effect of the budget standoff could take a month or more to assess because the release of so much economic data has been delayed. And Drew Matus, an economist at UBS, says that much of the economic data will be distorted by the effect of the shutdown, making it harder to discern underlying trends.
Weekly applications for unemployment benefits, for example, spiked last week, partly because of workers who were temporarily laid off by government contractors and other affected companies. Those figures are collected by the states.
"We're in the dark," says Robert DiClemente, chief U.S. economist at Citigroup. "It's going to be a while until we have good answers to all these questions."
Here is the important part, especially for anyone who has lived or plans to live past 65.
The House GOP framework, pushed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), would raise the borrowing limit for six weeks while replacing across-the-board spending cuts (known as sequestration) with cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits. It would also set up formal negotiations to resolve spending disputes and address the next debt limit increase. But the White House and Democratic leaders have rebuffed that approach. "That's over with. It's done," Reid said of White House talks with the House GOP. "They're not talking anymore."
Pressed on what House Republicans want to get out the national government shutdown, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) said yesterday: "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."
We've seen this movie before. And I don't mean the 1995/96 shutdown or the impeachment sequel three years later. This is more like that 70s era made for TV movie.
The down and outs have hijacked the school bus and taken the kids captive. But now the cops have shown up. They're surrounded. It's pretty clear our heroes are not getting the million dollars in unmarked bills or the plane to Cuba or Shangri-La or ThreeTimeLoserStan. So now they're fidgety and angry, a mix of desperate and threatening. They're not even sure what they want or perhaps more candidly, what they can get. But they better get something!
You've heard about the Pandacam, the closed monuments and national parks, and the furloughed federal workers. But so far, nothing I've read about the government shutdown has been nearly as gut-wrenching as this tidbit from The Wall Street Journal:
At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.
House Republicans have failed to stop Obamacare from going into effect so far, but sadly and ironically, their actions have prevented hundreds of people from getting healthcare from just one clinic.
A Christian TV host this week called on God to consider a “military takeover” of President Barack Obama’s government because it could be the only way to save the country from tyranny.
On his Monday Internet broadcast, Morning Star TV’s Rick Joyner predicted that democracy was “doomed” unless the Lord imposed martial law.
“The balance of powers in the legislative and judicial branches were supposed to balance and keep in check, hold in check, the potential tyranny from the executive branch overstepping their bounds,” Joyner explained. “The people are not always right, it depends on what people they are. And another thing the founders warned about is this thing will only work for a moral and a religious people. You remove morality, you remove the religious influence, and it cannot work.”
“We’re headed for serious tyranny, a terrible tyranny right now,” he continued. “But guess what? The kingdom is coming, the Kingdom of God is coming. And America is not the Kingdom of God. I think we have been used in some wonderful and powerful ways by God, we’ve been one of the most generous nations in history. We’ve done so much good.”
“That’s why I appeal to the Lord: Don’t let us be totally destroyed, please raise up those who will save us. And as I’ve been telling friends for a long time, no election is going to get the right person in there because the system is so broken.”
Joyner added that the “only hope is a military takeover, martial law.”
“And that the most crucial element of that is who to the martial [sic] is going to be,” he said. “I believe there are noble leaders in our military that love the republic and love everything we stand for. And they could seize the government.”
There used to be a thing called treason. People used to go to jail for advocating the violent overthrow of the government. Maybe you get a pass if you are praying to God to overthrow the government.