S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Good news to begin your week from Ezra Klein - "Wonkbook" at the Washington Post: Government shutdown delayed.

One of my TV pundit favorites is Ezra Klein, a wunderkind bright as a shiny new copper penny. His blog is a roundup of the latest news items that are of particular interest to me, as a Progressive. His site has a good blog-roll and lots of good hot links. Here is a sample of his current work. Enjoy.
Amplify’d from
At least for a few weeks. Late on Friday, House GOP leadership unveiled a two-week extension of government funding that cuts $4 billion -- but only goes after programs President Obama targeted for elimination in his budget. For Democrats, that's good enough. Reid spokesman Jon Summers, in a statement that should be taught in political flack school as an example of how to attack your opponent while agreeing with the reasonable compromise measure they've offered, said, "We are encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures like cuts to border security, cancer research and food safety inspectors and instead moving closer to Democrats' position that we should cut government spending in a smart, responsible way that targets waste and excess while keeping our economy growing."
And it doesn't bridge the two essential arguments between the Republicans and the Democrats, which are how much spending to cut, and where it should come from. So we can't yet say that disaster is averted. But it is, at the least, delayed.
Events in the Midwest and Middle East could affect the recovery, report Neil Irwin and Michael Fletcher: "Just when the economic recovery seemed to gain momentum, two new threats have emerged that could undermine it. One has flared in the Midwest, the other in the Middle East. The standoff over benefits for public employees in Wisconsin, pitting Gov. Scott Walker (R) against unions and their Democratic allies, presages battles in many state capitals that could lead to hundreds of thousands of public jobs being cut nationwide...Budget cutting is already taking a greater toll than analysts had expected, according to figures released Friday by the Commerce Department...Political turmoil in Libya and other Arab nations, meanwhile, has driven the price of oil up 14 percent this week and is already starting to mean higher prices for American consumers at the gasoline pump. The price spike could buffet global financial markets if the upheaval spreads further."
Still to come: The Senate is taking up patent reform -- and it's proving surprisingly contentious; regulators asre beginning to define what count as 'essential benefits' on the health-care law; governors disagree on how flexible to make health care reform; there is little evidence that public workers are overpaid; the EPA emerges from the short-term spending bill unscathed; and the gritty, live-action Archie movie.
Even Republicans like budget director Jack Lew, reports Lori Montgomery: "At 27, Jacob J. Lew helped save Social Security. At 41, he helped cut a deal to balance the federal budget. During the Clinton administration, he became the only White House budget director in a generation to banish deficit spending. In a city suddenly crawling with would-be deficit-busters, even some Republicans recognize Lew as the real deal. 'You guys did an absolutely magnificent job of managing the nation's fiscal affairs,' Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) gushed when Lew, in his second stint as White House budget director, appeared last week before the House Budget Committee. 'It's true it was a Republican Congress, but give credit where credit is due. You guys did a great job.' Now President Obama has asked Lew to work that magic again."
Texas' education cuts show the cost of austerity, writes Paul Krugman: "In low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average. But wait -- how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? Well, a couple of years into his presidency the truth about that miracle came out: Texas school administrators achieved low reported dropout rates the old-fashioned way -- they, ahem, got the numbers wrong."
Regulators are starting to debate what constitutes "essential care", reports Avery Johnson: "Maggie Haslam's five-year-old autistic son, Drew, has undergone intense behavioral, physical and speech therapy that helped him learn to dress himself and communicate such concepts as 'over' and 'under.' The therapy greatly helped Drew, said Ms. Haslam, a public-relations agent in Silver Spring, Md. But was it essential? The next big issue for the federal health law as it moves toward implementation is how regulators will define so-called essential benefits—the basic medical services that health plans must cover under the law. The legislation gives 10 categories of care that plans must provide for customers of the health-insurance exchanges that are launching in 2014. But the law leaves details up to regulators, who are now starting to develop the rules."
More than half of all states want permission to cuts hundreds of thousands from their Medicaid rolls:
Arne Duncan is urging states to avoid education cuts;
A product safety database could be killed in House cuts, reports Lyndsey Layton: "The first-ever government database of product safety complaints, which is scheduled to go public in two weeks, could be scrapped as a result of a budget amendment offered by a freshman member of the House. As part of the spending bill that passed the House on Feb. 19, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) won support for a measure to withhold money to implement the system, which is set to launch March 11. The database, which was welcomed by consumer advocates, would make public thousands of complaints received by the Consumer Product Safety Commission each year about safety problems with products, from table lamps to baby strollers."
The GOP's short-term spending bill does not target the EPA, reports Andrew Restuccia: "The short-term spending bill released Friday by House Republicans does not include language to block funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rules or slash the agency’s budget. The continuing resolution (CR) would fund the government for two weeks while lawmakers work out a longer-term spending bill to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year. The Republican proposal would cut current spending by $4 billion. Democrats said Friday they were 'encouraged' by the proposal. The House passed earlier this month a broad continuing resolution that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The measure, which would cut current spending by $61 billion, includes a provision to block funding for EPA climate regulations."

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