If you haven’t heard about this, it is because you are not supposed to. Behind closed doors the United States and eleven Pacific rim nations have been negotiating a trade pact designed to hand multinational corporations powers greater than their own governments’. For reasons that will emerge below, stealth has been essential, and the media have obliged by under-reporting the most wide-reaching trade pact in history.
Set in motion by George W. Bush in 2008, and now embraced by President Obama, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) goes well beyond trade; only 5 of its
29 covenants are concerned with typical trade rules such as tariffs and quotas. The rest, a couple of chapters of which have been exposed by Wikileaks, reveal why negotiations have been conducted all these years at a level of such secrecy that participating nations are pledged not to reveal their contents until four years after the final deal is struck or talks are abandoned.
But 600 representatives of corporations are privy to those contents. Asked to act as U.S. trade advisers, they have access to a secure online site where they may review the documents whenever they choose. They make up 84% of the advisory conclave. Unions, whose workers stand to be greatly affected, have a less than 5% representation. Which explains how some astonishing provisions have found their way into the other 24 covenants, reportedly going well beyond the… Read More »
A flock of companies 84 says the Wall Street Journal have sued the government arguing that for religious reasons they should not be required by the Affordable Care Act to provide insurance to their employees that includes coverage for contraceptives. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a pair of such cases combined into one.
If the Court six of whom are Catholic decides in favor of these complaints, they will be effectively expanding on their ruling in Citizens United that corporations are “persons” and should have many of the same rights as their human counterparts. If the Court decides that corporations can have religious beliefs, it will have descended into idiocy.
The owners of both corporations in the combined case Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores based in Oklahoma City, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of kitchen cabinet doors are highly religious and offended that they should have to violate their religious principles by offering such insurance. They are of course free not to use the contraceptives themselves, and even free to proselytize their employees not to, but instead they believe they should have the right to impose their religious rules on their employees’… Read More »
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is burdened with flaws. If the healthier young do not buy insurance, premiums for the old will zoom, causing policy cancellations that drive costs still higher, which will lead to more cancellations and what is referred to as a “death spiral”. Millions of others face cancellation because their coverage fails to meet Obamacare’s minimum standards. There are threats that doctors by the tens of thousands will refuse to treat patients with policies that pay too little. We know about these.
But there is another threat that the media has hardly touched on. The health care act offers subsidies in the form of tax credits to low- and moderate-income Americans to lessen the cost of health insurance to what is hoped to be an affordable level. Working its way through the courts is a suit brought by a group of individuals and businesses from several states who are opposed to Obamacare and believe they have a found a loophole to bring it down.The plaintiffs claim the government cannot issue subsidies through its… Read More »
Republicans are savoring the opportunity in the 2014 elections to bludgeon Democrats with the Obamacare debacle. Of the 33 Senate seats in play next year, 21 are currently held by Democrats. Republicans need a shift of only six seats to win majority control, and seven of those Democratically held seats are in states won by Mitt Romney last November.
Democrats have dim prospects of toppling the 234 to 201 Republican majority in the House, with so many locked in place by gerrymandering. But Democrats can
point to the Republicans’ own debacle of shutting down the government in October and can lambaste the 144 House Republicans who voted to default on the nation’s debts unless that infamy continues to be eclipsed by Obamacare missteps.
There is, however, an undertow that may gather enough force to sweep both these campaign denunciations aside: the difficulties so many Americans are experiencing with an economy stuck in neutral. Public awareness of the enormous disparity between the 1% and the 99% is acute and has led to the angered view that the system is rigged, especially among young voters, two-thirds of whom said in 2012 election exit polls that the American economic… Read More »
74% of America voters say most members of Congress should lose their jobs, but only 38% say their own representative should be among them.
Tax reform was to have been a priority for Congress in 2013. The Senate Finance Committee at least came up with a proposal but in the House, where Republican leaders put deficit reduction and tax reform at the top of their list at year’s beginning, the finance committee has given up producing a proposal this year.
Meanwhile, the ten biggest tax breaks will save Americans over $900 billion this year, for exceeding the deficit, with 51% going to the wealthiest 20%, says the Congressional Budget Office. The top 1% those earning $327,000 or more will pocket 17% of the benefits.
There was a universality to the reaction in editorial pages, television interviews, web blogs, wherever to the Democrats’ Senate move to end the 60-vote supermajority hurdle for the President’s executive and judicial branch appointments. Reactions could all be distilled to “they had to but they shouldn't have".
Republicans have used the filibuster to block almost all legislation and appointments of the Obama administration part of the avowed strategy of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said in a 2010 interview “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. That didn’t quite work out, but blocking Obama’s objectives was the next best thing. Democrats used the same tactic during the Bush administration, although to much less degree.
A Senate vote ordinarily requires only a simple majority to carry (e.g. 51 to 49). A filibuster is declared to prevent that vote from occurring. The Constitution allows the Senate to make its own rules and the… Read More »