Friday, February 04, 2005

Public Health Slashed In Bush's New Budget

My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all.
This one little bit of the State of the Union address bothered me a little bit. Not because I don't agree that taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely or not at all. That's a pretty solid principle, I'd say. But I'm pretty sure that the Dubya and I probably disagree on what kind of programs reflect money 'spent wisely'.

Turns out my concern was more than amply justified.

From this morning's New York Times:

Bush Budget Calls for Cuts in Health Services

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 - President Bush's budget for 2006 cuts spending for a wide range of public health programs, including several to protect the nation against bioterrorist attacks and to respond to medical emergencies, budget documents show.

Faced with constraints on spending caused by record budget deficits and the demands of the war in Iraq, administration officials said on Friday that they had increased the budget for some health programs but cut many others, including some that address urgent health care needs.
For your convenience, I've itemized some of the cuts to public health that will make way for the removal of the 'security' provision from Social Security and more tax cuts...

* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- cut by 9 percent, to $6.9 billion

* CDC's public health emergency fund (prepares state and local agencies for bio-attacks) -- cut by 12.6%, to $1 billion

* Department of Health and Human Services 2005 discretionary spending -- cut by 2.4%, to $68 billion

* Public Health Service's preventive health program targeting chronic diseases -- cut by 6.5% percent, to $841 million

* Federal block grants for state preventive health programs -- eliminated

* National Institutes of Health -- increase of 0.7%, to $28.7 billion
(However, according to the Times, this does not "keep pace with the costs of biomedical research, which are rising more than 3.5 percent a year.")

* Training for dentists, nurses, and other health professionals -- cut by 64% percent, to $160.5 million

* Training for doctors at children's hospitals -- cut by 33%, to $201 million

* Treatment for traumatic brain injuries -- eliminated

* Collection of stem cells from umbilical cord blood -- eliminated
(This one is especially troubling since the use of umbilical stem cells is seen by many as a compromise between embryonic stem cell research and no stem cell research at all.)

To be fair, there is one area in which Bush is raising the budget. In the State of the Union address, he promised "a community health center in every poor county." The budget for this initiative will be increased by 17.5%, to $2 billion. My only problem with this is that the administration claims these community health centers will serve 16.4 million people. Unfortunately, $2 billion in healthcare spread out over 16.4 million people only winds up being a paltry $122 per person.

But I guess with a budget like this, so hostile to public health in general, we should take what we can get.

posted by Scott | 2/04/2005 | |

Simon's Out, Endorsing Dean

As I said the other day, were Simon Rosenberg to drop out of the race for DNC chair, I would support Dean. Well, Simon's out and he's endorsed Dean, making my pick of Dean that much easier. Here's the full text of his statement, via

"Effective today, I am ending my campaign for chair of the Democratic National Committee. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to share my vision with Democrats around the country, and I remain encouraged by the depth and thoughtfulness DNC members have brought to this important process of picking our next chair.

Today, I am endorsing Governor Howard Dean to be the next Chairman of the DNC. While we have not always agreed on every issue, I believe his passion for our Party, his remarkable fighting spirit, his direct and powerful way of speaking, and his commitment to bringing regular people back into our Party will allow him to revitalize our Party and help us win again in the 21st century.

I call upon my supporters, and Democrats from all parts of the Party and all parts of the country, to join me in supporting Governor Howard Dean as the next DNC chair.

Though my campaign is ending, my work and my commitment to the Party that I love will continue at NDN. There I will continue to focus on the three priorities for our Party that I spelled out in the campaign - crafting a better agenda for our Party, investing in and building a better infrastructure for our politics, and leading a new national commitment to nurturing the grassroots. If we can do these three things and do them well in the years ahead, we can once again become a vibrant, dynamic and winning Party.

Finally, I want to thank my staff and my supporters across the country. Their faith in me inspired me each day to fight just a little harder in this important and tough race."
The hegemony of entrenched Democratic consultants is over. James Carville has been reportedly freaking out over the fact that actual Democrats -- voters, not monied Washington consultants -- are now in charge of the party. Sorry, James.

You guys thought the Gingrich Revolution was something?

Just you wait.

posted by Scott | 2/04/2005 | |

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bush Admits Privatization Won't Help Social Security

I've been saying it for months. Hell, I know Republicans who have been saying it for months. The White House kept making the case that they needed to partially privatize Social Security because it was going to go bankrupt. Only problem there is that partial privatization puts Social Security into worse shape than it might be now. As I said to my Republican father when he asked what my take on it was, it's akin to fixing a sprained ankle by smashing your wrist with a sledgehammer. He seemed inclined to agree. And now... laughably... so does the White House. From the LA Times, emphasis mine:

Bush added new details to his proposal for individual accounts, under which workers could direct some of the taxes now paid for Social Security to mutual funds investing in stocks and bonds.

In a significant shift in his rationale for the accounts, Bush dropped his claim that they would help solve Social Security's fiscal problems — a link he sometimes made during last year's presidential campaign. Instead, he said the individual accounts were desirable because they would be "a better deal," providing workers what he said would be a higher rate of return and "greater security in retirement."

A Bush aide, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, was more explicit, saying that the individual accounts would do nothing to solve the system's long-term financial problems.

That candid analysis, although widely shared by economists, distressed some Republicans.
So the cat is out of the bag. Private accounts, personal accounts, or whatever you want to call them -- it's the same thing and the GOP looks increasingly silly demanding semantic compliance -- are not part of an agenda designed to shore up Social Security. They are the end product of a decades-long effort by the right to gut the most successful and popular program ever instituted by liberals in America.

posted by Scott | 2/03/2005 | |

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

My Notes On The SOTU

"...a free and sovereign Iraq"

Freedom from fear? Freedom from want? Hardly. But they're getting there.
And sovereign? Again, hardly. But getting there.

* * * * *

"cut the deficit in half by 2009"

This is a lie. He wants to cut the deficit AS CURRENTLY PROJECTED FOR 2009 in half. Not cut the deficit to a number that is half of what it currently is, which is clearly the way it sounds.

* * * * *

"frivolous asbestos claims"

But are they all frivolous? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

* * * * *

"association health plans for small businesses and their employees"

They tried this. It doesn't work.

* * * * *

"medical liability reform... will reduce health care costs"

No, it won't. Insurance companies ceasing to screw around with malpractice premiums in risky investments will reduce health care costs. Taking away the right of repeat offender quacks to continue practicing will reduce health care costs. In the short term, reimporting drugs from Canada will reduce health care costs.

* * * * *

"The system, however, on its current path, is headed toward bankruptcy."

No. No, it's not.

* * * * *

"the system is sound and fiscally strong"

Oops. As far as I can tell, the only 'prompter screw up for the night.

* * * * *

"Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before."

Maybe. But it was designed to do that when fixes were made in the early 80's. It's okay. We'll make some more tweaks and fix it again. But someone still needs to explain to me how private accounts fix this.

* * * * *

"By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt."

Not so fast, Captain Fuzzy Math.

* * * * *

"Social Security collapsing"

Social Security is not collapsing.

* * * * *

"But we have to move ahead with courage and honesty, because our children's retirement security is more important than partisan politics."

That's right. And it's also more important than an ideological goal that the GOP has been pursuing for decades.

* * * * *

"Here is why personal accounts are a better deal. Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver"

Not "will"... but "could". Big, big, big diference.

* * * * *

"We will make sure there are good options to protect your investments from sudden market swings on the eve of your retirement."

And how much is that going to cost?

* * * * *

"It is time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young Americans."

Wooo... Three GOP happy words all at once. I'm impressed!

* * * * *

"I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation..."

Now THAT is interesting. Embyonic stem cell research does not need embryos created for experimentation. Millions of embyos are discared from fertility clinics every year -- just thrown in the trash. Is Bush saying that these embryos can be used for stem cell research? That's what advocates of stem cell research have been calling for. He definitely left the option open. Good for him, if he's really going to make the case for not wasting embryos.

* * * * *

"In America we must make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit - so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction. Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases, because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side."

Good. Like all things, I'll wait to see it actually happen, but for now, good. But the 'competent lawyers' thing is a little weird coming from a former Governor of Texas, with that state's dicey history of shoddy legal protection for the accused. Then again, maybe that makes it even more credible.

* * * * *

"In the three and a half years since September 11th, 2001, we have taken unprecedented actions to protect Americans. We have created a new department of government to defend our homeland, focused the FBI on preventing terrorism, begun to reform our intelligence agencies, broken up terror cells across the country, expanded research on defenses against biological and chemical attack, improved border security, and trained more than a half million first responders. "

Notice no mention of port security? Excuse me if I'm just sensitive, living in New Jersey and all.

* * * * *

How does this:

"Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and nine other countries have captured or detained al-Qaida terrorists. In the next four years, my Administration will continue to build the coalitions that will defeat the dangers of our time."

Square with this:

"America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."


I guess this is the bridge?

"The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

Too bad neither of those countries are doing nearly enough.

* * * * *

"Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian accountability Act - and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the
door to freedom."

Oooh... So that's what all of those permanent American military bases are for in Iraq...

* * * * *

"Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home."

I understand this logic quite well, but I still think it's a mistake to use our troops as human fly paper.

* * * * *

The ink on the finger of Safia Taleb al-Suhail, quite faded, is a mark she fought for and earned. The ink on the fingers of GOP Congressmen, bright blue and applied in an oppulent American government building, is a damned mockery.

* * * * *

The parents of Marine Corps Sgt. Byron Norwood deserved the biggest applause of the evening for their sacrifice. I'm happy to say they got it.

* * * * *

Eh. Good speech. Pretty inarguable except for the stuff about Social Security and legal reform, which I of course thought was bunk. But good, inarguable stuff overall.

But the stuff that was arguable? Really arguable.

posted by Scott | 2/02/2005 | |

Ink Stains

This is nothing short of obscene...

Congressional Republicans are reportedly planning to show up at tonight's State of the Union address with purple ink on their fingers to send the message that they support Iraqi voters.
Now, I have no problem with a show of support for Iraqi voters. As a matter of fact, I posted one of my own here not too long ago. But this display of partisan idiocy really grates on me.

Those ink stains aren't magnetic ribbons or lapel pins. They are real badges of honest to God courage. The Iraqi voters who braved extremely hostile conditions and threats of death from terrorist thugs earned the ink stains they held up proudly for the world to see. There were at least 38 voters killed on election day. Iraqis put their lives on the line for the chance to vote. They put their lives on the line to earn their ink stains.

What the hell did the Congressional Republicans do to earn theirs?

posted by Scott | 2/02/2005 | |

Is It Over?

From Chris Bowers at MyDD:

It appears to be over. On the eve of the State of the Union Address we had hoped we would never witness, Howard Dean seems to have won the race for DNC chair. With Frost dropping out and congratulating Dean, with Leland and Webb dropping out and endorsing Dean, with a 6-1 lead in endorsements over the remaining candidates combined, with Rosenberg "considering his options," with the Fowler blow-up at the ASDC, with the blogosphere Roemer take down, I can no longer see a way that Dean does not win this thing. I can barely believe it. It looks like we finally won something.
There is further evidence from Burnt Orange Report that Rosenberg and Roemer will be officially out by tomorrow.

After another e-mail from said source, I am willing to put my weight behind it that Roemer and Rosenberg are out of the race and it is just a matter of time before this hits the public media and confirmations pop up here in the blogosphere.
It seems that the Rosenberg decision has been made, but there has been no official confirmation of it from the Simon for Chair camp.

Well, if Simon is out, then I'm throwing my support to Dean. Roemer has been too hostile to too many people and Donnie Fowler's been an underhanded schmuck during this whole campaign. First, Donnie flat out lied and announced that the ASDC had endorsed him when they had done no such thing. And tonight, Donnie is the one who announced that Rosenberg and Roemer dropped out of the race on his blog. I did not want to believe it until I heard it from Rosenberg himself, but it seems that there is enough corroboration now for me to accept it as fact. But I'm still really pissed that this is the way I'm finding out.

Anyway, I really would like to see Simon take a serious leadership role in the DNC. Dean as DNC chair will be largely a figurehead, I believe, and a serious manager is needed to actually run the party (an argument Garance Franke-Ruta has made quite effectively at The American Prospect). For all of the reasons I endorsed Simon for chair, I believe that this is the job for him.

If nothing else, I wish Dean the best. He's got his work cut out for him. And as for Simon Rosenberg, even if he doesn't wind up in a leadership position with the DNC, I'm pretty excited to see what he does with his newly heightened profile at the New Democrat Network.


As Daniel has been shouting, Simon is not out of the running for the DNC chair.

Rosenberg spokesman Guillermo Meneses said: "We're talking to our friends and supporters. Simon is listening to their guidance and advice. At this point, we're moving forward."
So they're "moving forward" but "talking to our friends and supporters." Hmmm...

As it stands now, Dean is the clear favorite, especially since he just won the endorsement of the UAW, Donnie Fowler is not endearing himself to anybody, but he's still in, Roemer is still very much running, and Simon is "moving forward."

Let me reiterate my disgust with Fowler and my unwillingness to support Roemer. I'm still behind Rosenberg, but I'd be perfectly fine with a Dean win as long as Rosenberg is given some sort of power, as many have speculated could be the case.

posted by Scott | 2/02/2005 | |

Monday, January 31, 2005

A Fundamental Flaw In Bush's Social Security Privatization Plan

By now, you've all been made aware of the GOP playbook on Social Security privatization leaked from the recent pow wow in West Virginia. I haven't read it yet as I haven't had the time.

However, Matt Yglesias, who gets paid to have the time, has read it and found some enjoyment in one of the proposed speeches that's designed to win over older voters to the phase-out argument.

I also note an interesting piece of polling data included in the GOP game plan. They say you should ask the old folks to raise their hands if they think the economy will grow as rapidly (or more) over the next 75 years as it has over the past 75 years. According to the GOP planners, people who say "yes" are likely to support ending Social Security. Interestingly, if the economy grows as quickly over the next 75 years as it has over the past 75 years, Social Security isn't even close to being in trouble -- it'll be running huge surplus from now 'till the end of time.'s good to know that popular support for the Republican plan is intimately tied to people having beliefs about the future that, according to the two parties' shared premises, are totally false.
You're absolutely right, Matt. That is good to know.

I only hope that people are paying close enough attention to see the silliness inherent in this argument for the phase out of Social Security.

posted by Scott | 1/31/2005 | |

Sunday, January 30, 2005


DemWatch will be keeping an eye on 2008 as the race heats up (or gets started, rather). In the meantime, I've updated my links to include some sites for possible 2008 contenders as well as some blogs covering the upcoming primary battles much closer than I have been.

That said, TIME is already wading into the muck to review the contenders. Here's the short version.

John Kerry - Wants another shot, but will not be unopposed.
Wesley Clark - Reaching out to supporters, ready to make a more serious run.
Joe Biden - Almost ran in '04, may run in '08.
Mark Warner - Raising his profile while considering a run.
Bill Richardson - Very interested in running, he's making himself very visible.
Evan Bayh - Definitely running as he's assembling a fundraising team.
John Edwards - Could be a tough sell as he didn't impress some in the '04 race.
Hillary Clinton - Definitely leads in name recognition, but can she win a national race?

Seems like a pretty good preliminary roster to me, but I think it's too thin and much too Senator-heavy. Special attention should be paid to Southern Democratic Governors Easley (NC) and Bredesen (TN). I'll let TIME off the hood for now, though. It will be another two years until this thing starts in earnest, after all.

posted by Scott | 1/30/2005 | |

On The Iraqi Election

The expected voter turnout of 57% was apparently exceeded today in the Iraqi election, though no one is clear by how much. The Bush administration is claiming this as a success and they've got it partly right. It's a success, but it doesn't belong to George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, or any of the other architects of this cockamamie war. The success belongs entirely to the Iraqi people who, in a truly inspiring act, risked life and limb to vote in the free-est (if far from perfect) election they've ever known.

I don't completely agree with Armando, who's called the election "an exercise in pretty pictures," but I definitely know where he's coming from. There are stories like these:

Civilians and policemen danced with joy at one of the five polling stations where photographers were allowed, and some streets were packed with voters walking shoulder-to-shoulder to vote. The elderly made their way, hobbling on canes or riding wheelchairs; one elderly woman was pushed along on a wooden cart, another man carried a disabled 80-year-old on his back.
But the Iraqi election -- as with most matters these days in Iraq -- is a complex situation, with good news tempered by sad realities:

Insurgents seeking to wreck the vote struck polling stations with a string of suicide bombings and mortar volleys, killing at least 44 people, including nine attackers.
Polls were largely deserted all day in many cities of the Sunni Triangle north and west of the capital, particularly Fallujah, Ramadi and Beiji. In Baghdad's mainly Sunni Arab area of Azamiyah, the neighborhood's four polling centers did not open at all, residents said.
As much as I didn't think we should go to war in Iraq, I was always a critic of cutting and running. The United States 'broke' Iraq in early 2003 and we were responsible for fixing it. To a certain extent, we have fixed things, at least to a point where a democratic election could be held. But in far too many other ways, we've broken Iraq even more in the months since the invasion.

As much as I want to believe that Iraq's newborn democracy should be defended from those who wish to smother it in the cradle, a liberal democracy must be able to stand on its own two feet. Otherwise, it runs the risk of appearing to be a puppet regime. And I overwhelmingly agree with Senator Kennedy when he says that "[t]he U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution."

The vote has been held. It's time to get out.

posted by Scott | 1/30/2005 | |
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