Archive for the 'Life' Category

The waste, inequity of filling jails with those who can’t make bail

One of the authors is a member of SF Taxpayers for Public Safety, which organizes against construction of a new jail in San Francisco when the seismically-unsafe Hall of Justice is torn down.  Its research shows  the present system already has  sufficient capacity even after closing the Hall of Justice jails, because of the success of alternatives to incarceration.  Almost 75% of SF jail inmates have not been convicted of anything, they are awaiting trial, and large proportion, probably half, are in jail because they cannot afford bail. Like mass incarceration across the nation, blacks and latins are hugely over-represented.  For instance, the proportion of blacks in SF jails is ten times their proportion in the general population.  For more information on SF Jails, see  http://tinyurl.com/m9af8qx .

SF Chronicle, October 2, 2014

The waste, inequity of filling jails with those who can’t make bail

By Jeff Adachi and Naneen Karraker

On-line version: http://tinyurl.com/kwv86n2

You may think jail is a place for convicted criminals. You would be wrong. In San Francisco, 85 percent of the roughly 1,300 inmates in county jail haven’t been convicted of anything. That’s more than 1,000 men and women. They are there not because they have been found guilty but because they simply cannot afford bail.

Despite our progressive reputation, California uses an ineffective, costly and outdated system to determine who stays in jail and who is released.

Earlier this year, San Francisco Superior Court judges raised the standard bail amounts for numerous crimes. The bail for contempt of court, for instance, jumped from $10,000 to $20,000.

These higher bails ensure that a poor person charged with even a minor crime will remain in jail, which costs taxpayers $140 per day, while a wealthy person will be able to afford to get out regardless of the severity of his or her charges. Being in custody means an increased likelihood of conviction. It means wearing jail garb instead of a suit in front of the jury. It means accepting a plea bargain just to get out to save your job or care for your children.

The use of bail also exacerbates racial disparities in the system. A recent report released by San Francisco’s Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice cites a finding that the average bail for Latinos is more than $50,000, compared with $28,000 for whites. A recent study of 40 of the largest U.S. counties that found that, among those in jail because they could not afford bail, 27 percent were white, 36 percent African American and 44 percent Latino.

Non-monetary forms of pretrial release such as own-recognizance release or supervised pretrial release are underutilized in San Francisco because the Pretrial Diversion Project just doesn’t get enough support. With adequate funding, the program could hire the staff needed to make sure all people arrested are screened, their cases are presented to the court, and they are supervised to make sure they appear for hearings.

Non-monetary release isn’t simply fairer than the money bail system; it’s also more cost-effective.

Evaluations of pretrial services in five Northern California counties found that their return-to-court rates were higher than the national average for release on bail. San Francisco topped the list at a 97 percent return rate for non-monetary pretrial release as compared with an 82 percent return rate for those who put up bail.

While monetary bail is not going to vanish as a pretrial release option, we need to be smarter about it. Several states have passed laws shifting the pretrial release process from a cash-based one to a risk-based one. A Maryland law requiring courts to use a risk-assessment tool to determine pretrial release options resulted in a 3 to 4 percent increase in the number of people released in the first year. While not a huge increase, it is a step in the right direction. We could do the same in California right now.

 

Jeff Adachi is the San Francisco public defender. Naneen Karraker is a member of San Francisco Taxpayers for Public Safety. She has worked for over 40 years on criminal justice matters locally, statewide and regionally, including pretrial release options, alternatives to incarceration and youth violence prevention.

Short-link to this article http://wp.me/p3xLR-vD

Advertisements

It’s Our Community College

Early media reports espoused a victory for CCSF. But, a careful reading of the ACCJC policy statement issued after the commission’s June 11 clandestine meeting causes alarm not celebration. ACCJC does not listen to public demands, legislators’ requests, or even the Dept of Education. Their affront at being called out shows in the wording of their policy statement.

“…there have been increased calls for the Commission to rescind its decision. However, the commission has been, and will continue to be steadfast in its decision, which was clearly warranted” The Commission then describes “a path forward that maintains the termination decision and holds the college accountable for addressing the standards, but would enable the college reasonable but limited time to come into compliance with ACCJC standards.”

ACCJC proposes a new accreditation policy. It would permit intuitions notified of termination to apply for restoration of its accreditation. Under the policy, CCSF would be seeking “accreditation restoration” status, and must first be determined eligible and undergo intensive review by ACCJC. If approved, CCSF would have 2 years to come into compliance. If restoration status is not approved to begin with, or if ACCJC decides the college does not fully meet all standards within the 2-year restoration status, the prior termination order would be activated immediately without any opportunity for a review or an appeal!

CCSF must apply for this new status prior to July 31, the date of current termination set by ACCJC. ACCJC allowed only a 2-week period for comments ending June 25. How will this affect the Herrera lawsuit and court determination that termination cannot be made until the case is heard in October? Meanwhile, Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation to limit the ability of state officials to suspend the control of an elected College Board – the elected City College Board has been replaced with an appointed trustee. Mark Leno is pushing a bill that would amount to an end run around the ACCJC.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

More information:

48 Hills, June 12, 2014

(48 Hills a web log written by former SF Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond.)

Hold the champagne – City College hasn’t exactly won yet.

JUNE 12, 2104 – The decision by the accrediting commission to allow City College a lifeline has much of the city’s political establishment applauding, and for good reason: The combined pressure for local, state, and national elected officials played a huge role in forcing the ACCJC to back off from an effort to shut the school down.

If the ACCJC had gone forward with revocation of accreditation, as it could have this month, the school would have stayed open – City Attorney Dennis Herrera has won an injunction preventing any final move to end accreditation until after a trial, which won’t happen until this fall.

But the furor over that move might have driven the political establishment to seek ways to shut down the entire commission. Among others, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Jackie Speier have demanded that the ACCJC give City College more time – and members of Congress don’t like to be treated with the sort of disrespect the panel has shown for pretty much everyone else in this process.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation that would limit the ability of state officials to suspend the control of an elected college board – and he’s gotten support from many Republicans, who agree that the ACCJC is a nightmare. State Sen. Mark Leno is pushing a bill that would amount to an end run around the ACCJC.

So the ACCJC clearly had to do something to create the appearance of fairness, to get some of the pressure off. But if this move works, it will be a victory for an out-of-control agency: The accreditors haven’t admitted they were wrong, haven’t changed the rules for evaluating City College, haven’t offered to approve accreditation … in fact, all they’ve done is come up with a new process for the school to apply to stay open, under rules that aren’t terribly fair.

The new process, known as “accreditation restoration,” is outlined on the ACCJC website. Read it carefully; it’s not an “extension of time,” which is what City College supporters asked for. It’s not a good-faith effort to hold off on a final decision until the school completes its process of jumping through all of the hoops the ACCJC has demanded.

It’s an entirely new process – one that requires City College to give up all rights to appeal if the decision that comes down at the end is wrong:

“If, however, in the judgment of the Commission, the college does not fully meet all eligibility requirements and/or has not demonstrated the ability to fully meet all standards within the two-year restoration status period, the termination implementation will be reactivated and the effective date will be immediate. There will be no further right to request a review or appeal in this matter.”

“It seems to us that the new procedure would take away any ability to appeal,” Tim Killikelly, head of the City College teachers’ union, AFT Local 2121, told me. And that from an agency that just about everyone who has watched this procedure agrees is out of control.

In other words, the same crew of crazy people who caused this problem in the first place will now put City College through a new wringer, with the outcome uncertain and the school forced to give up its rights in the process.

“Instead of an extension, which is what the school asked for, we have this new term and policy,” Killikelly said. “Right now, we have a lot more questions than answers.”

Killikelly agrees that it’s good for students and the city (and, of course, teachers) to have confidence that City College will be open this fall – but it would have been open anyway: The lawsuit, which would force far more sweeping changes in the accreditation process and the ACCJC, guarantees that. It gives two more years for the school to get its house in order – but leaves the final decision up to the same panel.

“Anything that keeps the school open, we want,” Killikelly said. “But we’re not entirely comfortable with this new process they’re suggesting.”

In a message from AFT to its members, the union notes: “This latest move, made under extraordinary pressure, seems more designed to save ACCJC than City College.”

There’s a real danger that what appears to be good news for the moment could undermine long-term reform: If this new procedure takes the pressure off the ACCJC, and if the agency can use it to undermine the city’s lawsuit and say, hey, no problem: We’re listening, we’re fixing things … then an opportunity to overhaul and reform a disastrous accreditation commission and process could slip away – and City College won’t be the last victim.

So for the moment, let’s hold the champagne; it’s not over, by any means. City College has, at best, a reprieve, but only on very unfair and possible unacceptable grounds. With its back against the wall, the ACCJC is trying to slide away with a half-assed policy that never addresses the real problems, keeps City College in a terrible limbo, and leaves unelected, unaccountable people in charge.

Don’t mean to be throwing the turd in the punchbowl, but I’m not ready to party yet.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Short link to this posting:  http://wp.me/p3xLR-v7

Welcome Lynne Stewart Back to San Francisco!

Welcome Lynne Stewart
Back to San Francisco!
Friday, May 2, 6-8 PM
518 Valencia Street
(betw. 16th & 17th Sts)
1 1/2 blocks from 16th St. BART

Lynne, Mumia, & Pam

This is Lynne’s first trip to the Bay Area since her release from Federal prison. We will celebrate her life and struggle, and focus on the work ahead to free all political prisoners and fight racist mass incarceration.

Because of a determined people’s movement Lynne is finally home with her family on compassionate release. But she has urgent medical needs fight her metastatic breast cancer; This event is to help raise the needed money. Lynne gave a lifetime of courageous legal help to those of us who needed it the most. Now it’s our turn to help her. Please come.

This SF event is part of a series of Bay Area meetings with Lynne Stewart. For more information, contact Jeff Mackler at jmackler@imi.net or call 510-268-9429.

Background:

Lynne Stewart is a radical human rights attorney who has devoted her life to the oppressed and those deprived of their freedom and rights. During the massive suppression of civil liberties following 9/11, Lynne was falsely accused of helping terrorists and in outrageous legal proceedings was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in Federal prison. Her case stands as a prime example of government action to silence dissent, curtail vigorous defense lawyers, and install fear in those who would fight the government’s racism and injustice.

Why Organized Labor Is Organizing Against Obamacare

This significant article shows a potential new source of support for winning Single-Payer healthcare: organized labor. Unions which had held back from embracing Single-Payer because they had their own health plans are now realizing that Obamacare does not just encourage employers to cut back full-time jobs to un-benefited part-time jobs. Obamacare also damages hard-won union-based health plans.

2013-09-17-GP_meeting-detail

Click to enlarge image.

The Fiscal Times, August 30, 2013

Why Organized Labor Is Organizing Against Obamacare
(Read this article on-line at http://tinyurl.com/pchnggr )

By ERIC PIANIN, The Fiscal Times

Now look who’s making a fuss about Obamacare.

President Obama has had his hands full fending off Republican assaults against Obamacare. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and a handful of other GOP lawmakers even favor shutting down the government, if necessary, to prevent the new law from fully taking effect.

But Obama is also getting blasted these days from an unexpected quarter: Major labor groups instrumental in helping the president win a critical second term are charging that Obamacare is undercutting existing union-sponsored health insurance programs and even encouraging employers to cut workers’ hours.

This is the latest bizarre wrinkle in the unfolding political drama over Obama’s signature program for extending health insurance coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

Last month, leaders of three of the largest labor unions sent a scathing letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), warning that if the problems with the insurance program are not addressed, the new health care law will “shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

The letter was written by James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and Donald Taylor, president of UNITE-HERE, a union that represents hotel, airport and food service workers. It stressed the unions’ displeasure with a law they all had previously supported and helped to pass.

“When you and the president sought our support for the Affordable Care Act, you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat,” said the letter. “We have been strong supporters of you. In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision. Now this vision has come back to haunt us.”

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka echoed those concerns Thursday, telling reporters during a breakfast event that the administration and Congress made some serious blunders in drafting the legislation that must be fixed to quiet the growing union discontent.

“We’ve been working with the administration to find solutions to what I think are inad-vertent holes in the act,” said Trumka. “When the act was put together, it wasn’t thought completely through. So we work on a daily basis. I’m hopeful we get something done in the very near future.”

PERVERSE INCENTIVE?

From labor’s perspective, arguably the biggest problem is that the law – when fully implemented – will create an incentive for employers to keep their workers’ hours below 30 hours a week.

The Affordable Care Act will eventually penalize firms employing 50 or more people that don’t offer health insurance – or that offer coverage below minimum standards. This is the so-called “employer mandate.” The White House this summer put that provision on hold until 2015 to give medium and large employers the opportunity to better prepare and plan for the changes and reporting requirements. But once that provision finally takes hold, union leaders say that companies will cut the hours of workers below 30 hours per week to get under the 50-worker threshold for providing health care coverage.

With salaries remaining relatively static during this tepid economic recovery, a cutback in hours would be tantamount to a substantial pay cut for many union and other workers who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Employers are trying to plan their future by creating a work force that gets 29-and-a-half hours or less a week, so that they don’t have to pay health care,” Trumka said yesterday. “That is obviously something that no one intended….Is that an issue? Yeah, that’s an issue.”

Labor leaders also fear that Obamacare may end up “destroying” the union’s multi-employer health plans unless it is changed.

At issue are “Taft-Hartley plans” – the non-profit health care plans long used by union-ized workers in the building trades and service industries and jointly administered by participating companies and unions. Those plans have traditionally allowed workers in transient industries to move between employers while still preserving the same quality of health care. Because union leaders have helped negotiate those plans, they typically offer strong coverage at a low out-of-pocket cost to workers.

Under the Affordable Care Act as currently interpreted by the administration, union members with this form of health insurance coverage would not be entitled to federal tax subsidies available to others who purchase policies from private companies in the new insurance exchange, according to labor leaders. Moreover, many union members who hold these “non-profit” policies may get hit with federal taxes to help offset the cost of the subsidies offered in the new state exchanges.

“Taken together, these restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies,” according to the letter sent to Reid and Pelosi by the labor chiefs.

The Treasury Department has signaled it views the Taft-Hartley plans as equivalent to other employer-based plans, which aren’t eligible for subsidies. And the Congressional Research Service, a nonprofit legislative analysis group, published a paper saying Taft-Hartley plans likely wouldn’t be eligible for subsidies based on the way the law is written.

The health care law is likely to be a prime topic of conversation when Obama addresses the AFL-CIO’s Quadrennial Convention next month in Los Angeles. Obama’s relations with labor have been rocky at times, for sure. Yet while he’ll talk about his plans to create jobs, provide better pay and strengthen workplace protections, the president’s speech on Sept. 9 may not include every reassuring word that labor leaders are right now longing to hear.

Shortlink to this post:  http://wp.me/p3xLR-ur

The real invasion of Africa is not news and a licence to lie is Hollywood’s gift

Dandelion Salad, February 3, 2012

The real invasion of Africa is not news and a licence to lie is Hollywood’s gift
by John Pilger

Global Research
http://johnpilger.com
January 30, 2013

A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. Reported by Associated Press on Christmas Day, this was missing from most Anglo-American media.

The invasion has almost nothing to do with “Islamism”, and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine. As in the cold war, a division of labour requires that western journalism and popular culture provide the cover of a holy war against a “menacing arc” of Islamic extremism, no different from the bogus “red menace” of a worldwide communist conspiracy.

Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Last year, Africom staged Operation African Endeavor, with the armed forces of 34 African nations taking part, commanded by the US military. Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

A striking example is the eastern Congo, a treasure trove of strategic minerals, controlled by an atrocious rebel group known as the M23, which in turn is run by Uganda and Rwanda, the proxies of Washington.

Long planned as a “mission” for Nato, not to mention the ever-zealous French, whose colonial lost causes remain on permanent standby, the war on Africa became urgent in 2011 when the Arab world appeared to be liberating itself from the Mubaraks and other clients of Washington and Europe. The hysteria this caused in imperial capitals cannot be exaggerated. Nato bombers were dispatched not to Tunis or Cairo but Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi ruled over Africa’s largest oil reserves. With the Libyan city of Sirte reduced to rubble, the British SAS directed the “rebel” militias in what has since been exposed as a racist bloodbath.

The indigenous people of the Sahara, the Tuareg, whose Berber fighters Gaddafi had protected, fled home across Algeria to Mali, where the Tuareg have been claiming a separate state since the 1960s. As the ever watchful Patrick Cockburn points out, it is this local dispute, not al-Qaida, that the West fears most in northwest Africa… “poor though the Tuareg may be, they are often living on top of great reserves of oil, gas, uranium and other valuable minerals”.

Almost certainly the consequence of a French/US attack on Mali on 13 January, a siege at a gas complex in Algeria ended bloodily, inspiring a 9/11 moment in David Cameron. The former Carlton TV PR man raged about a “global threat” requiring “decades” of western violence. He meant implantation of the west’s business plan for Africa, together with the rape of multi-ethnic Syria and the conquest of independent Iran.

Cameron has now ordered British troops to Mali, and sent an RAF drone, while his verbose military chief, General Sir David Richards, has addressed “a very clear message to jihadists worldwide: don’t dangle and tangle with us. We will deal with it robustly” – exactly what jihadists want to hear. The trail of blood of British army terror victims, all Muslims, their “systemic” torture cases currently heading to court, add necessary irony to the general’s words. I once experienced Sir David’s “robust” ways when I asked him if he had read the courageous Afghan feminist Malalai Joya’s description of the barbaric behaviour of westerners and their clients in her country. “You are an apologist for the Taliban” was his reply. (He later apologised).

These bleak comedians are straight out of Evelyn Waugh and allow us to feel the bracing breeze of history and hypocrisy. The “Islamic terrorism” that is their excuse for the enduring theft of Africa’s riches was all but invented by them. There is no longer any excuse to swallow the BBC/CNN line and not know the truth. Read Mark Curtis’s Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (Serpent’s Tail) or John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (Pluto Press) or The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski (HarperCollins) who was midwife to the birth of modern fundamentalist terror. In effect, the mujahedin of al-Qaida and the Taliban were created by the CIA, its Pakistani equivalent, the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Britain’s MI6.

Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, describes a secret presidential directive in 1979 that began what became the current “war on terror”. For 17 years, the US deliberately cultivated, bank-rolled, armed and brainwashed jihadi extremists that “steeped a generation in violence”. Code-named Operation Cyclone, this was the “great game” to bring down the Soviet Union but brought down the Twin Towers.

Since then, the news that intelligent, educated people both dispense and ingest has become a kind of Disney journalism, fortified, as ever, by Hollywood’s licence to lie, and lie. There is the coming Dreamworks movie on WikiLeaks, a fabrication inspired by a book of perfidious title-tattle by two enriched Guardian journalists; and there is Zero Dark Thirty, which promotes torture and murder, directed by the Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, promoting her master’s voice as did the Fuhrer’s pet film-maker. Such is the one-way mirror through which we barely glimpse what power does in our name.

Copyright © John Pilger, JohnPilger.com, 2013

Short link to this post: http://wp.me/p3xLR-uk

Spaniards Protest Health Care Reforms: privatization, closures of public facilities

Spaniards Protest Health Care Reforms

By HAROLD HECKLE
Associated Press

Protestors march as they carry a banner reading, “Public health care” and “24 hours strike” during a demonstration against regional government imposed austerity plans to restructure and part privatize health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers. Spain’s regions are struggling with a combined debt of 145 billion euro ($190 billion) as the country’s economy contracts into a double dip recession triggered by a 2008 real estate crash. Andres Kudacki / AP Photo

MADRID — Thousands of people marched in Madrid on Sunday to protest plans to privatize parts of their public health care system, with some questioning the motives behind the government’s actions.

The march by employees and users of the system is the year’s second large “white tide” demonstration, named after the color of the medical scrubs many protesters wear. Several similar marches took place last year.

Demonstrators thronged main boulevards in the center of the Spanish capital, carrying banners saying, “Public health care should be defended, not sold off.”

The Madrid region has proposed selling the management of six of 20 large public hospitals in its jurisdiction and 10 percent of its 268 public health centers. It says these reforms are needed to secure health services during Spain’s economic crisis.

A protestor carries a banner reading, “Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, serial fraudster” during a demonstration against regional government imposed austerity plans to restructure and part privatize health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers. Spain’s regions are struggling with a combined debt of 145 billion euro ($190 billion) as the country’s economy contracts into a double dip recession triggered by a 2008 real estate crash. Andres Kudacki / AP Photo

But protesters were skeptical.

“This measure is politically inspired and not financial,” said mechanical engineer Mario Sola, 47. “If public hospitals were unsustainably loss-making as we’re being told, private enterprise wouldn’t be interested.”

Health care and education are administered by Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions rather than by the central government.

Many regions are struggling financially as Spain’s economy has shrunk due to a double-dip recession following the 2008 implosion of the once-prosperous real estate and construction sectors.

Some regions overspent during boom years, but are now excluded from borrowing on the financial markets to repay their accumulated debts, forcing them to seek savings and even request rescue aid from the central government.

Regional health councilor Javier Fernandez-Lasquetty called the protests irresponsible and said that “everyone has their point of view, but we are all fighting to defend the same thing.”

Jose Gabriel Gonzalez Martin, president of Spain’s Independent Civil Service Trade Union Center, said many people’s suspicions were aroused when former government health officials acquired jobs with private companies lining up to take over medical analysis functions.

“It might be purely coincidental, but some coincidences are surprising,” Gonzalez said.

Protestors shout slogans during a demonstration against regional government imposed austerity plans to restructure and part privatize health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers. Spain’s regions are struggling with a combined debt of 145 billion euro ($190 billion) as the country’s economy contracts into a double dip recession triggered by a 2008 real estate crash. Andres Kudacki / AP Photo

 

Short link to this posting:  http://wp.me/p3xLR-uc

Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is “Capitulating” on Social Security?

Firedoglake, Wednesday, December 19, 2010

Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is “Capitulating” on Social Security?

By: Jane Hamsher

Everywhere you look, the media narrative is that President Obama is “capitulating” to Republicans by agreeing to cuts in Social Security benefits.

And I have to ask, where is this collective political amnesia coming from?

Obama has made a deliberate and concerted effort to cut Social Security benefits since the time he took office.  FDL reported on February 12, 2009 that the White House was meeting behind closed doors to consider ways to cut Social Security benefits, and that the framework they were using was the Diamond-Orszag plan, which was co-authored by OMB Director Peter Orszag when he was at the Brookings Institute.

The birth of the now-ubiquitous “catfood” meme came on February 18, 2009 with this FDL headline:

“Hedge Fund Billionaire Pete Peterson Key Speaker At Obama “Fiscal Responsibility Summit,” Will Tell Us All Why Little Old Ladies Must Eat Cat Food”

As I wrote in August of 2010, Peterson’s keynote spot was the worst kept secret in town; I knew about it because I had been on a conference call with about 40 representatives of various DC interest groups, many of whom had received written notice from the White House that Peterson was scheduled to headline the event. But nobody wanted to go on the record for fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the administration in its early days.

After FDL broke the news, Peterson was “disinvited” from the summit. Both he and the White House denied everything, but Robert Kuttner subsequently confirmed in the Washington Post that Peterson had, in fact, been scheduled as the keynote speaker that day.

The administration backed off its immediate plans for reforming Social Security. The New York Times reported that they were “running into opposition from his party’s left” who are “vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees.” But NYT columnist David Brooks reported that shortly after the summit, “four senior members of the administration” called him to say that Obama “is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security.”

Undeterred, the White House began telling journalists off the record that they were interested in “establishing an independent commission (outside the congressional committee structure) to look at creating a specific reform plan.”

In January of 2010, a bill sponsored by committed Social Security slashers Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad which would have created an official commission to make recommendations about the nation’s deficit was defeated by the Senate on a bipartisan vote — 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no.

After the Senate defeat, on February 18, President Obama issued an executive order creating what subsequently became known as the “Catfood Commission” anyway.

Unlike Bill Clinton’s Danforth Commission, which ended in deadlock, Obama set this commission up in such a way that it was stacked with deficit hawks who largely agreed on what needed to be done: 12 of the 18 members were to be appointed by Senate and House leaders in each party, and 6 would be appointed by the President. This virtually guaranteed that Social Security privatization fetishist Paul Ryan would be on the commission, as would Gregg and Conrad.

Among the President’s six appointments:

  • As Bowles’ Republican Co-Chair, the President appointed loose cannon Alan Simpson, the former rich kid GOP Senator from Wyoming once famously said that those who were complaining that Social Security needed protection were “people who live in gated communities and drive their Lexus to the Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount.”
  •  David M. Cote, the Republican CEO of defense contractor Honeywell

The composition of the Commission was conveniently stacked with 14 of the 18 members committed deficit hawks looking to start balancing the federal budget on the backs of old people.

And who supplied the staff to the commission? Why, Pete Peterson.

Are we to believe that the President was blissfully ignorant of the agendas of the people he appointed to this commission, created with the goal of bypassing Congressional process?

With the exception of a few public dog and pony shows, the Commission conducted its deliberations in secret.  But on June 16 of 2010, Alex Lawson of Social Security Works blew a hole in that secrecy on the front page of FDL when he caught Alan Simpson on live streaming video as he was exiting a meeting of the Catfood Commission.   In real time, Alex got Alan Simpson to say what everyone in the room was thinking but wouldn’t say publicly. Simpson told Alex that the commission was “really working on solvency”:

“We’re trying to take care of the lesser people in society and do that in a way without getting into all the flash words you love dig up, like cutting Social Security, which is bullshit. We’re not cutting anything, we’re trying to make it solvent.”

The Catfood Commission ultimately failed it is mission, due in no small part to the work of people like Alex, Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson of Social Security Works who have consistently been out there informing and uniting interest groups and educating the public to the fact that, yes, the White House has an agenda of cutting Social Security benefits.

I don’t know why Obama wants to cut Social Security benefits. I do know that Obama has been honest about it from the start. In January of 2009, even before he took office, he told the Washington Post that he believed Social Security was a broken system and that “entitlement reform” was something he wanted to achieve during his tenure in office:

“Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the difficult choices–particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare – should be made on his watch. “We’ve kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road,” he said.”

Perhaps Obama wants to do what Bill Clinton couldn’t do.  It’s clear the oligarch class has decided that this is what must happen, and that in order to be considered a “serious” person, this is what a President must do.  Perhaps Obama simply wants to be considered a “serious person” by those in the ruling class.

But it’s clear that he did not arrive at the decision to “reform” Social Security and cut benefits because he is a poor negotiator, or because of Republican arm twisting.  It defies all logic and reason to look at his actions over the years and think that the President is now “capitulating” on Social Security.

The President has been very forthcoming about the fact that cutting Social Security benefits is something he wants to do.  When he said during the debate that he didn’t differ from Mitt Romney on entitlement reform, he meant it.   It’s time for people to remove the rose-colored glasses and stop projecting their own feelings on to the man.  It’s time to take him at his word.

Short link to this posting:  http://wp.me/p3xLR-u5


Archives

Categories

RSS Gray Panthers in the News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 589 other followers


%d bloggers like this: