News: Good, Bad, & Ugly 2

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The last few days have generated a huge number of political stories which must not go unnoticed. Following are highlights and links to those stories by category of Good, Bad, and Ugly. A couple of the biggies are "Bush inadvertantly defends Democrats not offering Soc.Sec. plan", "1/3 of Americans overworked", "Senate to Block Bush's Medicare cuts", and "Undermining American democracy and informed consent, our government is becoming ever more secretive."

The Good

President Bush expanded Medicare in his last term by prodding Congress into a Prescription Drug Benefit for Seniors. That was good. However, with his other hand, he proposed to cut Medicaid spending by 15 Billion in his 2006 Budget (while preserving pharmaceutical windfalls against competitive bidding). The good news now, is that Senators, both Republican and Democrat are poised to stop Bush's assault on Seniors and preserve that 15 Billion for Medicare. Anyone smell 2006 elections at play here?

Bernard Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom Inc., was found guilty by a federal jury on Tuesday of fraud charges related to the $11 billion accounting scandal at the telecommunications company. Under new laws which hold corporate executives responsible for wrongdoing by their organizations, this first high profile test of the new laws spells good news for American consumers and investors as the verdict puts all CEO's, CFO's, etc. on notice: Don't play fast and loose with public investor's money.

The Washington Post reports: "Government regulators handed a major victory to utilities and cities trying to get out of exorbitant contracts they made with Enron during the power crisis of 2000-01." That is definitely good news for states, municipalities and tax payers in those areas affected by Enron's dirty tricks.

Social Security reform is going nowhere. If it is to be passed, it will have to happen this year since next year is an election year, and such a volatile issue will threaten more than a few Republican's reelection if the reform bill does not save the Social Security program intact. Though this can be viewed as good or bad news depending on one's perspective, I place it in the good section because the only reform plan on the table at the moment is replacing the Social Security plan with privatized accounts which will divert desperately needed funding for the Social Security program to the new Private Accounts plan.

A lot has happened in the last couple days on this issue. "President Bush on Tuesday brushed aside a new poll showing a lack of enthusiasm for changing Social Security and said he was just beginning his campaign for private retirement accounts" according to a Reuters Story on the 16th. In this same article:

A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that after a three-month effort to try to build support for restructuring Social Security, 35 percent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the issue. That was down from 38 percent in mid-December.

Fifty-six percent disapproved of his approach versus 52 percent in December.

Another Reuters articles reports: "President Bush said on Wednesday he would not unveil a legislative proposal anytime soon on his plan to create private accounts for Social Security because Congress would probably reject it." This is precisely the same reason the Democrats won't announce their plan, because, like Bush, they know the Republican Congress would probably reject it. Thus, there is an impasse in the making.

USA Today also reports that "President Bush conceded Wednesday that private accounts do not address the projected problems with Social Security" An Associated Press poll shows a majority of Americans don't trust Bush's handling of the Soc. Sec. reform. The article states: " Just over a third of Americans, 37 percent, approve of Bush's handling of Social Security, an Associated Press poll found." As long as the only plan on the table is Bush's privatized replacement of Social Security, there will be no legislative action taking place on this issue in the foreseeable future. This is good news so long as replacing Social Security insurance with a privatized savings plan is the only plan on the table.

The Bad

Despite the fact that USA Today reports "Americans feel strongly that good government depends on openness with the public, with seven out of 10 people concerned about government secrecy, a new poll says", AP writer, Martha Mendoza reports our government is becoming ever more secretive. She reports: Since 1998, many federal departments have been reducing the amount of information they release to the public - even as the government fields and answers more requests for information than ever, an Associated Press review has found.

The locations of stores and restaurants that have received recalled meat, the names of detainees held by the U.S. overseas and details about Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 energy policy task force are all among the records that the government isn't sharing with the public.Secrecy in government is antithetical to democracy and informed consent of the governed. More evidence that Aldous Huxley's and George Orwell's warnings about authoritarian tactics are as applicable to democracies as they are totalitarian regimes.

The Senate voted 51-49 to permit drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge Wednesday. This is a very sad day, and will mark another slip on the slippery slope of preserving nothing American if a profit can be made from it.

As was predictable, some bad boys on the global block are continuing to take advantage of America's Achilles' Heel, being tied down in Iraq. N. Korea refuses once again to rejoin talks until Bush apologizes for his remarks about N. Korea being an evil regime. Syria, while removing troops from Lebanon eventually, is doing so on its own terms and not on Bush's. Russia and India are pursuing their trade relations with Iran despite Bush's huffing and puffing. And biggest bad boy on the block threw down the gauntlet at both Bush and Taiwan as The Independent reports:

China's new "anti-secession" law authorizing the use of force against Taiwan has sent ripples of alarm throughout the region and beyond, drawing a stern reaction from the US, and casting new uncertainty on European plans to resume arms sales to Beijing.

The measure, passed unanimously yesterday by the rubber-stamp Chinese parliament, says that the mainland should use force against Taiwan if the island secedes or "if possibilities for peaceful reunification are completely exhausted".

Someone here at WB with the initials DRR reported that this would be the case back in early 2004. Invading Iraq had an opportunity cost, and Bush and America's foreign policy are now paying some very heavy prices. The US is largely impotent militarily and some of the world's bad boys know it and see opportunity that otherwise would not have opened for them.

Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article this week entitled, ' Senate near meltdown over judges'. This is very worthwhile reading as it outlines how the Senates attempt to eliminate the filibuster on judicial nominees could have huge and potentially dangerous consequences for our government and democratic process on a whole host of other issues "from consumer and environmental protections to civil liberties and the role of government in the post-9/11 era."

The Ugly

New Environmental Protection Agency rules issuing caps and allowing emissions trading by polluting corporations centers on the deadly pollutant Mercury The Christian Science Monitor reports. The new rules will permit Mercury hot spots in some heavily populated areas which can damage the brains and nervous systems of women's fetuses and young children, permanently retarding their development.

There were two very ugly stories circulating the globe this week about American torture and murder of detainees in its prosecution of its war on terror. The Boston Globe reports:

Top US Navy officials were so outraged at abusive interrogation techniques being used at the Guantanamo Bay prison in late 2002 that they considered removing Navy interrogators from the operation, according to a portion of a recent Pentagon report that has not been made public.
The Toronto Star reports in an article entitled, "26 died in U.S. custody: Report":
At least 26 prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to officials.

There was a time in America when people worked in order to support and enjoy their time with their family in relative comfort and ease. A disturbing survey reported by USA Today reports in an article entitled "Survey: Third of Americans are overworked":

Workers with children are, generally, no more likely to be severely overworked than those without. But employees with teenagers do appear under more pressure, with 40% reporting high stress levels.

In addition, 37% of workers who care of their own parents or older relatives are chronically overworked, compared to 28% of those without such responsibilities.

Job-related stress also varied by income and job responsibility, with larger numbers of managers and people earning more than $50,000 a year overworked.

This survey strikes at the heart of the middle class workforce as well as the aging workforce. And with Social Security in doubt, the fact that workers who support their parents or other elderly relatives experience significantly more stress in their work and lives, is especially poignant. Medical scientists agree that chronic stress creates additional health problems and health care expense, and can lead to premature death.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on March 17, 2005 12:12 AM.

Orwell and Huxley: Prophets still. was the previous entry in this blog.

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