A Note from Lucy Flores

Flores4Congress-logoThis past weekend, as thousands of UNLV students celebrated their graduation, I reflected on how important education was in creating opportunities for me. I also remembered that overcoming the odds and becoming the first person in my family to attend college would not have been possible without financial aid to make tuition more affordable.

That’s why I’m disappointed that Crescent Hardy recently voted to make it harder for students to pay for college.

Higher education is essential to achieving the American Dream, but it’s increasingly harder to afford. And now Rep. Hardy helped Speaker Boehner and the GOP Congress pass a budget that freezes Pell Grants for a decade, meaning the class of 2025 would have to find a way to pay for an extra 10 percent of their tuition.

We need to ensure the next generation of Nevada students has the same opportunity to complete their education and reach for their dreams.

Join me in calling on Republicans in Congress to make college more affordable? Sign the petition today.

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Netanyahu Speaks, Money Talks

— by Bill Moyers, Michael Winship

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

 

Everything you need to know about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor’s gallery of one man – Sheldon Adelson.

The gambling tycoon is the Godfather of the Republican Right. The party’s presidential hopefuls line up to kiss his assets, scraping and bowing for his blessing, which when granted is bestowed with his signed checks. Data from both the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity show that in the 2012 election cycle, Adelson and his wife Miriam (whose purse achieved metaphoric glory Tuesday when it fell from the gallery and hit a Democratic congressman) contributed $150 million to the GOP and its friends, including $93 million to such plutocracy-friendly super PACs as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund, Winning Our Future (the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC) and Restore Our Future (the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC).

Yet there’s no knowing for sure about all of the “dark money” contributed by the Adelsons– so called because it doesn’t have to be reported. Like those high-rise, multi-million dollar apartments in New York City purchased by oligarchs whose identity is hidden within perfectly legal shell organizations, dark money lets our politicians conveniently erase fingerprints left by their ink-stained (from signing all those checks) billionaire benefactors.

But Sheldon Adelson was not only sitting in the House gallery on Tuesday because of the strings he pulls here in the United States. He is also the Daddy Warbucks of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu is yet another of his beneficiaries – not to mention an ideological soulmate. Although campaign finance reform laws are much more strict in Israel than here in the United States, Adelson’s wealth has bought him what the historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg calls “uniquely pernicious” influence.

Adelson owns the daily Israel Hayom, a leading newspaper, as well as Makor Roshon, the daily newspaper of Israel’s Zionist religious right and NRG, a news website. He gives Israel Hayom away for free in order to promote his hardline views – the headline in the paper the day after Obama’s re-election was “The US Voted [for] Socialism.”

More important, he uses the paper to bang the drum incessantly for Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, under the reign of which Israel has edged closer and closer to theocracy. As Hebrew University economist Momi Dahan put it: “De facto, the existence of a newspaper like Israel Hayom egregiously violates the law, because [Adelson] actually is providing a candidate with nearly unlimited resources.”

Sheldon, meet Rupert.

In fact, as Israel’s March 17 election approaches, Adelson has increased the press run of Israel Hayom’s weekend edition by 70 percent. The paper says it’s to increase circulation and advertising, but rival newspaper Ha’aretz  reports, “Political sources are convinced the extra copies are less part of a business plan and more one to help Netanyahu’s re-election bid.” Just like the timing of Netanyahu’s “State of the Union” address to Congress this week was merely a coincidence, right? “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political,” Netanyahu told Congress. “That was never my intention.” Of course.

In Gershom Gorenberg’s words, the prime minister “enjoys the advantage of having a major newspaper in his camp that portrays the world as seen from his office: a world in which Israel is surrounded by enemies, including the president of the United States; in which peace negotiations are aimed at destroying Israel; in which Israel’s left is aligned with all the hostile forces, and even rightists who oppose Netanyahu want to carry out a coup through the instrument of elections.”

So Netanyahu gets the best of both of Adelson’s worlds – his powerful propaganda machine in Israel and his campaign cash here in the United States. Combined, they allow Netanyahu to usurp American foreign policy as he manipulates an obliging US Congress enamored of Adelson’s millions, pushing it further to the right on Israel and the Middle East.

There you have it: Not only is this casino mogul the unofficial head of the Republican Party in America (“he with the gold rules”), he is the uncrowned King of Israel — David with a printing press and checkbook instead of a slingshot and a stone. All of this came to the fore in Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday: the US cannot determine its own policy in the Middle East and the majority in Congress are under the thumb of a foreign power.

Like a King Midas colossus, Sheldon Adelson bestrides the cause of war and peace in the most volatile region of the world. And this is the man who — at Yeshiva University in New York in 2013 — denounced President Obama’s diplomatic efforts with Iran and proposed instead that the United States drop an atomic bomb in the Iranian desert and then declare: “See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.”

Everything you need to know about Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor’s gallery of that man. We are hostage to his fortune.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Bill Moyers

Journalist Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Moyers on Democracy, and Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason.He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books.

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America-East, was senior writer for Moyers & Company and Bill Moyers’ Journal and is senior writer of BillMoyers.com.

Paul Ryan’s Budget Makes Wild New Claims About Obamacare

— BY IGOR VOLSKY, ThinkProgressPaul Ryan

CREDIT: AP

As Obama administration moves closer to meeting it original goal of enrolling 7 million people in the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance marketplaces, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has released a budget that repeals the law and asks Congress to “pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers.”

And while this new Fiscal Year 2015 budget borrows heavily from previous versions, the April 1st release is far more critical of Obamacare. In a possible preview of the GOP’s election-year rhetoric, this year, Ryan warns — in almost apocalyptic terms — that the law “will undermine the private insurance” and “the competitive forces of the marketplace.” He even argues that it would “eventually lead to a single-payer system.” Here is a comparison between last year’s blueprint and Tuesday’s release:

Fiscal Year 2014: Repeal the health-care law’s exchange subsidies

The new law couples these subsidies with a mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance and bureaucratic controls on the types of insurance that may legally be offered. Taken together, these provisions will weaken the private-insurance market. Exchange subsidies take the health-care market in the wrong direction, breaking what’s working at a time when policymakers need to fix what’s broken. Government mandates will drive out all but the largest insurance companies. Punitive tax penalties will force individuals to purchase coverage whether they want it or not. Further, the law does not condone any policy that would require entities or individuals to finance activities or make health decisions that violate their religious beliefs.

This budget repeals the President’s onerous health-care law. Instead of putting health-care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, Congress should pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers.

Fiscal Year 2015: Repeal the Exchange Subsidies Created by the New Health-Care Law.

The new law couples these subsidies with a mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance and bureaucratic controls on the types of insurance that may legally be offered. Taken together, these provisions will undermine the private insurance market, which serves as the backbone of the current U.S. health-care system. Exchange subsidies will undermine the competitive forces of the marketplace. Government mandates will drive out all but the largest insurance companies. Punitive tax penalties will force individuals to purchase coverage whether they choose to or not. Further, this budget does not condone any policy that would require entities or individuals to finance activities or make health decisions that violate their religious beliefs. This budget provides for the repeal of the President’s onerous health-care law for this and many other reasons.

Left in place, the health law will create pressures that will eventually lead to a single-payer system in which the federal government determines how much health care Americans need and what kind of care they can receive. This budget recommends repealing the architecture of this new law, which puts health- care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, and instead allowing Congress to pursue patient centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers.

Interestingly, while Ryan goes to great lengths to criticize the ACA’s “government mandates” and the supposed decision to leave “health- care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats,” he praises this very same kind of government-control elsewhere in the budget.

For instance, in discussing his plan to allow future retirees the choice of private insurance through his “premium support” proposal, Ryan promises that “the Medicare program and its benefits will remain as they are, without change.” For future retirees, Ryan proposes an Obamacare-like exchange that will feature private insurers providing Medicare-like plans. However, Ryan tasks the government with policing the plans private insurers offer “to avoid cherry-picking, and to ensure that Medicare’s sickest and highest-cost beneficiaries receive coverage.” Just four pages earlier, Ryan criticizes such government intervention in the exchanges.

Republicans have already voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in full or in part at least 51 times and on Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doubled down on his commitment to hold more repeal votes. “House Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law and protect families and small businesses from its harmful consequences,” he said. “We will also continue our work to replace this fundamentally-flawed law with patient-centered solutions focused on lowering health care costs and protecting jobs.” House leadership has also pledged to introduce a unified alternative to the health care law, although they have not provided a timeline for drafting or debating that measure.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

22 Congressmen Demand Keeping Sequestration Budget Cuts That Leave Kids Out Of Classrooms And The Elderly Out Of Food

by Bryce Covert

Fiscal Cliff

Three Republican Representatives, Mick Mulvaney (SC), Jim Jordan (OH), and Steve Scalise (LA), sent a letter on Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) advocating to keep spending in any agreement that results from the current budget conference at the sequestration level of $967 billion in 2014. Their letter has 19 other signatures so far and lawmakers can sign un until Monday.

Claiming that Democrats “want the diversion of another shutdown” to deflect from the troubles with Obamacare, they write, “[W]e encourage you to allow a vote as soon as practicable on a full-year ‘clean CR’ funding bill at the levels established in law by the Budget Control Act,” which set sequestration’s automatic cuts and “is the law of the land.” It also says, “Our Democrat colleagues are now threatening to shut the government down in order to change that. We should not permit that to happen.”

Other Republicans have been worried about sequestration’s cuts, particularly to defense spending. Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and  introduced a bill this week that aimed to cancel sequestration cuts to the Department of Defense for the next two years. And Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) negotiations with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) look set to yield a higher spending level closer to $1 trillion for next year, which would cancel sequestration’s cuts to programs while keeping its deficit reduction through higher revenues from increased fees. “Most Republicans — conservatives and moderates alike — are hoping Ryan and Murray succeed, because they believe sequester level spending is unsustainable,” Jake Sherman writes in Politico.

But Mulvaney, Jordan, and Scalise aren’t the only Republicans who have come out in favor of keeping sequestration. While Republicans originally tried to pin the blame for the cuts on President Obama, at least eight others have said that they’re a good way to cut the budget and something they want to keep. House Republicans also released a budget plan in July with even deeper cuts, although when it came time to implement the specifics so many balked that it didn’t get a vote. Yet they again made sequestration a baseline leading up to the government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution at those levels in the House.

Sequestration’s damage had a wide-ranging effect this year, impacting the elderly, cancer patients, low-income renters, domestic violence survivors, the homeless, preschool and K-12 students, scientists, the long-term unemployed, and Department of Defense workers, among others. It also reduced economic growth and consumer spending. Yet things get even worse next year if the cuts stay in place, as many of the accounting gimmicks and emergency measures departments took to dampen the blow will no longer be available. The damage compounds the longer the cuts go on. On the other hand, the deficit would look better if the cuts were cancelled and the economy could add as many as 1.6 million jobs and 1.2 percent to GDP growth.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.