Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Mashup (4/21/11)

(Posting is questionable for tomorrow, by the way.)

  • To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a typical Obama-bashing column on energy by former Repug U.S. House Rep John Peterson (here)…
    On this first anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, America's energy policy is as adrift as it was a year ago. The Obama administration has set the commendable goal of cutting oil imports by a third within a decade, but its pattern of obstruction on domestic drilling will move us in the opposite direction, toward an energy freeze of our own making.
    Oh brother – as noted here, U.S. oil production last year was the highest since 2003.

    While it's encouraging that the administration lifted a deepwater drilling moratorium last fall and has issued a handful of permits for drilling in the gulf since, scores more are languishing at the Interior Department. At least seven rigs that operated in the gulf have relocated overseas while waiting.
    I believe that claim is actually true, though, as noted here, one of the seven rigs that left returned in March, and another is due to return later this year (and somehow I think that has more to do with contractual arrangements between Big Oil and its subcontractors than any moves by the Obama Administration).

    The Energy Information Administration projects that domestic oil production will fall 240,000 barrels a day through 2012 as a result of current policies, which isn't surprising given that we get more oil from the Gulf of Mexico than from all the Persian Gulf nations combined. Even a one-year delay in development means potential losses to government revenue of about $5.5 billion, squeezing local, state, and federal budgets.
    As noted here, lower crude oil production for this year was projected last October by the Institute for Energy Research. And as noted here, this country obtains oil from diverse sources all over the world (news to me too a bit, I must say; basically, if we couldn’t “drill, baby, drill” in the Gulf tomorrow for some reason, there are still other countries who will help us feed our oil addiction...and by the way, I call this trying to get to the root of the problem by President Obama).

    I realize this is a column about oil and not the environmental impact of producing it, but I think it should be noted that, while in office, Peterson “received the lowest possible rating from the League of Conservation Voters in 2006,” as noted here.

    Interesting that the Inky chose Peterson to write a column timed for the one-year anniversary of one of the worst oil spills in our country’s history (would have been nice to include even some passing observations about the environment). What’s next, a column about good government from “Duke” Cunningham?

  • Next, this story from The Hill tells us the following…
    Republicans are attacking a group of Democrats who didn’t vote for any of the five budget proposals on the House floor last week, saying they “failed the most basic responsibility of governing.”

    The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent out missives with images of a blank check to the districts of 21 Democrats, many of them Blue Dogs in competitive districts.

    “Mike Ross has failed the most basic responsibility of governing by failing to even vote for a budget over the last two years, let alone see one passed,” the NRCC said in one statement targeting Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the co-chairman of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition.

    A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jesse Ferguson, responded: “House Republicans are the last people who should be lecturing about budgets after they voted to end Medicare and raise health care costs for seniors, rather than choosing to end taxpayer giveaways for Big Oil companies making record profits or tax breaks for the ultra rich.”
    I find myself in a bit of an uncomfortable position here, given that I’m defending the “deficit peacock” Bush Dogs. However, it should also be noted here that, when they lost their congressional majority in 2006, the Repugs basically left 9 of 11 appropriations bills on the table for the incoming Democratic congressional majority.

    The Repugs don’t care about the deficit. They never have, and they never will.

  • Further, I give you last week’s Area Votes in Congress from the Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…
    Preventive-care fund. Voting 236-183, the House passed a bill (HR 1217) to repeal the health-care law's Prevention and Public Health Fund, which will grant nearly $18 billion over eight years to states and communities for preventive health care, or wellness, programs. Backers said that by promoting healthier lifestyles, the fund would reduce treatment costs. The bill awaits Senate action.

    Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) said that Congress should terminate "a slush fund from which the secretary [of Health and Human Services] can spend without any congressional oversight or approval."

    A yes vote was to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    Read this to learn how utterly pathetic the charge is that the Prevention and Public Health Fund is a “slush fund” from Pancake Joe Pitts (and a good comeback by Henry Waxman is here).
    Seniors' wellness fund. Voting 189-234, the House defeated a Democratic motion to HR 1217 (above) that sought to keep the new health law's Prevention and Public Health Fund in operation for the benefit of senior citizens. Pitts said the Democratic motion "guts the underlying bill and continues the runaway spending that the American people have rejected."

    A yes bill was to continue the fund for seniors.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, and Runyan.

    Not voting: Smith.
    Oh, and by the way, to get an idea of how serious Pitts actually is about job creation, get a load of this from his congressional web site (might be a good idea for PA-16’s waste of space to “get on the stick” here and provide a news update more current than last August…stop showing us a picture of a horse and buggy in Pennsylvania Dutch Country and show us instead some people getting hired and going back to work).
    Final 2011 budget. Voting 260-167, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 1473) to fund the government for the remaining five-plus months of fiscal 2011 at an annualized level of $1.365 trillion. The figure applies to discretionary spending but not to entitlement programs or interest payments on the national debt, which account for the remainder of the $3.7 trillion federal budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. The bill reflects $38 billion in cuts in domestic programs agreed upon April 8 by President Obama and congressional leaders to stave off a government closure.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Voting no: Brady.
    I admire Bob Brady standing on principle here, but I suppose a yes vote is merely acknowledging what is bound to come to pass anyway.
    Planned Parenthood. The House passed, 241-185, a measure (H Con Res 36) to remove funding for Planned Parenthood from the fiscal 2011 budget. This private organization provides mostly preventive health care for women at 800 clinics nationwide, with abortions accounting for 3 percent of its services.

    The abortions are not federally funded, in keeping with the 1976 Hyde Amendment's ban on using taxpayer money to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

    A yes vote was to defund Planned Parenthood.

    Voting yes: Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Not voting: Andrews.
    To truly comprehend the idiocy of this vote, I would recommend this column from Gail Collins in the New York Times today (it’s about Texas, the “breeding ground for bad government,” as The Eternal Molly Ivins once called it, but it might as well be about the whole country…kudos to Charlie Dent for acting like an adult here, which stands him apart from the rest of the fools and frauds in his party including Mikey The Beloved).
    2012 Republican budget. Voting 235-193, the House approved a Republican budget (H Con Res 34) for 2012 and later years that, over time, would privatize Medicare and raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67; convert Medicaid to a block-grant program run by the states; permanently extend Bush-era tax cuts; reduce discretionary spending for domestic programs by more than 20 percent; increase the basic defense budget by 15 percent; and keep Social Security as it is. Additionally, the plan would simplify the tax code, close unspecified loopholes and end unspecified tax breaks, and use the revenue from those steps to cut the top corporate and individual tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

    Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) said: "Medicare is a promise to American seniors that we would not abandon them even as they age, even as they need medical care - until now. The Republican budget will end Medicare as we know it, offering a limited voucher and expecting seniors to find insurance no matter how sick they are or how expensive it is."

    A yes vote was to pass the budget.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    If you remember no other vote from the ones listed here, remember this one. And act accordingly in November 2012 when the time comes to do something about it.

    Oh, and here's a little video reminder too.

    2012 Democratic budget. Voting 166-259, members defeated a budget (H Con Res 34) drafted by House Democrats for fiscal 2012 and later years. In contrast to the GOP blueprint (above), the measure would preserve Medicare and Medicaid in their existing forms; fully fund the new health law; end tax breaks for oil firms; end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; spend more on domestic programs and infrastructure projects; provide less defense spending, and reduce deficit-spending at slower pace. The plan would spend $3.69 trillion in fiscal 2012 and generate a deficit of $1.09 trillion.

    A yes vote backed the Democratic budget.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Carney, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    Interesting “No” vote from “Democrat” John Carney, I must say.
    Republican Study Group. Voting 119-136, members defeated the most conservative of five budget plans before the House, a measure that would prevent tax increases but reduce spending sufficiently to balance the federal budget in 10 years. In part, the plan (H Con Res 34) would cut nondefense discretionary spending nearly in half over 10 years, privatize Medicare, gradually raise Social Security's full-retirement age for people now 59 or younger; convert Medicaid to a block-grant program, and repeal the new health law.

    A yes vote backed the Republican Study Group budget.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Not voting: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    This was the cute little move engineered by Steny Hoyer that had the Repugs scrambling to change their “Yes” votes to “No” lest the true face of their hostility towards everyone but the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch be revealed for all to see in passing this particularly Dickensian budget.

    Once more, every numbskull who voted to return this bunch to power in the House should be smacking themselves with an open palm in the middle of their foreheads at this moment.
    Progressive Caucus. Voting 77-347, members defeated a budget proposed by the Progressive Caucus, which is made up of the House's most liberal members. This plan (H Con Res 34) would bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and use the savings to balance the federal budget in 10 years. Additionally, it would add a public option to the new health law, raise the gasoline tax, and increase taxes on energy firms, crack down on corporate-tax loopholes, increase spending for education and other domestic programs, and invest in infrastructure projects such as road-building to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

    A yes vote backed the Progressive Caucus budget.

    Voting yes: Brady and Fattah.

    Voting no: Andrews, Carney, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.
    So at least we know we can count on Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah. We know what Tim Holden is, and it’s becoming more and more obvious what John Carney is also. However, Allyson Schwartz and Rob Andrews truly should know better.

    And by the way, in case anyone is inclined to think “oh, there go those nutty libs again,” remember this (Update 4/22/11: And "The Economist" likes the Dem budget alternative, as noted here? They're "serious," wouldn't you say?)

    Final 2011 budget. Voting 81-19, the Senate sent President Obama a bill (HR 1473, above) to fund the government through Sept. 30 at a yearly level of $1.365 trillion in discretionary spending. This bipartisan fiscal 2011 budget cuts spending by $38 billion below 2010 levels. There was no debate on the measure.

    A yes vote was to give final approval to the 2011 budget.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

    Voting no: Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).
    God, Pat Toomey is turning into the Senate’s version of Joe Pitts. And if that isn’t an insult, I don’t know what is.
    Health-law funding. Voting 47-53, the Senate defeated a measure (H Con Res 35) to deny funding for implementing the new health law. Although most of the law's major provisions are delayed until 2014, funding began this year for initiatives such as closing the donut hole in the Medicare prescription-drug plan; allowing youths up to 26 to enroll in their parents' health plans; restructuring Medicare Advantage; establishing a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; subsidizing preventive services such as colorectal-cancer screening; reimbursing doctors and hospitals for Medicare treatments, and providing grants for community health networks that reach out to low-income people.

    A yes vote was to defund the new health law.

    Voting yes: Toomey.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, and Menendez.
    Given this vote, I dedicate the following video to “No Corporate Tax” Pat (might have to crank the volume a bit – maybe, if others could sponsor Nicole Lamoreaux once more, she might even be able to come to PA).

    This week, Congress is in Easter-Passover recess until the week of May 2.

  • Finally, it seems that those life forms at The Heritage Foundation are mad at Tina Dupuy of The Atlantic for criticizing GOP “financial expert” Paul Ryan and the supposed Heritage guru behind Ryan’s flim-flam act, William Beach (here).

    Here is a portion of the criticism from Heritage…
    When an activity is rewarded, people engage in more of that activity. When an activity is penalized, people engage in less of it. The greater the reward or penalty, the greater will be the response. If anything in the social sciences can be universally regarded as fact, it is those preceding statements.
    Uh, I would consider the rise in the price of gas to be a “penalty.” However, if I choose to “engage in less” buying of gas…well then, I don’t get to work (and neither does Mrs. Doomsy), we don’t go to the grocery store or run other errands, we don’t drive the young one to his activities, etc. Basically, when it comes to some of the items or activities we need to simply live our lives, we just have to deal with it regardless of what happens, like anyone else.

    That said, I’ll allow the following argument from Heritage…
    This absurd logic decimated the high-end boat-building industry in the early 1990s. In 1991 a 10 percent tax on luxury boats went into effect. Compared to 1990, the 1991 sales dropped 70 percent. The original tax projection (like those done by Citizens for Tax Justice) assumed sales would be unaffected by the tax. After a decade of losing sales to foreign producers the tax was dropped with bi-partisan support.
    In response, I give you the following from about 20 years ago (here - page three)…
    "The excise tax (on luxury boats) is terrible for the future of the industry, but our business was more directly affected by the war in the gulf and the recession," said Stephen Palma, owner of the New York Sailing School. "Our bookings came in late this year; the war stopped people from thinking about such things as sailing lessons.

    "And those people who formerly were our best customers -- Wall Street types who wanted to learn how to sail before buying a boat -- have pretty much disappeared." A four-day learn-to-sail program in 23-foot Sonar boats costs $395.

    But at the Offshore Sailing School, Tyler Pierce, director of operations, said the number of students was about the same as last year. "We did especially well selling learning-to-sail courses at discount to people who signed up for it at the Boat Show this year," Mr. Pierce said. His two-week sailing class, in Soling boats, costs $425.

    And with fewer people buying boats, he said, he is offering rentals.
    So when it comes to the economy, Heritage understands luxury boats. Everybody got that?

    The poor? The unemployed? Women and family issues? Not so much.
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