Tag Archives: elections

Back to Work to the People’s Business

Lawmakers are back to work this week after the long Labor Day recess. With elections just six weeks away and so many millions of Americans suffering poverty, unemployment, facing eviction, bankruptcy, hunger or without medical care, let’s take a look at how are representatives are going to prove to the voters that they take their jobs seriously.

In addition to prayers, committee meetings, general housekeeping and endless requests for things to be read into the record that didn’t actually occur, here’s what is on this week’s schedule in both chambers, I kid you not.

House of Representatives Senate
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the House regarding…

  • Honoring what happened on 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring those who died on D-Day at the Battle of Normandy (1944).
  • Congratulating Miami Dade College on their 50th Anniversary.
  • Congratulating Michican Technology University on their 125th Anniversary.
  • Commending USC for winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship.
  • Designating this week as, “National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week.”
  • Recognizing the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
  • Permitting of Members of Congress to administer the oath of allegiance to applicants for naturalization to take advantage of photo opportunities, which look really nice in campaign flyers and videos.
  • Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created REITs.
  • Designating the Post Office located at 218 North Milwaukee Street in Waterford, Wisconsin, as the “Captain Rhett W. Schiller Post Office.”
  • Designating the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of September as National Previvor Day.
  • Expressing condolences to and solidarity with the people of Pakistan in the aftermath of the devastating floods.
  • Designating the Federal building and courthouse located at 515 9th Street in Rapid City, South Dakota, as the “Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building and United States Courthouse.”
  • Designating the facility of the Government Printing Office located at 31451 East United Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado, as the “Frank Evans Government Printing Office Building.”
  • Designating the federally occupied building located at 1220 Echelon Parkway in Jackson, Mississippi, as the “James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Roy K. Moore Federal Building.”
  • Designating the Federal building located at 6401 Security Boulevard in Baltimore, Maryland, as the “Robert M. Ball Federal Building.”
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Rita devastated the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, remembering those lost, etc.
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Katrina, saluting volunteers, recognizing, remembering, reaffirming, etc.
  • Recognizes the value of recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips located on the nation’s public lands.

Legislation (note: in addition to the people’s new business, the House has 44 bills, which they passed in this session, was sent to the Senate and passed (all, but two by unanimous consent), but a final required vote in the House for them to become law hasn’t happened)…

  • Amends a law so that the Navy’s procurement contract for F/A-18E, F/A-18F, and EA-18G aircraft that expired in March and be extended until two weeks ago.
  • Amends the Made in America Promise Act of 2009 to prohibit Representatives and Senators from making a determination under the Act that is inconsistent with the Act on purchases made by their offices which bear a congressional seal – passed.
  • Amends a law to prohibit the Department from Homeland Security from procuring clothing, tents or natural fiber products directly related to national security that are not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the US unless they cannot be procured when they are needed.
  • Requires any person judged in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 from being awarded a government contract unless the head of the agency awarding the contract wants to give it to them anyway and they tell Congress about the next month – passed.
  • Authorizes the GSA to allow the American Red Cross to distribute stuff the government bought during disaster response.
  • Amends a 2002 law that allows the Rural Utility Service to make energy efficiency loans, to make them interest free.
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding…

  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Designating this month as “National Preparedness Month.”
  • Recognizing “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”
  • Recognizing the victory in the America’s Cup race.
  • Remembering Ralph Smeed.
  • Remembering Bobby Eugene Hannon.
  • Commending the entertainment industry’s encouragement of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Judicial Confirmation Votes

  • Confirmation of the nomination of Jane Stranch to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit (held hostage for 400 days). Judge Stranch was confirmed.

Procedural Votes

  • Four cloture motions were scheduled with respect to the Small Business Jobs bill (held hostage since June), which would create a $30 billion small business lending fund, funnelled though banks holding less than $10 billion in assets, and provide $12 billion in tax breaks to help small businesses grow and add new employees. Two Republicans, Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] and Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL] voted with every Democrat in favor, making the other motions moot and allowing a vote on the bill.

Legislation (note: in addition to lobbyists’ new business, the Senate has 372 bills yet to be acted on in this session that have been passed in the house – most of them non-controversial and passed by an overwhelming and bi-partisan majority (only 16 of the 372 by less than 60% support), but are being held hostage in the Senate by secret holds, threats of filibuster by the party of no and legislative shenanigans)…

  • No votes are scheduled, but it is expected that the Small Business Jobs will be voted on late Thursday. Update: the bill passed on a 61-38 vote, Thursday, so they can go home for the weekend.
Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by and much of the content derived from OpenCongress.com – a non-profit, independent public resource. Other sources for this story include Senate.gov, ThinkProgress.org,





Incredibly high fictitious cost of health care

Health care reform doesn’t go into effect for 3 more years, so why is it costing really really big businesses so much right now? In the last month, company after company has announced quarterly earnings and included huge accounting charges for health care costs.

Companies announcing charge offs for health care costs
“Why? For what? And should we be scared shitless?” Glad you asked. First off, except for exercising their Supreme Court given right to paid free speech, which resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on lobbyists to fight the health care reform bill, it hasn’t cost big business a nickel. Nothing. Nada.

Here’s what has happened. Way back in 2003, under Bush/Cheney, the brain trust in charge of our government at the time, decided to add a prescription drug benefit to those on Medicare. You probably wondered at the time, “what the hell do Republicans care about seniors?” Me, too. I knew they were having a difficult time squandering the Clinton budget surpluses so they could begin starving the states, so the states, in turn, could begin starving the poor. Plus, Bush Inc. had already paid off the campaign money they’d gotten from the super rich, the oil cartels, defense contractors and Wall Street. But they still owed big health insurance, big pharma and big business and thought they might be able to buy some senior votes in Florida, so they hatched this scheme: establish a huge new subsidy to create a private for profit prescription drug insurance plan industry to buy hundreds of billions of dollars of pharmaceuticals at non-negotiable retail and provide a tax subsidy to big business to help them get rid of workers at or nearing retirement age (Medicare Part D) – a real win-win. Even got Ted Kennedy to vote for it. Except for the donut hole, a diabolical stroke of campaign genius that must have Lee Atwater wish he could have come back from hell to enjoy it. But I digress.

The 2009 law gave big business a 28% tax deduction on retiree, or early retiree drug benefits, but it was more than just another corporate tax loophole. It was a tax-free treatment of the government subsidy to pay for companies providing the equivalent of Medicare Part D – the law gave them a subsidy and let them also deduct it from their taxes. Technically, accountants, lawyers and Adam’s house cat* refer to this as “double-dipping.” Republicans and the Chambers of Commerce refer to this as “pro-business.” When the new health care reform law goes into effect in three years, the subsidy will continue, but the tax deduction big business got for spending the subsidy will end.

snake oil“Then the tax deduction was worth billions of dollars?” you might ask. No, not by a long shot. In fact, the loss of the deduction will have almost no affect at all on company valuation or profit, but they’d like us to think it does. The explanation of how they came up with such extravagant numbers and why now, is a wee bit technical. Here goes: accounting rules require companies to recognize the present value today of future cash costs for as long as they offer the drug benefits and make this adjustment by writing down the deferred tax asset balances. Another way of saying it would be, they can pick any number they want and they can do whenever they want. These announcements are big businesses’ way of attempting to influence the off-year elections with the hope that the next Congress will give them back the deduction, which they don’t really use, doesn’t have any impact on jobs, but they are greedy and like to have more of whatever they want than they would ever need and don’t mind scaring the bejesus out of us as sport.

“But these tax deductions were real, so there’s a real cost to the companies’ investors, right?” In most cases, no. Big companies don’t pay taxes in America . That’s why we have those island governments just off our shores. According to the GAO’s most recent data (why it is so old, I have no idea, but I’m guessing that it has something to with providing political cover to those who write tax law), shows that two-thirds of US corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1996 through 2005 (those include the Clinton boom years) and 94% paid less than 5%.

So tomorrow when you read, “Company X earnings down due to health care reform costs,” just smirk and turn (or click) the page.

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*A variation of “Adam’s off ox.” The form commonly used is ‘not to know one from Adam’s off ox,’ meaning to have not the slightest information about the person indicated. The saying in any form, however, is another of the numerous ones commonly heard but of which no printed record has been found. But in 1848 the author of a book on ‘Nantucketisms’ recorded a saying then in use on that island, ‘Poor as God’s off ox,’ which, he said, meant very poor. It is possible that on the mainland ‘Adam’ was used as a euphemistic substitute. The off ox, in a yoke of oxen, is the one on the right of the team. Because it is the farthest from the driver it cannot be so well seen and may therefore get the worst of the footing. It is for that reason that ‘off ox’ has been used figuratively to designate a clumsy or awkward person.” From “A Hog on Ice” by Charles Earle Funk (1948, Harper & Row).

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Note: the post was edited on 4/23/10 to correct a stupid error of fact in paragraph 3. The original post, referred to “George Herbert Walker Bush” which was fortunately caught by alert reader/writer/commenter, Cliff Green.