Paul Ryan/Tom Price/GOP *do* plan to throw grandma off a cliff…after picking her pocket.

Five years ago, a PAC called “The Agenda Project” released a TV ad, warning that GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan had a plan to wipe out the current Medicare system, voucherize it with a plan where seniors would be given a flat dollar voucher amount and thrown to the wolves of a deregulated private insurance market.  Well surprise …

Read the full article here: Paul Ryan/Tom Price/GOP *do* plan to throw grandma off a cliff…after picking her pocket.

Elections Have Consequences—The 2015 Republican Agenda

—by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chairman

According to press reports, a week after the election key GOP legislators and party officials set up an ad hoc committee to begin drafting an agenda for Nevada’s 2015 legislative session. Below are a couple of dozen ideas they’ve come up with so far. If you’re one of the Democrats who voted to stay home instead of casting a ballot in the general election, here’s what you voted for:

  1. Disenfranchise all voters without photo ID’s.
  2. Repeal the Modified Business Tax, the 1.17% payroll tax that only applies to businesses with more than $62,500 in quarterly wages.
  3. Institute a school voucher program to transfer public school funding to private schools, eliminate teacher seniority rights, play teachers off against each other for bonuses, and deregulate charter schools.
  4. Allow a one-third minority to veto ballot tax measures, just as they can now in the legislature.
  5. Allow concealed firearms on school and college campuses.
  6. Nullify all local gun control laws.
  7. Demand that federal lands be “ceded back” to the state. It should be noted that Nevada never owned any of the federal lands within Nevada’s borders, and acceptance of federal jurisdiction was put into the state constitution as a condition of admission. Besides, the State of Nevada doesn’t have the money needed to manage these lands, so any cession of federal lands to the state could only mean selling them off to private interests. That wouldn’t go down very well with ranchers, who currently graze their cattle on BLM- and Forest Service-managed ranges for almost nothing.
  8. Eviscerate construction defect and product defect laws.
  9. Transfer the cost of Medicaid expansion from the government to the beneficiaries.
  10. Require proof of insurance for issuance of driver privilege cards.
  11. Restrict EBT card use “at bars, strip clubs and brothels.” This item reveals the GOP’s ignorance of existing law. The DWSS website says that EBT cards cannot be used for “any non-food item, such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, grooming items, toothpaste and cosmetics; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; vitamins and medicines; any food that will be eaten in the store; hot foods that are ready to eat; or any food marketed to be heated in the store.” It’s safe to say that these cards are not being used at bars, strip clubs or brothels, but low-information voters who listen to Republican bloviations will no doubt believe they are.
  12. Restrict Millennium Scholarships to citizens and documented aliens (dream on, dreamers).
  13. Repeal the 2013 session’s energy bill (SB123), which closed the Moapa coal-fired power plant and provided ratepayer subsidies to NV Energy for investment in renewables and natural gas.
  14. Repeal the state’s “hate crime” law (NRS 193.1675) that provides enhanced penalties for crimes targeting victims because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, color, national origin, gender identity or physical or mental disability.
  15. Enact recommendations of Gov. Gibbons’ SAGE Commission, which among other things called for reducing health and retirement benefits for state employees, closing rural prisons, privatizing urban prisons, and outsourcing highway maintenance.
  16. Convert the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, a change that will limit employees’ ability to cash out when they exit government service.
  17. Eliminate “prevailing wage” requirements for public works and school construction to depress construction wages and put union contractors at a competitive disadvantage.
  18. Resurrect the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project.
  19. Further weaken collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.
  20. Repeal the state minimum wage.
  21. Put limits on the pay of constitutional officers and their chiefs of staff.
  22. Subject confidential public employee union contract negotiations to the Open Meeting Law.
  23. Repeal Common Core education standards.
  24. Further deregulate home schooling.

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Save the USPS

by Rich Dunn, NVRDC 2nd Vice Chair 

The US Postal Service ended 2013 with a $354 million deficit, the 18th loss out of the last 21 quarters. This is entirely due to provisions in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, enacted when Republicans controlled both houses of congress and the White House. This draconian law forces the USPS to pre-pay the next 75 years’ worth of retiree healthcare costs within a 10-year window.

Republicans know that no business can operate that way, but the intent of the law was not to “enhance” the Postal Service as the name suggests. The real purpose was to force it into bankruptcy so it could be privatized, as has already happened in a number of other countries. According to the radical ideology driving these policies, competiton will lead to lower prices and better service, but things haven’t been working out that way.

In parts of the EU where postal systems have been privatized, large corporations have come out the big winners while citizens and postal workers have come out the losers. The typical pattern is for post offices to close and be replaced by counters inside of private businesses. Mail is only delivered only two or three days a week in cities, not at all in rural areas.

For postal workers, privatization has led to lower wages and more part-time and contract jobs with little job security and few or no benefits. Meanwhile, corporate customers are getting their mail picked up more frequently, often at lower cost thanks to reduced labor costs and service cutbacks to the general public.

Of course, major shareholders and C-Suite executives of postal businesses can’t believe their luck.  Even as letter mail has seen declining volumes, there are still enormous profits to be made in the mail industry thanks to the shift from brick and mortar retail stores to online shopping.

In the United States, the privatization and downsizing process has actually been going on for some time. Since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 went into effect, the Postal Service has paid its own way and has not received one cent in taxpayer subsidies. Now more than $12 billion of the USPS’s $65 billion annual budget goes to private companies like Pitney Bowes and United Parcel Service.

Part-time workers now make up over 20 percent of the workforce and the total number of USPS employees has been reduced by a third. Meanwhile over half of the processing plants have been closed and hours at many rural post offices have been drastically reduced, sometimes to just two or three hours a day. Collection boxes have been removed from the streets, the speed and reliability of mail delivery has gone down, more customers are being forced to pick up their mail at cluster boxes and lines at post offices are longer than ever.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, the US Postal Service made an operating profit of $765 million, a very healthy margin for any business that size. But thanks to the congressionally-imposed burden of paying its pension obligations forward, something no private business has ever been required to do, the Postal Service has to take $5 billion a year off its bottom line, resulting in paper losses quarter after quarter while it funds a $50 billion escrow account. This is 100% of the reason why the Postal Service continues to show a paper loss.

Fortunately there is hope on the horizon. On February 6th the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved a bi-partisan bill which would give the Postal Service more operating flexibility and lighten some of its workforce-related burdens. Not only would this bill put the Postal Service’s balance sheet on a more businesslike footing, it would also allow it to innovate in ways that would maximize its revenues while enhancing its range of services, such as selling advertising space on the 22 million stamps it sells every year or offering email, web, banking or parcel-wrapping services,

While Mark Amodei has opposed the closure of rural post offices in CD-2, he’s fine with reduced operating hours and advocates for “robust reforms to the USPS” because its paper deficits will “leave taxpayers footing the bill unless serious changes are made to the current system.” Translation: CD-2’s representative in congress is onboard with the ongoing Republican campaign to drive the USPS into oblivion. We need to get behind the efforts of Senate Democrats to rescue and revitalize our Postal Service, especially on behalf of rural communities that depend on it most.

Banksters Rip Apart Spanish Health Care

Thom Hartmann, The Daily Take | Op-Ed

Protesters demonstrate against the regional government's plans to privatize health care services in Madrid, Spain, December 9, 2012.Protesters demonstrate against the regional government’s plans to privatize health care services in Madrid, Spain, December 9, 2012. (Photo: rafa_luque)According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s latest health care rankings of the 34 most developed nations in the world, the United States ranks dead last in male life expectancy.

We also rank near the very bottom in preventing premature death, infant mortality, total health care coverage, number of practicing doctors, and preventing heart disease deaths.

But, here’s some good news (at least for those fans of Americanized health care): our world rankings might soon improve.

Not because we’re radically changing our privatized system that puts profits ahead of people’s lives. But because banksters in Europe are forcing several nations that rank ahead of us to ditch their national public health care systems, and replace them with more privatized (and profitable) American-style health care systems.

And, despite what conservatives say about how the American health care system is the envy of the rest of the world, those Europeans who are watching banksters re-make their public health care systems are outraged.

On Sunday, protests swept across Spain, with thousands of doctors, nurses, and health professionals demonstrating against new conservative austerity measures that will privatize more than 40 public hospitals and care centers.

Spain, like Greece, is indebted to the very foreign banksters who crashed their economy. And rather than telling those foreign banksters to take a hike like Iceland did, Spain’s austerity-happy government is paying off the banksters by taking money from working people through cutting socials services like health care.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy argues the health care reforms will save his nation more than $9 billion this year, which can then be given to the banksters.

But, as one protesting nurse, Emilia Becares, told France 24 News, "There is no study that shows that privatising the management of hospitals leads to lower costs. This privatisation hurts patients’ health care to benefit other interests."

Those "other interests" are, of course, the banksters and the for-profit healthcare hustlers.

The United States proves Emilia right. Privatization here has produced the highest health care costs of anywhere else in the developed world; the United States spends far more money on health care than any other OECD nation. And, although the banksters and the health care hustlers are making a fortune, average working people are dying at rates that shock the rest of the world: we rank near the bottom in health care outcomes.

So while conservative technocrats in charge of Spain are willing to use health care privatization to solve their short-term deficit woes, doing so will only make them worse over the long term.

Soon, Spanish hospitals, run for a profit, will decide if prescribing certain treatments and medical tests will boost or cut their quarterly profit goals. Spanish citizens, who used to have a right to health care, will now have to haggle with privatized corporate death panels that are more focused crunching numbers than saving lives.

As prices go up, preventative care will decline. There will be fewer visits to doctors. And the overall health of the population will plummet with the moneychangers in charge.

This means that over the long term the cost of healthcare to Spain will go up.

This is what Greece is now dealing with, since their public health care system was ripped apart by the banksters in 2011. Prior to the crisis, Greeks enjoyed complete universal health care. But when the banksters shook down the entire nation, they targeted the health care system, and told unemployed Greeks that they now have to pay for healthcare out of pocket. And if they don’t have the money, then…well…too bad.

Greek doctor, Kostas Syrigos, told the New York Times about a woman with a tumor the size of an orange that had broken through her skin because she couldn’t afford to see a doctor after the austerity cuts to health care.

Dr. Syrigos said, "Things like that are described in textbooks, but you never see them because until now; anybody who got sick in this country could always get help…In Greece right now, to be unemployed means death."

Sick and unemployed Americans face the same fate. According to a 2009 Harvard study, 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have health insurance. And half of all bankruptcies in America are due to medical bills.

Most of the public health care systems across Europe were created after World War II, as the people understood that they needed to rebuild together, and should at the very least be providing free health care to each other, too.

But, the United States, triumphant after World War II, never learned this lesson. Instead, we handed the care of our citizens off to corporations and billionaires, and are today paying dearly for it with budget-busting health care costs, sick populations, and far too many premature deaths. But our healthcare banksters, like the CEOs of United Healthcare, are literally billionaires.

And those models for health care reform across the Atlantic are now disappearing one-by-one – the latest victims of conservatives and their bankster austerity programs. But at least in places like Greece and Spain, the people are putting up a fight against these profiteers. And it’s a fight that’s long overdue in America.

We should all ask ourselves why is it that thousands are taking to the streets to defend their public health care systems in Europe, but not once has there been a legitimate rally in America to defend our privatized health care system that kills tens of thousands of American every single year. Deep down inside, we know we’re getting ripped off. Just like the Greeks and the Spaniards know they’re getting ripped off.

Let’s hope that the decision banksters made to target universal health care rights in Europe will inspire a new struggle in the United States that affirms we are indeed our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers.

— This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.


Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at his website and find out what stations broadcast his radio program. He also now has a daily independent television program, The Big Picture,  syndicated by FreeSpeech TV, RT TV, and 2oo community TV stations.  You can also listen or watch Thom over the Internet.