Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Health Care Fight Has Just Begun

The months long drama over the fate of President Barack Obama’s health care plan ended at 1 AM this morning when the Senate voted  60 - 40, on a strictly party line vote, to end debate on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) manager’s amendment; a mere 38-hours after it had been unveiled to the American public.

With Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) threatening to veto the bill if any significant changes are made by the House in conference, it is virtually guaranteed that this is the version of Obamacare that will be signed by the President before his State of the Union address in January.

Final passage of this health bill will be historic, but not in the way President Obama intended. Never before has such a large restructuring of the U.S. economy been passed on a straight party-line vote.

Never before has legislation so unpopular with the American people been passed on a straight party-line vote. Never before has the fate of one-sixth of our economy been so dependent on backroom deals and payoffs the full extent of which may not be known for years.

To defend this abomination of a bill yesterday on the Sunday shows, the White House did not send Health Reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle or Budget director Peter Orszag. Instead they sent White House sent political consultant David Axelrod to defend the bill on three of the five top Sunday shows. But there simply is no defending the policy substance of this bill:

Busts the Federal Budget: According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the amended Reid plan would reduce the federal budget deficit by $132 billion over the period 2010 to 2019, but that is a mirage. The CBO can only score what the Senate tells them they will do, not what everyone knows they actually will do. For example, the Senate bill cuts Medicare fees for doctors by 20% starting in 2011. Nobody believes these cuts will be allowed to happen. By changing just that provision, Obamacare ends up adding $196 billion to the deficit in the first 10 years and $765 billion in the second decade.

Busts State Budgets: According to The Fiscal Survey of States, 31 states cut higher education and 26 states cut K-12 education in 2009. This is because Medicaid and education are almost always any states two highest budget items, and states cannot touch the entitlement to Medicaid. Obamacare only increases state Medicaid obligations thus further bankrupting states. This is why Sen. Nelson demanded a permanent Medicaid bailout for Nebraska in exchange for his vote. Other states like Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts also won key federal bailouts for their health programs. Who are the losers? All the other that are forced to pick up the $1 billion tab.

Increases Health Care Costs: Throughout the health care debate, President Obama promised reform that would “bend the cost curve down” on health care spending. But according to the President’s own the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) the Senate does exactly the opposite, actually driving health care costs up by adding $234 billion to national health expenditures.

Endangers Americans Quality of Care: President Obama used to promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” But as the CBO confirmed this month 10 million Americans will be forced out of their current health insurance plan should Obamacare become law. Even worse, CMMS has reported that Obamacare’s $493 billion in Medicare cuts could force as many as one-in-five health care providers into insolvency thus forcing them out of the Medicare program.

Forces Americans to Pay for Abortions: Despite the inclusion of the Nelson amendment, when the federal government’s role over the financing and delivery of health care grows, as it does under this bill, a requirement to segregate premiums that cover abortion services would be merely cosmetic in practice.

$400 Billion in New Taxes: From taxes on employment to taxes on tanning beds, Obamacare is funded with over $400 billion in new taxes at a time of double digit unemployment, including $29 billion in taxes on 19 million Americans who still will not receive any health insurance.

A “Starter Home” for Government Run Health Care: While technically not a public option, this scheme will have the same results. By giving unprecedented power and authority to the Director of Office of Personal Management, the multi-state plans created in the bill will simply become the government plan. Single payer advocate Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is even calling the bill a “starter home” for further reform.

This bill will only make every single problem with out health care system worse: higher spending, higher deficits, and worse care. Former-Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean said on Meet the Press yesterday, “[This bill] simply sets us on a track in this country which is expensive and where we’re going to have lots more political fights.” Dean is dead on. President Barack Obama’s signature on this health care bill settles nothing: it is only the beginning of a much larger health care fight.

Posted December 21st, 2009 at 9.55am in Health Care.

Bill Comparison

Friday, December 18, 2009

Labor vs. Labor

It's hard to overstate just how angry members of the labor community - particularly the building trades - are over the death of the Kingsbridge Armory project and the loss 1,000 construction jobs it would have created.

That anger erupted at a Central Labor Council monthly meeting yesterday, sources said, when PSC's Barbara Bowen stood to congratulate RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, who led the Kingsbridge opposition.
"As soon as she opened her mouth, the building trades and the teamsters went crazy," a labor source said. "They're absolutely furious. They had to stop the whole meeting."
Things got so heated that a special meeting is being called next month just to address this issue - and provide both sides with some time to cool off.

The trouble is, as my source put it: "People aren't going to move on."

Kingsbridge was the talk of the AFL-CIO's annual labor dinner at the Sheraton last night. I ran into Steve McInnis, the political director for the carpenter's union, who darkly told me: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."

He recalled the 2007 fight between the UFT and the carpenters over the teacher's union plan to use non-union labor on a Bronx housing project for educators.

The building trades threatened to demonstrate outside then-UFT President Randi Weingarten's birthday celebration, but ended up calling off their plans at the last minute after she caved and agreed to use union construction workers.

McInnis didn't offer any details on what sort of retaliatory tactics the building trades are planning, but it doesn't sound pretty.

Appelbaum is the chief target of most of this ire. There has been talk of the building trades pulling their historic support for preventing Wal-Mart from coming into the city - a key bread-and-butter issue for the RWDSU.

Adding fuel to the Kingsbridge fire is the fact that many in the labor community consider this fight a continuation of the mayor's race, in which the bulk of the trades backed Mayor Bloomberg while Appelbaum was an outspoken supporter of Comptroller Bill Thompson.
"He didn't win the mayor's race, so Kingsbridge is Miss Congeniality. But he won it at a huge price - he cost union jobs," my source complained. "We have always, as a group, been able to work out the best deal for everyone we could. This is the first time a single union threw everyone under the bus."
Appelbaum and his supporters have argued that Kingsbridge is a real victory because it changed the political landscape in the city and established a benchmark for so-called living wages in publicly-funded projects. They have pledged to make the fight citywide, and perhaps even statewide with IDA reform legislation as the vehicle.

Opponents insist the Council's Kingsbridge votes, which Mayor Bloomberg vetoed - as promised - yesterday, were actually a political anomaly born both out the still-fresh results of the mayor's race and the yet-to-be held speaker's vote, which curtailed Christine Quinn's power to corral the renegade Bronx delegation.

The Council now has 10 days to vote to override Bloomberg's vetoes. The mayor himself has said isn't holding out much hope there and expects the Kingsbridge project to remain dead. He has consoled himself by pointing out the passage of the West Side Rail Yards rezoning, which he noted is a much bigger project than Kingsbridge.

Next up: The Broadway Triangle battle, which will perhaps shed some light on whether Kingsbridge will have a lasting effect or really was just a blip on the City Hall radar screen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Changes Job Referral Department

Effective January 1, 2010, carpenters on the Out of Work List will have to be available to receive a call from the Job Referral Office between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m, Monday to Friday.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Page Six

We hear... THAT Joe Firth is calling for early elections in Local 608. Seems he and his supporters are not happy that Firth was fired and made a scrapegoat for violations of the job referral rules.

Firth is rumored to mount a challenge newly installed Martin Devereaux for local 608 president.

The November and December local 608 meetings had to be shut down and police called in to avoid a riot. Spencer and Devereaux sent the below letters to 608 members, in an effort to calm things down.

Spencer Letter