Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's focus on cutting federal social programs apparently leaves little time to deal with the unemployed in his district, according to constituents who have been staging a sit-in at his Kenosha, Wisconsin office since last week, and who were barred from Ryan's office by police on Wednesday.
The White House and many Congressional Democrats recently caved to Republicans in a deal extending all of the Bush tax cuts for two years in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. The deal reverses stated opposition by many Democrats to an extension of tax cuts for the top income bracket, with 25 percent of the savings from the deal going to benefit the richest one percent of Americans. While Democrats who supported the bill claimed to do so begrudgingly, the plan has many avid supporters who justify its lopsided benefits by insisting that tax cuts for the rich and for businesses create jobs and benefit the economy. This is a big myth.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley lost her special-election for the Senate seat vacated by the untimely passing of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy. Much has been said about the role of health care reform in the race. Apparently everyone in Massachusetts has health care and reasonable doubts about an expensive national plan that might not improve their services.
But in the final days -- lagging in the polls -- the race was less about health care and more about the Wall Street bailout and the state of the economy. Her opponent, Scott Brown, successfully capitalized on the bailout blues and Coakley pulled out the big guns and resorted to a theme she perhaps should have emphasized throughout, bashing the big banks.
Six months ago, the vocal factions of the Tea Party revolt organized among anti-Obama right wingers were mostly an annoyance to the Democratic Party. Today, the Congressional Democrats are scared for their political lives after Scott Brown, with the help of a Tea Party-organized online "money bomb" and get-out-the-vote campaign, won back for Republicans Ted Kennedy's former Massachusetts senate seat. The "money bomb" is a tactic borrowed from MoveOn and the liberal netroots movement through which the Tea Party activists raised way over one million dollars online in 24 hours for Scott Brown. Even though the Republicans have only reduced the still large fifty-nine member Democratic senate majority by one person, the fact that Brown ran an uphill campaign that came from nowhere and steamrolled to victory means that all the Congressional Democrats are now looking over their right shoulders, fearing a similar populist attack as the 2010 electoral season heats up.
The Tea Party money bomb has also blown up Obamacare, the President's muddled health care reform plan. While many pundits point to local issues that helped Brown win, the fact is that Brown ran hardest against Obama's health care bill, and won despite personal appearances in Massachusetts by Obama and Bill Clinton, and despite a desperate but failed Democratic effort to beat back the insurgency.
The Employment Policies Institute (EPI), a front group created by veteran lobbyist Richard Berman, is planning an advertising blitz claiming that healthcare reform is too costly. The ads will run in Nebraska, North Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Connecticut and Maine. “We’re putting some serious money behind it,” said Berman.
If you had any doubt about who some Senators on the Senate Finance Committee really, truly care about, consider their recent votes. Just look at the votes against creating a public option to compete against private insurers. Then, consider the giddy response of the industry, according to an article in the trade press:
"We are pleased by the rejection of both the Rockefeller and the Schumer amendments containing public plan options," says Tom Currey, president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va.... America's Health Insurance Plans, Washington, is also welcoming committee rejection of the amendments. "The government-run plan is a roadblock to reform," AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach says.... "[W]e are very pleased with this outcome," says Janet Trautwein, president of the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va.
Heads are spinning after the discredited Senate Finance Committee blocked the public option from being part of the health care bill proposed by Senator Max Baucus of Montana and then voted for spending $50 million on the (also discredited) abstinence-only education program that President Obama had pressed to eliminate from the federal budget.
CMD's Wendell Potter has become a frequent guest on Democracy Now!. Host Amy Goodman interviewed him again on September 30th: "Efforts to create a government-run health insurance plan were dealt a setback Tuesday after the Senate Finance Committee rejected a pair of amendments to create a public option.