Sequester Closes Cancer Clinic Doors, Congress Does Nothing

Affluent business flyers inconvenienced by delays = national emergency that Congress immediately fixes. Cancer clinics closing = Congress does squat, goes home. This is just one more story of our corrupt times.

Last week the sequester cuts kicked in at airports and caused affluent business fliers to experience some delays, so Congress acted immediately to fix it. The same sequester has been forcing cancer clinics to send away patients so they can’t receive the chemotherapy that they hope will keep them alive. Is Congress rushing to the rescue like they did for affluent business travelers who faced some flight delays? Not so much. They do have their priorities, after all.

Sequester Causes Cancer Clinic Cuts And Closings

NBC: Sequester cuts hitting cancer patients, (click through for video)

Oncologists claim reduced Medicare funding, which took effect on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.

NewsOn6: Oklahoma Cancer Patients Worry About Cuts To Medicare Caused By Sequester.

Albequerque BusinessFirst: Gov’t cuts might force NM Cancer Center to stop treating some Medicare patients,

The Albuquerque-based New Mexico Cancer Center might have to stop treating up to 300 Medicare patients because of cuts to Medicare brought on by the federal sequestration budget cuts, the Cancer Center’s CEO said Thursday.

HuffPo: Sequestration Forces Cancer Clinic Patients To Travel Thousands Of Miles For Treatment.

ThinkProgress: Cancer Clinics: Congress Should Have Restored Our Sequester Cuts Before Addressing Airport Delays,

After automatic budget cuts slashed their funding, cancer clinics have been forced to delay chemotherapy treatment for their patients. Some clinics may actually have to close their doors altogether if the sequester cuts are not reversed. As several cancer doctors told the Hill, they suspect they may not have been at the top at Congress’ list because reduced access to chemotherapy doesn’t personally inconvenience lawmakers in the same way that airport delays do.

WaPo: Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester,

Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.

Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.

It Costs Money, Doesn’t Save Money

The kicker, it doesn’t even save the government money, instead it costs money:

The care will likely be more expensive: One study from actuarial firm Milliman found that chemotherapy delivered in a hospital setting costs the federal government an average of $6,500 more annually than care delivered in a community clinic.

So not only does this sequester kill people, it costs the government much more than it saves.

Deficit Facts

1) The deficit is already falling dramatically. The deficit is already down by 50% as a share of GDP. From See Deficit Falling Even More Dramatically, Few Know It:

2) The intellectual foundation for austerity has been discredited. See anywhere on the web. Especially see The Colbert Report: Austerity’s Spreadsheet Error.

3) Europe’s experiment with austerity has brought nothing but stagnation, recession, unemployment and mass misery and suffering. See ThinkProgress: Austerity Pushes Europe Into Its Second Recession In Four Years, CNBC: Europe Risks ‘Endless Depression’ in Pursuit of Austerity, LA Times: Europe austerity strategy is hurting growth, IMF says, CNN: Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece and hundreds more such reports…

4) The deficit argument is over. Henry Blodget: The Economic Argument Is Over — Paul Krugman Has Won.

It’s Just Corruption

From March, Surprising Studies Find DC Does What Wealthiest Want, Majority Opposes,

A new study, Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans … sought to gauge the political and policy priorities of the wealthy, and how these concerns contrast with the concerns of the rest of us. Amazingly, the priorities of the 1% match up with the priorities of our political class, while the priorities and needs of the vast majorities of us are ignored.

This is about who has the money, and who gives it to politicians. That is the definition of corruption. It is not “ideology” it is corruption, nothing more.

Very wealthy people are profiting from this austerity push. Dean Baker explains, in Deficits Are Bad and the Sun Goes Around the Earth,

…many people can profit from slow growth and high unemployment. The after-tax profit share of GDP is at its highest level more than 60 years. For those who own lots of stock and are at the top of the income ladder, times are good. These people may see efforts to lower unemployment as posing a risk. With lower unemployment workers may be able to get a larger share of productivity growth. This may be good for most of the country and mean increased economic growth, but it would mean less for the one percent.

Yes, “people can profit from slow growth and high unemployment.” And politicians are being paid to maintain the slow growth and high unemployment and other things that are driving all the income and wealth to a top few. It is just corruption, nothing more.

From January: Call It Corruption Not Ideology,

Getting paid by corporations to block government action from helping We, the People but hurting corporate profits isn’t an ideology, it’s corruption.

Getting paid by corporations to cut taxes and regulations for corporations isn’t an ideology, it’s corruption.

Getting paid by billionaires to cut taxes for billionaires isn’t an ideology, it is corruption

Call it what it is, don’t launder it by calling it ideology. It is corruption.

This is corruption, it is not ideology, it is not “austerity.” Getting paid by wealthy people to block things that help We the People so those wealthy people can profit is corruption, nothing more. Don’t dignify it, don’t let it serve as a mask. It is just corruption.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

“Spreadsheet Error” Economists Blame “The Left” Not “Science”

In an op-ed in the NY Times today the “spreadsheet error” economists tell us all we need to know about their research and their conclusions. In the op-ed, Reinhart and Rogoff: Responding to Our Critics, skip to the last paragraph:

“Now we are being attacked by the left — primarily by those who have a view that the risks of higher public debt should not be part of the policy conversation. “

“The left?”

I think these two words tell the whole story. All the economists and other scholars who are criticizing the errors and selective use of favorable data in work represent “the left.” Actual science that looks at the real world to see what actually happens is “the left.”

Downward Spiral

Here is the situation:

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Deficit Falling Even More Dramatically, Few Know It

Austerity is beginning to hit and the economy is slowing as a result. The most immediate effect is that flights are delayed, but unemployment checks are smaller and there are fewer things We the People do to make our lives and economy better — also called “government spending.” But hey, as Dean Baker writes in, Deficits Are Bad and the Sun Goes Around the Earth,

…many people can profit from slow growth and high unemployment. The after-tax profit share of GDP is at its highest level more than 60 years. For those who own lots of stock and are at the top of the income ladder, times are good. These people may see efforts to lower unemployment as posing a risk. With lower unemployment workers may be able to get a larger share of productivity growth. This may be good for most of the country and mean increased economic growth, but it would mean less for the one percent.

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What Does It Mean To Be An “American” Corporation?

What does it mean to be an American? What does it mean to be an American corporation? An article in the Wall Street Journal the other day should trigger questions like these.

WSJ: Domestic-Based Multinationals Hiring Overseas,

Multinational companies based in the U.S. boosted their global work forces in 2011 almost entirely by hiring workers overseas, underscoring the slow growth in the U.S. job market.

… The paltry hiring at home reflects where multinational companies are focusing their attention. Stronger economic growth in overseas markets in Asia and Latin America is driving their expansion, reinforcing their shift toward cheaper labor or closer access to customers.

The U.S. parents of multinational firms account for about one-fifth of total private U.S. employment. Since 1999, employment by U.S. multinationals is down by 1.1 million inside the U.S., while it is up by 3.8 million overseas.

The hiring by American companies is not happening in the U.S. At the same time these companies are holding $1.7 trillion of profits outside of the country, away from their own shareholders and our economy to avoid their taxes, while pushing to dramatically lower the taxes they pay us – and even to get out of paying any taxes at all on money they make outside of the country!

Why Do We Have Corporations?

Why do We the People even have laws that allow corporations and give them special benefits? The answer obviously is for our common benefit — why else would we do it? The corporate form of a business enables the company to easily obtain capital from investors, in order to accomplish large-scale projects that benefit us. To encourage this we give these entities special privileges. For example, we limit liability which means the investors are not held liable for the actions of the company – they won’t lose more than their investment if the company gets sued for some reason. We provide a system that helps them obtain financing, insurance, market liquidity and all kinds of things to help those investors get a good return on their money.

Benefit: We the People want railroads, but it takes a lot of money to build and operate a railroad. And our system wants private companies to do the work of building and operating railroads instead us just doing it ourselves. So we set up a way for a private company to gather investment from lots of people.

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Did You Really Think It Was Ideology?

Or was it maybe about getting a $15 billion wealth gain since 2010?

Newsflash at Think Progress’ ClimateProgress blog: FORBES: KOCH BROTHERS NOW WORTH $50 BILLION,

Forbes estimates that Tea Party petrochemical scions Charles and David Koch have a fortune of $25 billion each, making them the fourth richest Americans, behind only Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Larry Ellison. Their combined wealth of $50 billion is exceeded only by the Microsoft founder’s $59 billion fortune. Buoyed by aggressive speculative trading on volatile energy markets, the Koch brothers accumulated $15 billion in wealth since March 2010, a 43 percent increase.

Click through for chart and links.

Has Anyone Calculated The Average Obama Cave-In Time?

Has anyone calculated an average Obama cave time? Of course, this is a number that will keep going lower, as he caves ever-more quickly…

CBS: White House is “open to looking at” FAA furlough fix,

Under pressure, the White House signaled Wednesday it might accept legislation eliminating Federal Aviation Administration furloughs blamed for lengthy flight delays for airline passengers, while leaving the rest of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in place.

[. . .] At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said that if Congress “wants to address specifically the problems caused by the sequester with the FAA, we would be open to looking at that.

In Honor Of The George ‘W’ Bush Legacy-Rehabilitation Discussion

The pundit world is busy rehabilitating the reputation of George ‘W’ Bush. Somehow in today’s America killing hundreds of thousands of human beings illegally invading a country, torture, corruption and “no-bid contracts” to crony insiders, crashing the economy, intentionally creating massive deficits, using phony terrorist-attack alerts to stampede frightened citizens into voting against their own interest, and so much more of the ‘W’ legacy don’t disqualify such a discussion, nevermind instead demanding prosecution for the crimes committed…

In honor of the attempted rehabilitation of George ‘W’ Bush here is a bit from a 2010 post of mine, originally at Open Left. Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

When you sell the farm, the farm’s gone.

Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt, ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite — and we’re only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.

… The conservatives destroyed the regulatory structure of the government. They removed the inspectors, administrators, regulators and replaced them with corrupt cronies.

… The conservatives destroyed the rule of law, leaving behind public perception of rule by cronyism, favoritism and mob.

The conservatives destroyed public understanding of democracy, leaving behind a one-dollar-one-vote system that their Supreme Court just formalized, along with a corporate media that works to keep people uninformed. …

[. . .]

More equitable distribution of the fruits of our economy is another step. Our system worked so much better back when the top tax rate was 90%. The returns from our investment in infrastructure were more widely shared. And back when it took many years to build a fortune businesses had an interdependence with their communities. Executives needed the schools and roads and other public structures functioning well. They needed long-range business and community planning. But just imagine trying to do something about the concentration of wealth today.

So where do we go from here. Is democracy over? Is rule of law a thing of the past? Is predatory monopoly control by the largest corporations the way things are and will be? Does the world now move to governance by a wealthy elite?
Or is the winter and the rain and the snow just getting to me?

What are your thoughts?

Read the whole thing here: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Last Night’s Virtually Speaking With Marcy Wheeler

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I was on Virtually peaking with Marcy Wheeler last night We talked about Boston, and stuff.

Listen to internet radio with Jay Ackroyd on Blog Talk Radio

Marcy said something VERY interesting: We have NO IDEA why these two guys did what they did — especially we don’t know that it was not just some kind of Columbine thing. The “terrorism” label is too soon.

Minimum Wage Raise Essential To Fix Our Economy

The Walton (Walmart) heirs now have as much wealth as up to 40 percent of all Americans combined, and Walmart’s sales have been slowing down. What does the first fact have to do with the second? (Hint: Sign this petition for raising the minimum wage.)

The top 1 percent now rakes in 20 percent of the nation’s income and holds one-third of the country’s wealth. Meanwhile the economy remains stagnant because the incomes of regular people are stagnant and falling – meaning they can’t buy stuff and can’t invest in their own futures.

From the post “40% Of Americans Now Make Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage”:

The chart shows that wages used to go up as productivity went up, but in the 1970s they decoupled. Productivity kept going up but wages stagnated.

Regular people’s incomes have been stagnant since the 70′s while costs keep going up. In fact, 40 percent Of Americans now make less than the 1968 minimum wage if that minimum wage had kept rising along with productivity. If the minimum wage had stayed coupled to productivity the minimum wage would now be $16.50 an hour – which more than 40 percent of Americans now make!

Instead all of those people’s possible additional income went to the top. And that plus changes in taxation is why we have the inequality we have. That is what happened to our economy and to all of us.

Now, here’s another chart. This chart shows that financial-sector and non-financial-sector compensation used to rise together, but in the late 70′s / early 80′s they decoupled. Financial-sector compensation took off, while non-financial-sector compensation did not.

It is as simple as this: If we want our economy and democracy to recover, the minimum wage needs to be raised as a core part of the solution. (But only part.)

Sign this petition calling for “the leaders of the House and Senate to allow an up-or-down vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and then index it to inflation.” While $10.10 is too low, it’s a start, and it is what is before the Congress. There are other essential things we need to do, but we need to raise the minimum wage to set a floor that is not falling out from under us.

Inequality Holding Back Recovery

The recovery from the economic crash is stagnant, and unemployment remains in emergency territory.

In January Economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote this op-ed for The New York Times, listing four reasons why the terrible inequality we face today is holding back the recovery, “Inequality Is Holding Back the Recovery”:

There are four major reasons inequality is squelching our recovery. The most immediate is that our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth. While the top 1 percent of income earners took home 93 percent of the growth in incomes in 2010, the households in the middle — who are most likely to spend their incomes rather than save them and who are, in a sense, the true job creators — have lower household incomes, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1996. The growth in the decade before the crisis was unsustainable — it was reliant on the bottom 80 percent consuming about 110 percent of their income.

Second, the hollowing out of the middle class since the 1970s, a phenomenon interrupted only briefly in the 1990s, means that they are unable to invest in their future, by educating themselves and their children and by starting or improving businesses.

Third, the weakness of the middle class is holding back tax receipts, especially because those at the top are so adroit in avoiding taxes and in getting Washington to give them tax breaks. The recent modest agreement to restore Clinton-level marginal income-tax rates for individuals making more than $400,000 and households making more than $450,000 did nothing to change this. Returns from Wall Street speculation are taxed at a far lower rate than other forms of income. Low tax receipts mean that the government cannot make the vital investments in infrastructure, education, research and health that are crucial for restoring long-term economic strength.

Fourth, inequality is associated with more frequent and more severe boom-and-bust cycles that make our economy more volatile and vulnerable. Though inequality did not directly cause the crisis, it is no coincidence that the 1920s — the last time inequality of income and wealth in the United States was so high — ended with the Great Crash and the Depression. The International Monetary Fund has noted the systematic relationship between economic instability and economic inequality, but American leaders haven’t absorbed the lesson.

Translation:

  1. Top 1 percent (a few people) taking most of the gains, income in the middle (lots of people) is falling, they can’t buy stuff.
  2. Middle class disappearing, unable to invest in education or start businesses.
  3. Tax system rigged so gains going to 1 percent not bringing revenue to government, with incomes to the rest falling, revenue to government decreasing. Government can’t afford to invest in infrastructure, research, education, health and other things the help economy.
  4. Inequality that drives such massive amounts to a top few makes even the rich feel poor so they speculate and engage in quick-buck schemes, economy becomes “volatile and vulnerable.”

Raising the minimum wage is at the center of a set of policies. It is one part of what to do if we want economy to work again for regular people and for the future. Other parts include but are not limited to:

  • New tax brackets for higher incomes,
  • restoring the estate tax,
  • restoring corporate taxation,
  • getting rid of tax incentives that encourage corporations to move jobs and factories and profit centers out of the country,
  • possibly a wealth tax to address the deficit and debt,
  • a tax on Wall Street speculation,
  • restoring government services that help lower- and middle-income people obtain affordable higher education and get job training,
  • renegotiating trade deals that pit American workers against exploited, underpaid workers in non-democracies, thereby making American democracy and wages a competitive disadvantage
  • and many other steps to address the changes brought in since the “Reagan Revolution” that drove the huge increase in inequality and decrease in government investment in our economy’s future.

Raising the minimum wage is not only the moral thing to do, it is essential to bringing the low end up and start distributing the gains more fairly.

Even Walmart’s Sales Hurting Now

After the economic crash Walmart was ascendant. More and more people were moving down the income ladder toward the bottom, they were moving from the upper-scale stores to the bottom, i.e. Walmart.

But now so many people have fallen below the bottom that even Walmart’s sales are slowing down. Seeking Alpha recommends a SELL on Walmart stock because,

WMT derives most of its revenues from domestic operations in the U.S. where it has a dense network of stores and logistic centers. However, U.S. growth has almost flattened over the last couple of years eking out a yearly growth rate of just 1 percent.

Walmart can’t just raise wages on their own because that will give their competitors an advantage, and soon we’ll all be complaining about Target instead.

Even Walmart needs someone to come along and force wages up. Who could that someone be? It’s up to government – We the People – to make all employers raise wages so they can all have customers again.

Government Needed

All businesses will tell you that if they didn’t do everything they can to boost profits, someone else will, and then they’re screwed. Business is a cut-throat game and you have to fight to survive. You have to fight as dirty as the rules let you fight. Businesses will tell you that if they don’t keep wages as low as possible, deny health insurance, cut safety costs, cheapen products, and everything else they can get away with they will be gone, replaced by businesses that will.

The key to the equation is the “what the rules allow” and the “what they can get away with” part of that dirty fight. Businesses compete on a playing field, and the rules and enforcement of those rules determine the way the game is played.

Every individual business wants to save on labor and other costs. But if all businesses do the same, the result is that no one has any money to spend and all of those businesses are in trouble. This is where government comes in. Government is the essential part of this equation, setting and enforcing the rules in ways that make up for what inevitably happens if all businesses cut wages, costs, etc. And government is essential for enforcing those rules.

From “You Can’t Have Healthy Businesses Without Strong Government”:

Imagine this, though it might be difficult: some people are greedy and want more for themselves, at the expense of the rest of us. Yes, this is shocking, but true!

Government protects us from those who would take advantage and take too much. Government does this both domestically and internationally. At home it protects us from criminals and exploiters. Government also protects us from physical and economic threats from other countries.

[. . .] When too many business reduce costs by cutting employees or paying less, the system collapses from lack of demand. Government is needed to keep businesses from laying off too many people or cutting pay. Sometimes government does this by stepping in and hiring people (or just giving them money like unemployment benefits), or buying things, thereby creating demand, causing businesses to hire.

Crucial to this equation:

When government is strong we have more enforcement of a level playing field for all of us, more education for all of us, more security for all of us, more protection of our environment, more infrastructure so our own startup businesses can flourish and compete, more parks, more promotion of the general welfare.

And when government is weak we end up with a very few greedy, ruthless billionaires and their giant corporations controlling the economy, stifling competition, scamming and defrauding us, and consuming the environment and resources for their own short-term profit.

Sign a SignOn.org petition posted by the Campaign for America’s Future calling for “the leaders of the House and Senate to allow an up-or-down vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and then index it to inflation.”

It is the nature of our current economic system that things will concentrate into fewer and fewer hands. When you let the ones with more money win the game and set the rules it is inevitable that they will increasingly set the rules to they always win the game. When the winner gets more stuff, eventually a very few winners have to end up with all the stuff.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act

The Fair Minimum Wage Act is up before the Congress. Isaiah J. Poole explains in Time To Demand A Vote To Increase The Minimum Wage:

The Fair Minimum Wage Act would increase the current federal minimum wage, $7.25, to $10.10 in three steps over a three-year period, and then index it annually to inflation from that point forward.

The bill would make an even more significant difference for tipped workers, mostly in the restaurant industry. They currently have a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour that has not increased since 1991. Under the bill, tipped workers would earn a minimum 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

… House members have in fact had one opportunity to vote on the bill in March, in the form of a motion instructing the House to add the minimum wage increase to a workforce training bill. The motion was unanimously rejected by House Republicans.

The bill, though, deserves a stand-alone vote in its own right. It’s been three years since the minimum wage went up to $7.25, and that increase did not undo the damage done to low-wage workers by decades of congressional failure to keep this wage floor from sinking.

Sign a SignOn.org petition posted by the Campaign for America’s Future calling for “the leaders of the House and Senate to allow an up-or-down vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and then index it to inflation.”

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

CEO Pay And SEC Delay

Earlier this week I wrote about Executive PayWatch from the AFL-CIO. This site tracks the huge wage gap between CEO pay and the average employee. Something many people don’t know is that the Wall Street reform law was supposed to do this, but years later the regulations still have not been written! The SEC delays and delays, and then the head of the SEC leaves to take a high-paying job with a “bank consulting” firm.

The Law

Section 953(b) of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires public companies to disclose the median annual total compensation of all employees, the total annual compensation of the chief executive officer, and the ratio of the median employee pay to the CEO’s pay. But years later the regulations still are not written so the disclosure still does not happen.

Wall Street’s strategy is to capture regulators, delay, delay, fund Republicans, fund Republicans, and maybe it will never happen. So far this is the case.

Why The Law Is Needed

Bob Borosage explained the need for this law to take effect in March, in Mary Jo White at SEC: Watchdog or Lap Dog? The CEO Pay Test,

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