It’s A Done Deal, Dude

Congress has Done Something, which in and of itself would qualify as news, but this time it’s passage of the various sausage-making implements involving extending the payroll tax cut, extended federal unemployment insurance, and the Medicare “doc fix” through the end of the year.

The bill cleared the Senate in a 60-36 vote less than an hour after the House approved it by a 293-132 margin.

A majority of House Republicans and Democrats voted in favor of the bill, though 91 Republicans and 41 Democrats in the chamber voted no. Senate Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the bill while Senate Republicans largely opposed it.

President Barack Obama has promised to sign the legislation as soon as he ends his current trip to the West Coast, ending debate on the politically sensitive measures at least for the duration of the election.

“This is a big deal,” the president told an audience in Washington state. “It is amazing what happens when Congress focuses on doing the right thing instead of just playing politics.”

And while the GOP did drop the payroll tax cut pay-for, paying for the other two required some…sacrifices.

Funding sources to pay for the benefits extension and the doc fix include savings from broadband spectrum sales, increased pension contributions by new federal employees, and cuts to Medicare hospital and specialist fees that will not affect patients, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Several Democrats from Maryland and Virginia — near Washington — voted against the package because, they argued, it treats federal employees unfairly by requiring new government hires to contribute more to their pension.

Under the terms of the deal, in states with unemployment rates higher than the national average of 8.3%, the maximum time an unemployed person can receive benefits will drop from 99 to 73 weeks. The maximum length of benefits for people in states with an average unemployment rate or lower will drop to 63 weeks or as far down as 40 weeks.

That part of the deal is not going to be pretty down the road, but this…

In addition, states will be allowed to perform drug tests on individuals applying for unemployment benefits if those people lost their previous job because they either failed or refused an employer’s drug test. Individuals receiving unemployment assistance could also be tested if they are seeking a job that generally requires a drug test.

Also, welfare beneficiaries will be banned from accessing public assistance funds at ATMs in strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos.

…this is just stupid GOP douchebaggery.

The abortion mill that conservatives just love. They can’t get enough of funding THIS abortion mill!

Now, after a few days, here’s my contribution to the ongoing Komen-foundation-shooting-themselves-in-both-feet-after-putting-both-feet-in-their-mouths-gate.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss the abortion mill that conservatives love with all their heart.  That organization that they want to force every American to support that kills tens of thousands of the pre-born every year.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the state of Israel.

The US government gives approximately $3 billion a year to the state of Israel in military aid.  Money, being a fungible thing (H/T to McSuderman) that means that the $3 billion they get from us is 3 billion of their own money that they aren’t spending on military hardware.  Some of that 3 billion dollars allows the Israelis to build, support, and protect illegal settlements in the West Bank.  Some of it goes to support other Israeli activities that are diametrically opposed to American national security goals in the region and the world.  Some of that money makes room in the Israeli economy for spending on Israel’s socialized medical system.  Conservatives just loves them some socialized medicine in other countries, don’t you know.

But the big issue here is the fact that in Israel, abortions are legal, and paid for under that same socialized medical system.  Conservatives just love aborting Jew babies, it seems.  That has to be it, because they claim to hate abortions and to hate socialized medicine, but they love giving American taxpayers’ money to Israel to free up Israeli money to abort Israeli Jews.  In 2003, the latest year for which Wikipedia has Israeli abortion statistics:

Clauses 312-321 of the 1977 penal code limit the circumstances when an abortion is legal in Israel. Abortions can only be performed in Israel by licensed gynecologists in recognized medical facilities that are specifically and publicly recognized as a provider of abortions.  Abortions must be approved by the termination committee.

In practice, most requests for abortion are granted, and leniency is shown especially under the clause for emotional or psychological damage to the pregnant woman. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics report from 2004, 19,500 legal abortions were performed in Israel in 2003, while 200 requests for abortion were denied. Most abortions were authorized because the woman was unmarried (42%), because of illegal circumstances, such as rape, incest, etc.  (11%), health risks to the woman (about 20%), age of the woman (11%) and fetal birth defects (about 17%).

Also, too, consider this an open thread.


EDIT–Clarification–Abortion is not strictly legal, but is subject to approval by a 3 person committee.  It is not correct to say that “abortion is legal in Isreael”, per se.  That committee however, approves almost all of the abortions that are requested, which are then paid for by the healthcare system.  There is a proposed law in the Knesset right now that would make abortion completely legal in Israel because women who can afford to go to private clinics do so and avoid the committee altogether, according to the same Wiki article.  The intent of the proposed law is to make abortion rights functionally equal for all Israeli women.

Greek Fire: Burninating The Countryside

As the EU drops the hammer on Greece this weekend saying that the country has to go along with brutal austerity measures including minimum wage and pension cuts or else no bailout and and a default, Irish economist David McWilliams offers this clever 10-minute explanation of the European debt crisis.

Please note that the EU’s approach to what Greece needs to do: massive social cuts, forced austerity, balanced budgets enforced by law at the sovereign level, getting rid of the minimum wage, etc. is what Republicans say we have to do here now because our “debt crisis is even worse”.  And as McWilliams points out, the real winners are the banks and the one percent.

After all, none of them get government money.  All that goes to those various Others: welfare queens, crony capitalists, moochers and looters.  Certainly none of that money goes to people who need it, and absolutely not any of it goes to the one percent.  Nope.

Yes We Can-Can

Charles Krauthammer is mad enough to stomp bunnies, a man consumed with the type of bitterness that can only come from being thwarted by putative allies when a cherished goal is in sight. Things were going so well. With an assist from elderly social conservatives in patriot drag,* the GOP had successfully rebranded the economic free fall and debt juggernaut Bush bequeathed to the American people as the consequence of Obama’s “reckless spending, new entitlements and oppressive regulation with higher taxes.”

The GOP’s electoral victories in 2010 put conservative fantasies about tossing old ladies and elderly gents into the maw of the private insurance industry and slashing social programs that serve the poor like Freddy Krueger on a meth binge tantalizingly within reach. And then Gingrich and Perry had to go and fuck everything up.

According to Special K, Gilded Age-levels of wealth inequality have nothing to do with the economic shit-pile, and Wall Street marauding is so irrelevant to the issue that it doesn’t even merit a mention. No, these extraneous topics were injected into the debate by the president as a “class-envy gambit” to bolster his political fortunes. And Obama’s strategy would have totally bombed due to “suffering in part from its association with an Occupy rabble that had widely worn out its welcome.”

But then, “the struggling Democratic class-war narrative is suddenly given life and legitimacy by…Republicans! Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry make the case that private equity as practiced by Romney’s Bain Capital is nothing more than vulture capitalism looting companies and sucking them dry while casually destroying the lives of workers.” And now “Romney’s wealth, practices and taxes take center stage.”

How bad is it? This bad:

“Wednesday, the Republican House reconvened to reject Obama’s planned $1.2 trillion debt-ceiling increase. (Lacking Senate concurrence, the debt ceiling will be raised nonetheless.) Barely noticed. All eyes are on South Carolina and Romney’s taxes.”

The opportunity to demagogue once-routine debt ceiling hikes? Gone. A Koch-funded photo op featuring tricorn-hatted Tea Partiers staging a Hoveround siege of the Capitol? To ashes in Krauthammer’s mouth it turns. All thanks to those meddling kids on the GOP presidential slate. Damn them. Damn them to hell.

*H/T to fellow Rumproast blogger Hunger Tallest Palin for this dead-on description of the Tea Party.

[X-POSTED at Rumproast]

Blowing Emissions Up Your Ass

Power utilities companies in Kansas are warning of Armageddon in 2012, saying Kansans will face rolling blackouts, millions in lost productivity, staggeringly high power bills and even complete outages in the summer months due to Evil Job-Killing EPA Pollution Regulations(tm).  These brave souls are suing the EPA in a DC appeals court to…umm, what do you mean that’s all compete garbage?

Kansas utilities say that the rules have come so quickly and are so stringent that they won’t be able to comply in time. As a result, thousands of Kansans will experience rolling blackouts or brownouts, which will also cost jobs when the plants shut down. In addition, customers will face higher utility bills to pay for more than $100 million in new pollution control expenses and other costs.

“The adverse effects from such reductions caused by the 2012 emission limits are dire, concrete, substantial and imminent,” attorneys for Kansas utilities told a federal appeals court.

EPA says that’s nonsense. The costs will be far less — between $5 million and $30 million — and Kansas utilities will have more than a year to implement the emission controls.

“Kansas has failed to show that the lights will go out in Kansas,” attorneys for the EPA wrote.

In fact, the EPA says the benefits of the transport rule — prevention of 83 to 210 deaths annually in Kansas and a savings of $700 million to $1.7 billion annually in health care — far outweigh the utilities’ costs.

So these regulations would actually save Kansas taxpayers in the neighborhood of a billion dollars a year or so.  You would think Kansas would go “Hey, this is a pretty great deal for us.  Let’s help you guys with the costs of reducing your emissions.  Here’s some money.  Make this happen.”

You of course would be completely wrong, because Republicans are involved.  They’d rather spend the money on suing the EPA.

The utilities and the Kansas attorney general joined a handful of states and several dozen utilities in filing lawsuits in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., asking for a stay and further review of the rule.

The disagreement between Kansas, the utilities and EPA is so contentious that the two sides can’t even agree when the new rules were known and when they go into effect.

They say the EPA is only giving them until January to comply.

“No one expected that,” said Greg Greenwood, senior vice president of strategy for Westar.

They said the new rules would force them to shut down coal plants in midsummer.

“Unfortunately the new … requirements will substantially cost our members and those they serve,” said Cindy Hertel, a Sunflower spokeswoman. “Sunflower estimates that installing upgraded emission technology … will now cost our members nearly $21 million, and we expect to face additional costs” to meet the requirements.

Nope, we have to pass the costs on to the consumers!  It’ll cost a hundred million and Kansas will become an electricity-free third world hellhole this summer!  YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES WILL SUFFER!

Look, even if the utilities are completely right on the $100 million figure, and the yearly health care cost savings are overestimated by a factor of ten and Kansas Republicans immediately passed a law that gave all the cost savings to the utilities until they had these new standards paid for as the ultimate in corporate welfare…that still means Kansas would be able to pay the utilities to cover their costs in just two years and Kansas taxpayers would save the difference every year after.  Deficit reduction?  Not for these guys.

It’s insanity, but the Republicans in Kansas are too busy serving the utilities to serve Kansas.