Thom Hartmann on the News: October 17, 2013
You need to know this. Only hours before the debt limit deadline, Congress finally passed a temporary measure to avoid default. The plan was approved 81 to 18 in the Senate, and 285 to 144 in the House. The Continuing Appropriations Act funds the government through January, suspends the debt limit until February, and directs both parties to agree on a long-term budget by December 13th. After two weeks of Tea Party hostage-taking, Republicans only got a continuation of the sequester and an Obamacare income-verification rule in exchange. But, they caused serious harm to our nation in their effort to extract more demands. Because of the standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded. After both chambers approved the legislation, President Obama made a short statement. He praised Congress for passing the measure, but said, “We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.” However, the temporary measure that Congress passed could simply have scheduled the next one. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the deal “is far less than many [republicans] hoped for, quite frankly, but it's far better than what some had sought. Now it's time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.” Presumably, those goals include trying to dismantle Obamacare, and slash the budgets of other social net programs. In addition to the economic consequences, the debt-limit standoff produced record-low approval ratings for Republicans, so it's unclear why they would want to have the same fight over again. The American people want to see Congress move on to working on ways to improve our nation, and stop this governing-by-hostage-taking.
In screwed news... Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors. These are some of the poorest people who live in red states, where lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid. And, these Americans can't get subsidies under Obamacare, because their income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid under the new guidelines. Twenty-two states have refused to expand the low-income health program, despite the fact that it would be completely funded by the federal government until 2016 – and 90% federally funded thereafter. In those states, many people are stuck in a “gap” between extremely harsh state guidelines for Medicaid, and the minimum income required to get subsidies to buy health insurance. These Republican governors would rather see people suffering in the cracks, than do anything that could be seen as supporting the president. Some red states have come around to accepting the Medicaid expansion, and there's at least five million people around our nation who hope that their governors will accept it as well.
In the best of the rest of the news...
California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Supporters of the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act of 2014 are circulating a petition to get the measure before voters in 2014. And, the bill is an open-source creation that was drafted by a group of activists and supporters. Last year, the initiative's sponsor, Dave Hodges, came up with idea to collaborate on a proposal with others. So he created a website, email list, and Google document, which activists and supporters used to exchange ideas. Although the process did provide some edits and suggestions that weren't very useful, it eventually led to the creation of a final propsal. Medical marijuana is already legal in that state, but the new initiative would give “Californians the freedom to use, grow, transport, and sell cannabis, subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol.” The proposed bill would also prevent cities from banning medical marijuana dispensaries, which has prevented owners from opening stores in some areas. Hopefully, Mr. Hodges will get enough signatures to put the measure before the voters of California, and they approve this common-sense legislation.
It turns out that ensuring access to birth control doesn't only benefit women. A new paper from University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey explains that family planning services actually help society as a whole. Ms. Bailey examined contraceptive policies as far back as the 1950s and 1960s, and found that expanding access to birth control has long-term positive effects, like higher family incomes and better college graduation rates. In fact, women being able to chose when to give birth actually benefited their kids much later in life. Ms. Bailey found that “individuals' access to contraceptives increased their children's college completion, labor force participation, wages, and family incomes decades later.” By deciding when to have kids and how many kids to have, women were more likely to have more time and money to devote to each of their children. Thus, their kids had a better chance of succeeding all the way through life. Those benefits translate into better workers, higher average incomes, higher education levels, and more tax revenues for society as a whole. It isn't only women who benefit from being able to plan their families as they choose, it turns out that we are all better off when women have access to contraceptives.
And finally… Ted Nugent is making threats again, but not in his usual Second Amendment fashion. This time, the Nuge is threatening to run for office. In an interview with Florida-based CBS host Chad Tyson, Ted Nugent said, “The threat of me running for public office is alive and well because obviously our government has been overtaken by gangsters and America-haters.” He then went on to add a few nonsense talking points about President Obama being a racist, the need to run the federal budget like a family budget, and the “engineered obsolescence” of federal employees. Just in case that wasn't enough to make you want to contribute to his campaign, Ted added “I have a message for Harry Reid and the president, 'Eat Me!'” Glad to see Ted Nugent's keeping it classy – I'm sure his campaign ads will elevate the political debate.