Breaking news

Good:

A federal district court overturned Friday the Obama administration’s ban against women under 17 purchasing over-the-counter emergency contraception without a prescription.

Describing the restriction as “a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence” Judge Edward Korman of the District Court of Eastern New York directed the Food and Drug Administration to lift it within 30 days.

Quotes of the day

“You can’t call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security benefit cuts. The president is proposing to steal thousands of dollars from grandparents and veterans by cutting cost of living adjustments, and any congressional Democrat who votes for such a plan should be ready for a primary challenge. Social Security is the core of the progressive and Democratic legacy. The President has no mandate to cut these benefits, and progressives will do everything possible to stop him.”

— Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder

“The news that the Democratic President will be openly pushing for cuts to Social Security benefits is a profoundly disturbing shot across the bow for the progressives who called their neighbors, spent weekends knocking doors and donated millions to reelect him.”

“Let’s be clear: President Obama, when it comes to cutting Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits, over 200,000 progressive members of your own party don’t “have your back” and we are prepared to fight you every step of the way.”

— Jim Dean, Chair, Democracy for America

Bipartisan solutions

It’s one week until Obama’s budget drops, and I strongly urge you to call your senators. Tell them you want no part of the Grand Bargain. The reason you need to call them is that the Senate will pass a bipartisan bill and get a vote on the House floor, and we want to stop it. Please call today:

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest:

Here is how the DC game works:

– One side proposes to kill everyone in Kentucky and Tennessee. 15% of the public supports this (0% in Kentucky or Tennessee.)

– The other side thinks children should have enough food so they can grow up strong. (85% of the public supports this.)

– A Grand Bargain is reached in which they agree to kill everyone in Tennessee and spare the people in Kentucky, and children will get half as much food as they need.

The DC pundits will say that since everyone is angry at this, it must be the right solution because “both sides” only got part of what they want.

Desperately seeking approval

And of course the Republicans will slam Democrats with ads as “the party that wants to cut Social Security”! Krugman:

Sigh. So Obama is going with the “chained CPI” thing in his latest proposal — changing the price index used for Social Security cost adjustments. This is, purely and simply, a benefit cut.

Does it make sense in policy terms? No. First of all, there is no reason to believe that the chained index is a better measure of inflation facing seniors than the standard CPI. It’s true that the standard measure arguably understates inflation for the typical household — but seniors have a different consumption basket from the young, one that includes more medical expenses, and probably face true inflation that’s higher, not lower, than the official measure.

Anyway, it’s not as if the current level of real benefits has any sacred significance. The truth — although you’ll never hear this in Serious circles — is that we really should be increasing SS benefits. Why? Because the shift from defined-benefit pensions to defined contribution, the rise of the 401(k), has been a bust, and many older Americans will soon find themselves in dire straits. SS is the last defined-benefit pension still standing — thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for standing up to Bush — and should be strengthened, not weakened.
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Ah yes

I am so shocked that an insurance company would evade the new law!

WASHINGTON — One of the largest health insurance companies in the United States is advising insurance brokers on how to evade new mandates and benefits set to take effect next year under President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

In an email sent to brokers, the insurance giant Aetna explains how they can renew customers’ current health plans before Jan. 1, a strategy the Los Angeles Times reported this week is under consideration at other big health insurance companies.

Obamacare includes a number of new rules for health insurance plans that will become law at the beginning of next year, or whenever existing policies expire. By extending customers’ plans before then, health insurance companies and their customers can lock in health plans that don’t adhere to those rules for up to one more year.

Among the new rules this approach could skirt are requirements that health insurance cover a minimum set of benefits, prohibitions on turning away people with pre-existing conditions, bans on charging higher rates to sick people or to women, limitations on how much extra older people can be asked to pay, and rules against insurance companies refusing to renew policies.
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Obama’s grand bargain is here

It’s official, folks. The Grand Bargain is here.

Time to take action. If we don’t unleash holy hell, this will go through.

Even though I’ve been warning you for a long time, it’s still hard to believe that a Democratic president is offering up the crown jewels of Democratic policy — and for a mere pittance. We need to fight back. You can call your congressperson or the White House if you want, but it’s most useful to start with your senators. Tell them you’re not willing to starve Granny to make the Republicans happy.

We should concentrate on the Senate, because they’ll probably send a bipartisan bill to the House in order to bypass Boehner’s Hastert rule. Even if you called last week, call today. Be prepared to call every day for the next week. (Here’s the link.)

President Obama will release a budget next week that proposes significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security and fewer tax hikes than in the past, a conciliatory approach that he hopes will convince Republicans to sign onto a grand bargain that would curb government borrowing and replace deep spending cuts that took effect March 1.

Obama will break with the tradition of providing a sweeping vision of his ideal spending priorities, untethered from political realities. Instead, the document will incorporate the compromise offer Obama made to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) last December in the discussions over the “fiscal cliff” – which included $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax increases.

“The president has made clear that he is willing to compromise and do tough things to reduce the deficit,” a senior administration official said, “but only in the context of a package like this one that has balance and includes revenues from the wealthiest Americans and that is designed to promote economic growth.”

The Huffington Post has more

The specifics are as follows:

  • The budget would reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over ten years — $600 billion of this reduction would come from revenue raisers, and $1.2 trillion would come from spending reductions and entitlement reforms;
  • It would change the benefit structure of Social Security (chained-CPI);
  • It would means test additional programs in Medicare;
  • All told, it would include $400 billion in health care savings (or cuts);
  • It would cut $200 billion from other areas, identified by The New York Times as “farm subsidies, federal employee retirement programs, the Postal Services and the unemployment compensation system;”
  • It would pay for expanded access to pre-K (an Obama priority) by increasing the tobacco tax;
  • It would set limits on tax-preferred retirement accounts for the wealthy, prohibiting individuals from putting more than $3 million in IRAs and other tax-preferred retirement accounts;
  • And it would stop people from collecting full disability benefits and unemployment benefits that cover the same period of time.

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