Too Bad About The Rest Of Us
I saw a lady from Arizona on social media pointing out that she feels “tricked” by Kyrsten Sinema for whom she voted in 2018. There’s a lesser-of-two evils argument that could have been made to vote for Sinema in 2018 but there is no valid reason to claim Sinema “tricked” anyone, although many people have tried to. Her House voting record was hardly hidden.
Overall, she had the single worst voting record of any Democrat in Congress for her years in the House. There were always some Republicans voting for progressively than she did. In fact, that’s exactly why Chuck Schumer picked her for the Senate seat. In 2013, 6 months into her freshman year, we already noted she was the worst freshman and talked about all the bills she had already betrayed voters on. A few months after that, we were calling for a primary opponent for her— and that was long before she became the chair of the Blue Dog caucus. This blog is filled with years of tidbits like this:
Thanks to a tiny gaggle of reactionary Blue Dogs, Boehner's latest attempt to gut the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection can be called "bipartisan." H.R.1195 passed yesterday, 235-183, with 5 Republicans voting for the interests of their constituents and 4 faux-Democrats crossing the aisle in the other direction and voting with Wall Street and the GOP. The bill was sponsored by Bob Pittenger (R-NC), and among the co-sponsors was right-wing Arizona Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema. The bill itself wasn't that controversial, but it includes an amendment that would cut the CFPB's budget by $45 million over the next five years and $100 million over the next decade. The Democrats who voted with the GOP yesterday:
• Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE)
• Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
• Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
• Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
She’s always been a Wall Street shill. Only voters who preferred to blinker themselves and to not pay attention were unaware of that. And now she’s working with the Republicans to further gut the already gutted reconciliation bill for which votes begin tomorrow. It was always clear that Sinema would let Manchin do the heavy lifting on destroying the bill— and then move in to kill whatever was left that wasn’t Wall Street friendly.
What Sinema is gunning for is the Democrats desire to end the carried interest loophole (preferential tax treatment). This is strictly for the kind of private equality funds that have been financing her ugly political career and who have made her personally wealthy while she’s been in the Senate. She is willing to tank the whole bill if that provision isn’t removed. The Patriotic Millionaires wrote that “Sinema’s defense of this indefensible loophole is astounding. The few thousand private equity fund managers who take advantage of the carried interest loophole are some of the wealthiest people on the planet who have been paying less in taxes than working people for decades. They don’t need or deserve any kind of tax breaks. Sinema is the only Senate Democrat standing in the way of the Inflation Reduction Act’s changes to the carried interest loophole. If reports of her demands are accurate, it’s clear that she has decided to throw her constituents under the bus to posture for a multi-million dollar payout from private equity when she leaves the Senate. Sinema has spent her entire term in the Senate essentially interviewing for a job with the private equity industry. She’s sold her vote to private equity billionaires, and unless Democrats stand up to her, she’s about to close the deal.”
Bernie isn’t thrilled with the Schumer-Manchin package either— but he’s not going to tank the bill which includes things he sees as important to the American people even if imperfect. He hopes to offer a series of amendments to make the package better, although I’m sure he knows that none will be adopted. Voters like much of the bill, not exactly Sinema, a raging sociopath, cares anything about.
On the floor of the Senate Wednesday, Bernie said reminded his colleagues that mistrust in government is rampant and that “All of this speaks to a very dangerous moment for American democracy and resembles the conditions that existed in Europe in the 1920s and early 1930s which led to fascism and totalitarianism… [W]hile working families are falling further and further behind economically the billionaire class through their super-PACs are doing everything they can to elect members of Congress who will support the wealthy and the powerful against the needs of average Americans. The people of this country believe, in my view correctly, that we have a corrupt political system dominated by the rich and the powerful and we have a rigged economy in which large corporations are seeing huge profits while the middle class and working families continue to decline.”
[L]et me very briefly tell you what was in the original Build Back Better bill which is not in the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.
And everyone of the provisions that I’m going to mention has overwhelming support from the American people according to poll after poll after poll.
At a time when the United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major nation on earth, this bill does not extend the $300 a month per child tax credit that you had last year.
If you are a parent today paying $15,000 a year for childcare, the average cost in America, this bill ignores that crisis completely and does absolutely nothing for you.
And, of course unlike the original Build Back Better plan this bill does not provide free and universal Pre-K.
At a time when 45 million Americans are struggling to pay student debt and when hundreds of thousands of young people every year are unable to afford a higher education this bill does nothing to help them. The original Build Back Better plan provided 2 years of free education at community colleges. Not enough, but an effort to begin addressing the crisis of higher education in this country. Needless to say, this bill ignores that issue completely.
If you are an elderly American, one of the millions who are unable to afford to go to a dentist or buy the hearing aids or eyeglasses that you need, this bill does nothing to expand Medicare to cover these basic healthcare needs. Millions of seniors will continue to have rotten teeth and lack the dentures, hearing aids or eyeglasses that they deserve.
Further, at a time when millions of elderly and disabled Americans would prefer to stay in their homes rather than be forced into nursing homes, this bill does absolutely nothing to address the home healthcare crisis in America. We will continue to lack the decent-paid staffing that we need to address this crisis.
Everybody agrees that we have a major housing crisis in this country. Some 600,000 people are homeless sleeping out on streets across the country. In addition, nearly 18 million households are spending an incredible 50 percent of their incomes for housing. Yep, you guessed it. This bill does nothing to address the major housing crisis that we face or build one unit of safe and affordable housing. Just another issue that we push aside.
Madam President, one of the criticisms against the original Build Back Better plan is that it would be inflationary because it would increase federal spending. That criticism is untrue. Every nickel spent in this bill would be fully paid for by increased taxes on the wealthy and large corporations. Unlike the recently passed micro-chip corporate welfare bill that adds $79 billion to the federal deficit, unlike the proposed military budget that came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee which would increase defense spending by $45 billion more than the Pentagon even requested, Build Back Better would not have increased the deficit at all.
Now, Madam President, let me say a few words about what is in this legislation, a bill which has some good features, but also some very bad features.
The good news, Madam President, is that the reconciliation bill finally begins to lower the outrageous price of some of the most expensive prescription drugs under Medicare.
According to the most recent data, if we do nothing, Medicare will spend about $1.8 trillion over the next decade on prescription drugs and our nation, as a whole, will spend $5 trillion. That is simply unsustainable.
But, Madam President: here’s the bad news.
The prescription drug provisions in this bill are extremely weak, they are extremely complex, they take too long to go into effect and they go nowhere near far enough to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry whose greed is literally killing Americans.
Under this legislation, Medicare, for the first time in history, would be able to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the negotiated prices would not go into effect until 2026– 4 years from now.
Further, in 2026, only 10 drugs would be negotiated with more to come in later years.
Moreover, with the possible exception of insulin, this bill does nothing to lower prescription drug prices for anyone who is not on Medicare.
Under this bill, at a time when the pharmaceutical companies are making outrageous profits, the pharmaceutical industry will still be allowed to charge the American people, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
M. President, if we are really serious about reducing the price of prescription drugs we know exactly how we can do it.
For over 30 years, the VA has been negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry to lower the price of prescription drugs. Moreover, for decades, virtually every major country on earth has done exactly the same thing for all of their people.
The result: Medicare pays twice as much for the exact same prescription drugs as the VA and Americans, in some cases may pay ten times as much for a particular drug as the people of any major country on earth.
In other words, when it comes to reducing the price of prescription drugs under Medicare– we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
We could simply require Medicare to pay no more for prescription drugs than the VA.
And, Madam. President, if we did that, we could literally cut the price of prescription drugs under Medicare in half in a matter of months, not years. In February, I introduced legislation with Senator Klobuchar that would accomplish that goal.
Under that legislation, we could save Medicare $900 billion over the next decade. That is nine times more savings than the rather weak negotiation provision in this bill. And, by the way, that money could be used to add comprehensive dental, vision and hearing benefits to every senior in America. It could be used to lower the Medicare eligibility age to at least 60. And it could be used to extend the solvency of Medicare.
What are the other prescription drug provisions in the reconciliation bill?
Well, under this legislation, pharmaceutical companies would essentially be prohibited from increasing prescription drug prices above inflation pegged to the year 2021.
Should we be making sure that pharmaceutical companies cannot increase their prices above inflation? Yes. But let’s be clear. This provision would lock in all of the outrageous price increases the pharmaceutical industry has made in recent years and would do nothing to lower those outrageous prices.
Under this legislation, out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors would be capped at $2,000 a year. That is a good provision that will benefit up to 2 million seniors who currently pay over $2,000 a year for prescription drugs. But the $25 billion cost of this provision would be paid for not by the pharmaceutical companies making record-breaking profits. No. It would be paid for by increased premiums on virtually every senior citizen in America, although there is a provision to “smooth out” those premium increases.
The current reconciliation bill would also provide free vaccines for seniors– the only population for which vaccines are not already free. That is a good thing that should have been done a long time ago.
Finally, Madam President, in terms of prescription drugs, it looks like the reconciliation bill will cap co-pays for insulin at $35 a month – which is a good step forward for people with health insurance, but would do nothing to lower the cost of insulin for the 1.6 million diabetics who are uninsured and who need our help the most.
Moreover, Madam President, this legislation will extend subsidies for some 13 million Americans who have private health insurance plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act over the next three years. Without this provision, millions of Americans would see their premiums skyrocket and some 3 million Americans could lose their health insurance altogether. This is a good provision, but let’s not fool ourselves. The $64 billion cost of this provision will go directly into the pockets of private health insurance companies that made over $60 billion in profits last year and paid their executives exorbitant compensation packages.
It would also do nothing to help the more than 70 million Americans who are uninsured or under-insured and it would do nothing to reform a dysfunctional healthcare system that is designed not to make people well, but to make the stockholders of private health insurance companies extremely rich.
Now, Madam President, this legislation also provides $370 billion over the next decade to combat climate change and to invest in so-called energy security programs.
The good news is that if this legislation is signed into law it would provide far more funding for energy efficiency and sustainable energy than has ever been invested before.
This is substantially lower, however, than the $555 billion in the original Build Back Better plan which understood that climate change is an existential threat to the planet and has to be addressed in an extremely bold way.
But this legislation does provide serious funding for wind, solar, batteries, heat pumps, electric vehicles, energy efficient appliances and low-income communities that have born the brunt of climate change.
But, Madam President, the ugly news that very few people in the media or Congress wants to talk about is that it includes a huge giveaway to the fossil fuel industry– both in the reconciliation bill itself and in a side deal that was just made public yesterday.
Under this legislation, the fossil fuel industry will receive billions of dollars in new tax breaks and subsidies over the next 10 years– on top of the $15 billion in tax breaks and corporate welfare that they already receive every year.
In my view, if we are going to make our planet healthy and habitable for future generations, we cannot provide billions of dollars in new tax breaks to fossil fuel companies that are destroying the planet. On the contrary, we should end all of the massive corporate welfare that the fossil fuel industry already enjoys.
Under this legislation, up to 60 million acres of public waters must be offered up for sale each and every year to the oil and gas industry before the federal government could approve any new offshore wind development. To put this in perspective, M. President, 60 million acres is the size of Michigan.
Madam President let me read to you the headline that appeared in a July 29th article in Bloomberg: “Exxon Loves What Manchin Did for Big Oil in $370 Billion Deal.”
According to Bloomberg, the CEO of Exxon Mobil called the reconciliation bill “a step in the right direction” and was “pleased” with the “comprehensive set of solutions” included in the reconciliation bill.
Barrons recently reported that Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum are just a few of the fossil fuel companies that could benefit the most under this bill.
Now, Madam President, if the CEO of Exxon Mobil, a company that has done as much as any to destroy this planet, is “pleased” with this bill then I think all of us should have some very deep concerns about what is in this legislation.
Further, under this bill, up to 2 million acres of public lands must be offered up for sale each and every year to the oil and gas industry before leases can move forward for any renewable energy development on public lands.
In total, this bill will offer the fossil fuel industry up to 700 million acres of public lands and waters to oil and gas drilling over the next decade– far more than the oil and gas industry could possibly use.
And, Madam President, that’s not all. The fossil fuel industry will not just benefit from the provisions in the reconciliation bill. A deal has also been reached to make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to receive permits for their oil and gas projects.
This deal would approve the $6.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline– a fracked gas pipeline that would span 303 miles from West Virginia to Virginia, and potentially on to North Carolina.
This is a pipeline that would generate emissions equivalent to that released by 37 coal plants or by over 27 million cars each and every year.
Madam President, let me quote a statement from 350.ORG on this subject: “This latest bill has a few good pieces: lengthening the tax credits for green energy projects from two to ten years to ensure steady growth in the wind and solar industry; providing incentives for consumers to buy electric vehicles; and installing heat pumps to make green energy use more widespread. However, the amount of giveaways to the fossil fuel industry is so wide in scope, that it turns all of the gains in addressing the climate crisis into a moot point.”
Here is what the Center for Biological Diversity had to say on this bill: “This is a climate suicide pact. It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction. The new leasing required in this bill will fan the flames of the climate disasters torching our country, and it’s a slap in the face to the communities fighting to protect themselves from filthy fossil fuels.”
In my view, we have got to do everything possible to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry, not give billions of dollars in corporate welfare to an industry that has been destroying our planet.
Finally, Madam President, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality; at a time of soaring corporate profits; and at a time in which we have a broken tax system riddled with all kinds of loopholes for the rich and the powerful, this bill makes a few modest changes to reform the tax code.
Under this bill, corporations will be required to pay a minimum tax of 15%. That is the good news. The American people are sick and tired of companies like AT&T, Federal Express and Nike making billions of dollars in profits and paying nothing in federal income tax. This provision has been estimated to raise $313 billion over the next decade.
Further, under this bill, the IRS will finally begin to receive the funding that it needs to audit wealthy tax cheats. Each and every year, the top 1 percent are able to avoid paying more than $160 billion in taxes that they legally owe because the IRS does not have the resources they need to conduct audits of the extremely wealthy. This bill begins to change that.
This bill would also make very modest changes to the so-called carried interest loophole that has allowed billionaire hedge fund managers on Wall Street to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse, teacher or firefighter.
But the bad news is that this bill does nothing to repeal the Trump tax breaks that went to the very wealthy and large corporations. Trump’s 2017 tax bill provided over a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the top one percent and large corporations. In fact, 83% of the benefits of the Trump tax law are going to the top 1%– and this bill repeals none of those benefits.
And M. President, let’s not forget. It is very likely that Congress will be doing a so-called tax extenders bill at the end of the year that could provide corporations up to $400 billion over the next decade in new tax breaks. If that occurs that would more than offset the $313 billion in corporate revenue included in this bill.
So that, Madam President is where we are today. We have legislation which unlike the original Build Back Better plan ignores the needs of working families in childcare, Pre-K, the expansion of Medicare, affordable housing, home healthcare, higher education, and many other desperate needs.
This is legislation which, at a time of massive profits for the pharmaceutical industry, and when we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, takes some very modest steps to lower or control the price of medicine.
This is legislation which has some good and important provisions pertaining to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, but, at the same time, provides massive giveaways to the fossil fuel industry whose emissions are destroying the planet.
This is legislation which appropriately ends the absurdity of large, profitable corporations paying nothing in federal income tax but, at the same time, leaves intact virtually all of Trump’s tax breaks for the wealthy and very large corporations.